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
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