A mysterious ad for what is claimed to be the first Toyota 2000GT has been making the rounds in Japan (and beyond) recently. The serial number on the car is claimed to be MF10-10001, and if that is the case it would certainly seem to indicate that it’s the earliest one built. Multiple JNC readers have sent us this auction tip, but I’ve resisted publishing something about it until now because the story doesn’t quite add up. It took a team of six JNC writers to figure it all out, but we think we finally have the mystery sorted. Sort of.
First, the facts. For non-Japanese readers, the car is being sold on Yahoo Japan Auctions for ¥100,000,000, or $823,418 at current exchange rates. The auction also states that it’s the third of three prototypes, Yamaha chassis 0003. He also acknowledges that the first two, 0001 and 0002, are in the United States (which is true, see below). Curiously, however, he lists the model year as June 1971.
Just these statements alone were enough to raise an eyebrow. Most glaringly, the car pictured appears to be a facelifted 2000GT, chassis code MF12, identifiable by the larger side marker lights both front and rear, a concession to export market regulations. The fronts would have been easy enough to replace, but the rears were molded into the body itself. Assuming no one was insane enough to cut into the rear quarter panels, the car was not simply an MF10 with an MF12 nose grafted on.
To make the 2000GT more palatable to export markets, specifically the US, Toyota also sought to reduce the price by replacing the MF10’s expensive twin-cam with a single-cam motor. To compensate for less efficient breathing, displacement was increased to 2.3L, though the horsepower was still about 10 less, at 140. The photos, however, clearly show a 3M twin-cam motor nestled in the engine bay.
Another eyebrow raiser is the fact that we have always understood that MF10-10001 was the ex-Carroll Shelby SCCA car, currently owned by Bob Tkacik of Maine Line Exotics. We visited Maine Line Exotics and profiled that car in the old print version of JNC, but sadly could not snap any photos of the serial number stamped into the frame.
We called Bob Tkacik and asked him for a photo of the stamped number but haven’t received it yet. We will update this story when we do. While on the call, Bob told us that his car was never shipped to the US with the riveted Toyota number plate, which bring us to…
A photo of the (detached) Toyota number plate included in the auction with MF10-10001 clearly visible. And if you follow the seller’s link to his Yahoo photo-sharing account, you’ll see a Yamaha number plate (also detached) for chassis number 0003. That in itself is not a red flag. As you know, Yamaha hand-built each Toyota 2000GT and very rarely did Yamaha’s internal numbering system match up with Toyota’s serial number. This could be due to a number of reasons — cars that were completed in different order or frames pulled out of the queue for testing.
What does raise a red flag is that Shin Yoshikawa, author of Toyota 2000GT: The Complete Guide to Japan’s First Supercar, has records of all 351 production and pre-production Yamaha and Toyota serial numbers and according to him the car built on Yamaha pre-production chassis 03 (PP3) was Toyota serial number MF10-10003 (with a build date of November 24, 1966).
For what it’s worth, Yoshikawa’s records indicate that MF10-10001 was built on Yamaha chassis PP1 September 27, 1966. The third production 2000GT, Yamaha P3, was MF10-10009, built April 7, 1967.
As if all this wasn’t enough, yet another eyebrow could be hoisted at the timeline. The last Toyota 2000GT was produced in October of 1970, planting a question mark after the June 1971 model year listed in the auction. Additionally, the US safety laws the larger markers and reflectors were meant to satisfy were not adopted until 1969, which means no early prototype could have had these features.
At this point, based on facts presented in the auction alone we’re already rapidly running out of eyebrows and crimson pennants. Our resident Japanese language expert David Lovett explains why the auction’s tone raises even more:
“In the description, the seller refuses to let anyone inspect the car until they’ve committed a bid. In other words, you have to buy a million dollar car sight unseen based on tiny pictures on Yahoo Auctions. Furthermore, he goes as far to say not to even ask him a question unless you’ve committed to a bid.
Additionally, the part about the number plates is written in Japanese in a vague and even with a native speaker and I trying to figure it out for 20 minutes, it’s hard to say what exactly he intends to write. It’s as if he’s intentionally writing Japanese that can be read in multiple ways.
In the questions section, one individual asked why he hasn’t contacted Toyota or a museum about the car due to its importance (even commenting that it’s strange that he would attempt to sell such a car on Yahoo), and the seller simply brushes off the question with a “Thank you for your suggestion.” Another question asks if this is the prototype car that Denso used to own, and the seller responds that it is, so maybe something can be chased up through there.
It appears to have been posted on Yahoo Auctions in 2013, and in that auction he explained that there were originally three prototypes. Two of those prototypes never made it to market and were unregisterable. The third one is this car, which had an MF12 nose, was registered for the market. However, prototype vehicles can’t be registered, even if they’re identical to retail vehicles; it’s just a quirk of the Japanese maze that is vehicle registration. This “prototype” has a license plate on it though, which means it was registered at one point in time.
On top of all this, the seller says he’s had multiple people bid and then flake on him. The way he writes it, he makes it sound like the people who bid screwed him and didn’t commit, and that’s why he’s re-listed it a few times. To me though, that sounds like someone bid, inspected the car and then gave him the finger.
The discovery of the car has become a fairly big news topic in Japan, and more than 80 percent of the people who’ve commented on the news items say there’s something suspect as well.”
Given the question marks, we are 99.9 percent certain that the car isn’t the first Toyota 2000GT, or even one of the first three prototypes. What is it, then? Well, if we must give the seller one last benefit of the doubt, there’s this theory:
Only nine US-spec MF12s were built before the 2000GT was canceled, four pre-production prototypes and five production examples. They are extremely rare. Referring back to Yoshikawa’s list, Yamaha confusingly re-started their numbering scheme a couple times during the 2000GT’s lifespan.
Therefore, the first MF12 prototype is indeed numbered, again, PP3 in Yamaha’s records. The Toyota serial number for that car? MF12LC-100001, with four zeros. Build date, April 2, 1969. The L stands for “left hand drive,” as all MF12s were built for the US market, while the C indicates it was equipped with an automatic transmission. The car in the auction, clearly, is neither.
However, it is still a 2000GT, possibly even a rare MF12 body with RHD. The MF10-10001 number plate could be the missing one from the ex-Shelby car, but even that is not conclusive. In the Ferrari world, such items are counterfeited all the time, and with the Toyota 2000GT rising in price as the premier Nihon classic, it is both sad and unsurprising that these shenanigans might find their way into the world of Japanese nostalgic cars.
The media hype in Japan over this car will no doubt raise awareness among the Japanese that the 2000GT is now a million dollar-plus car in the US, driving prices upward. Even if it’s not as claimed, in the end examples like the one in this auction only add to the mythology of an already mythic car.
Special thanks to the Ricky Silverio, David Lovett, Brandon Kelley, Skorj and Ken Lee, who all lent a hand. We shall now get a Toyota TownAce van, paint it green and blue, and go around solving automotive mysteries with a talking Akita Inu. All photos of the auction car have been downloaded and are presented below for future reference.