GALLERY: Behind The Scenes On Our Toyota 2000GT Film Shoot
For today’s installment in our Made to Drive film series, we head back to France to visit the Degenève family and hear the story of their special Toyota 2000GT. Though they are the oldest Toyota dealer in the whole of the country, the family dealership only started promoting and selling the Japanese marque in 1971, seven decades since they started up shop in 1900.
Founder Jean-Marie Degenève opened their dealership at the very beginning of the 20th century, and they began working mainly with horse-drawn carriages as opposed to cars, until Jean-Marie invented a new kind of bicycle that saw some reasonable success (including use in the Tour de France). This was the first step away from tending to the inventions of yesterday.
As the car manufacturers that have since become household names first opened their factory doors in the early 1900s, the Degenève business began their foray into car sales with predominantly French marques, like Amilcar and Delage. Then when René took over from Jean-Marie in the 1950s, the dealership started to sell other European brands like Volvo. However, Toyota was a strange choice to work with in the country in the 1970s. Nonetheless, they did well for themselves. René’s son Jean-Pierre began working his way up through the company around this time as well, from being a basic shopkeep and odd-jobsman to running the full operation. There are perks to having a family car dealership, and he was driving Ferraris and Gullwings for a time. He also once had a pair of Toyota 2000GTs, as the car was quite advanced in the sporting market back when it was new and could out-pretty pretty much anything else out there.
As things go, the cars were sold along the way, but his sons vowed to find another GT to give to their father as a gift for all he’d done for them (plus, having a car like this in the family means you get to take it out every now and then too!). Now, these things were trading for seven-figures in the not too recent past, and not many of them have survived to begin with from the small batch of about 350 cars put together over the three-year production run. It wasn’t going to be a case of simply buying the best available car for sale from a selection. Instead, Toyota helped the cause by locating this car for sale in Yokohama, outside of Tokyo.
The car was inspected, tested, everything, and then finally purchased. After shipping this 2000GT from Japan to France, it then had to be hidden from Jean-Pierre for a period of months in a parking garage to keep it a surprise for his 70th birthday.
There’s a lot to love about this Toyota (which in fact began development as a project of Yamaha’s that they first approached Nissan with before landing with a more conservative Toyota trying to boost its brand image): it has four disc brakes, a healthy double-overhead cam straight-six with three double-barrel carbs slapped on the side for starters, and then there’s the styling. It is a gorgeous package of long and distinctive curves wrapped into a compact shape, and it certainly achieved what Toyota had hoped it might with their overall image as a car manufacturer.
The story we’re concerned with occurs on a much smaller scale, but it still has this connection to the larger story of the 2000GT: Jean-Pierre first owned them when they were new, advanced sports cars, and now so many decades after their introduction into the world and the Degenève garage, he is back behind the wheel of his favorite Japanese coupe, only now it’s certifiably classic. It still delivers its charm as well as ever though, and we imagine it will remain in the family to keep doing so for years to come.