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The Car

Yatabe track and Toyota 2000 GT Record Holder. Photo credit autoingected.wordpress.com

I didn’t experience much angst in deciding Japan’s representative for the Seven Nations – Seven Cars exhibit at Monterey’s Quail Gathering. It had to be the Toyota 2000 GT. I mentally always pictured this car model in yellow, though my research turned up that yellow wasn’t a particularly prevalent production choice. No matter, in my mind these cars are yellow.

1967 Toyota 2000GT

Production 2000GT. Photo credit japanesenostalgiccar.com

Except once the “Gold” Travertine was milled, it seemed there was too much yellow. More research ensued.

Turns out the most famous 2000 GT (and arguably, the most famous Toyota ever) was a yellow pre-production prototype mule repurposed to set speed / endurance records at Toyota’s Yatabe high-speed oval test track. The Yatabe car had a mid-green front deck. Presto, we have inlay plans of green marble……..once executed, the front half of car now looks amazing, but that only highlights the over-abundance of yellow at the rear.

Toyota-Shelby SCCA racer. Photo credit japanesenostalgiccar.com

More research. The two SCCA racing 2000 GTs campaigned by Carroll Shelby had a contrasting color front deck, and ALSO the same contrasting color rear valence. Salvation. More inlays. Radiator and exhaust in Belge Noir, and the car is finished. Now the car looks riveting from all angles, as it should.

While we think of this car as a Toyota, in some respects these cars are more Yamaha than Toyota. Yamaha proposed building this car to sport-crazy Nissan, but Nissan demurred. Yamaha then approached the usually conservative Toyota. Toyota was interested, but had their designer re-do the styling.

The cars were built for Toyota in a Yamaha facility by Yamaha employees. Aluminum body (usually). Just 351 built. At least 60 LHD models built, as that many sent to North America. One custom convertible as seen in James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice.

Engine typically a 2-L DOHC in-line six of 150 gross hp, while just nine were built with a later less-expensive SOHC 2.3L engine. Limited slip differential and disc brakes standard, 5-speed transmission standard, backbone chassis rather than unibody. In 1969, in an attempt to boost poor sales, both a/c and a/t became options.

Yatabe 2000GT

Yatabe Endurance Records. Photo credit supercarnostalgia.com

The actual Yatabe record-setting car was subsequently wrecked and burned. Toyota built a yellow / green tribute Yatabe 2000 GT for their museum some time later. …. and they bought this sculpture for their new US Headquarters in Plano, Texas. The “donor” car for the Yatabe tribute-build was a third Shelby SCCA car, (that was never raced by Team Shelby), that had been liveried in lavender and white. The two Shelby SCCA race cars that did compete are currently in USA collections in Florida and Maine respectively. Team Shelby’s Toyota 2000s finished second to Porsche in the SCCA’s 1968 C Production (under 2 L).

Material: Travertino Gold (Turkey) with Guatemala Verde Marble (India) and Belge Noir Marble (Belgium) inlays

Inspired by: 1966-70 Toyota 2000 GT

Weight: 50 lb

Dimensions: 25" x 9" x 6"