|TOYOTA'S LITTLEST SPORTS CAR
The following story ran in the January / February 2005 issue of CROSSROADS, the newsletter
of the Toyota Owner's and Restorer's Club. It has been re-edited in it's current form. Just
before I went online with Matt's original story, Matt sent me a brief update to add as an
TOYOTA’S LITTLEST SPORTS CAR
By Matt Spielberg
My affair with the Toyota Sports 800 started years ago as a student at UC Berkeley. I had just
met my future wife, and I dragged her to look at the tiniest little car sitting in a faculty parking lot.
There it was – a tiny rounded sports car with a removable targa top. Flash forward a good thirty
years, and thanks to eBay I became the proud owner of a really bad, not very restorable Toyota
Sports 800. Almost two years and many many dollars later, the Yota Chi is back on the road in at
least some of its glory.
Toyota in the early 1960s attempted to develop an econobox for the home market, in the form of
the two–cylinder air–cooled 700cc Publica (according to some, a Japanese contraction of “public”
and “car”). The car was not particularly well–received in the Japanese market and was not exported
to the U.S. The Publica did serve as the basis for a show car at the Toyota Auto Show in 1962 and
came out of the same design studio as its big brother, the Toyota 2000GT. Over the years the actual
design of the Sports 800 has been credited to several individuals, Shozo Sato and Tatsuo Hasegawa.
Today, it is fairly safe to say that the Sports 800 was a result of the efforts of the design team headed
by Tatsuo Hasegawa, and who is today credited as “the chief designer of the Toyota Sports 800.”
On that team was also Shozo Sato, who at the time was on loan from Nissan, and it can be assumed
that he had a hand in the design also.
The Sports 800 was made from 1965 through 1969, with a total output of 3,131 cars of which
either 150 or 310 were left–hand drive, depending on who you believe. The car has 49 horsepower,
weighing less than 1300 lbs. Performance is not bad for an 800cc horizontally–opposed twin, and in
its later years they actually put a synchromesh on first gear.
I have not yet flogged the thing, but it does keep up with freeway traffic, mostly in the right lanes,
so far. The car is tiny, and even if the bumpers were made of more than thin aluminum, the car is
dwarfed by a modern Corolla. In an accident, the first contact with a Ford Expedition would be when
my windshield contacts the SUV’s rear bumper. Parts availability through official channels is virtually
nonexistent (sorry, Mike, not your fault). Offline orders placed through Toyota have resulted in no
However, thanks to both Mike Foertsch and Koji Yamaguchi, we were able to get rod bearings
necessary for a rebuild directly from Japan, and beautiful new old stock taillights. TORC member
Craig Ferrell has made available a good photocopy of the parts manual, which has been a godsend. I
used the parts manual in conjunction with a barely readable photocopy of a photocopy of a Toyota
700 shop manual, which allowed me to resurrect a very dead Toyota into a lovely little sports car
which starts, stops, makes wonderful noises, and only leaks a little oil (I’m working on it).
TOYOTA’S LITTLEST SPORTS CAR
(UPDATE September 2008)
by Matt Spielberg
I have only been involved in Toyotas for five or six years now, and I have to say, “Thank God for the Internet.”
The Internet has eased communication among Sports 800 owners incredibly. Thanks to the internet, I have friends that I have never met,
in addition to new friends that I have met, thanks to this car.
Because of the Internet, we were able to do a group order for headlight covers, bringing down the cost per unit to about half of what it
would have cost each individual to try and get them from Japan.
In addition, because of communication among owners, we were able to discover that one owner, Tiffany Farrell, happened to be located
in Japan near where the headlight covers were available, and happened to be on her way back to the United States. As a result, she was
able to hand carry the headlight covers directly through Customs. I picked them up in L.A. and was able to redistribute them to owners on
the west coast, on the east coast, in Australia, and in England. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to obtain an impossible to locate used set of
transmission mounts (thank you, David) shortly before someone in Singapore listed transmission mounts for the car on eBay.
When I needed replacement pistons, I was able to find a machine shop which still had paper parts catalogs, with a machinist willing to
spend the hours necessary to find appropriate replacement pistons, oddly from a Fiat Spyder, which needed only minor machining work to
make it fit.
We have been able to obtain replacement windshields from Japan, and thanks to the efforts of Mike Foersch, have been able to get real
Toyota mufflers and master brake cylinders from Toyota at remarkably reasonable cost, to say nothing about being able to get new air
cleaners, air cleaner housings, and brand new carburetors.
Thanks to the remarkable efforts of Rich Street, Toyota 700 and 800 owners have been sharing information, including crossover
information regarding the sharing of parts. This is invaluable information as to which parts from a Toyota Corolla 1100 are shared with the
Sports 800. Items like brake shoes and rear brake cylinders for the Corolla are merely difficult to find, rather than being totally impossible.
And guys behind parts counters know what a Corolla is.
And thanks to Rich Street again, (who has the Toyota Corolla 1100 parts book, in addition to the Sports 800 parts book), we
discovered that 95% of the starter parts are interchangeable. (I did discover, to my chagrin, that although the Toyota OEM starters may be
inter-changeable, the aftermarket starter might fit the Corolla, but does not fit the Sports 800.
Name: Toyota Sports 800, Yotahachi
Engine: Model 2U; 2-cylinder (790 cc, developing
45 hp SAE); Air-cooled, horizontal, opposed 2,
Maximum Speed: 96 mph (155km/h)
Curb Mass: 580kg
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