The first Japanese Supercar

Currently the biggest carmaker in the world, Toyota is mostly known for its family sedans and capable SUVs. But in recent decades, the Japanese have built themselves a solid name in sports car manufacturing and racing through vehicles such as the Celica, Supra,, GT 86, the Le Mans-prepped TS lineage, and the Lexus LFA. Five decades ago, however, Toyota was still had the sober image of an econobox carmaker. This changed with the tiny Sports 800 in 1965, and, two years later, with the 2000GT, widely regarded as the first Japanese supercar.

Initially designed for Nissan by Yamaha, the project was adopted by Toyota after the Yokohama-based company refused the idea and started working on what would become the Fairlady Z (Datsun 240Z). Realizing how the bold two-seat design would change its image globally, Toyota immediately approved the program. Production began in 1967, when the 2000GT would revolutionize Japan’s view on the automotive industry, with a sports car to rival offerings from the more famous European marques.

The 2000GT was built for only three years and in just 351 units, but its impact was huge. It was not only the first supercar to come from Japan, but also the only Japanese car to have been featured prominently in a James Bond film. Also, it is the most expensive Asian car ever sold at auction as of 2015.

Updated 08/22/2016: Gooding & Company brought a fully restored 1967 Toyota 2000 GT at a auction event in Pebble Beach during the 2016 Monterey Car Week. Check out the "Prices" section to see for how much it was sold and the "Pictures" tab for some shots taken during the event.

Continue reading to find out more about the Toyota 2000GT.

  • 1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT
  • Year:
    1967- 1970
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Inline-6
  • Transmission:
    5-Speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    150 @ 6600
  • Torque @ RPM:
    130 @ 5000
  • Displacement:
    1998 L
  • 0-60 time:
    10 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    135 mph
  • 0-100 time:
    24 sec.
  • Layout:
    Front, RWD
  • Price:
    1000000
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT High Resolution Exterior
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1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT High Resolution Exterior
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1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT High Resolution Exterior
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The 2000GT was conceived to the typical proportions and styling of 1960s sports cars

Designed by Jiro Kawano and Satoru Nozaki, the 2000GT was conceived with the typical proportions and styling of 1960s sports cars. It had a long nose, muscular front fenders, short overhangs, and a fastback-like roof with a rear hatch. Thanks mainly to its "coke bottle" design and traditional grand tourer layout, it is widely considered a classic among 1960s GTs.

Although it is widely believed that the 2000GT was inspired by the Jaguar E-Type, Nozaki’s design incorporated many features not seen on other 1960s GTs. Its most striking detail was the quad-headlamp arrangement consisting of two units mounted on each side of the front grille and a pair of pop-up lights above them. Around back, the taillights were placed on metal frames instead of being mounted directly into the body. Paired with the center-mounted exhaust, the taillights gave the 2000GT a race car-like appearance. Rather unusual for a Toyota back in the 1960s.

Two drop-top models were built for the car’s most famous appearance, in the 1967 James Bond film "You Only Live Twice"

An update in 1969 included slightly smaller lower headlamps, reshaped front turn signals, and larger rear turn signals.

Although Toyota never intended to build a convertible version of the 2000GT, two drop-top models were built for the car’s most famous appearance, in the 1967 James Bond film "You Only Live Twice." The Japanese had to modify the GT to accommodate Sean Connery, who simply could not fit in the coupe. To create the open-top, Toyota simply chopped the roof and added a tonneau cover to simulate a functioning convertible roof.

Several 2000GTs were modified for competition. The car set several FIA world records for speed and endurance in a 72-hour test, and won the 1967 Fuji 24-Hour race. In the U.S., Carroll Shelby entered a pair of modified cars in the 1968 Sports Car Club of America season with good results. Exterior modifications were rather light and included racing wheels, masked headlamps, larger exhaust pipes, and a race-spec fuel cap.

1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT - Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 91.7 Inches
Length 164.4 Inches
Width 63.0 Inches
Height 45.7 Inches

Interior

1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT High Resolution Interior
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The interior of the 2000GT was a major departure from other Toyota products

The interior of the 2000GT was a major departure from other Toyota products. Although it was rather cramped compared to similar European products, it did provide some comfort and featured luxury amenities previously unseen in a Toyota. These included a rosewood veneer dashboard, wood frames for the center stack and center console, and a wood-rimmed steering wheel. It also had an auto-seeking radio tuner and noteworthy fit and finish. On the other hand, the 2000GT did not receive an air conditioning system until 1969.

The instrument panel was similar to other GTs of the era, consisting of two main gauges behind the steering wheel and an array of buttons below. Five smaller clocks sat above the radio unit, while more switches were scattered around the center stack. The seats were somewhat sporty, but still far from what the likes of Jaguar or Ferrari had to offer. All told, the 2000GT provided nothing more than what was necessary for a driver to enjoy the car as a grand tourer.

Drivetrain

1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT High Resolution Drivetrain
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Under the hood, the 2000GT received a 2.0-liter straight-six unit based on the engine of the Toyota Crown sedan

Under the hood, the 2000GT had a 2.0-liter straight-six unit based on the engine from the Toyota Crown sedan. The mill was modified by Yamaha, who added a new double overhead camshaft head and three, two-barrel Solex carburetors, into a sportier powerplant that delivered 150 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. Nine cars were built with a larger 2.3-liter engine, also based on the Crown’s, rated at 140 horses and 148 pound-feet. All 2.3-liter cars were shipped to the U.S. Originally offered with a five-speed manual transmission only, the 2000GT received an optional three-speed automatic in 1969.

