In 1968, Toyota was rapidly gaining an excellent reputation for building high quality small cars with attractively low pricing. There was nothing revolutionary about Toyotas, just surprising refinement and unexpectedly thoughtful details for the price classes in which the cars competed. The bulk of Toyota sales went to the economy Corona, priced at $1,790 ($13,070 adjusted). The most expensive model available in the U.S. was the Crown, which at $2,765 ($20,189 adjusted) was priced in-line with the Chevrolet Chevelle. Given the brand’s menu of basic low-priced fare, it was quite a shock when Toyota sent over an expensive sports car–the 2000GT–aiming at the Jaguar and Porsche. Car and Driver worked hard to get their hands on one to test–did they see Toyota’s GT as an anomaly, or the start of the something potentially very interesting from the Land of the Rising Sun?
Without a doubt, there was a lot to love about the 2000GT. As Toyota had done with its volume products, the sports car boasted high quality and attention to detail. Plus the 2000GT offered sophisticated engineering in keeping with the world’s best sports cars at the time, along with thoughtful features and surprisingly good ride quality for a high performance coupe. Car and Driver was quick to praise it as a great first attempt at a world-class sports car.
Not that it was perfect, however: flaws included a difficult shifter (despite being a 5-speed), tricky throttle and 4-wheel disc brakes that were good but not outstanding. The biggest issue was interior room, or lack thereof–the 2000GT could not comfortably accommodate a driver over 6′ tall, limiting its appeal outside of Japan. Pricing was also not as keen as it could have been–the Japanese upstart cost more than its established sports car rivals. The 2000GT cost $7,230 ($52,792 adjusted), while the Jaguar XKE Coupe went for $5,559 ($40,591 adjusted) and the Porsche 911L Coupe sold for $6,790 ($49,579 adjusted).
In the end, the Toyota 2000GT wound up being a mere footnote in the market. With minimal sales, the GT was soon withdrawn while Toyota focused on rapidly expanding its core business, satisfied in having shown the world its capability to produce a great product in any segment in which the company chose to compete. In that regard, the 2000GT was arguably the first Lexus, with its unexpected amalgamation of attributes like performance, convenience features and ride comfort–copying various characteristics from the best examples in the world to serve up an answer uniquely suited to addressing market needs. Plus, with Toyota being Toyota, they were careful to learn from mistakes and listen to existing and potential customers. So the next time they entered the high-end segment with Lexus in 1989, they were much more aggressive with pricing to dramatically undercut the established players and upend the market. While the GT may have been too small for Americans, it hinted at Toyota’s potential to be bigger and better than anything the world could imagine in 1968.
My only exposure to the 2000GT was in You Only Live Twice. Never seen one in real life
I believe Toyota built that convertible model specifically for the film-makers.
I heard that story, too. Supposedly Sean Connery couldn’t fit in the regular version.
Yes that is correct. An open car had the added bonus of being it easier to film the occupants,
I had never understood why the car never sold better than it did. I do now – that price would have been a problem from an established name, and was insurmountable on a Toyota, then known only for small, inexpensive cars.
And forget the car, I want to join the Cartridge Tape Club of America. They have something for everyone, including those crazy little cassettes.
8-tracks and cassettes I know about, but 4-tracks? What are those?
Wonder how many people ordered the Beethoven 5th concerto without knowing who was performing or conducting it (as is convention with classical music)
Fascinating read, as I don’t think I’ve ever read a review of it when it was new. It was clearly not ever intended to be sold in any significant numbers. But it made quite an impact at the time, the classic halo car.
Toyota didn’t really need a separate halo car. When you’re selling perfect cars for the same price as crappy cars, all of your cars are halo cars.
8 track tapes. The worst format of all time.
This was a little before my time, but from what I understand cassettes had inferior sound quality compared to 8-tracks when they were first introduced. But cassettes eventually improved to the point where people considered the quality acceptable, particularly with the introduction of Dolby Noise Reduction, at which point they stopped buying 8-tracks.
How many people thought Dolby Noise Reduction was only a high frequency filter and kept it switched OFF? They must have LOVED those screechy highs they got that way. Either that or their tweeters…or their ears…were blown!
