Carroll Shelby passed away last year, but his name is still very famous in the Japanese car market. Shelby Cobras and Mustangs are very famous, and the GT500KR ’08 model is more famous for the people who don’t know very much about cars, because we saw it on the Knight Rider television show. Many Japanese people think KR in GT500KR means Knight Rider, but I know it stands for “King of Road.” Many people think Shelby cars are Ford Mustangs (or GT40 Cobras), but in 1968, they were Shelby Toyotas, not Fords. In the mid-’60s, Datsun Roadsters and 510s were very famous for American racing.
In 1967, Toyota started to sell the 2000GT and was interested in selling to the U.S. At the same time, Carroll Shelby lost Ford’s racing contract, and Toyota gave him three 2000GTs; he built two for SCCA racing and one for testing/development. Scooter Patrick drove car 33 and had three wins in 1968; Toyota USA had high sales, too. “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” was a very famous saying for the U.S. car market, so Toyota followed this because of Shelby’s racing team. The 2000GT was very expensive in the U.S. and Japan (it was that generation’s Lexus LF-A).
After the 1968 racing season, Toyota USA didn’t need any more relations with the racing scene, so it brought a good relationship between Toyota and Shelby to an end and left Carroll Shelby on top. He returned to the car scene in 1982 and founded Shelby Automotive. But where are those 2000GTs now? The test car went back to Japan, was rebuilt, and is displayed at Toyota’s Aichi museum. The MF10-10001 model was sold for $1.7 million U.S., but it’s hard to say where it is now. If only Shelby would customize the Toyota 86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ, I think it would be good, but that’s just a dream. Shelby’s cars are very, very expensive in Japan. I like the Shelby Mustang and Camaro, but 2000-plus-cc motors are too big for most Japanese people.