Shelby-Toyota 2000GT SCCA

25 June 2004

The 2000GT was the car which launched Toyota’s circuit racing history. It made its debut at the Japanese Grand Prix – at that time a sports car event – at the Fuji circuit in 1966 and immediately demonstrated its potential against more powerful competition.

Unveiled at the previous Tokyo Motor Show, the 2000GT was Toyota’s bold bid to enter the global sports car market, an ambition that cold be usefully supported by high profile success on the race track. Two cars were modified to Group 6 specification for the debut race at Fuji. One car retired due to simple technical problem, while the other claimed a superb third place.

One month later, Toyota took first and second place in the Suzuka 1000km race, giving Toyota the encouragement it needed to press on with its motor sport programme. Three further victories were claimed during the 1967 Japanese season.

Success in the USA was crucial for the 2000GT and Toyota decided that the car should be entered in the SCCA (Sport Car Association of America) competition to demonstrate its abilities against potential showroom rivals such as the Porsche 911, Lotus Elan and Triumph 250.

Initially, Peter Brock, designer of the Cobra Daytona, was to be tasked with the job of preparing the cars, but at the last minute the deal was done with racing legend Carroll Shelby, Brock’s former boss and the mastermind behind the high performance AC Cobra and Ford Mustang.

It is a quirk of motoring history, that, in missing out on the Toyota 2000GT project, Brock devoted his efforts instead to developing Nissan’s competition programme. This work would subsequently help deliver the famous Datsun 240Z and subsequent generations of Nissan high performance “Z” sports cars.

Shelby’s preparation of the 2000GT focused on tyres, suspension and a new cylinder head. The body required little work, stripped of all soundproofing and insulation to bring the weight down. Goodyear developed new low profile rubber for the car, which brought the ride height down by around 6cm. Lowering the car’s centre of gravity delivered benefits in handling along with superior grip from the wide tyres. Roadholding was also improved with addition of new steel anti-roll bars and Koni coil springs and shocks.

The 1,998cc straight-six engine retained its iron block, but was fitted with a new aluminium DOHC cylinder head and larger pistons. Output was in the region of 200bhp.

Driven by Scooter Patrick and Dave Jordan, the 2000GT competed in the production class of the SCCA series in 1968. Even though the Toyota delivered less power than its main rival, the Porsche 911, it still recorded a number of race victories. A Porsche took the overall title, but Patrick finished the season second and Jordan third.

That single season was to be the end of the 2000GT’s American racing story, the production sports car failing to achieve the sales breakthrough Toyota sought in the US market. Toyota focused instead on developing the formidable Toyota 7 sports car for CanAm competition.

Just three SCCA cars were built: two to race and one spare. Two were acquired for their collection by Bob Tkacik and Peter Starr, from Maine, USA. At Goodwood Bob is expected to drive the number 23 car, previously raced by Dave Jordan.


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Shelby-Toyota 2000GT SCCA

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