Toyota restores 1965 Sports 800, its oldest surviving race car

Article by Christian A., on April 25, 2018

Toyota recently surprised many with a restored 1965 Toyota Sports 800 that is regarded as the automaker’s oldest race car in existence. This model finished second in the 1966 Suzuka 500 km.

The standard version of the Toyota 800 was the automaker’s very first sports car. At Suzuka, four race spec cars were entered as they claimed a one-two, and the Toyota 800 was one of them. This particular model, with chassis 10007, made it in second place, with Mitsuo Tamura behind the wheel.

At that time, everyone was amazed how the Toyota 800 did so well in the race not because of its engine, but because of its low weight and efficient aerodynamics. In fact, the Sports 800 only produced 45 bhp from a 790cc engine, whereas its competitors were equipped with 2.0 liter engines.

The Toyota Sports 800 was developed by Tatsuo Hasegawa, who is best known for the first generation Corolla. The race car actually was the pioneer of the utilization of wind tunnel development to achieve efficiency. It was also the first Japanese production car that is built with a combination of steel and aluminum, which is why it was able to achieve a kerb weight of just 580kg.

Across the 84 lap distance at Suzuka, the Toyota Sports 800 returned an average of 25 miles per gallon and it was also the only vehicle that did not stop to refuel during the race. This made event organizers suspicious of the race car’s fuel tank. But eventually, they found that the Sports 800 was compliant, and after the race, it actually had 30 percent of the fuel remaining.

The car in the photos, number 3, was recently discovered in a garage. This is what was restored by Toyota Gazoo Racing, and was finished in the team’s current livery. It was most notably seen on its Yaris World Rally car and LMP1 prototype.

After having consulted with owner’s clubs and acquired the right old components as well as having fabricated new parts, the restoration was completed. Both the race suspension and the internal parts of the engine were rebuilt also.

Back then, the Toyota Sports 800 attracted the attention of race officials as it was deemed too good to be true. Eventually, the company was able to prove to them that the 800’s design was genius, and that it did not have any technical irregularities.

In a recent feature, the Toyota Sports 800 was named as one of the models that most people did not know had targa tops. But it was actually one of the first production cars to feature a targa roof, which was produced as a response to the Honda S 500. Notably, there were around 3000 examples built between 1965 and 1969.

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Topics: toyota, classic car

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