Both a limited-slip differential and power-assisted disc brakes at all corners were standard, making the 2000GT the first Japanese car to offer such features.

It needed 10 seconds to hit 60 mph and 24 ticks to reach 100 mph

Although it is widely regarded as "the first Japanese supercar," the 2000GT wasn’t among the quickest vehicles of the era. It needed 10 seconds to hit 60 mph and no fewer than 24 ticks to reach 100 mph. Top speed was estimated at 128 mph. Although these figures are somewhat impressive given the engine had only 150 horses — the 2000GT weighed only 2,400 pounds and had a 49/51 weight distribution — they were far off from similar vehicles from the 1960s. The 1969 Nissan Fairlady Z (Nissan S30/Datsun 240Z), for instance, which had a similar output but it was 100 pounds lighter, had a 0-to-60 mph sprint of around eight seconds. The 1962 Jaguar E-Type, which had a more powerful engine and a similar curb weight, was even quicker than that, hitting 60 mph in seven seconds.

1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT - Drivetrain/Specifications

Type 2.0 liter straight-6 2.3 liter straight-6
Horsepower @ RPM 150 @ 6600 140 @ 6600
Torque @ RPM 130@5000 148@5000
0 to 60 mph 10 seconds 10 seconds
Top Speed 130 mph 130 mph

Prices

1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT High Resolution Exterior
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Unlike other Toyotas, the 2000GT wasn’t cheap. Model imported to the U.S. sold for more than $7,000, which was about $1,000 more than the Jaguar E-Type and Porsche 911, and over $2,500 more than a C2-generation Chevrolet Corvette. Only 351 cars were produced until 1970, of which only about 60 examples reached North America.

In recent years, the 2000GT has become a full-fledged collectible, fetching impressive sums (for a Japanese car) at auction events. The grand tourer first surpassed $50K in 2012 and $1 million in 2013. A yellow-painted version sold by RM Auctions for $1.16 million in May 2013 made the 2000GT the most expensive Asian car ever auctioned. In 2014, a second car changed hands for more than $1 million, selling for $1,045,000. In August 2016, a fully documented, fully restored example sold for $533,500.

Competition

Nissan Fairlady Z/Datsun 240Z

1970 - 1978 Nissan Z-Car: 240Z, 260Z and 280Z
- image 172356
Nissan 260Z

The car sold as the Fairlady Z in Japan and as the Datsun 240Z in the U.S. was the 2000GT’s No. 1 rival when it arrived in 1969. The 240Z saga goes all the way back to the mid-1960s, when Yamaha initially proposed the its project for a GT to Nissan. Much like Toyota, Nissan needed a halo car to freshen its image, but it declined Yamaha’s proposal, opting for an in-house design.

Although styling was somewhat similar to the 2000GT, employing the same front-engined, RWD layout, the 240Z had a sportier stance and focused on performance rather than luxury. First models featured a 2.4-liter, inline-six engine rated at 151 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. Lighter than the Toyota at 2,300 pounds, the Datsun was quicker from 0 to 60 mph, needing just eight seconds to hit the benchmark. Top speed was inferior though at 125 mph. By 1978, the coupe would receive larger 2.6- and 2.8-liter six-cylinder engines and had its name changed to 260Z and 280Z, respectively. The most powerful version had 170 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of twist.

The Fairlady Z also spawned several successful race cars. A rally version won the East African Safari Rally in 1973, while SCCA-spec cars scored many wins in the U.S. with Brock Racing Enterprises. Nissan also homogated the 240Z for Group 4 racing in Japan.

Read more about this car here.

Jaguar E-Type

1961 - 1974 Jaguar E-Type
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Launched in 1961, the Jaguar E-Type was one of the benchmark cars Toyota used while designing the 2000GT. Now regarded as one of the most beautiful cars ever built, the E-Type was the sports tourer to beat back in the 1960s, praised even by Enzo Ferrari himself. When the 2000GT arrived, Jaguar was still selling the Series 1. The Brits had already increased displacement of the 3.8-liter inline-six to 4.2 liters with an output of 265 horsepower and 283 pound-feet of torque. The Toyota was no match for the E-Type in terms of performance, as the Jag needed seven seconds to hit 60 mph on its way to a top speed of 150 mph.

The Series 2 arrived in 1968 with mildly revised styling and a detuned engine with 245 horses. In 1971, the Series 3 received a 5.3-liter V-12 that cranked out 272 horsepower. Unlike Toyota, Jaguar built both coupe and convertible versions of the E-Type. The Brits also built race versions of the E-Type, most notably the Lightweight coupe and an SCCA-spec racer. Jaguar continued production of Lightweight E-Type in 2014 by using the six original chassis from 1964.

Find out more about the E-Type here.

Conclusion

1967 - 1970 Toyota 2000GT High Resolution Exterior
- image 555412

The 2000GT’s arrival marked a very important moment in Toyota’s history, proving that Japanese cars don’t have to be about fuel economy and low prices exclusively. Although it wasn’t as successful as the Datsun 240Z or the Jaguar E-Type sales-wise, and had a significantly shorter career, the 2000GT lived on long enough to become a legend. Some might argue that this Japanese GT made a name for itself by starring in a James Bond film. While acting as a Bond car may have had a big impact, there’s more to the 2000GT than that. Current auction prices speak volumes about its value and to some it’s actually a lot more exotic than a Jaguar E-Type.

  • Leave it
    • * It was quite slow compared to its rivals
    • * Limited production run makes then hard to get and expensive
    • * Datsun 240Z can provide a lot more fun
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