Toyota introduced the rakish two-seat 2000GT coupé at the 1965 Tokyo Auto Show, although it was a further two years before the design reached production. No more than 351 regular production examples were built by hand by Yamaha between 1967-1970.
The style of the 2000GT broke all conceptions of Japanese design when it was first seen, with a simplicity of form previously unknown in Toyota home market styling. When John Pride, Toyota’s then-Managing Director in the UK, drove a 2000GT in England, it immediately evoked comparisons with the Jaguar E-type, an automobile that clearly influenced both the layout and the styling of the 2000GT.
Like other revolutionary designs, proper credit for the 2000GT’s styling has been difficult to assign. Albrecht Goertz, associated with both the BMW 507 and the Datsun Z car, has often been credited with the styling. But the manufacturer gives credit to Satoru Nozaki, a young designer working in-house at Toyota.
The 2000GT was designed around Toyota’s 2.0-litre, straight-six M engine introduced in 1965. This engine became the basis for Toyota’s most prestigious family of engines for 30 years. The 3M engine in the 2000GT utilised the cast-iron block, replacing the single overhead camshaft head with a new dohc design created by Yamaha. With three Solex side-draft carburettors, the revised unit was good for 7,000 rpm and 150 hp in the 2000GT and drove the car to over 135 mph.
James Crowe, writing in Road & Track, described the 2000GT as “highly refined in handling and driving and one of the most exciting cars we have driven.” Luxury touches to the interior included a rosewood-veneer dashboard and signal seeking radio and were described as, “up to par for a luxurious GT – an impressive car in which to sit or ride, or simply admire.”
It should come as little surprise then that Broccoli, planning production of You Only Live Twice in Japan, contacted Toyota to provide two 2000GTs for the film. With no more than a month before production began, Toyota reportedly hesitated for nearly two weeks before embracing the potential value of placing James Bond in their newest supercar. Even then, it was determined that the limited head room in the coupé was a tight fit for the 6'2" Sean Connery playing Bond and would also make in-car filming difficult.
Toyota engineers created sketches of the automobile seen on these pages, a modified Targa design that would allow Connery easier access to the GT and improve filming. With only two weeks remaining, there was no time to construct the special Bond 2000GT Targa, however. Two stock 2000GT coupés were quickly cut down to cabriolets for movie production. Coincidentally, You Only Live Twice became the first Bond film in which 007 did not drive an automobile. Bond appears in the movie only as a passenger in the 2000GT cabriolet.
The Targa design remained un-built until 1984, when enthusiast Ed Pessin of Culver City, California commissioned Richard Billings of Los Angeles to create a one-of-a-kind example of the car utilising the original Toyota sketch.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2010 at the Battersea Evolution, London.
150 hp, 2,000 cc in-line six cylinder engine, aluminium DOHC two valve per cylinder Hemi head designed by Yamaha, three twin choke side-draft carburettors, five-speed fully synchromesh transmission with overdrive, four-wheel independent suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel power-assisted Dunlop disc brakes.