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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Most Expensive Japanese Car

Even I had a tough time believing this, but last year at an auction, a 1967 Toyota 2000GT became the most expensive Japanese car in the world, selling for US $1.2 million.

Just five years earlier, another Toyota 2000GT sold for US 650,000.

So what's up with this car?

Well, it sure looks like a classic Jaguar E-Type.

In fact it was inspired by it.

A limited-production car, the 2000GT is a front-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-seat, hardtop coupé grand tourer designed by Toyota in collaboration with Yamaha Motor Company, and was built between 1967-1070.

It is considered to be THE car that changed people's view of Japanese automobiles as being stodgy and boring.

This Toyota supercar, however, could have been a Datsun (Nissan).

Conceived of by German-American designer Albrecht Goertz, he went to Japan to work for Yamaha in the early 1960s to modernize Nissan's Fairlady two-seater sportscar.

Yeah... nothing says raw power in a sportscar like "Fairlady".

He built a prototype, but Nissan didn't like it... so Yamaha offered it to Toyota, for whom they also did contract work, and they said yeah, we like it.

Sort of.

At the time, Toyota was that prototypical boring Japanese-design car company, and it was hoped that the 2000GT could change people's image for the company.

The only thing is, Nissan wanted to change the design as originally conceived by Goertz, using Nissan designer Nozaki Satoru (surname first) to make more Toyota-specific.

So yes, Nozaki based the body design on the Jaguar E-Type, made it out of lightweight aluminum, added pop-up headlights (you can see the covers for it in the down position in the photo above) above large plexiglass covered driving lamps flanking the grille similar to those on the Toyota Sports 800.

Originally shown at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show, a special one-of-a-kind convertible of the 2000GT was built just for the 1967 James Bond flick You Only Live Twice... and never for the regular public.

Actually, they made two of these cars for the movie.

The car was mainly driven by Bond girl Aki, played by Japanese actress Wakabayashi Akiko (surname first) - what? Another Japanese reference?!

Aki wasn't in the original book by Bond creator Ian Fleming, but was added and originally called Suki in the screenplay as written by Roald Dahl...

Dahl, by the way created that whole Willie Wonka thing in his book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You might also know Dahl for his books (and movie adaptions of Matilda, James & The Giant Peach, The BFG, and the Fantastic Mister Fox.

Dahl is one of my favorite authors, and the Fleming material is known to be pretty darn good, too.

Right-handed steering wheel - perfect for the one-and-only James Bond... er, except for all of those different actors that portrayed him. By the way, Ian Fleming who created James Bond, also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, another fantastic car.
Only 351 regular production units of the 2000GT were built by Yamaha (for Toyota) featuring: 233 MF10, 109 MF10L, and nine MF12L.

What are those designations? Well, it was based on the engines made available.

The MF10 featured a 2.0 Liter 3M I6 powertrain capable of 150 horsepower.

The MF12L featured a 2.3 Liter 2M I6 power train capable of 109-115 horsepower.

The engine was a longitudinally mounted 2.0 Liter straight-6 cylinder motor (aka the 3M) that was based originally on the Toyota Crown sedan but altered by Yamaha by adding a new double overhead camshaft head turning it into a 150 horsepower sportscar.

That means more people bought the 150 horsepower version than the wimpy 109 horsepower version.

To put things in perspective, my very light 2016 Nissan Micra SV has 109 horsepower, the same as the larger Nissan Versa.

Still, those wimpy Toyota MF 12L cars could move. The nine special MF 12 models used a larger (and heavier) SOHC 2.3 Liter 2M engine, and with a five-speed manual transmission and available with three options for different ratio axles, the 4.375 could get the car up to speeds of 135mph (217kph).

Again... and I know this is years later, but I drove my 2001 Hyundai Tiberon (145 horsepower) at 240 kph (149.129 mph)... and it's just a sporty car, not a sportscar.

Still... we are talking about a rare car (Lamborghini and Ferrari each make about the same number of cars over a two-year period) from 50 years ago, and is considered the car that truly made Japan's automobile industry famous.

It is a lovely car.

Most Toyota 2000GT cars were painted red or white (like the Japanese flag), with a few coming in with the beautiful yellow pictured above.

Sexy backside, the car (front and back) came with minimal bumpers.

It is guesstimated that some 60 Toyota 2000GT cars made it to America... selling for about US$6,800... which was more than what one would have paid for a contemporary Porsche or Jaguar (upon which it's body was based).

Oh... and here's the delightful Aki, checking out James Bond, Agent 007:

Andrew Joseph

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