Toyota’s First Sports Car Had 1 Major Thing In Common With the GR86
It’s hard to believe, but over the past 60 years, Toyota has produced some of the most iconic sports cars in the automotive field. Cars like the 2000 GT, Celica, Supra, MR2, and GR86 come to mind when thinking about the sports cars Toyota has made. But the Toyota Sports 800 preceded them all, and it even had one thing in common with the current GR86.
The Toyota Sports 800 and GR86’s similarity can be found under the hood
Considering the Toyota Sports 800 was built in 1965 and was the size of a tuna can on wheels, you can guess that it didn’t make a lot of power. To be exact, the Sports 800 was equipped with a 790cc, two-cylinder, air-cooled engine. That little engine, dubbed the 2U-B, produced 45 hp and 46 lb-ft of torque. Interestingly, though, the Sports 800’s powerplant had a horizontally opposed piston configuration, making it a “boxer” engine.
The 2023 Toyota GR86, on the other hand, is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine that makes 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Obviously, it doesn’t compare to the Sports 800 from a performance standpoint, but the GR86’s engine also has a boxer configuration. One caveat is that Subaru had a hand in building the GR-86’s engine, hence its horizontally opposed nature.
However, that’s where the similarities end.
The Sports 800 was the grandfather to Toyota’s other sports cars
Despite the Toyota Sports 800’s tiny size and power output, newer sports cars like the GR86 and current GR Supra owe a lot to it. Toyota launched the Sports 800 in 1965 amid rivals like the Honda S600, Nissan Silvia, and Datsun Fairlady.
However, the Toyota Sports 800’s lightweight architecture, low center of gravity, and aerodynamic profile made it different than the rest. According to MotorTrend, “the lead engineer of the Sports 800, Tatsuo Hasegawa, previously worked on aircraft. That showed in the prototype of the Sports 800, the Publica Sports, which debuted at the 1962 Tokyo Motor Show with an airplane-style canopy.”
Eventually, the production version of the Sports 800 debuted with a larger engine than the Publica, although it shared many parts with the concept car. With these parts and technology, the Toyota Sports 800 went on to be successful on the racetrack. It won at the 1966 Suzuka 500 km endurance race and later in 1967 at the Fuji 24-hour race.
Despite its racing success and sporty design, Toyota only made a limited amount of Sports 800s. In total, approximately 3,131 examples were made, with 300 of them being left-hand drive for the Okinawa market. Forty of those left-hand examples were shipped to the U.S. to be evaluated by American Toyota dealers, but they deemed it too small for American roads.
Can you buy a Toyota Sports 800 today?
Although the Toyota Sports 800 is a rare car, it’s possible to find one. Back in 2019, a left-hand-drive one was listed on Bring a Trailer, which ended up selling for $40,000. Otherwise, some RHD models pop up on JDM importer sites once in a while and typically sell for around $30,000. That said, it could be a better bargain to buy a 2023 Toyota GR86. It might not be as cool or nostalgic as the Sports 800, but it’s nice to know that it has one thing in common with its grandfather.