In the 1960s it was believed that Japanese cars did not offer the same level of quality, performance and reliability as their western counterparts. However, this was far from the truth as Japanese cars were becoming increasingly popular globally and often proving to be more reliable than many offerings from the United States and Europe. Japanese manufacturers had models that competed in almost every segment ranging from economical hatchbacks to rugged off-roaders and sedans, but what they were missing was a luxurious high-performance sports car… until the Toyota 2000GT turned up at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show. The model would go on to change the face of Japanese motoring and become the first million-dollar Japanese car.
The production version of the 2000GT offered a smooth flowing body which was crafted out of aluminium. It was also the first Japanese car to be fitted with a limited-slip differential and all-round power-assisted disc brakes in standard specification. The Japanese sports car was powered by a 2.0-litre straight-six engine developed by Toyota but featured a number of modifications from Yamaha, like the DOHC aluminium head which produced 110 kW and 175 Nm – enough to get the grand tourer from 0-100km/h in 10 seconds and on to a top speed of 215km/h.
Although the performance of the 2000GT was impressive considering its power output, the Toyota struggled to compete with the likes of the Jaguar E-Type and American Corvettes. However, it impressed media the world over. The 2000GT was also successful on the racetrack, winning the 1967 Fuji 24hr race, and managed to set several FIA world records for speed and endurance in a 72-hour test. In the United States, Carol Shelby himself entered a pair of modified 2000GT vehicles into the 1968 SCCA production car series. Despite these achievements, the 2000GT’s most famous moment came when it appeared in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
After three short years of production, the last 2000GT left the factory in 1970 which completed the total build cycle of just 351 cars. The 2000GT changed how the world viewed Japanese cars and it went on to influence the design of some of Toyota’s most iconic sports cars such as the Supra, the GT86 and even the Lexus LFA. Produced in such limited numbers, the 2000GT is widely considered to be the ultimate Japanese classic, which is reflected in auctions around the world.