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The First Samurai

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"Do whatever necessary to not only produce the 2000GT, but make it one, or perhaps even the greatest car in the world." - Shoichi Saito

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The '60s was a time of limitless possibilities, and it was felt that mankind could achieve anything it set itself. From putting a man on the Moon to raising living standards, erasing poverty and hunger, it all seemed within reach if we just tried hard enough. This can-do spirit permeated through society, the arts, particularly popular music flourished, the automotive universe was not immune from the prevailing trends. So we witnessed an explosion of creativity with cars becoming more than a means of transport to being machines that reflected the values of the driver.

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In reality that had been a truth since the earliest days of the automobile, coach builders were kept busy by the wealthy seeking to make a personal statement and we have looked at many examples over the past year or two, the Bugatti Royale and the Embiricos Bentley being two of the most famous. Contemporary rivals for the status of being the automobile as a work of art would have included the Lamborghini Miura, we looked at a special one: HERE.

Japan struggled to cope with the devastation that it had brought down on itself in the Second World War but from the small beginnings in its motor industry there was constant development, the sector grew and grew, proving one of the foundations of the country's prosperity. However the cars had a reputation for being dull, often copied from foreign manufacturers.

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In 1964 Yamaha conceived the original two seater GT prototype with the idea of selling it to Nissan, who rejected the project. Seeking to recover their investment Yamaha then offered it to Toyota who were looking for a route to alter the perception of their model range, the 2000GT was the perfect antidote to the "dullness" issue.

And what an answer it was. When the '280 A1' was unveiled at the 1965 Tokyo Auto Show it stunned observers with the exquisite shape and styling, the handiwork of Satoru Nozaki.

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The basic engine was from the Toyota Crown but Yamaha reworked the unit so as to be unrecognizable in comparison.

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The interior was a match for the elegant lines with cutting edge audio equipment and rosewood veneer to add the right touch of class.

In reality the car was a hand-built special with more input from Yamaha than Toyota, the performance matched the looks, the mission statement from the original project leader, Shoichi Saito, was fulfilled.

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The Toyota 2000GT set three FIA world records and 13 international records during a 72-hour test. The car enjoyed substantial success in motor races held in the U.S in the hands of Carroll Shelby's team while in Japan it took outright victory in the 1967 Fuji 24-hour race.

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All that would have been enough to guarantee the Toyota 2000GT absolute classic status but two examples had their roof chopped off and starred alongside Sean Connery in the 1967 James Bond epic "You Only Live Twice" as a Bond car; therefore, immortality is certain.

351 examples of this spectacular sports-car were hand built by Yamaha under contract between 1967 and 1970, they are highly sought after and make in excess of $1 million at auction. This particular car is under the hammer in November at the Keno Brothers "Rolling Sculpture" auction, a big thank you to them for letting us get a closer look at this classic.

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(Photos: Copyright and courtesy of Dirk de Jager)

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