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The Ultimate Toyota Restoration: The Car

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In a February 2008 interview, Javier Quirós Ramos de Anaya, President of Grupo Purdy Motor (Costa Rica’s official Toyota, Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino distributor) revealed that the Toyota 2000GT was “the car of his dreams”. So he just ordered a new one from the factory during the car’s 1967-1970 heyday, right? Not exactly. For one thing, Javier was not quite of driving age (11 to 14 years old) during that time. For another, during those years Costa Rican laws required that all locally-sold vehicles be assembled there as well, primarily from CKD (completely knocked-down) kits, and Toyota certainly wasn’t about to build the 2000GT – an extremely low-volume specialty vehicle whose Japanese build was farmed out to Yamaha – in Central America. In fact, the region only saw a single 2000GT sold there new, in El Salvador.

Javier Quirós’ quest to locate a Toyota 2000GT of his own didn’t start until the mid-1980s, when he took possession of car #MF10-10128, in Solar Red (color code 2310W). This car made quite a few detours in its travels from Iwata (the small city in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture primarily known for its green tea, Iwata melons and Yamaha Motor Company’s headquarters) to Costa Rica’s capital of San José, a journey we’ll detail later in this story.

Precisely how many Toyota 2000GTs were built?
Sources that simply note the total number of 2000GTs Toyota and Yamaha built will cite one of two figures: 337 or 351. Japanese Nostalgic Car offers a nuanced attempt to explain the discrepancy:

The production version went on sale in 1967, but only 343 were built before manufacture ended in late 1970. That’s the official count until someone unearths more data, though published numbers will range from anywhere from 337 to 351, which would include 8 pre-production units.

What if, perhaps, the actual figures are 337 production units and 14 pre-production units including those repurposed as race cars or James Bond convertibles? This would be a facile, crowd-pleasing explanation, but Japan’s two main 2000GT sources beg to differ. Kogainon Films’ The Toyota 2000GT Documentary 1965-1970 (viewable upon entering 2000GT as the password), at the 1:42:09 mark states that 320 production cars and 17 cars “for special purposes, tests and evaluation and unknown reasons” were built, for a total of 337. Conversely, the ne plus ultra bible Toyota 2000GT The Complete History of Japan’s First Supercar by Shin Yoshikawa cites total figures of 351 production cars and 15 pre-production cars. As if those conflicting production numbers weren’t enough to keep our minds reeling, it’s time to start…

Deciphering the code numbers
Earlier in our story, we mentioned that Javier Quirós’ Toyota 2000GT was car #MF10-10128. That is the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN). Refreshingly short compared to current (post-1981) 17-character VIN codes, isn’t it? Stay with us as we explain the multiple numbers that identify a given 2000GT, and their significance.

The model number is the left-of-the-dash portion of the VIN and consists of 4 to 6 characters identifying the powertrain and steering wheel location. The starting MF is common to all and simply identifies it as a Toyota 2000GT of some sort. The most popular version, such as Mr.Quirós’ (always a relative term when discussing such an exclusive, limited-production vehicle), is an MF10, denoting right-hand drive and the 3M 2-liter, inline 6-cylinder engine with Yamaha-designed double overhead camshaft head and a trio of Solex 40 PHH two-barrel carburetors (producing 150 hp and 130 lb/ft of torque) driven through a 5-speed manual transmission. The MF10L is the left-hand drive iteration of the same powertrain, while an MF10C replaces the manual transmission with a 3-speed automatic. A misguided attempt to boost flagging sales and reduce financial losses by cost-cutting led to the nine ultra-rare MF12L (manual transmission) and MF12LC (automatic transmission) left-hand drive models powered by Toyota’s standard SOHC 2M 2.3-liter inline 6-cylinder engine borrowed from the Crown and Corona Mark II model lines. The so-called 2300GT was less powerful (140 hp) but torquier (148 lb/ft) than the 2-liter DOHC Yamaha 3M.

The 5-digit number to the right of the dash of the VIN is the vehicle’s individual overall main identifier, the so-called frame (or chassis) number. And, no, the sequence does not start at 00001, but at 10001. Adding to the illogic, the first four serial-numbered 2000GTs (MF10-10001 thru MF10-10004) were actually pre-production prototypes not meant for public sale. The original MF10-10001 (along with the first 2 full-fledged production cars, MF10-10005 and MF10-10006) were shipped to California’s Shelby American Racing, Inc. (yes, Carroll Shelby, of Ford Cobra fame’s outfit) for development into viable SCCA C-Production Competition racers. We’ll add that this certainly beats the ignominious fate met by later Lexus pre-production prototypes that were either unceremoniously crushed or transformed into art cars of dubious taste. Thus, Javier Quirós’ 10128 is nominally the 128th Toyota 2000GT built, but that sequence includes a number of racing and pre-production prototypes not meant for retail public sale.

