Automobiles largely serve two purposes. The first, of course, is as a means of transportation. The second is as an expression of the owner’s personal interests. The automobile as a means of transportation is no longer just a fast and convenient way to travel. Influenced by environmental and other concerns, the criteria by which automobiles are judged has changed considerably over the past quarter-century.
Given this background—and in fact, perhaps even precisely because of this background—automobiles that capture not just their owners’ imaginations but those of car enthusiasts everywhere are even more valuable than ever. No matter how strong the need for practical convenience, I certainly hope that the automobile will never come to be seen as a mere appliance.
Toyota Motor Corporation is one of the world’s leading automotive brands, and as such plays a major role in determining the future direction of the industry. At the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, in addition to displaying its hybrid vehicles, Toyota also unveiled a production version of the Toyota 86 sports car, which I think conveys their image of the future of automotive design.
Looking back to the 1960s, when Japanese automakers were still in their formative years, Toyota produced three quite captivating and sporty models that won the admiration of car enthusiasts everywhere and stand out in the memories of anyone who ever drove one.
In fact, the ‘60s and ‘70s were heady times for the Japanese automotive industry, and competition flourished as auto makers vied to outdo one another in terms of styling and performance. Not surprisingly, there are a number of memorable cars from this era that not only captured the imaginations of car enthusiasts of their day but continue to attract new fans even now, making this era stand out as “the good old days” of the Japanese sports car.
It was just 25 years ago that I wrote the Sekai no Meisha (World’s Classic Cars) series of 30 books about cars that had captured my imagination. I wrote that series out of my love for these cars and because I wanted to share how I felt with other car enthusiasts. This new edition of selected volumes from that series has been specially prepared for publication in ebook format.
Once a car captures an enthusiast’s imagination, it forever remains a part of his memories. In this edition, I have left the original text as it is and added only what was necessary to ensure that the information is up to date. Sections where I give my impressions of having actually driven these cars and the interviews with other people are unchanged from the original. The Toyota 2000GT still gives me chills when I think about it and the good feeling of the Toyota Sports 800 is something I will never forget. My love for these cars is something that will never change.
It is my sincerest hope that these books will bring an appreciation of these historic Japanese cars to a new generation of readers, both in Japan and around the world.
Mr. Inouye's books hold a special place in Japanese car culture. They were written in an era when sports cars were still out of reach of the average Japanese. Also a time when cars were still objects of intense desire. His texts overflow with a passion about the cars he wrote about. His prose is personal and uniquely styled. This made them very popular, but not easy to translate into English. We decided to leave the texts as close to the original as possible, despite spots of awkwardness that that produced in the English. These are essays rather than methodical objective car test drive articles and we hope you appreciate them as such. They also capture some of the passion of the manufacturers, that have been diluted over the years. Honda making a sports car out of motorcycle parts, before a Civic or Accord ever existed. Nissan throwing the gauntlet down to British sports cars. Toyota using a production 2 cylinder engine to build a small open sports car. Inoue loves the details, “differences between model years etc. But his excitement is palpable when he gets behind the wheel of these cars that define an era of Japanese automotive history. These texts are the scripts to many a Japanese man's dreams. We hope you enjoy them.
There are three very individualist models that epitomize Japanese sports car in the 1960s and their presence can still be felt, both directly and indirectly, in today’s vehicles. The Toyota 2000GT was the original Gran Torisimo model and featured a dual-overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine. In contrast, the Toyota Sports 800 was an reasonably priced car that offered authentic sporty performance in a lightweight package that anyone could afford. The Toyota 1600GT was their first GT model to feature a platform common with other production models, a technique adopted by so many of today’s automobile manufacturers. (Photographs courtesy of the manufacturer.)