Toyota’s first sports car can be a rare sighting

The Toyota Sport 800 is not a very pretty car, especially in comparison to its big brother Toyota 2000GT, a collectible in the $1-million-plus range.

Despite that, the Sport 800, produced from 1965 to 1969, can boast a couple of firsts. It was Toyota’s first production-built sports car and also the first production-built sports car to feature a lift-out roof panel, today referred to as a targa top, and pre-dating the Porsche Targa by two years. The one-piece aluminum targa top could be stored in the trunk when not fitted to the car.

Interestingly, the car was designed by Shozo Sato, who was on loan to Toyota from Datsun.

The Sport 800 had a very small 790-cc horizontally opposed, two-cylinder, boxer engine that had been previously used by Toyota in a bus as a separate unit to power the air conditioner.

Surprisingly, the 45-hp engine was powerful enough to move the lightweight body (580 kg) around town, accomplishing 19.13 km/litre (45 mpg) and a flat out top speed of 144 km/h (90 mph).

It is estimated that of the 3,131 units manufactured between 1965 and 1969, less than 10 per cent have survived.

The Sport 800 was built specifically for the Japanese market and a total of 300 left-hand-drive cars were built. These were for Okinawa, having been occupied by the Americans, this area drove on the opposite side of the road to the rest of Japan.

A few left-hand drive examples made their way to the United States. I spotted a very nice one at The Concours d’LeMons in Monterey a few years ago.

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