Perhaps the ultimate – and undoubtedly the first – JDM Supercar, the Toyota 2000GT has in the past few years become more well known and appreciated outside of Japan, sending its value through the roof. Not that it was ever cheap. When it was released in the late 60s it was priced at about 30% more than a Jaguar E-Type, or almost double a Corvette. It’s price was largely the reason only 337 were ever built from 1967-1970.
Powered by a technologically advanced Yamaha-built 150HP 2 litre straight six DOHC engine with triple two-barrel Solex 40 PHH carburettors, the 2000GT also came equipped with disc brakes all round, an LSD, an aluminium body and a beautifully crafted interior. In fact, every part of this car was built with a scrumptuous level of consideration and delicacy – from the jewel-like front quarter badges to the magnesium-alloy knock-off rims. Of course, for most people the winning feature must have been the sensual, taut styling. Unfortunately, due to Western culture being unable to accept ingenuity and originality coming from Japan (a topic for another day!) this poor Japanese beauty will always be compared to the E-Type. It is often referred to as the “Japanese E-Type”, despite being very much more advanced.
The comparison to the Nissan Fairlady Z is one that is more justified. It is interesting to compare the cars in design and technicalities – so very similar, yet so different. Believe it or not, both cars were ultimately born from the same modest prototype, the A550X. Without going into too much detail, Yamaha and Nissan had the idea of a 2 litre six sports car in the early sixties and had a fellow named Albrecht Goertz as chief designer (who also designed the original CSP311 Silvia). The result was the somewhat ungainly A550X prototype, shown below.
However, the similarities end here. Nissan and Yamaha had a falling out and Yamaha took the designs to Toyota. Toyota took it up, with Satoru Nozaki appointed as chief designer. He used the prototype as a basic reference point but make no mistake – the 2000GT was not designed by Goertz, and neither was the S30 Fairlady Z. The two designs are often considered very similar but in reality, they only share the most basic of generic sports car proportions. See below some comparison pictures to show just how different they are when next to each other.
Yes, the 2000GT is small! The S30Z looks somewhat sedate – conservative – in comparison. The driving experience is completely different too. To drive a 2000GT has been described as being a “part of an experience – an event.” The 240Z is great, but no match for the pure refinement and balance of the 2000GT. No disrespect to the S30Z of course – it drives exactly how it was intended. The difference is the Toyota 2000GT was built to rival Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari. The 240Z was built to create a new market segment – based on price.
There is a lot more to the history of the 2000GT than you might think. If you’d like to learn more about the 2000GT, there is only really one book you need. Shin Yoshikawa’s “Toyota 2000GT: The Complete History of Japan’s First Supercar” (ISBN 0-932128-10-6). It is written in Japanese and English and detailed with the most gorgeous photography, however prepare to spend $200-$300 AUD.