The Toyota 2000GT was introduced in Tokyo in 1965 and it immediately put the automotive community on notice. Toyota, and Japan, were making a statement that they could compete with the world’s best producers of sports coupes. The 2000GT, however, was not Toyota’s idea. Yamaha, known for its motorcycles at the time, decided to begin work on a sports car, its first venture into the automotive industry. After Yamaha had completed the initial designs for the car, the 2000GT found its home with Toyota, Yamaha’s second choice for a manufacturer.
The 2000GT was designed by Raymond Loewy and had been intended as a product for Nissan, who later decided not to take on the project. So Yamaha brought the plans for the 2000GT before Toyota.
The engine found in the 2000GT was based on the inline six in the Toyota Crown. Yamaha adapted it for use in the new model by installing new double overhead camshafts. The engine produced 150 horsepower and could propel the 2400 pound vehicle to a respectable top speed of 135 miles per hour. Handling was impressive thanks, in part, to its 49/51 weight distribution.
More than just a GT sports car, Toyota made sure the 2000GT found its way to the track. They entered a 2000GT in the Japanese Grand Prix. In its inaugural outing at that event in 1966, the model placed 3rd. A year later, it won the Fuji 24 Hours endurance race. Toyota even sent a 2000GT to the Yatabe Test Track, where it set 15 records in speed and endurance. Carroll Shelby even raced the 2000GT in SCCA events in the United States, racking up a respectable four wins in the 1968 season, the only season it would compete under Shelby’s name.
In 1967, the Toyota 2000GT played a starring role in You Only Live Twice, the fifth film of the James Bond series. Bond’s Japanese counterpart drove 007 around the streets of Tokyo in a 2000GT. Connery’s tall frame could not fit into the 45.7-inch tall coupe so Toyota built a targa top 200GT in order to further accommodate Connery, but producers ruled it out, because Connery’s head stuck out far above the roofline. Finally, Toyota produced a convertible that fit Connery just fine, and it was used in the movie. Sadly, neither targa nor convertible ever went into production.
Production of the 2000GT lasted until 1970, with just 351 examples produced, and just 15% of those were imported to the United States. Toyota planned to produce nearly 1,000 examples annually, but sales were limited due to its cost. The price of the 2000GT topped $7,000 in 1967, which was over $1,000 more expensive than a Jaguar E-Type and Porsche 911, and over $2,500 more than a Chevrolet Corvette.