Mirroring the model numbers, Toyota also used 5-digit type number to denote the powertrain and steering wheel location. Thus, a right-hand drive 3M 2-liter DOHC manual (MF10) such as Mr. Quirós’ is a type 36010. A left-hand drive 3M 2-liter DOHC manual (MF10L) would be a type 36011; an MF10C automatic is a type 36040, an MF12L left-hand drive 2M 2.3-liter SOHC manual is a type 36201 and, finally, an MF12LC left-hand drive 2M 2.3-liter SOHC automatic is a type 36211.

Hardcore fans and followers of the Toyota 2000GT’s spiritual successor, the Lexus LFA, can sometimes be confused and frustrated by the 1-to-3-digit discrepancy between the ending of a given car’s VIN and the official plaque placed on the rear bulkhead between the seats denoting the vehicle’s sequence number. That pales significantly, however, when compared to the spread between any given 2000GT’s frame/chassis number and its engine number. The original 2000GT had matching 10001 chassis and engine numbers, but MF10-10002 bears a 10004 engine number, a 2-digit difference. MF10-10005, the first “official” production car (albeit repurposed into a Shelby racer) bears a 10012 engine number, a 7-digit difference. By the time we arrive at Javier Quirós’ 10128 chassis number, we find a 10163 engine number and a whopping 35-digit spread between chassis and engine numbers. The precise reason for this growing spread remains a mystery to this author, with the extra Yamaha engines built for testing, motorsports, endurance record-setting runs and even spare engines for dealer parts departments the likeliest explanation.

Given that Toyota subcontracted Yamaha to build the 2000GT, it is only natural that each car would also bear a dedicated Yamaha serial number. These are rather straightforward, consisting of a 1-to-3-digit number prefaced by a single P (production) or two Ps (pre-production). Thus, Toyota MF10-10001 is Yamaha PP-1, and Toyota MF10-10005 is Yamaha P-1, to name but a couple of examples. But, typically, there will be unexplained gaps. Logic would dictate that the third full-fledged production car (Toyota MF10-10007) should be Yamaha P-3, but it is instead identified as P-5 (in other words, the Yamaha production number sequence reads P-1, P-2, P-5). By the time we get to Mr. Quirós’ MF10-10128, we find a Yamaha P-118 number.

Javier Quirós’ MF10-10128 was manufactured on 19 October 1967 and, as noted earlier, painted in Solar Red (color code 2310W). A code 20 identifies it as an export model, as opposed to codes 10 (a vehicle originally sold in the Japanese domestic market), 50 (denoting special or racing versions) or 80 (test models).

Ok, we’ve had more than enough of numbers. Now it’s time to travel along with the MF10-10128. The first leg of its halfway-around-the-world journey takes it…

From Japan to Mozambique…
Once it was built on 19 October 1967 at Yamaha Motor Company’s Iwata plant in Japan, the red MF10-10128 Toyota 2000GT was shipped to Mozambique in southeast Africa alongside the next-in-sequence Pegasus White (color code 2309W) MF10-10129 car (which, curiously, was built almost a month after the red 10128, on 15 November 1967). The 10128 was also the 2nd-oldest 2000GT to be sold new in Africa, after the Solar Red MF10-10072 that was built on 26 September 1967 and sold in Ghana.

Unfortunately, the identity of the 10128 2000GT’s original Mozambican owner remains a mystery, but we do know that, during the late 1970s, both of the Mozambique cars crossed the border…

…to South Africa…
…where the 10128 and 10129 joined the Pegasus White MF10-10131 (built on 22 November 1967 and the first of three 2000GTs sold new in South Africa) under the ownership of Roger Holstead, a motoring and sports car enthusiast. The 10128 remained in Mr. Holstead’s possession until 1986, when it crossed the Atlantic Ocean…

…to the United States…
…where it was purchased by Peter Starr and Robert Tkacik, co-owners of Maine Line Exotics, self-described Toyota 2000GT specialists since 1976. And, yes, that company name is not a typo, but an allusion to their Biddeford, Maine location. Autobatsu‘s Robert Kawasaki reveals that the company claims to have either owned or restored 52 of the 62 Toyota 2000GTs that were officially imported into the United States. And those numbers, presumably, exclude the 10128 that made the briefest of U.S. stopovers since, later in 1986, it was purchased by Javier Quirós. The 2000GT was acquired it in its original, unrestored condition, but it’s safe to say that it was well-kept, and not a dilapidated Cobra, Corvette or Hemi in the Barn sort of find.

