Toyota 2000GT Sophisto
Of all the provocative grand tourers built during the 20th century, there’s one that has never received its ‘propers’ in the industry. This car ran toe-to-toe with Europe’s best during its short production tenure. It’s the grand tourer that many have never even heard of. This rare motoring experience defines today’s supercar and has the honor of being one before the class was coined. Its sultry, sensual, styling qualified it as a “Bond Car” extraordinaire.
Apart from being their first supercar, it’s also the car that put Japan in the automotive performance limelight. This is the first collectible Japanese automobile. It introduced many ‘firsts’ for the auto maker. It’s a two-seater with brawn packing a prolific punch. So, what’s this elusive motorcar? Meet the Toyota 2000GT chassis code “MF10.” This is one of the most prominent grand tourers from the 1960s genre and could only be purchased exclusively through Japan’s retail sales promotion program called “Toyota Store.”
The project for a new Toyota GT began shortly after the Japanese Grand Prix in 1964. Project leader Shoichi Saito set out to create the greatest car in the world. This was the beginning of a new venture between Toyota and Yamaha that started a world-wide competition. His rhetorical remark “Do whatever it takes to realize the dream” created… an entirely new class of automobile. The Toyota 2000GT revolutionized Japan’s entry into the high-performance automobile segment.
This proved the fact to the entire world, the manufacturer of gas-stingy economy cars could produce formidable, pavement-scorching, performance behemoths. Toyota’s first supercar didn’t rely on gimmicks, electronics, or crude power-to-weight ratios – nor did it rest on its laurels with extreme aerodynamics.
REAL sportscars lived before the catalytic converter and other horsepower-robbing smog ware. The Toyota 2000GT debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965 and was introduced as a production model for the 1967 model year. It was built under contract collaborating with Yamaha from 1967 until 1970.
The car’s staggering $6800+ base price which was about twice the cost of the flagship Toyota Crown luxury saloon that kept the production number low. Toyota distributes their cars through retail sales channels as a hierarchical marketing approach similar to those used in North America. It is implemented at all of their dealership outlets. Certain models such as the 2000GT are exclusive to particular locations in the sales channel.
Toyota Store is the first and was established in 1946 to deal with large luxury saloons and special edition cars. Production for the Toyota 2000GT from 1967 through 1970 totals a mere 351 built. There are 233 MF10, 109 MF10L, and 9 MF12L models (L denotes left-hand drive) making up the total sales for the 2000GT.
Contemporary value is appreciating favorably, a pristine example of the Toyota 2000GT sold for $1,200,000 USD on the auction block bestowing it with the honor of being the most expensive automobile ever produced in the history of the brand.
Yamaha Motor Company Limited is a Japanese manufacturer of motorcycles, boats and outboard motors, along with other motorized products. A prototype 2000GT was originally designed for Nissan as the contemporization of the Fair Lady sports car. Yamaha did contractual projects for Toyota who also at the time wished to change their somewhat conservative image in the automotive industry.
The Toyota 2000GT was originally designed by Albrecht Graf Goertz (Count Albrecht von Goertz) who designed the famous BMW 507. Toyota adopted the design when Nissan declined using their own designer Satoru Nozaki who tweaked the original design slightly. The 2000GT handcrafted by Yamaha for Toyota is considered the greatest Japanese automobile of all time.
Toyota 2000GT is configured as front engine rear-wheel drive. It’s powered by a longitudinally mounted naturally-aspirated 2.0 litre, 12-valve DOHC in-line 6-cylinder engine based upon that of the Toyota Crown. The wet-sumped 121.3 CID engine is equipped with hemispherical combustion chambers, chain-driven dual overhead cams, and 3-twin 2-bbl Mikuni-Solex 40 PHH side-draught carburetors. The crankshaft runs in 7 main bearings.
A 2.3 litre SOHC engine was also available and better suited for the USA market which includes the same triple deuce carburetor setup with one-piece cast exhaust manifold; however, it decreased the overall horsepower number by 10. Both engines are mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, an optional 3-speed automatic transmission was offered for the 1969 model year.
Yamaha handcrafted each precision unit endowing it with the ability to crank 150 hp @ 6,600 rpm with 175 Nm of peak torque @ 5,000 rpm. It can sprint from 0-60 mph in 8.6 seconds with a top speed in the 128-137 mph range. It does the ¼ mile in about 16.6 seconds.
The FA 4-speed gearbox from Toyota Tundra trucks was the only transmission competent enough to accompany the high torque generated. The transformation yields a fully synchronized 5-speed gearbox. A 3-speed automatic was offered as optional equipment for the 1969 model year.
It’s a formidable supercar in every respect. The extremely low ride height of 45.7” makes it nimble and quick with just 6.1” of ground clearance. Its 164.4” length rides upon a condensed 91.7” wheelbase with a 63” width. The car’s famous near 50/50 balanced demeanor is 50.5% front biased. It is built as steel, semi-unitary construction. The steel body is built upon a steel central-beam spine frame that resembles that of the Lotus Elan. The front suspension has double wishbones with coil springs over telescopic shock absorbers with an anti-roll bar to aid stability. Rear suspension dynamics include double wishbones with coil springs over telescopic dampers.
