By on March 28, 2019

What coupe is 140 inches long, bright red, and was never sold in North America? It’s this Toyota Sports 800, from 1968.
Toyota debuted its new sports car concept at the 1962 Tokyo Auto Show, calling it the Publica Sports. The Publica was Toyota’s compact economy car offering in the Japanese domestic market, and donated its platform to the Publica Sports.

Public reception was favorable, and Toyota set about making some changes in order to put the Publica Sports into production. Engineers increased the Publica’s base engine from 700 to 800 cc, which meant the new coupe had 44 horsepower. The engine used in all 800s was a two-cylinder boxer engine with air cooling. Because the coupe was so light (at just under 1,300 pounds), the tiny engine could propel the Publica Sports to a top speed of 100 miles per hour, given a long enough straight stretch.

Toyota then changed the coupe’s name to Sports 800, starting production in 1965. The 800 joined its cousin the Publica at the Toyota Public Store. As there were already several miniature sports coupes on the Japanese market at the time, the 800 found itself a latecomer to the party. Ahead of its introduction, Honda launched the S500, and the Daihatsu Compagno and Datsun Fairlady were already on sale.

One thing the Sports 800 had over its competitors was style. Designed by a man Toyota borrowed from Datsun, the 800 featured an aerodynamic, smooth shape and a removable aluminum targa roof panel that could be stored in the trunk. It was a very early example of such a removable roof.

Toyota outsourced production to Kanto Auto Works. The lines for the 800 worked slowly, and between 1965 and 1969 just over 3,000 examples rolled out of the factory. Though the vast majority were right-hand drive, a select few were built for American-occupied Okinawa and were fitted with left-hand drive. Toyota ended 800 production in 1969, and did not offer a direct successor.

Today’s 800 is a tidy red example from 1968. Located on the island of Jersey, this 800 has 46,500 miles on the odometer. Given the estimate that only 10 percent of the Sports 800s made still exist today, this one asks a tidy $52,700

[Images: seller]

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12 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Very Tiny Toyota 800 Sports Coupe From 1968...”

  • avatar

    LS swap!

  • avatar

    Hmmmm…..looks as though there is just enough room under that hood to drop in a BMW boxer engine. You didn’t mention but I take it this is FWD ?

  • avatar

    I’ve seen plenty of pictures of these over the decades, but never seen one in person (and probably never will).

    I’d be extremely paranoid about driving one on the street, because of the rarity, and the possibility of being run over by a soccer mom in a Suburban, or some guy in a brodozer.

  • avatar

    It was RWD, like most Japanese cars prior to the late 70’s.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    The perfect vehicle to ride in Tokyo’s Harajuku area.

  • avatar

    Good to see that five decades of practise have improved Toyota’s tin-bashing skills. The fit and finish here I would describe as approximate. That trunk lid! Try it again, Hiro.

    The flat twin in this car was what Toyota claimed inspired the flat four in the GT86. This twin probably doesn’t have the flat and dead midrange Subaru successfully coaxed out of its Version -0.5 scrawny plastic pipe and tiny plenum intake manifold on the FA20. That’s because here each cylinder gets its own carb, avoiding the problem.

    Probably a neat little bucket to boot down an English Country lane. Early Austin Healey Sprites were fun to drive as I can attest and managed a blary 42 hp at full chat accompanied by gear whine most cars only generate in reverse. They only weighed 1500 lbs too, and their metalwork fit ‘n finish was better than this Toyota ten years earlier as well, way back in ’58. But I bet the Toyota’s engine would be keener and crisper if it could go 100mph. That was about all an MGB would do with 95 hp. But the charm of the old Brit cars was the strong low end torque – they’d trundle just beyond jogging pace in third and pull away cleanly with a nice exhaust note. I’d bet this Toyota was a screamer.

    Love to see one, but over $50 K for a souped-up vintage lawnmower even with double A-arm front suspension and rarity is a bit much. A local tin bender could go into business knocking out replicas if they were continually selling for over $50K – there’s a few motorcycle engines that would fit.

  • avatar

    A teacup sports car. I’ll put it on the shelf next to the Bugeye Sprite and the MG Midget.

  • avatar

    Meh, I’d take a Honda S500 or Mazda Cosmo over this. There are plenty of pre-early-80s Toyotas I like, this isnt one.

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