The beautiful Toyota 2000GT of the 1960s is as central to Japanese sport car history as the Shelby Cobra is to America’s. Now imagine the two teaming up to take on the best from Porsche and Lotus.
That’s exactly what happened when Toyota decided success in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) competition was what it needed to make a name for itself with North American car buyers. And one of just three Shelby-Toyota 2000GTs built for the 1968 season is getting ready to cross the auction block at Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island sale on March 4.
The 2000GT had already proved its mettle in competition in Japan before Shelby got his hands on it. On its first outing in 1966 at the prestigious Japanese Grand Prix, which, despite its name, was actually a race for closed-wheel cars, a 2000GT placed third. That was followed by a one-two at the Suzuka 1000km a month later, and a bunch of other victories during the 1967 season.
According to Toyota, Pete Brock, the designer of the fastback Daytona Cobra, was originally approached to prep the 2000GT for SCCA warfare in the C-Production class, but a last minute deal saw his old boss Shelby take the reins, while Brock went on to strike up a massively successful partnership with Datsun with cars like the 510 sedan and 240Z.
Shelby stripped the GT’s soundproofing and insulation, added wide, low-profile racing rubber wrapped around magnesium wheels and upgraded the suspension with new anti-roll bars and Koni springs and shocks. The 2.0-liter straight-six engine received a mild makeover too, pushing power from 148 hp (150 PS) to around 200.
Considering 1968 was the team’s first season it didn’t fare too badly, though it wasn’t able to topple the more established Porsches. And unfortunately Toyota pulled the plug on the project at the end of that year, meaning we’ll never know what could have happened in 1969.
The car offered for sale is claimed to to be the first 2000GT ever built, and since 1980 it’s been in the hands of the same owner who is in line for a huge payday. Gooding hasn’t put an estimate on the car, but it’s got to be the best part of $1 million, possibly more, hasn’t it?