Toyota 2000 GT

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Toyota 2000GT

Toyota 2000 GT

1967 - 1970
6 cyl.
1988 cc
150 bhp
5 spd. man
Top Speed:
217 km/h
Number Built:
5 star
Toyota 2000 GT
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5


Developed and built jointly by Yamaha Motor and Toyota Motor Corporation, the TOYOTA 2000GT made its debut in the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show as a showcase of Japan's first high-performance sportscar. Built on a sturdy X-backbone frame, the 2000GT's 4-wheel independent suspension had double-wishbones front and back.

The engine, a 1988cc DOHC 6-cylinder with 3 Solex carburettors, produced 150 horsepower. This could propel the car to a top speed of over 220km/h. Other features included a close-ratio 5-speed transmission, limited slip differential, and Japan's first 4-wheel disc brakes with vacuum booster. Today these cars are extremely rare (note build nuber above) and would make a great investment if you could find one (and afford one).

The Owners Manual

The owner's manual is a gem of demolished English - something you would expect from your latest Chinese made electrical appliance, but not from a car costing more than an E-Type Jag. An example, dealing with wheel changing: "To loosen the hub nuts instal (sic) the hub nut wrench to the hub nut and then drive out the hub nut wrench with the hummer in the tool set, carefully damaging theand disc wheel. Caution. Right-side hub nut is left-handred (sic) and left-side hub nut is right-handred (sic), therefore to loosen the hub nut turn the hub nut forward of the car."

There are others, too. Like the instruction for back window de-icing. This reads: "Caution. Off the switch as soon as removing the blur." But although the handbook sounds as if it has a touch of the Ninjas, the car it comes with — the Toyota 2000 GT — is no joke. It may not be able to stand bumper-to-bumper with a Ferrari but it most certainly is no outcast in the exotic and rarefied world of the true Gran Turismo machine.

Work Begins

Yet in 1964 work began on the Toyota 2000 GT. And, in typical Japanese fashion, it romped along as if there were 48 hours in each day. Two years later the wraps were taken off it at the Tokyo motor show and in 1967 the first models were put on the market. The Tokyo show car was one of only two prototypes in existence, the other remaining at the Toyota works at Nagoya.

There were very few lucky enough to drive one, but some lucky motoring journalists from Sports Car World were invited by Toyota to put the car through its paces on the banked Nagoya proving ground and came away impressed with this first-up attempt at GT motoring. Much like Mercedes-Benz, the 2000 GT could be accused of being over-engineered, albeit with the Japanese penchant for adding extra frills and goodies. Whatever the case, it remained a sound, good-handling, superbly made, high-performance car.

Built by Yamaha

There were four such cars brought in to Australia, mainly to act as a crowd-stopper for the Melbourne Motor Show. Those that wanted to have one in their driveway needed to stump up A$9400. Then AMI chief Ken Hougham, who apparently was smitted by the car after spending some time behind the wheel, was reported as saying the production was one-a-day affair and the car was built at Yamaha's Hamamatsu factory, 60 miles from the Toyota plant. Yamaha, much as it does today, was involved in various interests, including of course motor cycles, pianos and organs. And it was the Yamaha engineers that designed the twin-cam cylinder head for the Toyota and they received acknowledgement for this from a special plate in the engine compartment. The other Yamaha influence was the polished wood dash, which sparkled like a grand piano.

Behind the Wheel

The 2000GT was low - a mere 45.7 in. from radial-ply footwear to rooftop. And it was built for the lean and lithe so that some gymnastic ability was a decided advantage in getting in and out. The vast wrap-around windscreen cut into the door gap to add to the difficulty. Inside, the sling-back seats were beautifully comfortable although there was not enough rear adjustment for tall drivers. The collection of dials, switches, knobs and switch gears felt more Boeing airliner than Japanese sports car. In all there were 10 dials and 11 push-pull-turn-twist knobs. Minor instruments were canted towards the driver for easy reading and there were four master switches for the pop-up headlights, fog lights-cum-flashers, radio aerial and turn indicators.

