It was beautiful, however… comes the but. I don’t think anyone has ever questioned the undoubted style of the Toyota 2000GT. It was a classic in the 1960s and remains a good looking car by today’s standards. In fact the style, very much in vogue at the time, was used by a lot of manufacturers with greater and lesser degrees of success. They included Nissan (Datsun) with the well-received and class-changing 240Z, and Ferrari with the Daytona. Even ‘Australia’s Own’, GM-H, attempted to follow a similar design path with their shark-like GTR-X. Now, there’s a concept that would have wowed the Antipodean automotive scene!
Perhaps the Toyota 2000GT, featured in the 1967 James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, was simply confused. It had none of its origins within Toyota, but was actually a joint design exercise between Datsun and Yamaha. Datsun at the time had the Fairlady, a square-rigger that actually drove better than it looked, and which kept them on the road, as it were, with sports car enthusiasts. They pulled out of the joint exercise with Yamaha for a number of reasons, not least that the end product would be too dear for the market segment at which it was aimed.
Toyota then joined forces with Yamaha, the latter company designing a twin-cam cylinder head for a 2-litre 6-cylinder engine said at the time to be Toyota, although this was not the case. The engine came from a Prince Skyline (which company had been bought out by Datsun; the Skyline name remains extant). A young designer within Toyota’s own studio detailed the car’s sensual shape, which was spoilt somewhat by the addition of pop-up headlights. The original placement, with headlights in the nose, was too low to meet many countries’ registration laws, including most Australian states.
Production began, but despite the promotional value of it being a Bond car, sales bombed. Apart from any other factor, the 2000GT, when it hit the North American market, was a Japanese sports car with a substantial $1,000 premium over a Porsche 911. It ain’t gonna work, pal!
Punters were simply not going to spend that sort of money for something coming from the Orient. It was a long time before people would equate Japan with quality. In fact it took decades to understand that a name like Toyota and, especially, its premium Lexus range, could build cars capable of taking the game right up to the much-vaunted Germans.
Motoring journalists gave the 2000GT a favourable wrap. The engine was equipped with three Weber DCOE carburettors and spun happily to 7,000rpm, putting its 112kW to work through a 5-speed manual or 3-speed (!) automatic. In manual form, it provided reasonably good performance and a top speed of 221km/h, which was fast for the day. A reasonably well sorted suspension — upper and lower wishbones at each corner — allowed it to handle better than anything yet to come from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Although the design was pure coupe, the car featured in You Only Live Twice was a convertible. This was one of two — only one of which was driveable — to be rebuilt as soft-tops. The reason for this was the height of the coupe, which stood at just 1160mm (less than 3’ 10”), meaning 007 (Sean Connery) could not fit!
Sadly, then, something so beautiful and with such promise simply fizzed. Total production of the Toyota 2000GT was somewhere between 330 and 370, whereas Nissan, heading off and doing its own thing with the 240Z, made and sold around 168,000 cars.
Finally, some good news for those who made a large financial outlay to buy one of these appealing but expensive cars. If you’ve kept it, and in pristine condition, you can take heart from the fact one sold in 2013 for almost $1.2 million. That, I’d think, should help ease the original ticket shock.