Japanese cars produced in the 1960’s are a rare site today. A Datsun roadster, small truck, or FJ40 Land Cruiser will pop-up from time to time at car meets, but most cars made in Japan during that era are mostly forgotten or simply unknown to Americans. With the small amount of cars imported, and a low survival rate, the sight of a mid sixties Toyota sports car seems exotic. Of course there is one genuine Japanese exotic car, the 1967–1969 Toyota 2000GT. A highly coveted collectable today, they have sold for close to $1,000,000 at auction. But before there was a 2000GT, there was the Toyota Sports 800.
First shown to the public at the 1962 Tokyo Auto Show, the pint-sized performer was first offered for sale in Japan as a 1965 model, and produced through 1969. Sources say a little over 3000 were produced during that time, including around 300 left-hand drive cars built for the then U.S. occupied Okinawa market. Derived from Toyota’s Publica 700 economy car, the two-cylinder air-cooled engine was increased from 700cc to 800cc, and fed through dual carburetors, producing a blistering 45 horsepower (different sources claim up to 49 horsepower). Tiny motor has enough power to propel the 1279 pound Sports 800 to close to 100 mph, and deliver around 50 mpg. Refined styling elements of this car can be seen in the 2000GT, making the 141 inch long 800 look like a mini GT, but not nearly as sleek and sexy as it’s illustrious successor. A notable feature is a removable roof panel, to be popularized as a “targa-top” by Porsche a few years later.
The Sports 800 was not marketed in the U.S., so seeing one at a local car show is exceptionally rare. I spotted this little guy at the Blackhawk Cars and Coffee event in Danville California. Surrounded by gawkers and photo-takers (myself included), it was a real crowd pleaser. With the increased interest and value of micro cars lately, hopefully more of these little treasures will be sought out and brought to shows for us to see.