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  • Toyota 2000GT

    The Toyota 2000GT was a sports car produced in very limited numbers by Toyota in Japan. First seen at the Tokyo Motor Show of 1965, production vehicles were built between 1967 and 1970. It revolutionized the automotive world's view of Japan, formerly seen as a producer of imitative and stodgily practical vehicles, and showed that the Japanese makers could produce a sports car to rival those of Europe.

    During the mid-1960s, Carroll Shelby was racing Fords, right? Well, for a little while there, he actually helped put Toyota on the U.S. map.

    After watching Datsun use SCCA competition to sell their roadsters to U.S. consumers, Toyota decided that they wanted in on the action for 1968. They had an annual sales target of 1000 units for their new 2000GT and figured the old "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" adage would help them get there.

    BRE Racing's Peter Brock had already helped Japanese automaker Hino get some exposure, as his team took a class win at the 1966 Mission Bell 100 at the Riverside Times Grand Prix. Hino had recently been absorbed by Toyota, and many, including Brock, expected BRE to get the contract to campaign the 2000GT

    Well, that didnt exactly happen. Carroll Shelby, Brocks old Shelby-American? boss, had just ended his contact with Ford, and also had eyes for Toyota. In the end, Shelby got the deal and quickly prepared two 2000GT's for SCCA's "C" Production class. Scooter Patrick and Dave Jordan were signed to drive for the team, and Shelbys crew quickly went to work.

    Shelby had the driving and engineering talent, but unfortunately the Toyota couldn't hold off the class-leading Porsche 911S, Triumph TR250, Lotus Elan, and the Datsun 2000. Alan Johnson and Milt Minter, both driving Porsches, called the shots at the season-ending American Road Race of Champions; the Toyota finished just outside the top three.

    The 2000GT was never a strong seller, but that didn't matter much as Toyota's U.S. sales doubled during 1968, quickly vaulting the company past Nissan; today, some predict that Toyota will soon be the largest automotive company in the world. The 2000GT program was only supposed to be a one-year deal, so for 1969 Carroll Shelby went back to racing Fords.

    (Source: Classic Motorsports Magazine May 2006; Issue 120)
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