As for eight-tracks being the worst, how about 4-tracks? All the problems of 8-tracks, but only played half as long.
8-track cartridges didn’t inherently have bad sound quality; theoretically it should have been better than cassettes since the tape moves at twice the speed. However, the cartridges had an essential part of the tape transport – the pinch roller – built into each cartridge instead of just making it part of the tape player as with cassettes or reel-to-reel decks. This caused lots of problems – cartridges left in hot cars would cause the roller lubricant to leak out; cartridges left in the deck when the car was turned off would develop a flat spot on the roller, and ever cheapening cartridge construction worsened these problems and others. Also, while early 8-track players had a tape head that could read all 8 tracks, most decks could read only a stereo pair at a time and shifted the position of the head each time it needed to switch to another stereo pair (which it would three times per album). This shift often knocked the tape head out of alignment, affecting sound quality.
Besides sound quality and reliability issues, there were major inherent disadvantages of the format. The tape could not be rewound or fast-forwarded, and the album had to be divided into four equally-sized sections, causing long gaps between songs, program changes during a song (accompanied by a clunk from the tape head shift), or worst of all, song order changed to make it fit the cartridge better.
Dude. I had 4track player.
Fascinating article about a beautiful car. It looks like Toyota and Yamaha took the 2000GT to 95% in terms of development, but that last 5% seemed to be crucial.
I love that old photography.
Yes, but why the kangaroos?
The commentary about 6 footers not being compatable in this car might not have even gone far enough; I’ve never been inside one, but I have seen a few in person, and these cars are small. Here is one I saw in Chicago a couple years back. Take note that the roping around the car is approximately the same height as the car. Also, from this angle it almost looks as if the car is only about four license plates wide. That said, they are stunningly good looking cars.
Also, to add some context as to how small these are, compared to the contemporary Opel GT, the Toyota was 2.5 inches longer, .08 inches wider, yet 3.4 inches shorter in wheelbase and 2.5 inches in height.
In modern terms, the original Miata is 8.9 inches shorter, and 2.5 inches shorter in wheelbase. It is also 2.9 inches wider and 2.7 inches taller compared to the Toyota.
Nissan obviously took note of this and put their beancounters on it. The end result was the 240Z at an affordable price.
And more specifically the Fairlady Z432, which wasn’t exactly affordable, but was much more directly comparable to the 2000GT in specs: five-speed, DOHC 2-liter six (with 24 valves, thank you very much), mag wheels.
The Toyota Museum in Torrence, CA has about three of these. Definitely one of those cars with a seemingly mystically aura around it when you see one in the flesh.
I have sat inside a 2000 GT owned by a friend. Any taller than her (around 5’9) would be a problem, let alone 6’!
Definitely not for Paul!
The car is gorgeous and absolutely jewel like though. The view through that wrap around windscreen across the fenders is magnificent….
Kids, there was a time when Toyotas weren’t boring….
Give credit where credit is due. These cars were Yamahas wearing a Toyota badge. Yamaha designed the car and built the engines. Toyota did nothing but slap their name on them. Yamaha also played a large roll in the Toyota supra.
I knew Yamaha had some credit for the engine, but any evidence for more?
Not that I’m leaping to the appliance maker’s defence, merely curious.
And can Toyota build a sports car by them selves? They partnered with Suburu for the 86/BRZ, so is history repeating itself.
I’ve seen one of these in Lae, New Guinea, sometime in the late 1960s.
“Toyota did nothing but slap their name on them.” This is not correct.
The engine was a Crown 6 with a twin cam head designed with Yamaha’s help. The gearbox (shared with the Corona 1600 GT5 hardtop) was a Toyota item.
The overall styling and engineering concept came from an earlier Nissan/Yamaha attempt at a more modern Fairlady. This never eventuated and Yamaha offered the sports car project to Toyota . The final styling was done by a Toyota stylist.
Yamaha built/assembled the car, partly because they had facilities that were better suited to the low volume (and hand made) production run.
Yamaha also built twin-cam heads for an assortment of Toyota’s (mostly JDM) performance engines in the late ’60s and ’70s, including the 9R engine in the 1600GT and later the 2T-G and 18R-G, among others.