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40 Years Ago Today Did Toyota scupper Panther’s plans for a British sports car revolution?

Amid the hot hatch revolution, Panther planned a groundbreaking sports car. Little did it or its low-volume British rivals know, Toyota had the same idea.

Toyota Hilux

At its local introduction in 1969, the purchase price of the then-new Toyota Hilux was R1 525. Designed and developed by Toyota’s subsidiary Hino Motors in Tokyo, the arrival of the first-generation Hilux with its 57 kW, 1.5-litre, inline four-cylinder engine onto the South African market – was a stark contrast to the Ford F150 alternative of the time.

1967 Toyota 2000GT

Rare, stylish and exquisitely engineered, the Toyota 2000GT revolutionised Japan’s motor industry — and charmed Robert Cor her.

Editor's comment
This is, in effect, the second draft of this column. You see, I had in my mind a treatise on how the Toyota 2000GT had been tuppence ha’penny when I got into this game (rather longer ago than I would care to admit) yet now ranks alongside the aristocracy of European classic cars in desirability. Then I actually checked the then and now price guides and a very different picture emerged. Maybe that’s why I/we so seldom fixate on values: to my mind they are a useful barometer to the shifting sands of desirability, but how many noughts they boast is simply not important to me. Also, I appear to be rubbish at it!

Anyway, I have no idea where I got the idea that the Japanese GT was about £15,000 in 1996 because, according to the contemporary price guide, an excellent example was then £50k, which I know from personal experience was more-or-less enough to buy a three-bed excouncil flat in Fulham at that time (though it wouldn’t be for long). In comparison, the blue- blooded old-money greats were far from the presumed ten times the price, with an LP400 just £7kmore, a 507 for £75,000 and a Gullwing double, at a fraction over £100k.

According to the Classic Car Price Guide (buy from, a decent 2000GT today is £470,000 (though it might take almost double that to buy one like ours’), roughly half the price of a Miura or Gullwing. The only seismic change has been the 507, which is now valued at four times the price of the 2000GT.

There are lots of reasons for this, of course, primarily power and performance, plus I suspect a tendency for people to think of the difficult-to-pigeonhole 2000GT more as a fancy Datsun 240Z rival than even an E-type competitor. It is probably only the Toyota’s rarity, with just 337 built, that elevated it above its mass-produced countryman and the Brit. In fact, you must wonder whether we would have even have heard of it if it weren’t for that brilliant bit of product placement (of a convertible that couldn’t be bought) in You Only Live Twice. Oddly, for me, all of that just adds to its insuperable allure. Plus, it’s bloomin’ gorgeous. And I fit in it.

My car-owning history shows I am a sucker for a hybrid, whether it be a plastic sports car that turns Ford basics into a worldbeating combination, or a boisterous GT combining Italian looks, American power and British, er, weight. As an Interceptor owner, I found driving the Iso Rivolta especially interesting, but for me the project itself was more fascinating. Underneath it is like a brand new car; on the top it looks as if it has just been dragged out of a California canyon. That juxtaposition can challenge your senses, but ultimately it is a visionary triumph.
1997 Toyota Mark II Tourer V

Suhail Sahib, formerly known as NFORCA, is back in style with 450kw of 1JZ muscle and his signature clean look on a Mark II Tourer V.

1993-2002 Toyota Supra RZ A80

The fourth-gen Toyota Supra was one of the best performance cars never offered in Australia. So what happened?

1986 Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86 vs. 2024 Toyota GR86 GT ZN8

Toyota’s cult classic AE86 meets the new GR86 to see if there really is a common thread of dynamic DNA linking the 36 years that separate this pair.

1989 Toyota MR2 Turbo W20 full-TRD-2000GT kit

The beginning of the 1990s was an exciting time for sports cars: A time where the established brands were releasing affordable performance cars at a rapid rate.

2007 Toyota Century V12

Built for Japan’s ultra-conservative ultra-wealthy, this demure limo hides a V12 torch under its bushel. Glen Waddington explores the exotic culture of the Toyota Century.

463bhp 1JZ-GTE engined 2000 BMW 328Ci E46/2

Logan West creates his take on the ultimate driving machine — A 1JZ-packing street-legal slider

1965 Toyota Sports 800

The Toyota Sports 800 is as small in size as it is big in stature, but its significance is only appreciated in its homeland. Could it have succeeded outside Japan had its makers been braver? We encounter two-cylinders of pure fury and try to keep a straight face.

2023 Toyota bZ4X

Toyota’s first production battery-electric car is a RAV4-sized SUV. Should Tesla and Volkswagen be worried?

1999 Toyota Tarago

Not to say there’s causation, but the world went a bit pear-shaped when the Toyota Tarago left us. The people mover of choice for tens of thousands of Aussies ended production in the final weeks of 2019, since replaced by the more luxo-bent Granvia. But this page of Wheels hasn’t paid homage to the trusty Tarago until now.

First production-series car with a reverse camera 1990 Toyota Soarer Limited

A recent study by US automotive consumer guide Edmunds revealed around 15 000 people are injured in automobile incidents while a vehicle is reversed in the United States alone. It’s a sobering statistic; one that becomes all the more tragic when we consider that of those, 210 are fatal and 31% involves children.

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