This particular Toyota was, truly, the rarest of the few. It was a Toyota 2000GT, a model produced from 1967 to 1971. Only 351 examples were made. But this one is more than just a Toyota. It also goes by another name, making it a 1967 Toyota-Shelby 2000GT. Keen observers of automotive history may remember the name “Shelby” as that of the racing driver and builder of world famous Carroll Shelby.
The Toyota-Shelby 2000GT was built in 1966 and is technically a pre-production model. It carried the chassis number MF10-10001, meaning it was the very first 2000GT to even receive a serial number.
Originally it was painted red and was used as a show car in the United States, allowing Toyota to show the product to potential American customers. After a while it was given, along with two other 2000GTs, to Shelby so he could turn them into competitive racing cars. The plan was to give the 2000GT some real race track pedigree for marketing purposes.
This story is why, while other Toyota 2000GTs can be worth over a million dollars, making it one of the most valuable Japanese cars in the world, this one was worth three times as much. This price makes this vehicle the most valuable Japanese car ever sold at auction. It was sold at Gooding & Co.’s Amelia Island Collector Car Auction. The final sale price includes a commission of approximately 10% paid to the auction company.
In the late 1960s, Toyota was known as a cheap transportation provider for those who wanted to try their luck with a car from Japan. Wanting to change that image, Toyota asked its designer Satoru Nozaki to come up with the 2000GT, a sports car that looked much more like a Ferrari than a Toyota Crown or Corona, cars Toyota was known for. at the time.
It wasn’t Toyota’s first sports car. The cute 44 horsepower Sports 800 came out a few years ago. But the 2000GT was on a whole other level. With a starting price of over $7,000, equivalent to around $60,000 today, the 2000GT cost more than a Porsche 911 or Jaguar XKE at the time. It was more than any other Toyota model.
For the money, buyers got real performance. The 2000GT’s six-cylinder engine, created with the help of Yamaha, could develop up to 150 horsepower and accelerate the car from zero to 100 km/h in 10 seconds. Its acceleration could easily be beaten by a modern family hauler, like a Toyota Highlander hybrid SUV, but the 2000GT’s speed was respectable, if not unbelievable, for its day.
One of the reasons the 2000GT may not have been as popular in the 1960s as Toyota had hoped – the company had planned to make as many as 1,000 a year, according to Gooding – was that ‘It just wasn’t as popular fast as its European rivals,’ said John Wiley, collector car value analyst at Hagerty Automotive Intelligence. Still, it was Japan’s first truly “world-class” sports car, he said.
The real issue was simply the cost, however, according to Gooding. Toyota was losing too much money on each to keep production going.
Toyota declined to comment on the reasons for the decision taken a long time ago to stop manufacturing the car. Ben Hsu, author of the book “Classic Japanese Performance Cars”, cited both the cost of manufacture and the lack of demand. Toyota had reached further, in terms of price and prestige, than customers were willing to go.
“When you hit that level, people buy for the status, and the badge counts,” he said.
The interior of the 2000GT was finished in the same wood used for Yamaha grand pianos, according to Hsu’s book. With its wooden rim and three thin spokes, the 2000GT’s steering wheel resembled that of an expensive Italian or British sports car. A Toyota 2000GT was even featured in a James Bond movie, “You Only Live Twice” in 1967. The car in that movie was a roofless “convertible” version because Sean Connery, the actor who played Bond, was too big to fit otherwise. (The 2000GT was never made in convertible form as a production car.) This James Bond connection also added to the car’s collectible value, Wiley said.
Shelby made many modifications to prepare the 2000GT for racing. Among other things, the rosewood dashboard was replaced with textured painted metal, and adjustable KONI shock absorbers were added, as was a roll bar for safety. Engine power was increased to 210 horsepower. He also had the car repainted in white and brilliant blue. This particular car was used as a development model by Shelby and kept as an alternative in case one of the other two couldn’t run. At the end of the 1968 racing season, Shelby’s Toyotas finished fourth in their racing series behind cars from Porsche and Triumph, according to Gooding.
One of the other Toyota-Shelby 2000GTs is in the Toyota Automobile Museum in Japan but it has been repainted and no longer looks like this one, according to Gooding. The other is in a private car collection somewhere in the United States.
The only other Japanese car with values close to the Toyota 2000GT is the much newer Lexus LFA, a car that could be considered a modern equivalent. An exotic car produced by Toyota’s luxury division from 2010 to 2012, the LFA also had an engine produced in collaboration with Yamaha, in this case a V10. Only 500 were made with prices starting at $375,000. As with the 2000GT, Toyota struggled to sell them all during their production run, Hsu said, but prices soared after production ended.
A particularly rare LFA edition of the Nürburgring, named after the famous German circuit, sold at auction last August for $1.6 million.