It was Toyota’s first sports car and is possibly the pinnacle of Japanese automotive design. The diminutive Sports 800 was released in 1965 and was the product of Nissan designer Shozo Sato and Toyota engineer Tatsuo Hasegawa. It was powered by a two-cylinder air-cooled boxer engine that was good for 45 horsepower and 45 miles per gallon. The car weighed just 1,200 pounds. It had the very first targa top, a lift-out aluminum roof panel for wind-in-your #1 Headband motoring. It is thoroughly Japanese, an automobile that could very well have driven out of the ear of Hayao Miyazaki. The low belt line, bubble roofline and bug-eye headlamps make the Sports 800 sleek and playful at the same time. But there’s seriousness in that sinister sweeping nose, a shark-like menace. And there’s good reason for it. Hasegawa was an aeronautical engineer during WWII and that curve mimics the nose of the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hein, one of Japan’s fastest and most powerful fighters.
Only about 3,100 Sports 800s were built and fewer than 300 survive today.