Section 3. Development and Sales of New Models-Promotion of Comprehensive Product Lineup
Item 2. Development of Sports Cars
Following the First Japan Grand Prix held in May 1963, motorsports such as auto racing and rallies increased in popularity, and people began to ask for full-fledged high-performance cars. In response, Toyota developed the Toyota 2000GT (MF10) to showcase the technologies it had accumulated over the years by making the best car possible.
Toyota's aim was to create a practical, high-performance car that would ensure a comfortable ride during ordinary driving in cities and on highways, but that could be used for racing with the replacement of only a few parts. For the engine, Toyota used the 3M engine with DOHC, developed by improving the M engine being developed for the Crown. Since only a small number of 2000GTs would be produced-each of which would require careful finishing touches-and they could not be produced on a mass-production line. Therefore, Toyota outsourced the prototyping and production to Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., which was doing well in motorcycle racing at that time.
Prototype No. 1, completed in August 1965, created a sensation when it was exhibited at the 12th Tokyo Motor Show that autumn. Subsequently, the 2000GT entered several races where it demonstrated its high performance. Then, in October 1966, Toyota boldly held the grueling Toyota 2000GT Speed Trials in an attempt to establish high-speed, endurance records.
This high-speed, endurance trials were carried out according to the strict rules of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile and the Japan Automobile Federation at the High-Speed Proving Ground in Yatabe-machi, Tsukuba-gun, Ibaraki Prefecture (now Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture). Even under the bad weather conditions brought on by a tropical storm, the 2000GT was driven continuously for 78 hours, covering a total distance of 16,000 kilometers at an average speed of 206.1 kilometers per hour, and established three world records and 13 international records. This memorable event proved Toyota's advanced technologies to the world.
As the popularity of motorsports increased, the demand for compact sports cars also intensified. In response, Toyota announced the Toyota Sports 800 (UP15) in March 1965. For this model, which was inexpensive, easy to use, and extremely lightweight, Toyota used primarily Publica parts and outsourced production to Kanto Auto Work, Ltd. With its simple mechanics, aerodynamic styling, lightweight body using an aluminum alloy (vehicle weight of 580 kilograms), and excellent fuel efficiency of 31 kilometer per liter, the Toyota Sports 800 gained wide popularity under its "Yota Hachi" nickname.
In the Corona RT40 series, Toyota added the Corona 1600S (RT40S) in April 1965, which featured the 4R engine (1,587 cc, OHV, and 90 hp) developed as a high-performance engine. Furthermore, the RT50 and RT51, the first hardtop cars in Japan, debuted with their more sporty style in June of the same year. Then in August 1967, Toyota launched the Toyota 1600GT (RT55), which was based on the Toyopet Corona Hardtop 1600S (RT51) and featured the 9R engine (1,587 cc, DOHC, and 110 hp).
With consideration given to the possibility of entering auto racing, the Toyota 1600GT was developed as a mass-production vehicle by Engineering Division No. 7, which was responsible for racing cars. The acceleration performance was improved and the top speed was increased by modifying the chassis to match the performance of the 9R engine. At the same time, as mass-production vehicles, Toyota also made available the RT55-M model with an optional 5-speed transmission along with the 4-speed transmission version in which the final reduction ratio could be selected from three types.