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FEATURE

Japan's answer to the Jaguar E Type: The Toyota 2000GT

Published Sun, Jun 26, 2022 11:00 AM

Japan is famous for its rear-wheel-drive sports cars, and for producing some of the coolest cars ever to see a road. But they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for this-the Toyota 2000GT. 

WHO?

Today, Toyota is one of the world’s biggest automotive powerhouses. They produce almost 11 million cars a year - that’s one car every three seconds! But they weren’t always that way. 

Back in 1918, Sakichi Toyoda created the world’s first automatic spinning loom and formed the Toyoda Spinning and Weaving Company. In 1930, during the war with China, the Japanese government encouraged Toyoda to investigate the production of automobiles, and Sakichi’s son, Kiichiro, was sent to Europe to investigate production methods and do other generally sneaky things, the little tike! 

In 1935, the Toyoda A1 passenger car and G1 pickup truck hit the roads, with the G1 being remarkably similar to the Dodge Powerwagon. In fact, numerous parts are actually interchangeable between the two. But it would be another 2 years before the Toyota name as we know it would appear when the Toyota Motor Co was established in 1937-the difference in the name being owed to it being transcribed in Katakana rather than the original Kanji. In Chinese-speaking markets, the brand is still referred to by the traditional Kanji name, but with Chinese pronunciation. It’s all incredibly confusing. 

During World War 2, thanks to the efforts of the Japanese to conquer the Pacific, Toyota was dedicated entirely to truck production, and it wasn’t until the ’50s that the company would be saved, following near bankruptcy, by an order for 5,000 trucks by the US Military for the Korean war. 

WHAT?

By 1965, Toyota was becoming better known across the globe, but still had something of a staid, industrious look about them. Until that is, they debuted their new 2000GT at the Tokyo Motor Show. It quite literally transformed the image of the manufacturer overnight and is now credited as being not only the first collectable car to come out of Japan but the first Japanese supercar. 

Most of the 2000GT's design was actually done by Yamaha, who initially offered the design to Nissan.  However, they very politely said no, so Yamaha proposed the design to Toyota, then perceived as the most conservative of the Japanese car manufacturers. Looking to improve their image, Toyota accepted the proposal but employed a design from their own designer, Satoru Nozaki. Many credit the original inspiration as Albrecht Goertz, designer of the Nissan 240Z, and there are a number of similarities between the two iconic shapes. 

Between 1967 & ’71, the car was produced under licence by Yamaha, and by the end of production, just 351 cars would be built. They were driven by a powerplant based on the Toyota Crown saloon, albeit transformed by Yamaha with a double overhead camshaft head and triple carburettors. Top speed was 135mph, with a 5-speed manual gearbox pushing power through a limited-slip diff to the rear wheels. A New fangled rack and pinion steering was employed, ensuring that all 148bhp and 148 lb/ft of torque were fully maximised on the road. 

Thanks to aluminium construction, the 2000GT weighs in at just over 1100kg and is definitely designed with the smaller driver in mind. The car was made famous in 1967 by its appearance in the Bond movie ‘You Only Live Twice’, where a convertible 2000GT was used by Sean Connery to escape from the baddies in Japan. Toyota never made a convertible version, and the two that were produced for the film only came about because Connery’s 6’2” frame couldn’t fit comfortably inside the normal 2000GT-so they had to chop the roof off! 

I’m 6’2”, and I can vouch for the fact that I would find it exceedingly painful to drive the 2000GT, especially as the pedals and gear-lever were seemingly designed for the hands and feet of a small child. 

This particular car was built for the Australian market, where it would live for 10 years, before being returned to Japan. During its 9-year restoration, which finished in 2015, a bullet hole was discovered in the driver’s door, and after some digging, it seems that this belonged to a senior Yakuza (Japanese mafia) member. Which makes it one of the coolest cars that’s ever existed. 

HOW?

As you’d imagine, picking up a 2000GT nowadays isn’t easy. If you can even find one for sale, you won’t pay any less than £1 million for it! 
 

WHERE?

This 2000GT is a very special part of the JHW Classics Collection. It’s been owned by Jane Weitzmann since 2006 and is the only road-going example in the UK. Following a restoration to concours standards, it has been used by Toyota UK in numerous advertising campaigns, including that of the newest Supra. It’s available for TV and promotional work, as every car in the collection is, and if you’re interested in finding out more, you can contact Jane on her website www.jhwclassics.com.  

SPECS

Manufacturer: Toyota 
Model: 2000GT 
Powertrain: Front-mounted 2.0 Inline-6, 5-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive with LSD 
Construction: Aluminium body 
Weight: 1,120kg (dry) 
Power: 148bhp, 148 lb/ft torque 
Price: £1m upwards 
Exclusivity: 351 total built