Toyota Tales
Sports 800 - A California Barn Find
2007 August

Prologue: Back in the fall of 2005 I was contacted by an individual asking for information
about the Toyota Sports 800. According to this person, they were about to 'inherited' a Sports
800 from a neighbor, and they were contemplating on whether to restore the car or sell it. We
emailed each other for several months and during that time, I told a friend about the car and I
gave him the contact information for the would be Sports 800 'owner'. By the spring of 2006
my friend had learned of the Sports 800's location and had spoken with the
real owner of the
car (we never did find out who our original contact was, or what right they had to the car, if
any). In the following months my friend had several talks with the owner and other family
members, and learned much about the car & it's history, and that it actually might be up for
sale. Then, one day in August 2006, I finally had the opportunity to go and see this car. What
follows is the story, written by my friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, about this Sports
800...

Sports 800 - A California Barn Find
by Anonymous

It is not everyday that one sees a classic Toyota Sports 800 on American soil. Even if a Sports 800 is
seen, most people don’t realize what it is and tend to pass it off as an old Fiat especially if it is red in
color. The Sports 800 is an extremely rare car in Japan with only about 3,100 units built between the
years of 1965 and 1969. Very few of that production run was for export to other countries and the
majority of remaining Sports 800's still reside in Japan. However, best estimates from various Sports
800 registries show that way less than half of those 3,100 cars produced still exist. Most have been
destroyed by rust or were cannibalized for parts to keep other Sports 800's on the road.

The Sports 800 can be credited to being Toyota’s first sports car because it was in production before
the Toyota’s exotic 2000GT was finalized. The Sports 800 was powered by a tiny 790 cc 2 cylinder
horizontally-opposed, air-cooled engine also used in Toyota’s Publica. This ultra-small engine was
inspired by lightweight aircraft engine designs of that time period and the Sports 800’s creator was
Tatsuo Hasegawa whose background was in aircraft design. It only made 45 horsepower through
using 2 carburetors but the car was so light at less than 1,300 pounds it does not take a
mathematician to see that this car was quick on its feet. This diminutive little car charmed the hearts of
a few American military men stationed both in Japan and Europe and they can be credited for bringing
a few examples to America when they returned home.

The Sports 800 is so small it makes even Toyota’s first generation MR2 from the 1980's look as big
as a Cadillac. To bring size into perspective, Sports 800's are just a little taller than 46 inches from
ground to the highest point of the roof, less than 58 inches wide and about 141 inches in overall
length. The aerodynamics are  pretty good for a car in its day and allowed the car to reach a top
speed of about 90 MPH which is really flying for a 2-cylinder car. Due to the aerodynamics and the
small engine, it averaged well over 50 miles per gallon too. The Sports 800 was a car that was
practical on the pocketbook at that time and was way more fun to drive than any other Japanese cars
on the market when it was launched in 1965.

At best estimates there were less are less than 50 Sports 800's on American soil in 2006. It is
extremely hard to find Sports 800's for sale in America but about 3 or 4 times per year an occasional
Sports 800 will come up for sale on EBAY. Restoring a Sports 800 is an altogether hard project to
take on because most parts have not been available for years and only a few mechanical parts may be
easy to find. So fabrication skills come in handy when restoring a Sports 800 and it is best to start
with a complete car. There are several Sports 800 clubs in Japan that manufacture various hard to get
parts such as the headlight and tail light lenses, rubber seals for the targa top and windows but none of
this comes cheaply due to remanufacturing such parts at extremely low volumes.

The Sports 800 you see pictured here was imported from France to California sometime in late 1966
or early 1967 and was used from that time until 1981 when the car sprang a fuel leak and no parts
were found to be able to fix it at that time. It is a right hand drive car that curiously has the original
speedometer in MPH instead of KPH with only about 60,000 original miles showing on the
odometer. That is the true mileage since the car was only used locally for the 15 or so years before a
fuel leak sidelined this car. The family that owned it shared it throughout the years and several of their
children learned how to drive on it and even drove it to high school on a daily basis. The car still
remains in the same family to this day.

When interviewing the owner (who wishes to remain anonymous), he recalled a funny story that
happened during a football game at the local high school. After the game he returned to the space
where his car was and found that the Sports 800 was far from where he remembered parking it.
Much to his amusement, the explanation was that several members of the football team picked it up
and carried it to a new parking spot. At less than 1,300 pounds it was quite easy for 4 or 5 football
players to pick it up and move it. Maybe that is what the coach gave them to do instead of the usual
push-ups? Several brothers and sisters within this family all have fond memories of the car they
learned how to drive on. Lucky family! Those memories include first kisses, memorable drives,
learning how to drive with such a fun and rare car and always answering the questions from other
people such as “What kind of car is this?” or “Where is it from?” or  “Is this one of those Fiats?” or
“You mean its one of those newfangled Japanese cars?”

After the fuel problem happened in 1981, the car was parked outside in a large courtyard behind
walls and not seen by others for years. It is still parked there till this day. After 25 years in the sun and
rain, the faded red paint still clings to the original body and surprisingly there are no dents or parking
lot damage on the front of the body for having a car with no bumpers. Rust has gotten the better part
of the front inner fenders but that is a common problem among all Sports 800s because of the design,
water just seems to collect there. Rust may have gotten the better part of the floor pans too. A little
metal surgery in the hands of an experienced body repairman can tackle that part of restoring it. The
original uncracked windshield and other windows remain on the car along with the original targa top
that is ready to fall through the crack in the roof due to the deteriorated rubber seal that holds it in
place.

While parked outside throughout the last 25 years, this Sports 800 was home to many animals and
varmints, creatures and critters such as: cats, dogs, possums, raccoons, squirrels, mice and numerous
spiders and insects. One of these critters ate most the vinyl piece between the trunk and interior.
Sports 800s must be pretty tasty cars! The only parts that seem to be missing are some hubcaps, a
headlight lens, a few hoses and some and interior trim pieces. For the most part this is a complete car
that deserves to be restored since it has had an interesting history in California. Restoring it will take
years and many thousands of dollars but in the end it will be worth it since so few of these exist in
America.

Epilogue: Shortly after my visit to the Sports 800, the car disappeared from the property
where it was located, and the property was up for sale. My friend was never able to regain
contact with the owner and we have no idea what has become of the car. Will it resurface
again one day? Only time will tell.

The Sports 800 is one of my favorite Toyota models. Unfortunately, this is probably the closest
I'll ever come to owning one of these little gems.

UPDATE - June 2008

The Sports 800 has resurfaced. The owner of the car recently contacted another friend of
mine, that had been in negotiations with the owner in early 2007. They reached an
agreement and now the car is in the hands of my friend. He already has one Sports 800, and
he says this one will be drivable soon! Hopefully a new story will be forthcoming!



Specifications:

Name: Toyota Sports 800
Model: UP15
Engine: Model 2U; 2-cylinder (790 cc, developing 45 hp SAE); Air-cooled, horizontal, opposed 2,
OHV
Maximum Speed: 96 mph (155km/h)
Wheelbase: 2000mm
Length: 3580mm
Width: 1465mm
Height: 1175mm
Curb Mass: 580kg
Toyotageek.com
For more on the Toyota Sports 800 visit Rich Street's Yodahachi's Toyota Sports 800 Page and visit the
Toy700and800 Yahoo Group. Rich maintains the current Sports 800 / Publica Registry.
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