Make One Dream Come True, You Only Live Twice
For a moment, let’s put aside the 2000 GT’s disputed history and its iconicity for the rise of the Japanese motor industry. Let’s also ignore the words James and Bond for a minute. And let’s just face it: the beauty of this car is staggering. The proportions definitely play in the same league as the E-Type and the GTO. The solutions it’s makers found for the front, consisting of head lights, head light covers, bumpers and grill, clearly demonstrate a strong will to create a work of art and capture the beholder’s gaze trying to comprehend the beauty of the design.
The long, very long, hood benefits from the additional structural elements the lateral maintenance flaps provide and we have reason to believe that Toyota engineers could have come up with a solution to avoid them. Of course they were forbidden to do so, as the additional seam lines increase the beauty. The glazing of the cabin reminds you of Ferrari Daytona and Lancia Stratos, doesn’t it? Have we finally, convicted Toyota of IP infringement? Look who had it first.
So, if the 2000 GT is a work of art, who’s the artist?
Not easy to answer. First, let’s talk about mentality. The western world wants a sports car to be art and therefore it needs to be the opus of a single, dedicated artist. Not so in Japan. There it’s the company that counts and the leading heads of the company are only its first servants.
Second, as Rob Powell (@rob) said some days back here on Grand Retro: when beginning with the exterior design it is in fact an individual artist who kicks it off. However, if their design is chosen, they will then be accompanied, supported and scrutinised by the team and, of course, the head of design. And that is how a design team works.
Saving the best for last, the GT offers an E-typish tailgate, which can be seen as an investment in Toyota’s brand promise of practicability. The sharp tear-off edge, fully integrated in the design, demonstrates wide understanding of aerodynamics, years before the 911 used the ducktail to get the same effect.
The word “Nineeleven” is a good opportunity to talk about performance. The Toyota had about half the power of a 365 Daytona, but let’s not forget that in those days, power was not equal to performance. Without even a trace of an ESP, the really fast roadgoing sports cars of the late 60ies had about 150 brake horse power which you could handle without endless power slides that provoked over-steer. Proof? The word “Nineeleven”
The charismatic German cosmopolitan Albrecht Graf Goertz came to Japan in the early sixties to work for Nissan. The reputation he gained by working with Raymond Loewy in the US and the success he had with the splendid BMW 507 must have made him a highly recognized man among his Japanese colleagues. Japan’s motor industry back in the days was focussing on practical, simple cars. When suddenly the 240Z, the Fairlady, materialized, it must certainly have needed an inspirational figure such as the Graf Goertz. It is, however, neither proven nor realistic to assume that he was personally responsible for the design. In a letter requested by Goetz himself, Nissan manager Toshikuni Nyui wrote with plenty of Japanese subtlety: “While it is our view that the design of the 240Z was the product of Nissan’s design staff, Nissan agrees that the personnel who designed that automobile were influenced by your fine work for Nissan and had the benefit of your designs”.
Now, I’m sure you ask yourself at this point why we are talking about Nissan. It was common in the car industry all over the world for external engineering companies to handle a great deal of the development for car manufacturers . Yamaha had designed a sports car prototype in collaboration with Nissan, the A550X, but for whatever reason, at the end of the project Nissan refused to buy this concept. There is no specific information about the design team that made the A550X, but to me it comprised a whole lot of Goertz’ typical styling clues, beginning with the 507-like shark nose and the very Corvette Stingray-like front fenders that seam to reflect his work in the US.
After Nissan had gone their own way with the project that became the 240Z, Yamaha offered their design to Toyota and Toyota signed-up.
Using the A550X concept, the basic proportions of the car were largely fixed and Toyota’s design bureau could start working their magic on the details. A designer named Satoru Nozaki is mentioned in some sources as responsible for Toyota’s contribution to the design. There’s little we know about him and the way he worked. Nozaki-san, if you were a young man back in the Sixties and if you read that today, please get in touch with us car guys. We must know how you did what you did!
In the Sixties Japan became one of the focal points on the planet. The world was fascinated by its vibrant merge of tradition and western style democracy and the way the country was reborn after the war. Year after year the economy boomed and Japanese products conquered the world. In 1964 Tokio hosted the XVIII Olympic Games and more then ever the country stood in the public gaze.
And that attracts a guy with a tailor-made suit and a Walter PPK.
In You Only Live Twice, Aki drives a cabriolet version of the 2000 GT, which was produced exclusively for the movie; in 2011 the Complex from New York ranked it as the seventh best car in the James Bond series. The car that was produced only 351 times, today is auctioned for over one million Dollars. It is one of the greatest cars of all times.
A special thanks goes to Autosport Design New York (http://www.autosportdesigns.com) for providing me with the pictures for this article.. The car is for sale.
4 additional images. Click to enlarge.