Rare Rides: A Very Tiny Toyota 800 Sports Coupe From 1968

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a very tiny toyota 800 sports coupe from 1968

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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  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Mar 31, 2019

    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.

  • Loi Le Loi Le on Sep 08, 2023

    I owned one during 1971-1974,that I loved too just get 100km for only 4 litre of gasoline.It had 2 cyl engine only,is that great for today,so we don't have to buy EV any more.

  • Chris P Bacon I had a chance to drive 2 Accords back to back as rentals. The first was a base ICE LX. I was underwhelmed. The next was a Sport Hybrid. Like night and day. So much so that I ventured on to the grounds of my local dealer. Was looking for a Sport or Sport-L. Autotrader showed nothing within 250 miles. Dealer confirmed. Told me I'd have to "get on the list" for a delivery, and there was a non-negotiable $3k "market adjustment". I guess I'll have to hope to see one on the Emerald Aisle again.
  • DungBeetle62 I just this past weekend rented one of these for 5 days in SoCal and with $5.29 the best I could find for gas, this ride's wonderful combination of comfort and thrift was welcome indeed. My biggest real beef is with the entire Accord product line - with that angle of backlight, not having this as a 5-door hatch seems a real waste of space.
  • RICHARD I bought my wife the exact car in the picture 3 weeks ago. Acceleration is average for the class. Smoothness of the powertrain, competent ride dynamics, quietness, and comfort are definitely pluses. The styling is restrained for sure, but we weren't looking for a shouty car that doesn't deliver on the design statement. She drives about 8,000 miles per year, mostly around town. At the current rate, we expect to buy about 16 gallons of gas per month. This really is a car that appears to do everything well rather than excelling at a few things to the detriment of others.
  • Ajla "2010-2019 Borrego"The Borrego only had model years 2009 - 2011 in the United States. The Borrego/Mohave did exist in international markets beyond them but the NHTSA of the United States would not be handling a recall on those. It's annoying that apparently the manufacturer, the federal regulator, and automotive press didn't notice this.
  • SilverCoupe The last Accord I test drove was in 1978, but I ended up buying a VW Scirocco instead. The Accords have put on quite a bit of weight since, then, but then again, so have I!