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Published on Nov 18, 2014
Start with the Lexus LFA and trace your way back through Toyota’s sports car lineage, pausing along the way to admire the Supra, the MR2, the AE86, the Celica, and the 2000GT. But don’t stop there: follow the Japanese carmaker’s family tree to the very root of its sports cars and you’ll find the Sports 800, known to its legions of fans as “Yota-hachi.”
Little-known in the United States due its low export numbers, the Sports 800 is a true “hero car” in Japan, where it is one of only two cars ever to be inducted into the Japanese Automotive Hall of Fame (an institution that honors the people behind cars more than the cars themselves). The car earned this honor both for its innovative design (which owes much to engineer Tetsuo Hasegawa’s aerospace background) and for its immediate success on the race track, where it went head-to-head with Honda’s high-revving S800s in the great Japanese endurance races of the day.
A rare car by any measure, the left-hand drive models produced for the Okinawan market are today even harder to come by. No surprise, then, that the Sports 800 featured here is owner Scott Sylvester’s pride and joy. A fan of small cars ever since he first bought a Fiat 600 as a teen, his garage is home to everything from a Bianchina to a BMW Isetta, with a Messerschmidt thrown in for good measure. When talk turns to the Sports 800, however, Sylvester gets an extra spark in his eye. The rarity, the history, the design, the lightweight quickness…Yota-hachi’s story caught his imagination years ago and hasn’t let go.