Presented by Centric Parts and its StopTech performance and racing division

September 10, 2012

Centric Helps Museum with Bond Car Brake Needs

Like the Bizzarrini we helped out in our last blog post, today's featured car is pretty unique. Its shape would likely be recognizable to enthusiasts of sports cars, classic Japanese cars or James Bond films, but more about that later. The parts you see above may look like radiator caps at first glance, but anyone who has worked on older brakes from the ‘50s and ‘60s will likely recognize these as early Dunlop hydraulic brake caliper components.

Before opposed piston calipers evolved into the one or two piece blocks we think of today, there were hydraulic calipers like those pictured at left, which used a central bridge along with "caliper pods" - like those pictured above - controlling the pistons on the inside and out. People sometimes refer to those pods as wheel or slave cylinders, and they existed before the term "caliper" was used to describe the part of the hydraulic brake system that gripped the brake disc.

This was originally a Dunlop design that was licensed for this particular application by Sumitomo. It's an interesting design that is making something of a comeback among certain vehicles, where the bridge is now made of iron and the cylinders and pistons are made of aluminum. 

Eventually these types of calipers morphed into hybrids where one side was formed together with the bridge and the other was still a separate piece like those seen at right. The final evolution saw both sides of the caliper body being cast as outer and inner halves on two-piece calipers, or as one single block in the case of monobloc calipers. Of course, StopTech went the extra step of adding a patented bolt-in stiffening bridge that made two-piece calipers as strong as some monoblocs, and developed titanium nosed pistons to deal with extreme heat encountered in racing, but back to our featured car.

It was considered by many to be the first Japanese supercar and made its big screen debut in the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice. Because star Sean Connery was too tall to fit comfortably inside the slinky coupe, the producers worked with the manufacturer and built a pair of convertibles. The "convertibles" actually had no top, just a fabric bundle at the rear to simulate one, and never saw production.

The car itself was something of a revolution, allowing people to see Japan as capable of building world-class sports cars for the first time. The chassis was copied from the great-handling Lotus Elan and the engine was a 2.0-liter straight-6 plucked from the company’s top-of-the-line sedan. It was transformed by Yamaha with new double overhead camshaft heads that helped turn it into a genuine 150-hp sports car engine. The car was capable of reaching 135 mph and could still get 31 mpg.

By now you may have guessed that we are talking about the Toyota 2000GT. Only 351 regular production 2000GTs were built between 1966 and 1970, all actually built by Yamaha for Toyota. About 60 cars reached America, mostly painted either red or white. In the U.S. the 2000GT sold for about $6,800, which was much more than contemporary Porsches and Jaguars. They were more concept cars, though, and served as a demonstration of ability for Toyota.

The 2000GT that Centric was asked to help with actually turned out to be three cars – one convertible and two coupes, one of which used to belong to the model/actress Twiggy (below left). All of these reside at the Toyota Museum in Torrance, California, just down the road from Centric.

Although the Lexus LFA is probably the closest current offering in the Toyota family in terms of supercar status, the Toyota 2000GT is actually closer to the new Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ in size and performance. Both are lightweight rear-drive coupes that are quick and handle well, although the newer models have a back seat and a definite performance advantage. Thankfully, Centric has the Toyota 2000GT covered for brakes, and StopTech has Sport Kits and Big Brake Kits that can more than handle the Scion and Subaru sportscars’ braking needs.

The Toyota 2000GT remains one of the most collectible Japanese cars of all time, one recently selling for a whopping $627,000 at the Gooding & Co. Pebble Beach auction in August. It's a fun piece of history that we are are proud to be associated with. Next time we'll take a look at a special Porsche that also needed some attention from Centric before hitting the track at Laguna Seca for the 2012 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.