Cohort Capsule: Toyota Sports 800 – Toyota’s First Sports Car

posted at the Cohort by William Rubano


We’ve covered Honda’s brilliant S500/600/800 sports car, which had tiny high-winding DOHC fours that revved up to 9,500rpm and made up to 70hp. Toyota was undoubtedly shocked by that, and felt they had to offer something in the same category too. The result was the little Sports 800, powered by an 800cc version of the air-cooled boxer twin from the Publica 700 sedan. It made a still-decent 45 hp but at a mere 5400 rpm. But if it wasn’t exactly a screamer like the Hondas, it was still a fun little bomb on Japan’s roads at the time.

Only 3,131 of these little pint-sized Lotus Elan-mobiles were ever made between 1965 and 1969, and only some 10% still exist, so this is one of about 300. I’ve certainly never seen one in the flesh, although maybe there was one at the Lane Museum.

The lift-out targa roof was one of the first of its kind.

It shows quite a bit of British influence in the cockpit. The gearbox started out non-syncro, but was synchronized in 1967. The Sports 800 was built by Toyota subcontractor Kanto Auto Works. The design credits go to Shozo sato, who was on loan from Datsun, and Toyota engineer Tatsuo Hasegawa. Weight (1275 lbs) was kept down by selective use of aluminum and steel in the unibody.

It’s a genuine midget in today’s auto world.