This Is How Toyota Went From the Terrible Toyopet Crown to the Legendary 2000GT

They say “imitation is the ultimate form of flattery,” and for that, China gets a lot of hate. While it’s a 100% legitimate concern since they have taken it to a whole new level, they aren’t the first country to shamelessly earn the title ‘copycat.’ 77 years ago, the Japanese automakers were the copycats of the automotive industry. Jason Cammisa of Hagerty, on their latest episode of Revelations, tells the story of the Toyota 2000GT.
Toyota 2000GT 18 photos
Photo: Lambogas on Bring a Trailer
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Like most companies starting, Toyota didn’t have a quick breakthrough. Their flagship Toyopet Crown did poorly in the United States and hardly got a spot at any of the dealerships. This didn’t go well with Toyota executives, and they vowed to create an automobile that would surpass any past prejudice about Japanese vehicles.

To do this, they had to build a sports car. Every other prevalent automaker on the continent had a GT car. Mazda had the Cosmo, Datsun the Roadster, and well, Toyota wanted to beat them all.

Yamaha and Toyota enjoy a rich history to date, and it started with the Toyota 2000GT sports coupe. According to Cammisa, before Toyota, Yamaha had a partnership with Nissan. The piano and motorcycle manufacturer developed the A550X, but Nissan turned it down. They took it to a desperate Toyota, who accepted, but with conditions, it’s created in their own design.

After shopping for ideas in the European market, Toyota settled for a Jaguar E-Type design. But there was a problem.

Jaguar’s chassis was far too complicated for Yamaha to build. The Lotus Elan’s chassis, on the other hand, well, it was just a very simple backbone structure made at a very easily workable sheet steel,” Cammisa explained.

According to Cammisa, Toyota stole the Lotus Elan chassis and ran with it, and what happened next is history. Of course, they didn’t completely pilfer the design but did a few modifications here and there.

The Toyota 2000GT went ahead to be Japan’s shining moment in the automotive industry. It featured in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice (1967) and won 13 international and 16 endurance speed records, most of which it gladly took away from Porsche.

If you are wondering what Toyota did to the legendary 2000 GT to win all those awards, Cammisa gives an in-depth explanation in the video below.

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About the author: Humphrey Bwayo
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Humphrey is a car enthusiast whose love and passion for automobiles extended into collecting, writing, driving, and working on cars. He got his passion for cars from his Dad, who spent thousands of hours working on his old junky 1970 E20 Toyota Corolla. Years later, he would end up doing the same with a series of lemons he’s owned throughout his adult life.
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