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.
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 it highlights the over-abundance of yellow at the rear.
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.
The Yatabe record-setting car was subsequently wrecked and burned. Toyota built a yellow / green tribute Yatabe 2000 GT for their museum some time later. 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 finished second to Porsche in the 1968 C Production (under 2 L) division of SCCA.