It’s definitely a supercar when one takes into consideration this was the first use of a Dunlop 4-wheel disc braking system with power assisted vacuum booster, an all-independent suspension anchoring the car at all 4 wheels with wishbones, and Japan’s first use of limited-slip differential with a standard 4.38:1 ratio and three optional choices. Magnesium-alloy wheels were selected to reduce unsprung weight. This car is truly impressive considering the genre, it had no competition at the time…
The Toyota 2000GT exhibits sleek athletic architecture borrowing styling cues and protocol from the best of the best back in its day. Nozaki’s fastback design is highly influenced by the E-Type Jag-u-r but maintains its own individual flair. Most were finished in either red or white. Toyota 2000GT is a melding of Neoclassical and Art Deco design. Unique front-end design features include large headlamps that are hidden away for the sake of speed/aerodynamics until required. Plexiglass covered driving lights balance the symmetry while augmenting its beauty.
The front wings gracefully sweep back through its classic silhouette forcing the eye to roam its entirety in a single appraisal. Rear end styling remains simple and uncluttered. The lack of front and rear bumpers adds to its timeless appeal. Restrained use of ornamentation and unnecessary embellishment is always tasteful as witnessed by the Toyota 2000GT.
The Targa conversion was not used until oddly enough in 1984. A 1967 MF10-10125 was commissioned by Ed Pessin of California to create the one-of-a-kind using original Toyota sketches. Richard Billings of Los Angeles California did the work beautifully. The Toyota 2000GT is a beautifully proportioned automobile that fits easily into today’s world.
The cabin is designed in the grand touring tradition. Asian and European automobile manufacturers keep distraction at an absolute minimum without a lot of worthless bells and whistles – and most important, no frills. The driver should be vigilant at all times with one goal in mind: to remain focused upon the road ahead to savor the true grand touring experience. The 2000GT is no exception to the rule.
Unpretentious understatement sets this unique road-going supercar into a different class unrivaled for its day. The Toyota 2000GT is living proof: high-performance did exist before computers, sensors, and on-board diagnostics. Rosewood veneer highlights the dash, center stack, console, and steering wheel for a touch of distinction. The spectacular panoramic view from behind the wheel reveals the 2000GT’s gleaming 7-foot long bonnet for a preface to the road ahead. Air conditioning was available for the 1969 model year. This feature combined with the optional automatic transmission yields a most unusual driver’s car.
“She” was also a Bond girl….
To be unusual enough to attract James Bond is an amazing feat. The real star of the movie “You Only Live Twice” was not only Sean Connery but also the topless Toyota 2000GT. The producers wanted James to drive one but there was a drawback: he simply could not fit into the 2000GT – he was way too tall!
Two cars were converted from fixedhead to roadster configuration just for the movie. The roofs were snipped off and a locker panel was integrated to look as though the convertible roof was stowed away underneath it. A factory built open roadster wasn’t available. This is probably the most attention this unusual grand tourer received back in the day. It raised many eyebrows as to what make it was –
The Toyota 2000GT is without conjecture the most desirable Japanese car ever built. The low mint makes it highly collectible. These cars are appreciating so favorably it is now considered – the equivalence of a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing or the BMW 507 – as one of the most collectible postwar sports cars. The concept behind the 2000GT makes it one of the most significant examples that define the 20th century automobile.
To give you an idea just how so, following is just the tip of the iceberg. For a car that started out in the $6800+ range in the 1960s…in 2015 the “Rolling Sculpture” auction by Keno Brothers NYC a 1968 MF10-10110 went for $610,000. A 1967 MF10-10083 at RM Sotheby’s Monterey went for $825,000 also in 2015. A 1968 MF10L – 10189 went for $880,000 at RM Sotheby’s 2015 Amelia Island. A 1967 MF10-10128 went for a whopping $1,045,000 at the 2014 Monterey by RM Auctions.
The Toyota 2000GT set numerous records in Japan. October 1966 it broke three world records and set 13 new international records for speed and endurance, proving the effectiveness and reliability of the advanced technologies of the 2000GT. Toyota initially entered the 2000GT in competition in Japan, coming third in the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix and winning the Fuji 24-Hour endurance run in 1967. The car set several FIA world records for speed and endurance in a 72-Hour run. Toyota put a prototype 2000GT on the Yatabe Speed Trial in 1966; the car managed to take banked curves with an average speed of 128 mph!
The Toyota 2000GT is unconventional and was far ahead of its time when introduced. The totally avant-garde design is pure unadulterated brawn. The car performed in an extremely rare arena. Lamborghini came about in 1963. The Porsche 911, Ferrari, and Maserati were already on the road building their following.
It’s the Toyota 2000GT that brought something extra special in supercar form the others couldn’t touch! This formidable automobile was a supercar before the class was coined. Japan’s first supercar was full of ‘firsts’ to the industry creating its own chapters in automotive history. The Toyota 2000GT was a quantum leap forward for the Japanese automaker proving the fact they could produce world-class, pavement-scorching high-performance cars as well as gas stingy economy cars…
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