WHEN IT WAS launched in the 1960s the Toyota 2000GT was shunned by its biggest potential market, the USA. Buyers refused to fork out US$6000 for an unheard of Japanese car at an unacceptable price and even a starring role in James Bond’s You Only Live Twice did little to boost sales, which totalled 62 left-hand drive units. Despite this history a 1969 Toyota 2000GT fetched a record-setting price of AUD$1.19 million at a recent high-end sports car sale conducted by Japanese firm, BH Auction. While it’s not the outright record price-paid for a 2000GT, Japanese Nostalgic Car reports it to be the record price for the later and less-collectible MF12 facelift model of the 2000GT.

This isn’t just any MF12 2000GT however, with chassis code MF12-000001 – it’s the first of nine facelift prototypes, and was never intended to be sold. Toyota Japan owns MF12-000002, and Toyota USA’s Museum holds MF12-000006: and we can only imagine the status of the buyer with enough pull to originally purchase Toyota’s first prototype. Prior to the recent sale, the car was said to have been cared for by an anonymous Japanese collector. As popular as Japanese sports cars are today, for decades they were overlooked or even rejected outright by the world’s elite collectors.

Toyota’s 2000GT however, was an outlier and a watershed moment for the global high-dollar collecting community.

It was Japan’s answer to the E-type; just as fast with half the engine, and arguably every bit as gorgeous.

Lauded for its looks and performance at the time – its sales record came in 2013 when RM Sotheby’s dropped the hammer on a yellow example, for over AUD$1.5 million dollars. At the time, David Kinney, publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide, noted the ceiling-shattering sale to be over double the previous record price for any Asian-manufactured car, and the first Japanese car to break the seven-figure ceiling.

Officially, Toyota only built 337 examples of their flagship 2000GT (351 if you include all pre-production prototypes). The most desired and collectible versions are the early pre-facelift MF10 variants with a Yamaha-built twin-cam straight-six.

In 1969, Toyota sought to reduce costs and increase their export by fitting a larger 2.3lt six, but with only a single-cam and 10 fewer horsepower. Among the MF12's visual changes was the inclusion of rear-side turn signals – required by developing safety and design regulations in the US.

Those unappealing changes meant the MF12 never achieved the stature or prices of the first 2000GT.