Shelby-Built Toyota 2000GT Sells for $2.5 Million

The sale makes this 2000GT the most expensive Japanese collector car of all time.

Rarer Than Rare

1967 Toyota-Shelby 2000GT - GoodingandCompany on
1967 Toyota-Shelby 2000GT - GoodingandCompany on

This past weekend at the Amelia Island Auction in Nassau, a new record was set for Japanese collector cars with the sale of a very rare example of a Toyota 2000GT which went to the tune of $2.5 million dollars. This particular car was one of three cars tuned by Carroll Shelby for SCCS C-production class for the 1968 season, a pretty sterling provenance for any collector car. And remember, the 2000GT is already rare, with just 351 ever built. As far as these things go, this particular 2000GT, in stellar condition and with a historically significant background, was about as good as it gets from a collecting standpoint.

The occasion inspired us to take a look back at one of the oft forgotten legends of Japanese motoring.

A Little Background

1967 Toyota 2000GT -
1967 Toyota 2000GT -

Despite its low production numbers, the Toyota 2000GT is considered a pivotal car for Japanese automotive manufacturing. In the postwar period, Japanese carmakers had begun making a name for themselves internationally for small, reliable, economical cars. The 2000GT proved that Japanese companies could also produce legitimate sports cars capable of taking on the best from Europe and America.

Back in the early 1960s, Nissan was looking for a replacement for their Fairlady 1500/1600 and they started work with engine and instrument maker Yamaha for that purpose. Despite a finished prototype, Nissan decided to pass on Yamaha’s design and as a result the company approached Toyota. Toyota was excited at the prospect of producing a car that could contend with the likes of the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette and got to work.

1969 Toyota 2000GT -
1969 Toyota 2000GT -

The Toyota 2000GT debuted at the Tokyo Auto Show in 1965. It’s sleek body and long hood had an unmistakable resemblance to the Jaguar E-Type. Under that long hood was a 1,988 cc (2.0L) straight-six borrowed from the Toyota Crown sedan. With 3 two-barrel carbs, Yamaha had tuned the engine to produce 148 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque and paired with a five-speed manual. Perhaps not the most impressive numbers, but top speed was 133 mph, and the car came with a number of new innovations that included rack and pinion steering, a limited-slip differential, and four-wheel disc brakes, all of which were firsts on a Japanese production car. Reviewers loved the car’s impressive handling and smooth revving engine.

The 2000GT’s Legacy

1968 Toyota 2000GT -
1968 Toyota 2000GT -

The 2000GT proved to be a competent racer. In its first major race, the 2000GT took third at the 1966 Japanese Gran Prix, and first at the Suzuku 1,000 Kilometer later that same year. In 1967, the 2000GT won both the 24 Hours of Fuji and the Fuji 1,000 Kilometer. As we mentioned at the outset, in 1968, Toyota hired Carroll Shelby to work on three cars for the SCCS C-production class. One of which has now sold for a record $2.5 million.

Always intended as a limited production car, the 2000GT wasn’t a big seller for Toyota. Expensive to build and priced higher than most comparable sports cars of its day, the 2000GT was canceled in 1970 with just 351 even built.

Even so, the Toyota 2000GT proved the Japanese could design and engineer a sports car that was as good or better than anything out of Europe or the US, paving the way for future Japanese legends like the Supra, Skyline, and NSX.

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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