Contrary to popular belief, the Toyota 2000GT wasn't Toyota's first sports car. Most people didn't even know what the Toyota 2000GT was until Toyota unveiled the GT86 and said that one of the design influences was that original 2000GT. But despite all this, the 2000GT was an incredibly important car for Toyota as it proved to the world that they could make a sports car that could fight the Europeans and the British on their home turf. It was the first of many cars that was designed to raise Toyota's image in the eyes of the public, and it was so successful that it even went on to feature in a James Bond movie.
Like most great things that come out of Toyota, the 2000GT was not a concept developed in house; it was first proposed by Yamaha, while the final body design was from Toyota's in house designer. We have many examples of external partnerships with Toyota that resulted in great things- the Toyota 4A-GE, VVTi variants of the Toyota 2JZ-GTE, and the powertrain from the Lexus LFA were all developed by Yamaha, while the Toyota GT86 is pretty much a Subaru product with the blessing of Toyota (even the rear suspension arms are from an Impreza). But in a sense we can be thankful that Toyota was willing to go forward on these partnerships, as we are seeing with the next-generation Toyota Supra and its BMW Z4 counterpart.
Production figures were incredibly un-Toyota during the 3-year production period. There were a total of 351 road-going 2000GTs produced, 118 of which were left-hand drive models, and among which 9 had a larger 2.3-litre engine compared to the standard 2.0-litre engine. The six cylinder engines packed three carburettors, reinforcing the notion that they were built to perform; the 2.0-litre unit ironically was higher performing with a pair of Yamaha camshafts and a 150 hp output at 6,600 rpm, while the 2.3-litre was an SOHC and produced 115 hp at a lower 5,200 rpm.
Beyond the radical styling (for a Toyota) and the low production figures (possibly the best historical analogy to the Lexus LFA), the 2000GT was still very much a Toyota in its packaging. There were multiple options for final drives, and the car came standard with a limited-slip differential and all-round disc brakes. It had all the functionality of a practical car, with high end materials that again draw parallels with a modern Lexus vehicle. Yes, perhaps it is evocative of a Jaguar E-Type, but it could hardly be said that the 2000GT was a poor Japanese copy.
As important as the 2000GT is in Toyota's history, arguably it isn't the best representation of a sports car from Toyota. For that, there's the Toyota Sport 800- but that's a story for another time.