KIDNEY, ANYONE? The mystery of the “first” Toyota 2000GT

Toyota 2000GT 1st mystery 01

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.

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The Car

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.

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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.

Toyota 2000GT Shelby SCCA

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.

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The Auction

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.

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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.”

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The Conclusion

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. 



This post is filed under: for sale.

16 Responses to KIDNEY, ANYONE? The mystery of the “first” Toyota 2000GT

  1. Kuroneko says:

    Interesting story! Further, I think that is a MF10 interior based on the stopwatch / clock combo being square not round, and the non-flush interior door handles similarly designed for US federalizing like the larger side-lights. Neko.

  2. cesariojpn says:

    Wait, it has a license plate? Ask for the plate #, run it thru Japanese DMV, nad see what pops up.

  3. wantyerknobbies says:

    Outstanding photos for an outstanding car?

  4. E-AT_me says:

    Don’t care. Would buy. Would drive… 😉

  5. Gene says:

    Same here, buy it, drive it. If only I had the moohlas…

  6. xs10shl says:

    The only way this could possibly be serial #1 is if it can be demonstrated that the chassis at one point belonged to serial #1. Then it would make more sense that someone rebodied it. Given the completeness of the car, that would be pretty far fetched, and would have to come with a ton of documentation in order to be believed. I’m more inclined to believe that someone re-VINd the car at some point it its life, for reasons unknown. One question I do wonder about is how the seller got the data plates.

  7. MikeRL411 says:

    There are sites that will “produce” [so as not to say counterfeit] any data plate in the blank. Then out comes the mechanics punch set!

  8. Bellett1600GT says:

    One point not mentioned anywhere….
    Why are the chassis plates / ID plates / VIN plates not fitted to the car in the pics? That rings alarm bells here straight away, because they simply should be fitted to it.
    Raises the question if the ones shown belong to the car shown, and maybe if the seller even has the in his possession to begin with…..

    • Ben Hsu says:

      You’re right. I added that fact. We’d just been mulling all the other points so much at the JNC water cooler that glaring fact slipped our minds!

    • xs10shl says:

      It might even be the case that the seller is smarter than all of us, and the car has a known correct VIN, which he will disclose to the buyer who is serious about acquiring the car. In the mean time, he is getting all this free publicity, and we are the suckers trying to solve the non-mystery.

      That would be a really good trick!

  9. rich says:

    it could have been registered if the owner just lied at the Land transport office. You guys act like no one ever lies or sneaks under radar for registration lol. in the end its a solid price for that car, regardless of the fishy history. hell, just the fact that its history became a news story adds a novelty to it if someone really gave a shit about that.

  10. Mike says:

    There is a whole block of 2000GT production that isn’t mentioned above from shin’s book.
    I summarise below from his book:

    In November 1969 production changed to the later body type but kept the MF10 or MF10-C(auto trans) with 10401-10509 body plate number and Yamaha restarted chassis numbers at this point at 001 with two pre production cars. There were 109 of these right hand drive late body style 2000GT’s made with the twin-cam motor.
    Also one only left hand twin-cam was made MF10L-10487, along with the 9 MF12L single cam left hand drive cars MF12L-100001 to 100009.

    This is from pictures, one of the 109 right hand drive late body twin-cam cars, those chassis plates may be incorrect due to unknown circumstances in the last 46 years.
    If it is chassis # 0003 then it should be MF10-10405. A photo of the engine number may shed some light on this as it will have 104xx if a late car and these are listed in shins book too.

    Hope this helps unravel this mystery

  11. Ben,
    Great story. Thanks to you, Shin, David & Brandon for digging into this.
    Interestingly, the seller DID contact Toyota: he reached out to me last year with much of the same story he’s telling now, but I had enough questions that I didn’t feel right referring him to anyone else.

    • Dankan says:

      If he really did contact Toyota, and they weren’t interested, that may indicate that they felt his claims didn’t pass the smell test. Or they completely ignored him.

      Either way, unless someone got to see the car in person, and report on what they found, the mystery will remain as such.

    • Ben Hsu says:

      Thanks for that insight, Paul. It certainly does seem suspect. I hope the car does find a good home and has its history cleared up. After all, it is still a 2000GT.

      Dankan – that is exactly what Paul is saying. Paul is a Toyota (or Lexus, more accurately) exec.

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