One of the cars that caught my eye at the Arizona Concours d’Elegance was this gleaming white coupe. It had the classic long hood and short decklid look of a European car, like a Jaguar E-type. The car also had a large diameter wooden steering wheel like a sixties-era Ferrari. However, the car I was looking at was neither British nor Italian – it was a Toyota from Japan!
The 2000GT is a very rare car, with only 337 ever built. This one is particularly rare, because it is one of just 62 left-hand drive models made for the U.S. market. This car is significant because it’s the car that made people sit up and pay attention to Toyota as an automobile manufacturer.
One thing you may not know about Toyota is that they are actually a very old company, which started out making automatic looms for the textile industry back in 1926. The company founder’s son, Kiichiro Toyoda, decided that Toyota Loom Works needed to expand into automobile production after visiting the United States. The Toyota Motor Company division was established in 1937.
At first, the company made a number of small cars and trucks for the Japanese market. Toyota made their first entry into the US market in 1957 with the Crown, but with World War II still fresh in people’s minds, the idea of buying a Japanese car wasn’t warmly received in America. Japanese-produced goods were considered to be inferior quality at the time.
Then in 1957, Japan got a new Prime Minister and he was serious about rebuilding the country’s economy. His leadership was the catalyst that sparked the “post-war economic miracle” as it is now called, where Japan skyrocketed up to become the world’s second largest economy between the 1960s and the 1980s.
So what does this have to do with the car? Well, I’m getting to that. Post-war Japan is turning into a global superpower, and Toyota decides to show that they can build a car which is as good or better than their European counterparts. That car, released in 1967, was the 2000GT. To say it took the automotive world by storm would be an understatement!
Here is a company that a short time ago, was making automated looms and trucks for farmers. Now they had a “super car” capable of going 135 mph with all the luxury and refinement of the finest European sports cars!
The car was built in cooperation with Yamaha, who massaged everything from the 2.0L inline 6 engine to the beautiful wood on the interior. The result was a car that was universally praised by automotive critics.
Sales were modest, due in part to the fact that the car cost a lot more than the Jag E-type, which was one of its main competitors. In fact, the car is often referred to as the Japanese ‘E-Type’ due to their numerous similarities.
Have I already mentioned how extraordinarily rare these cars are? Because it’s worth mentioning again. A yellow 1967 2000GT formerly owned by Don Davis sold at RM Auctions in 2013 for $1.2 million dollars!
The car is exquisite in both its original design and in its preservation, and I am fortunate to have seen such a rare and significant machine.