Toyota's classic 2000GT handed a new lease on life.
It took a fair share of know-how to get the automotive sector to its current state ever since Carl Benz patented his ICE-powered vehicle in 1886 – a year that is regarded as the birth of the automobile.
The saying goes: history is not the past. It's a map of the past to be made helpful to the modern traveller. Despite all the advancements, classic vehicles will always form part and parcel of what the current automotive sector entails.
An exciting part of the history books is the legendary Toyota 2000GT. It vastly changed perceptions about Japanese vehicles worldwide when it surprised the public at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show. This followed the second world war, which saw Japan go through a significant makeover.
As the country fought to rebuild itself, many Japanese marques focused more on what benefited them, thus neglecting the high-performance fold in the process. Toyota worked hard to fill in the gap. It worked on a potent product showcasing its technology and engineering expertise.
Roughly at the same time, Yamaha approached Toyota with a prototype it initially designed for Nissan, but it was rejected. However, Nissan took elements from the design and created the 240Z as the direct competitor to the 2000GT.
On the other hand, Toyota was keen on the design and approved it. It used it to improve its conservative brand image. The prototype known as the 280 A1 was produced and unveiled in 1965 at the Tokyo Motor Show. A year later, the debut took place with sales starting in 1967, and that's how the 2000GT was born.
Between 1967 and 1968, three units of 351 examples built were put aside for our South African market featuring chassis numbers; MF10-10131, MF10-10206 and MF10 10207, finished in Pegasus White and Thunder Silver, respectively.
We recently got close and personal with the restored Toyota 2000GT that carries the chassis number MF10-10207 at a special reveal event held in Johannesburg.
The restored model has been part of Toyota's private collection for many years, and in 2020, Toyota Gazoo Racing announced that it would be reproducing replacement parts for the 2000GT as part of the GR Heritage Parts Project; an initiative that also prompted Toyota to do a complete restoration of the 2000GT.
The restoration process involved selecting a team that could perform a complete nut and bolt restoration on the Toyota 2000GT. Heading up the project is father-and-son Wynand Strydom Sr and Wynand Strydom Jr from Generation Old School Benoni.
The icon would then be dismantled, with Wynand Jr leading the restoration. Every nut and bolt was removed with care, as one might not have been able to replace it. According to Wynand Jr, the overall condition of critical components was good, and only minimal renewal work was needed.
However, components such as the four magnesium alloy wheels needed to be completely refurbished or replaced. The interior also needed to be redone, as many wires crumbled at the slightest touch.
With that said, the entire chassis was stripped down to the bare minimum; however, it was difficult for the folks at Generation Old School Benoni to refurbish the dashboard due to its wood trim and chrome detailing. Instead, it was only carefully cleaned. The steering wheel had a slight 'splinter' that had to be carefully restored to maintain its structural integrity.
Individual components were placed in small plastic bags, labelled and safely stored, awaiting refurbishment. The body and chassis were then taken to Dino's Classic Restoration for refurbishing and painting.
Although the original paint of the 2000GT model with chassis number MF10-10207 is listed as Thunder Silver, rumours suggest that the refurbished model should remain Solar Red. This hue was part of the original car's palette, and there were traces of red paint under the carpets and headliner.
Standing at the venue, the refurbished 2000GT still had its original stereo system with sound fade. The system was made functional thanks to a veteran radio repairman who worked on it.
The folks at Generation Old School Benoni tried to keep this cool classic as close to original as possible. It's impressive to admire, especially regarding the interior details. An original spare wheel is still present, and the beautifully-stitched leather seats offer far better cushioning than most modern cars.
During the restoration process, only one part was imported through eBay. At the same time, the rest were sourced locally, including the windscreen, which took a specific dealer in Krugersdorp six attempts to get the correct dimensions. As for the missing keys, Generation Old School Benoni trusted the expertise of a local locksmith for near identical keys for the 2000GT.
Powering the restored 2000GT is a 2.0-litre straight-six petrol engine with a double-overhead camshaft configuration that produces 110 kW and 175 Nm – enough by classic standards. A 5-speed manual transmission sends power to the rear axle, sufficient to send the model to a top speed of 217 km/h.
As expected, the original engine wasn't in good shape, with most of its components leaking, rubbers cracking and coolant pathways clogged with rust. The engine was then stripped down for a proper rebuild. Thanks to Wessels Motors in Kempton Park, some of its components were salvaged from other engines.
The good thing is that most of the original parts were cleaned and fitted back into the motor, including the three two-barrel Mikuni-Solex 40 PHH Type Q carburettors. The valve cover has been painted black with contrasting red ignition cables to give the engine a contemporary look.
According to Toyota South Africa, the local motoring media will likely get the opportunity to sample the 2000GT in the next year.
In the 57 years since the 2000GT rolled off the production line, it is still relevant today, where classic cars have become a rare sight on the roads. Manufacturers work tirelessly to conserve history, though; because of that, we get to appreciate all the advancements the automotive sector has endured. Sadly, I never got to experience such an exciting era of motoring.