Toyota South Africa unveils stunning restored 2000GT

Toyota 2000GT

One of the most important classic cars in South Africa has received a complete restoration. It took a few years, but it's finally done. We take a look at the one of the most valuable Japanese cars, Toyota’s 2000GT. 

Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms

Pictures: Supplied

It is an important car, Toyota's 2000GT, not only because it is valuable, but because of its connection to South Africa. The last person to drive this particular car regularly in the early 1980s (it seems to have always belonged to TSAM) was Ms Wessels, wife of Bert Wessels, the family responsible for bringing Toyota to South Africa.

The Toyota 2000GT is one of the most valuable Japanese cars. Today a Shelby-tuned 2000GT race car is still the most valuable Japanese car to have sold at auction. Although standard road cars trade for a lot less, it still makes them some of the most valuable classic cars.

Toyota 2000GT

Toyota South Africa Motors made the right decision a few years ago to get their prized possession restored after it had been kept at their storage facility for a very long time – and last week they finally unveiled the car to the media. 

Out of all the 351 examples of the 2000GT models produced, only three were designated for South Africa. Chassis number MF10-10131 and MF10-10206 in Pegasus White and MF10-10207 finished in Thunder Silver. The three vehicles arrived on South African shores between 1967 and 1968.

TSAM has9/ been in possession of one of these examples for many years, the car in question being chassis number MF10-10207.

The restoration process

We spoke to Wynand Strydom from Generation Old School in Benoni who managed the restoration process, to discuss the project and some of the challenges and highlights.

Toyota 2000GT

“I was asked to visit TSAM for a possible job and was quite surprised to see the 2000GT. I knew of the car, but I didn’t know there was one in South Africa. I was extremely happy to see it was a complete car, meaning that there were no parts missing. A complete car lends itself well to being restored. I always tell people, we are restorers... not rebuilders.

“We had a tremendous amount of fun restoring car, mainly because of the South African connection, but also because we had to reuse parts as far and as often as possible. The parts which we couldn’t reuse, we sourced or reproduced locally. This entire car, front to back, top to bottom, was restored in South Africa. The only things that we had to import were carburettor reconditioning kits that I had to order from an Italian company.”

Toyota 2000GT

Wynand’s dad has been building cars since 1989, so he and his dad know a thing or two about restoring and building cars. Even the trickiest components, like gasket sets and door rubbers, were remanufactured here in South Africa. 

“Take for example the windscreen. I made contact with a 2000GT owner in the USA regarding supplying me a windscreen. By the time this windscreen would have arrived in South Africa, it would have costed us a couple of hundreds of thousands of Rands! I then decided to approach a local company and we reproduced six windscreens, plus, now we have a mould to make them in the future, should it be necessary. It was the same case with the fuel pump, which we were able to completely rebuild without needing anything from abroad. 

Toyota 2000GT

“It was a complete nuts-and-bolts restoration. The only thing I didn’t take out was the dashboard. I stripped it, but the core of the dashboard I left as there were simply too many clips and components that would have got damaged or broken if we removed it. Other than that, it was a body-off-the-chassis restoration. There was not a single bolt or nut on the X-frame chassis after we had stripped it. 

“Putting it all back together was quite a challenge. The body actually folds around the chassis, so you must pull and push the body a little to make it all fit.”

Toyota 2000GT

Wynand admits that it is always a fine line between repainting, polishing and replacing parts while also leaving the necessary patina. 

“The brakes, suspension and wiring harness were all attended to. We even kept the original glass, except for the windscreen. Most of the car we were able to reuse. Some parts just needed a polish and a clean. The engine, a 2.0-litre in-line six-cylinder unit, was also in a good condition. The link of the one camshaft chain was broken, which we only noticed once we opened the engine. Thankfully the car was never driven before we started the project, otherwise it could have resulted in a nightmare!

Toyota 2000GT

“The engine is a story on its own. We struggled to find some parts, but we took it to a mechanical specialist we use in Kempton Park, Anton Wessels. He started in February and in July he sent me a video of the engine running.”

Another feature that was kept was the huge air-conditioning box that is situated in the middle, behind the seats. It seems this aftermarket system was locally installed some time in the early '80s. It is part of the car’s story, and it was decided that it should go back in. 

Toyota 2000GT

Stuart Grant, fellow motoring writer and classic-car researcher, pointed me in the direction of the book Never say goodbye: the story of Toyota South Africa by Harvey Thomas. It mentions that the company imported four 2000GTs. According to the writer, at the time of the book’s release in 1993, only this one belonging to the Wessels family (or Toyota, the company) remained in SA. 

It is evident that a lot of patience, research, expertise and sweat were involved in this project from day one. The result is that we not only now have one of the most important Toyotas right here in South Africa, but also one of the most significant classic cars from the 20th century. 

Toyota 2000GT

However, TSAM has a few other remarkable cars in their warehouse… maybe next year it will be time to tackle another project…

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