The 10128 Toyota 2000GT then traveled southward to its new owner’s native land…

…to Costa Rica…
…where, though far from being a daily driver, it still made occasional appearances at local car meets and events (and, yes, that’s the 10128 inside Javier Quirós’ office in the third picture of our previous story). As this storied 2000GT reached its 41st birthday in 2008, however, Mr. Quirós felt it was due for a top-to-bottom complete restoration. For this he enlisted the help of Restauraciones Clásicas (Classic Restorations), Costa Rica’s premier automotive restoration firm, led by Diego Rodríguez Fernández, who also happens to be the vice president of the Club de Autos Antiguos de Costa Rica (Costa Rica Antique Auto Club). Among Mr. Rodríguez’s numerous restorations and creations are a one-off 1953 Packard Patrician 400 limousine based on a series of design sketches never actually built by the carmaker; a Jaguar XK120 and Javier Quirós’ own 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV.

In fact, Diego Rodríguez, an industrial engineer by training, is a 2nd-generation car restorer. When he was 12 years old, his father bought a 1927 Ford Model T (the final year of production). Father and son started the actual restoration when Diego was 18 years old and finished when he was 22. Bitten by the bug, Diego founded Restauraciones Clásicas in 2006, and has since averaged 8 to 10 partial or total restorations per month, although it is not unheard of for a given project to take as long as 3000 hours. As he eloquently told Mariana Apéstegui Pinto of Ego magazine, “My job, my hobby and my passion are one and the same”.

IMG_0218In September 2013, the #10128 Toyota 2000GT’s frame-off phase of the restoration started in earnest. On 30 March 2014, attendees of San José, Costa Rica’s Classic Automobile Exhibition (or Convención Centroamericana) received an unexpected treat: the appearance of the still partially-restored Quirós 2000GT, minus wheels and tires, hood, hatch, lights and interior, as shown above. This was done deliberately and by design, as an educational tool to show the attendees just how much attention to the most barely visible detail is going into this, the ultimate Toyota restoration. As Hellmuth Sole, Regional Education Manager for Toyota Motor Corporation – Latin America and the Caribbean so aptly noted:

Every single part, screw, hose, clamp and part and body color has been thoroughly researched to make this the most original 2000GT in the world. Most of the car can be seen from the inside, outside, underneath, back, front, basically from any angle you wish and (you would) be able to see a perfectly restored vehicle which will be identical (to) the way it looked when it was hand manufactured back in 1967, and Javier’s hope is that this will be the starting point for any other owner that wishes to rebuild his Toyota 2000GT.

For every starting point, there must be a corresponding finishing point, and the end of this long, painstakingly detailed and arduous journey of restoration is almost here, as this month of June 2014 is finally expected to see the MF10-10128 Toyota 2000GT fully and completely rejuvenated to the pristine condition of its birth almost 47 years ago. And, speaking of journeys, one more remains for this extremely rare Toyota: a departure from the Costa Rica that has been its home for almost 3 decades…

…and back to the United States.
A world-class restoration of a rare classic vehicle such as the MF10-10128 Toyota 2000GT deserves to be shown at a world-class venue, and few if any are more appropriate or exclusive than Califoria’s storied 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, whose multiple, all-encompassing events take place between Tuesday 12 August and Sunday 17 August. And it is there that Javier Quirós will bid a fond adieu to the world-traveling 10128, for it is bound to be a highlight of one of the numerous automotive auctions held at the Monterey Peninsula. The possibilities include the major official Pebble Beach Auctions presented by Gooding & Company, Mecum Auctions, Rick Cole Auctions, Russo and Steele, Bonhams Quail Lodge and RM Auctions.

It will be interesting to see where the 10128 Toyota 2000GT will reside next. And, just as its travels aren’t really over, neither is our story. This chapter certainly is, but stay tuned as we flash back to an exclusive, picture-filled view of the restoration itself…

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