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Breaking the Mould - Toyota 2000GT

The subject of today's Breaking the Mould article, is the Toyota 2000GT, a car which changed how the world saw Toyota and more importantly, Japan.

Back in the 1960s, Japan's automobiles were small, reliable and dependable, but exciting? Well no. Honda tried to break into the sports car world with its S500 roadster, which although fantastic was still too compact to compete with Europe's offerings.

In comes Toyota, who wanted to build a Halo car that they could use to entice customer‘s into their dealers. It was decided the car should be sporty but practical, a GT car that would also be suitable for customers to race. It needed to be pretty, and needed to show off Toyota's engineering capability.

Designed by in house designer Satoru Nozaki, the 2000GT had hints of E-Type, mixed in with Toyota’s recognisable styling. The end result was a low slung, aluminium bodied coupe that measured under 46 inches in height.

The first prototype car was shown in August 1965 at the 12th Tokyo auto show and was a total hit. Crowds went wild and the car proved to be the star of the show, with wealthy customers immediately demanding to have their own.

As the car wasn’t quite ready, Toyota continued to build hype and set the 2000GT to work. Further prototypes participated in multiple races and went on to set three world records and thirteen new international records for speed and endurance.

The secret to the 2000GT‘s success was the partnership of Yamaha and Toyota. Yamaha had been working on its own sports car programme, but after a loss of funding and numerous false starts, a deal was struck with Toyota.

Powering the 2000GT was a modified version on the straight six that was found in the Toyota Crown. With some rework by Yamaha, the humble straight six became a proper sports car motor that had an output of 148bhp and 129lb-ft.

In addition to a strong engine, the 2000GT featured many firsts for Toyota. The first Toyota with all wheel disc brakes, rack and pinion steering and with a limited slip differential. It was packed full of high tech engineering and no corner was cut in building this car.

All this style and engineering did result in one issue, price. Being a halo car, it was never going to be cheap, but in the US for example the car retailed at $6,800. That's a whole lot more than an E-Type ($5620 in 1961). Even at that price it’s believed that Toyota made no profit from the 2000GT program.

Around 337 2000GTs were made over a 3 year production run, the project ended due to dwindling sales. But as a Halo car it did the job, Toyota was now well known on the world stage, and more importantly it kick started the Japanese sports car market.

Fast forward to today and 2000GTs are a true collector car, demanding a price tag north of £750,000. A big number, but this is a piece of history, a landmark car from a manufacturer who dared to dream big.

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