Among historically significant Japanese cars, the 2000GT sits right there at the top of the heap. Among 2000GTs, the Carroll Shelby’s ex-SCCA race car is one of the most historically significant. The car is almost certainly going to be the first Japanese classic to break the $2 million auction barrier, and possibly the $3 million barrier when it goes up for sale this weekend.
The Shelby 2000GT isn’t necessarily significant because of the races it won. In fact, it didn’t really win much at all. For 2000GTs that actually did capture a checkered flag, you’d have to look towards Japan. Unfortunately, those race cars have been lost to time, and most likely the scrapyard. However, in America one cannot underestimate enough the weight carried by the name of a certain chicken farmer turned Le Mans racer.
For example, a typical well-restored 1965 Cobra 427 is worth about $2 million. Carroll Shelby’s personal 1965 Cobra 427, which he owned until he passed away in 2012, sold last year for $5.94 million. Incidentally, the most expensive Cobra ever sold was the first one built, which went for $13.75 million in 2016, a new record for an American car at the time.
As it happens, this Toyota 2000GT has been both touched by the hand of Shelby and wears serial number MF10-10001, making it the very first example off the production line. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, of course, as Shelby is far more closely associated with the Cobra than the Toyota. But, it is a bit mind-blowing to think that Shelby was working on them during the same era in which he was building the last of his Cobras and finishing up his assault on Ferrari at Le Mans with a revenge-driven blank check from Ford.
The car is one of three built by Shelby, with the others numbered MF10-10005 and 10006. In period, this particular example was driven by Dave Jordan, while its red-on-white sister car was driven by Scooter Patrick. The 2000GTs were campaigned in the SCCA C-Production championships for only one season, 1968, during which they logged four 1st, eight 2nd, and six 3rd place finishes. Ultimately, the team finished 4th in points, behind Porsche and Triumph. Jordan’s assessment was that while it lacked the power to beat the Porsches, its handling was “phenomenal.”
After racing and a stint as a display car for Toyota Gulf State distributors based in Houston, the car was eventually returned to Toyota USA’s former southern California headquarters. It was painted over many times, used for promotional purposes, and, as we’ve heard, an occasional company car by some Toyota execs. In the 80s, it was purchased by Bob Tkacik of Maine Line Exotics, who restored it and repainted it in its original racing livery.
Since then, it’s been displayed and driven at a number of historic car events, including the Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca to celebrate 50 years of Toyota in America and at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It also won First in Class at the 2017 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and the 2013 Lime Rock Sunday in the Park Concours.
Back in 2013 a production 1967 Toyota 2000GT became the first Japanese car to sell at auction for over $1 million at auction, setting a benchmark for the model. Estimates for the Shelby race car range from $2.75 million to $3.5 million. The Shelby 2000GT will cross the block at the Gooding & Company auction at Amelia Island on March 4.
Images: Dan Hsu; Chassy Media; Gooding & Company by Josh Hway