Just to be clear, we're talking 1 million dollars, not miles - though the idea of a 1 million mile Toyota isn't too hard to believe.
It's been a few years now - 4 to be exact - since that Cream RHD 2000gt sold for a cool 1.15 million, but there's seldom a day that I don't dream about seeing one of these 50-year-old, Japanese imported, James Bond driven cars. Accompanying my fervent love for it, though, is an equally intense confusion regarding the astronomical appreciation that it has seen in the last ten years. Here's what I've pieced together using little bit of brain and a lot of google.
There are both technical reasons for this massive appreciation - extremely limited production, outstanding build quality, one of the most gorgeous exteriors ever designed, etc. - as well as cultural trends that might aptly describe the phenomenon. Though interesting, the build specs of the car that contribute to its recent valuation tend to be pure fact and are a lot less interesting given their inability to raise heated cultural questions regarding the vastly differing preferences amongst gearheads and collectors. All that aside, I have to give a quick run through of the technical specs and history of the 2000gt so I can get on to the fun stuff. Scroll past the next paragraph if you want to read my opinions now so that you can angrily argue with me (or agree, either way I'm right in my head).
During its 3 year production run - 1967-1970 - a grand total of 351 2000gts were produced, only 62 of which left the factory with the wheel on the correct side. Those familiar with the car will recognize the name Satoru Nozaki, the industrial designer partially responsible for bringing Toyota to the world stage of sports cars with the 2000gt. The car was generally offered with an inline-6 2.0L DOHC 3M engine rated around 150bhp - a drivetrain that had been co-developed by Yamaha in a fight with Datsun to make the best Japanese sports car (but mostly because Datsun/Nissan didn't want to build a car with Yamaha so Yamaha had to work with Toyota). However, a limited number were also built with an inline-6 2.3L SOHC 2M that was good for about 110bhp. The story behind the development of this drivetrain is an interesting one between Yamaha and Toyota, but is also one that necessitates more detail than I care to go into.
With general specs out of the way, we can get to what I think is really interesting about this car. The 2000gt's only real rival for exterior design is the E-Type - trying to decide which is better has caused too much emotional turmoil, so I've just named it a tie in my heart.
Though many regard the E-type as one of the most - if not the most - iconic vintage grand touring cars, I firmly believe that the 2000gt was a more historically significant product. Prior to the 2000gt, Japanese cars - Toyotas specifically - had seen very little exposure to the increasingly expansive world car market. Obvious reasons for this delayed exposure to Japanese import cars aside (WWII?), it's surprising that the first Toyota wasn't imported stateside until 1958. This first Japanese export attempt came in the form of the Toyopet Crown Custom Sedan, a small economy sized car that was gone from the North American car market in 1960 - just two years after its debut. Only 7 years later, the 2000gt went on sale and marked the beginning of an obsessively competitive era of Japanese performance car production.
Quickly following the release of the 2000gt in 1967 came what one could consider a strong Datsun response - the 240z. Now, it may seem like a stretch to compare an extremely limited production touring car (the 2000gt) to a car that, in a 4 year run, saw 164,616 worldwide sales (240z). However, there are numerous indicators that point directly to why the 240z can be adequately described as a direct response to the 2000gt. First, general drivetrain and power figures. The 240z came with a 2.0L SOHC inline-6 rated at 130bhp in its JDM form, and a 2.4L inline-6 said to put out 151bhp for the American market. Sound at all familiar? Now maybe I'm projecting more recent automotive historical events onto the past (ahem Supra and Skyline), but that, coupled with the grand touring body style of the 240z, sounds like an attempt by Nissan to capture the attention of the international community with their own halo car. Completely different target audiences and MSRP's, but the clear beginning of a lovely capitalistic relationship between two companies that would eventually go on to produce some of the most interesting performance cars of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The 2000gt was a feature car in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Toyota + James Bond? Not really something you hear about nowadays. So it's obvious now how big a deal the 2000gt was for exposing Toyota and other Japanese car makers to international markets? This car was a hell of a lot more than just another limited production touring car. It was the impetus of a competition in sports car sales and manufacturing that continue today (but peaked in the 90s). I'm referring, of course, to the 90s battle that produced greats like the R34 Nissan Skyline, the A80 Toyota Supra, the FD Mazda RX7 (moment of silence for all the obliterated apex seals out there) and many many other absolutely bonkers Japanese sports cars that pushed the limited of technology at the time.
I've said it so many times before - it was interactions with cars like these at a young age that made me - and so many other obsessed millenials - fall in love with cars. With Fast and Furious 1 and 2 as our bibles and a symphony of 2JZ's, RB's, Wankels, and F20C's as our hymns, we were inducted into an inescapable faith. So next time you enjoy a JDM car and the community that comes with it, remember to pay your respects to the ancestor that founded the faith.