The Toyota Sports 800 was Toyota Motor Corporation's first production sports car. The prototype for the Sports 800, called the Toyota Publica Sports, debuted at the 1962 Tokyo Auto Show, featuring a space age sliding canopy and utilizing the 21 kW (28 hp) power train of the Toyota Publica 700, a Japanese market economy car. The Toyota Sports 800 is affectionately called the "Yota-Hachi", which is a Japanese short form for "Toyota 8".
In 1965, the car went into actual production, with chassis code UP15 and an increase in engine displacement from 700 cc to 800 cc, as well as dual carburetors, which increased power from 21 to 34 kW (28 to 45 hp). This engine was sufficient to power the light car around town at 70 km/h (45 mph) or on a race track up to about 160 km/h (100 mph).
The car had aerodynamic styling by Shozo Sato, a designer on loan from Datsun, and Toyota engineer Tatsuo Hasegawa. Hasegawa had been an aircraft designer in World War II and the resulting Sports 800 was a lightweight and agile machine.
The Sports 800 was one of the first production cars featuring a lift-out roof panel, or targa top, pre-dating the Porsche Targa. The aluminum targa top could be stored in the trunk, when not in use.
Between 1965 and 1969 approximately 3,131 units were built by the Kanto Auto Works. Only about 10% of those vehicles are known to have survived, most being in Japan.
Production Tables show 1,235 cars manufactured in 1965, 703 in 1966, 538 in 1967, 440 in 1968, and 215 in 1969.
The vast majority of the 3,131 cars were right hand drive, but some 300 were left hand drive models, built primarily for the Okinawa market. (Okinawa, having been American occupied, drove on the "other side" from the rest of Japan.) A very limited number of left hand drive cars were used by Toyota to "test drive" in the US, but Toyota made a decision not to import or sell the cars in the US market.
There are subtle design differences between the years. Noticeable differences have included: change over from non-synchro to synchro first gear in 1967; a grill and bumperette change in 1968; and side marker lights in 1969. The basic body design, however, remained unchanged.
An air-cooled 790 cc horizontally opposed two-cylinder boxer engine powered the vehicle. The 0.8 liter 2U (45 bhp @ 5400) was produced from 1965 through 1969, while a similar 2U-B was produced from 1966 through 1976 (in 1975 the Dyna Coaster Bus manual shows that Toyota used the 2U-B as a separate auxiliary engine, just to run the air conditioning unit for the bus). The 2U was also used in the Publica (UP20/UP26) and MiniAce (UP100).
Weight was kept down by using aluminum on selected body panels and thin steel on the unibody construction. For the first few years of production even the seat frames were made of aluminum.
There are both Japanese and American Registries on the Internet. Owners are encouraged to register their vehicles. Toyota produced a one-off prototype Sports 800 Gas Turbine Hybrid for the 1979 Tokyo Motor Show.