So Toyota has a reputation as a legendary automotive manufacturer. Successful at everything they do be that sports cars, pickup trucks, or even small hatchbacks, their engineering might is nearly unmatched. Their latest headline-grabbing car, the GR Yaris, is an excellent example of this, affordable and different from almost anything else on the market. The automotive community is desperately waiting for the next Gazoo Racing product, the highly anticipated GR Corrolla.

But before all of this and long before the Celica, Supra, and MR2, Toyota produced the Sports 800. Derived from the Publica compact sedan, the Sports 800 is a small and light coupe. With an 800cc engine that produces 45 horsepower, it doesn't sound fast. But weighing only around 1,260 lbs, it doesn't need much. Launching before the 2000GT, it set out the design motifs of this small car.

This Japanese classic started Toyota's sporting history.

What Are The Quirks Of The Toyota Sports 800?

Besides having a Kei car-like size, the Sports 800 is an incredibly quirky and special car. YouTube channel Number 27 reveals that the air-cooled two-cylinder is disconcerting to drive as instead of sounding like a Japanese car it is similar to a European engine like that in the classic Fiat 500.

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The most obvious quirk of the Sports 800 is the roof. A Targa top, so a hardtop that the owner can remove, just like that on a 911 Targa. According to Porsche, the Targa exists as "neither a cabriolet nor a coupé, neither a hard top nor a saloon, but something completely new: the first safety cabriolet in the world with a fixed safety or roll bar." This quote is from the 1965 Frankfurt show. However, Toyota unveiled its version of the design in 1962. The Targa roof is an excellent piece of design. Providing the benefits of a coupe and convertible ownership before automatic hardtop convertibles came to the market. The only drawback to the Targa is that the roof is manual.

What Did The Toyota Sports 800 Compete Against?

Toyota Sports 800 side view
Number 27 via YouTube

At the time of the Sports 800, Honda's S series of cars were more advanced than the little Toyota. Number 27 speak of the S600 and S800 as further ahead of the Toyota with 20 horsepower more. This did not act as a barrier to Toyota. They used new materials to keep their total weight low. Aluminum body panels are a luxury that many companies like Jaguar only relatively recently adopted.

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In a peculiar move, the car left the factory in both left and right-hand drive. However, this model sold on the domestic market, not internationally. According to Number 27, this is because the United States controlled Okinawa island. Here, people drove on the right like in the States. Keen to expand into foreign markets, the brand produced cars for those stationed in Japan. What this does mean is that there are examples that are perfect to import into the United States as something a little different on the JDM scene.

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