Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Toyota 2000 GT / A Day Japan Broke The Mold

With such heartbreaking turmoil in Japan at this time, and the fact that this blog has quite a few Japanese enthusiasts following, it may be nice to take a look back at a better day.

The 2000 GT was very important for Toyota Motor Company because it proved to the world that they could produce sports cars not just grocery getter's. The design was done by Raymond Loewy of Yamaha (check comments below), with a body comprised of aluminum and a 2.0L straight six; transformed by Yamaha with double overhead cams to produce 150HP.

The world got their first look at the Toyota 2000 GT at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show. Image, Toyota

Production vehicles were built between 1967 and 1970 with only 337 Toyota 2000 GTs produced. Image, Toyota

In 1967, Toyota entered into an agreement with Carroll Shelby to develop the 2000 GT for SCCA C-Production competition. Immediately the 2000 GTs needed more development. The drivers praised the handling, which was enhanced by custom made 15×7 magnesium wheels with special low profile racing tires, and very low suspension (the wheels and tires alone lowered the ride height by 2.5inches). However, the Yamaha-designed head was not easy to modify for more compression, which lead to initial engine failures, and C/Prod rules stipulated that the 2000GT would have to use triple Mikuni carbs, rather than the preferred Webers, which would have yielded more power. Just the same, the racing cars rolled onto the grid for the 1968 season with 200hp and with reliability issues sorted.

Former "Formula One" driver Ronnie Bucknum testing the car for the first time at Riverside Raceway on September 6, 1967 in chassis number 10001. Image, Toyota

Toyota 2000 GT at the SCCA Pacific Grand Prix held at San Diego Stadium in 1968. Image, SD Union/Tribune

Impeccably prepared, the Shelby Toyota's brought the fight to the class leading Porsche 911s, run by the renowned Vasek Polak Racing and other SoCal teams. The races were close and hard, with lots of paint-swapping. All told, the drivers of the Toyota's racked up four wins, eight 2nd place finishes, and six 3rd place finishes, but at the end of the season it was the Porsche 911s 1st and 2nd, with the Toyota's of Scooter Patrick and Dave Jordan in 3rd and 4th respectively.

Unfortunately, Toyota informed the Shelby Team that at the end of 1968 it would be pulling out of the championship race, leaving the 2000 GT with unfulfilled potential. However, the mold was broken!

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  1. Russ emailed this to clear this up: Love these cars, John... but AFAIK Raymond Lowey had nothing to do with the design. That story has gone around for ages because Albrecht Gortz had been at Lowey Studios, went to Japan, worked as a design consultant 1962-64 for Nissan and penned the Nissan 2000GT, which was engineered by Yamaha. He also did the 1500 Silvia which was produced in small numbers, but not the GT. That design and engineering concept was picked up by Toyota after Nissan passed on it, and Goertz' styling was discarded. Toyota revised the 2000GT extensively, the final design in-house by Satoru Nozaki (also responsible for the Sports 600 and 800) and first presented at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show. All 351 were actually built by Yamaha. Some believe the Datsun 240Z can be attributed to Goertz, but he was long gone from Datsun/Nissan by that time. Goertz also inexplicably claimed to have worked at Porsche on the 901. Which of course is patently false... his independent 901 proposal was rejected early on.

    Two of the Shelby prepared racers made an appearance at Laguna Seca in 2007... with a BUNCH of brethren; 19 or 20 IIRC, plus a couple of Sports 800s.
    Always enjoy your blog, thanks for keeping at it.

    Best regards,

  2. Thanks Russ for the clarification...come to find out Goertz also designed the BMW 507 in 1955, a very cool car!