WATCH | Toyota SA launches first chapter of its 2000GT restoration

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• Toyota South Africa has begun the restoration process of its unique 2000GT sports car.

• The sports car is one of three in SA, and one of 351 built - globally.

• The restoration is conducted by Generation Old School.

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During the 1960's it was believed that Japanese cars did not offer the same level of quality, performance and reliability as their western counterparts. However, this was far from the truth as Japanese cars became increasingly popular globally and often proved to be more reliable than many offerings from the United States and Europe.

Japanese manufacturers had models that competed in almost every segment ranging from economical hatchbacks to rugged off-roaders and sedans, but what they were missing was a luxurious high-performance sportscar.

During the '60s, Europe offered the world cars like the Jaguar E-Type, the Porsche 911 and the Ferrari 250 GTO. America had the Corvette and other luxury models, but Japan lacked on this front. That was until the Toyota 2000GT turned up at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show. The model would change the face of Japanese motoring and become the first million-dollar Japanese car.

Toyota 2000GT
Toyota 2000GT

Showcase abilities

In 1964, Toyota began working on a luxury high-performance model that would showcase its technology and engineering abilities. The project was headed up by Shoichi Saito, a major contributor to Toyota's development as a manufacturer.

His brief was simple: 'do whatever necessary to not only produce the 2000GT, but make it one of the - or perhaps even the - greatest car in the world.' The 2000GT would need to be practical and yet enjoyable to drive, the engine was to be at the front and drive the rear wheels, and finally, it would need to embody a design that would rival those of the more expensive European models.

READ: Blast from the past - You can now order genuine parts for your Toyota 2000GT classic

In 1965, at the Tokyo Motor Show, the 280 A1 prototype vehicle was unveiled, with the official debut taking place a year later. The 280 A1 was met with great excitement and intrigue. However, buyers would have to wait until 1967 to get their hands on this new Toyota sports car's production version.

The production version of the 2000GT was the first Japanese car to be fitted with a limited-slip differential and all-round power-assisted disk brakes in standard specification. The Japanese sports car is powered by a 2.0-litre straight-six engine developed by Toyota, but features several modifications from Yamaha, like the DOHC aluminium head. The result transcribed 110kW and 175Nm - enough to get the grand tourer from 0-100km/h in 10 seconds and onto a top speed of 215km/h.

Toyota 2000GT
Toyota 2000GT during the restoration process

Restoration process

Out of all the 351 examples of the 2000GT models produced, only three were designated for South Africa. Chassis number MF10-10131 and MF10-10206 in Pegasus White, and MF10 -10207 finished in Thunder Silver. The three vehicles arrived on South African shores between 1967 and 1968.

Toyota South Africa Motors is in posession of one of these examples for many years, the car in question being chassis number MF10-10207. The vehicle forms part of the company's private collection, which comprises rare racing vehicles and other iconic Toyota and Lexus models. In July of 2020, Toyota Gazoo Racing announced that it would be reproducing replacement parts for the Toyota 2000GT as part of the GR Heritage Parts Project, and would sell them both domestically and overseas.

READ: Iconic Amakhosi colours for a legendary car: Toyota's 'Kentucky Rounder' gets a second wind

This initiative paved the way for a decision made by Toyota South Africa to do a full bumper-to-bumper restoration of its own 2000GT. One of the biggest mysteries (and adding to the mystique) is that, according to various sources, the vehicle in question was produced in Thunder Silver. However, other sources recall it as being white, while it is painted Solar Red in its current state.

Toyota has been documenting the restoration that started in 2020 and will be revealing the different stages of the complete nut and bolt restoration of this iconic car.

This grand-scale restoration has been placed in Generation Old School's capable hands, a Gauteng-based classic-car restoration specialist. This father-and-son duo takes a hands-on approach, with a methodical project plan and attention to detail being the cornerstone of their work. Their repertoire spans from Beetles and Microbusses to American muscle cars such as Chevelles and Chargers.

Toyota 2000GT
Toyota 2000GT during the restoration process
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