Visiting the Yamaha Communication Plaza in Iwata, Japan is an experience every passionate Yamaha enthusiast should do at least once in their lifetime. Inside, you will see a comprehensive collection of motorcycles; from the very first Yamaha motorcycle to the superbikes of today. Curiously, among the two-wheel collection are several high-performance automobile engines Yamaha helped developed, or manufacture entirely, for Formula 1 racing teams and car manufacturers like Toyota and Ford. Some of you might be familiar with some of these engines because they were quite popular in the 70’s and 80’s.
Yamaha’s partnership with Toyota started with the 2000 GT in the early 1960’s. The Toyota 2000GT was first unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965 and is regarded as the car that revolutionized the automotive world’s view of Japan. The 2000GT showed the whole world that Japan can produce a high-performance sports car to rival those of Europe. At that time Japan was widely regarded as a producer of imitative and boringly practical cars. In fact, Toyota was perceived as the most conservative of the Japanese car manufacturers. Thanks to the Toyota 2000GT it virtually banished that image overnight.
The 2000GT shared its 2.0L inline-six cylinder engine with the Toyota Crown sedan. Yamaha worked its magic by developing an overhead camshaft head breathing through three two-barrel Solex 40 PHH carburetors. The reworked engine produced 150 hp, a stellar figure at that time, and when fitted with the 4.375 ratio axle, the car was said to be capable of reaching 217 km/h. Toyota entered the 2000GT in the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix and finished third. In 1967 it won first place in the Fuji 24-Hour race. The 2000GT also set several FIA world records for speed and endurance in a 72-hour test. In the end, only 351 Toyota 2000GT’s were produced, and all were built by Yamaha. Priced at $6,800 it is believed that Toyota did not profit from the cars despite their high price. They were more concept cars and a demonstration of ability than a true production car. Today, the 2000GT is regarded as the first seriously collectible Japanese car. Examples of the 2000GT have sold at auction for as much as $1,200,000.
Other popular car engines that Yamaha helped develop for Toyota include the 2T-G. This 1600cc dohc engine was developed by Yamaha Motors for mass production based on the Toyota 2T power unit. It was mounted on Toyota sport models of the 1970s, including the first-generation Celica 1600GT, Carina and Corolla Levin. A total of 300,000 units were produced.
Another iconic Toyota engine developed by Yamaha in 1982 was the 3T-GT based on the Toyota 3T power unit. This was Japan’s first twin-cam turbocharged engine. It had a displacement of 1800cc and an inline-4 cylinder layout with two spark plugs per cylinder. This engine powered the Celica and Carina. Also, 200 4T-GTE with a 1791cc displacement and bore expanded by 0.5mm were used in Group B homologation of the World Rally Championship (WRC).
Yamaha also developed the K0A engine for the Ford Taurus in 1988. The “SHO” inscribed on the top of the engine stood for “Super High Output” and this is the first engine Yamaha supplied to Ford. In early 2000 Toyota once again tapped Yamaha’s expertise in producing high output compact engines for the Lexus LFA. The Lexus LFA was created to hold a proud place in the automotive world as a true supercar from Japan. The 4.8L 72-degree V10 engine developed by Yamaha for the LFA carries the 1LR-GUE designation and has a power output of 552.33 bhp @ 8,700rpm and torque output of 354 lb-ft @ 6,800rpm. The LFA has a top speed of 325 km/h (202 mph).
Unknown to many motorcycle enthusiasts Yamaha also ventured into top level car racing in 1985 with the 0X66, a V-shaped six-cylinder engine developed for use in the F2 series , which was the pinnacle of 4-wheel races in Japan at the time. The 0X66 is a compact 75-degree V6 engine with a high rpm ultra short stroke design utilizing 5-valve per cylinder and dohc. It was used from 1985 in the Japan F2. In 1986 Geoff Lees became champion at the Fuji GC series driving with this engine.
Next came the 0X99, a 3498cc 70 degree V12 cylinder dohc with 5-valves per cylinder independently developed by Yamaha. In 1992 this was used by F1 drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Stefano Modena under the Jordan Yamaha Racing Team. Yamaha Motor concluded its F1 racing participation with the 0X11A V10 engine in 1997.
Following 1995’s displacement rules, it was completely redesigned to reduce weight and become more compact with high rpm characteristics and high power output. It was the precursor of modern F1 engines. It appeared in the Tyrrell Yamaha team’s machine in 1996. In 1997 it evolved to Spec C and D, and Damon Hill of the Arrows Yamaha team placed 2nd in the Hungarian GP driving it.
The Communication Plaza is Yamaha Motor’s corporate museum. Admission is free, but a reservation is required for groups with 11 or more people, and you must submit a reservation form at least one week in advance. For more information, please visit https://global.yamaha-motor.com/showroom/cp/info/