These days, it’s easy, but also not terribly difficult to see a Toyota Sports 800 in the US. Though Toyota never offered them in the US, they’ve been part of numerous car shows and museum exhibits. And with their build dates of 1965-69 landing squarely before even California’s strict emissions testing schedule, they are free to cross our borders as they please. This, however, is one of the few new Sports 800s sold officially on US soil (two others were sold in Hawaii).
Matt Spielberg has owned his Sports 800 since 2015, but its origin story is a bit of an anomaly. As the story goes, the original owner’s interest in the Sports 800 was piqued when he saw a picture of the car on a flyer at a San Francisco-area Rambler-Toyota dealership. The dealership told him that the car couldn’t be sold in the US — which was true, as Toyota did not officially import the model — but the buyer apparently wouldn’t take no for an answer. This is what happened next, according to Matt:
Being a resourceful guy, he went home and got on the phone with a Toyota dealer in Guam and placed an order. The car was delivered to California just prior to January 1968.
In the early days of Toyota USA, things weren’t as bureaucratic as they are today. Nowadays, any Toyotas sold have to follow the rules set by Toyota Motor Sales, USA, which reports back to Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan. Back then, Toyota had several distribution channels for various US territories and regions, like Guam and Hawaii, and even the mainland US was divided up (west coast, gulf states, etc), each one of which had their own line to Japan. Just because one Toyota dealer wouldn’t do it, didn’t mean others followed suit. Some regions even sold models that others didn’t. Likely, Toyota never thought anyone in the US would be interested in the Sports 800, but one savvy owner was, and that’s how a Toyota Sports 800 was officially sold, brand new, in the US.