Toyota 2000 GT
Toyota 2000 GT; photo courtesy of user “Gnsin.” Click image to enlarge

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By Bill Vance

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Toyota 2000 GT

In the 1960s, the Japanese were not known for sports and GT cars. The British still pretty well dominated the affordable sports car market with MGs, Triumphs and Austin Healeys, while the Germans and Italians were looked to for more exotic GT cars.

The Japanese, after a postwar period of building mostly copies of English and French economy sedans, gradually began producing their own sturdy if uninspired models. A few sports cars like the Datsun 1500 Fairlady and 1600 roadsters and the tiny Honda S600 and S800, were early Japanese sports car ventures. But the real bread and butter of the Japanese industry was still family cars.

It was somewhat of a revelation then, when Toyota, Japan’s largest and most conservative manufacturer, unveiled the 2000GT model at the Tokyo Motor Show in the fall of 1965. It was a car so different from their normal fare that it surprised and startled the Japanese industry and the rest of the world.

Toyota 2000 GT
Toyota 2000 GT; photo courtesy Matthew Brown. Click image to enlarge

From the land of stubby sedans the Toyota 2000GT was a sensation in styling and engineering. It was technologically advanced and the sensuously curvaceous two-seater coupe stood a svelte 1,161 mm (45.7 in.) high (a Porsche 911S was 1,321 mm; 51 in.), 4,176 mm (164.4 in) long with a 2,329 mm (91.7 in.) wheelbase. Its lines were said to have been penned by Count Albrecht Goertz of Germany who styled the 1950s BMW 503 and 507. They were distinctive enough, however, to give the 2000GT a character of its own, with just a hint of the Jaguar E-Type about it.

Compound curves adorned every panel and window and its sleekness was aided by pop-up headlamps. These were augmented by a set of driving lights behind huge bumper-level, transparent and highly vulnerable covers that flanked the grille. It presented an unusual if not entirely attractive frontal appearance. Inside was a beautiful rosewood instrument panel with full instrumentation and a signal seeking radio.

If there was a hint of the E-type Jaguar on the outside, there was more than a trace of the British Lotus Elan underneath in its “backbone” type steel frame, evidence that the Japanese were not shy about borrowing ideas.

Toyota 2000 GT
Toyota 2000 GT. Click image to enlarge

The suspension was independent all around with conventional A-arms and low-mounted coil springs at the front, and A-arms at the rear with the coils mounted atop the upper control arms. Steering was rack and pinion, and the four-wheel disc brakes were the first in the Japanese industry.

The 2.0-litre double overhead cam inline, seven-main-bearing six produced 150 horsepower at a high 6,600 r.p.m., or 75 horsepower per litre, an outstanding figure for a production car at that time. It had three side-draft carburetors, its block, crankshaft and rods came from the Toyota Crown sedan engine and it had a “square” 75 X 75 mm (2.95 X 2.95 in.) bore and stroke. The engine’s development was contracted out to Yamaha, famous for motorcycles and pianos. Power went to the rear wheels through a five-speed, all-synchromesh transmission.

Although first shown in 1965, GTs didn’t go on sale until the spring of 1967. It was such a specialized product for Toyota that it again turned to Yamaha to have it built.

Toyota 2000 GT
Toyota 2000 GT. Click image to enlarge

Because they were all planned as right-hand-drive models, Toyota apparently didn’t intend to export them to Canada, the United States or most other countries. A few did make it to North America, however, and Road & Track (6/’67) tested the first production model to land in the U.S.

They were impressed with the “high level of mechanical refinement, and excellent handling and braking.” Its 150 horsepower sprinted the 1,125 kg (2,480 lb) coupe to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 10.0 seconds, and to 206 km/h (128 mph), very good performance for a two litre car.

2000GT production was never high, nor was it probably intended to be, and it’s doubtful Toyota made any money on it. It seems to have been almost a concept car, a limited production publicity vehicle to demonstrate that the Japanese auto industry was coming of age, reaching the stage where it could build a world class GT car.

Production lasted only until 1970, with a total of approximately 350 built, of which some 50 came to North America. Only two convertibles were made, lovely white ones, with the usual gadgetry for the James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice.

In producing the 2000GT, Toyota achieved its purpose and demonstrated that Japan was on the rise in the auto industry. The 2000GT is now a highly prized collectible.

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