The indicators were not self-cancelling which was a strange omission given most much cheaper Japanese cars from the era had them. Controls for full lighting, the Le Mans-type wipers, hand throttle and choke play were hidden (some would say annoyingly) behind the steering wheel. Working them was apparently a question of grope and hope. Each door had its own cigarette lighter and ashtray, but the ashtrays preferred to blow out ash rather than hold it. The rear window was one of the first to be fitted with fine de-icing wires strung through it. On high speed driving in the heavy rain, the rear window remained clear of water. The wood-rim steering wheel was adjustable but set too low. Headroom was on the short side and on lumpy roads you really needed to ensure your seatbelt was fastened tightly. Under the forward-hinged bonnet the 2-litre, six-cylinder engine based on the Crown 2000 block looked classy with crackle-finish cam covers, triple Solex-type carburettors and sweeping exhaust pipes.

The radiator was raked forward to give a low bonnet line and was supplemented by an oil cooler. An electro-magnetic fan kept things cool in heavy traffic. The battery had a separate locker set in one wing, balanced on the opposite side by the power unit for the four disc brakes and the screen washer reservoir. The most impressive thing about the 2000GT was the mechanical smoothness and the excellent ride. Sports cars from this era typically felt as if they had square wheels. The Toyota rode like a well set-up sedan. Even tar strips would not make it jog and thump. And it was remarkably quiet, too. The twin exhaust pipes had a sporty note but this appeared to be more for the benefit of onlookers than occupants. With all of this going for it you could be excused for thinking the handling would be so-so, particularly in the upper reaches of the speedometer.

On the Road

But as James Bond was to clearly demonstrate, the 2000GT cornered flat, had mild understeer which kept things nicely on line and extreme liberties could be taken without coming a cropper. It had the true safety-fast feeling of a real thoroughbred. Even on Australia’s average roads, camber changes proved small and controlled, there was no wheel lifting and the car would sit glued to the road. The limited slip differential obviously helped but there was no mistaking the inbuilt stability of the parallel link back end. The car was also a delight in the wet. The combination of sticky Dunlop SP-41s and well thought-out springing allowed the Toyota to be hustled through soggy bends at well over 100 mph with never a hint of coming unstuck. Few cars felt as safe on a dry surface.

Most of the criticisms levelled at the 2000 GT by various motoring journalists can be termed minor, with the exception of the gearbox. It fell far short of the high standard set by the rest of the car. The five-speed, all-synchromesh box was the same as that used in the 1600 GT-5 right down to identical ratios. It was notchy, the syncros could be beaten by a rapid shift and it lacked any spring loading towards the upper gears. Which meant that a quick-smart downshift from fifth to fourth was not a mere flick of the lever on, say, an Alfa, but a deliberate and often groping movement. There was also considerable noise in all gears, but worst of all in top.

The 150 bhp engine ran on a mild 8.4 to 1 compression, so it did not come alive until after 3500 rpm. Then the power and torque - 130 ft/lb at 5000 rpm - came in with a bang and the Toyota ran the quarter-mile in just 16.4 seconds. Acceleration up to 50 mph was good at 7.5 seconds but hardly startling mostly due to the gearing. First peaked at 37 mph then there was a great gap to second, which was good for 70 mph. The three following ratios were better chosen. From a standing start 100 mph came up in 26 seconds and a 130 mph top speed was attainable in fifth, which was equal to 6500 rpm. Toyota claimed a 140 mph maximum, but we have been unable to locate any road tests to prove their claim.

But perhaps more important than a theoretical top speed was the way the car felt when you were hammering it. And stable it was, at any speed. There was an inner strength and eagerness of the Toyota, it offered fine road manners, good brakes, and craftsman finish. It combined all the good features of European high-performance machinery - such as the Lotus Elan-type backbone chassis, full independent springing, sharp responsive steering and mile-shrinking ability - and added the Oriental touch in its vast range of equipment. Inevitably it was compared with the E-type Jaguar and Porsche 911, both of which were cheaper and quicker. But perhaps this comparison was unfair. The Toyota was an on-the-road design exercise, a road going prototype never put into serious production, and aimed squarely at gathering experience in the exclusive GT field. It was the forerunner of all the best that Japan was to offer the world in the years to come.
Toyota 2000GT
Toyota 2000GT
Toyota 2000GT Interior

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Also see:

Toyota 2000 GT Specifications
Kiichiro Toyoda
The Toyota Australia Story
Toyota Car Brochures
Toyota Car Commercials
Toyota Production 1950 - 1979
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