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When the hammer fell on this 1967 Toyota-Shelby 2000GT in Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island 2022 auction, it set two world records.
And this was despite selling for $2,535,000 (c£1.92m), a large sum, but short of its $2.75-3.5m pre-sale estimate.
At the 4 March 2022 event, this car established a new world record for a Toyota and also became the most valuable Japanese car ever to be sold at auction.
The car was predicted to achieve the highest price at the Gooding & Company sale, but on the day was eclipsed by three classics, a 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS Teardrop Coupé that fetched a massive $13,425,000, and a 1959 Porsche 718 RSK and 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback which both sold for $2.975m.
Here’s this Toyota-Shelby’s story.
Toyota wanted to make its name on the international stage and thought exposure via motor racing would be a good place to start, so in summer 1964 Project 280A began, which led to the 2000GT.
Taking inspiration from the lightweight Lotus Elan, a low-slung sports car with fully independent suspension was born, its 148bhp straight-six giving it a 137mph top speed.
Toyota hoped to build 1000 a year, but high construction costs meant only 351 were made.
This car is chassis MF10-10001, and it is the first serial-numbered example built and the first of just three prepared by Shelby for SCCA C-Production competition, Toyota’s first entry into US motor racing.
This right-hand-drive car was finished on 27 September 1966, painted Solar Red and used by its maker for promotional work around the USA, before being designated as a company car for Toyota executive Akiri Miki.
Its new owner wanted the model to go racing in the USA.
With Carroll Shelby on board to develop the competition cars, three were allocated to the project in the summer of 1967, this car, chassis MF10-10001, as well as MF10-10005 and MF10-10006.
The car pictured was used for testing around California’s Riverside International Raceway in the hands of former Formula One driver Ronnie Bucknam.
In preparing the Toyota 2000GT for competition, the Shelby team fitted Girling brake calipers, adjustable shock absorbers, a cooler for the diff, dual megaphone exhausts, a modified oil pan plus Halibrand magnesium wheels wrapped in Goodyear rubber.
An aluminium dashboard replaced the rosewood original, now punctuated by Stewart-Warner dials, there’s an open gate for the gearshift, encouraging precise changes, and harnesses and a rollcage were fitted for safety.
In the end, this car’s stablemates, MF10-10005 and MF10-10006, were selected for racing, MF10-10001 the reserve car and also held back for development work.
Dave Jordan and Scooter Patrick campaigned the Toyotas in 1968 and come the end of the season the team was fourth in the SCCA National Championship standings, behind Porsche and Triumph, having achieved four victories, eight second- and six third-place finishes.
The model’s racing career lasted just a season, after which this car, chassis MF10-10001, was displayed in Houston, Texas, before returning to the marque’s North American base in California as a demonstrator.
Its racing colours were painted over many times and it sat unused for more than a decade until it was sold to a collector, Jeff Lewis, in Newport Beach, California.
Fast-forward to 1980 and the model specialist who consigned it to this month’s Gooding & Company auction acquired the car from Lewis and performed a body-off restoration, slowly, carefully and faithfully bringing it back to its 1968 SCCA specification, including the bespoke Shelby items.
It has since won concours awards and been raced at circuits including Laguna Seca, Lime Rock and Watkins Glen.
The 4 March sale was the first time this car had been offered at auction and its $2,535,000 price was the most paid for a Toyota at auction, by quite some margin.
Given the 2000GT’s desirability and rarity, it is not surprising to find that these cars account for the top 18 Toyotas ever sold at auction.
In joint second place are two 1967 examples, one sold by RM Sotheby’s in April 2013, the other by Gooding & Company in August 2014, both times for $1,155,000.
Also in August 2014, RM Sotheby’s achieved $1,045,000 for another ’67 car at its Monterey sale, the same auction house selling another for £968,000 in November 2013.
But all these were some way short of the price achieved for this Shelby special this month. In total, 93 of the 4 March 2022’s 99 lots sold, with 20 going for more than $1m, the combined total from all the sales being a huge $69,209,480.
Images: Josh Hway/Gooding & Company