There are those who have said it's an unforgivable and monstrous way to treat an iconic sports car. For solar transport enthusiasts looking for a beautiful alternative to the three-wheeled flat top designs though, it's just what the doctor ordered. The object at the center of this controversy is a classic Toyota 2000GT that's undergone a complete solar conversion at the hands of Japan's Crazy Car Project.
The late 1960s 2000GT hardtop coupé marked Toyota's spectacular entry into the consumer sports car market, at a time when cars were viewed as icons, and abruptly shook off any popular view that Japanese companies only manufactured spookily familiar-looking and wholly practical vehicles. Toyota says that Japan's first full-blown sports car - which was widely praised by auto journalists at the time - was limited to a run of only 337 commercially available vehicles, although the company did manage to build a couple of specially-commissioned open top versions for the Bond film You Only Live Twice. The undeniably gorgeous two-seater 2.0L sports car has since become a valuable collectors item.
Some 45 years later, the Crazy Car Project - led by Toyota and made up of over 50 engineers, enthusiasts and tinkerers from car dealers, parts suppliers, and other car makers (including Panasonic, DENSO, Aisin Seiki, Aisin AW, Kanto Auto Works, Hayashi Telempu, and Chiba Toyopet) - was formed. It's a motor trade equivalent of a college car club and its first project was to generate both horror and praise from onlookers the world over.
The folks at Crazy Car do stress that the 2000GT sourced from the Chiba Toyopet dealership had a battered body and was incapable of being driven when they took possession. Ryuichi Katsumata, president of Chiba Toyopet, is reported to have said that such a "car needs to be driven, keeping it in storage is disrespectful to this legendary vehicle."
Instead of restoring the car to its former glory, though, the team began a six month solar conversion. Crazy Car says that the outer shell was beautifully restored by one of the best body platers in Japan, who also improved on the original aerodynamics in the process. Aiming to re-awaken the excitement and pure driving pleasure of the cars of yesteryear, while being mindful of the future, the 2000GT SEV's 120kW electric motor is said to emit no sound or vibration and gives the car a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph).
Incredibly, the 2000GT SEV hasn't been given the ability to recharge from a mains/station socket. All of the energy needed to juice up the batteries is provided courtesy of a transparent dye-sensitized solar panel on the rear window and silicon crystal cells on the hood. The down side to this decision is that the zero emission vehicle takes a full two weeks in the blazing sun to fully charge the 600V/35 kWh lithium-ion battery pack specially developed for use with solar panels. Hardly a practical transport solution, but that wasn't really the point of the build.
Displayed at the recent 2012 Tokyo Auto Salon, the completely solar electric sports car benefits from an Alcantara bio-material panel coated with gold and silver, to give the conversion a luxurious feel and, in keeping with the look of the original sports car, seven gloriously old school gauges have been installed to display speed, battery level and other information related to the running of the 2000GT SEV.
The rear-view mirror doubles as a monitor to display images from a camera built into the back of the car, there's LED lighting, a JBL audio system, and 17-inch aluminum wheels and performance tires. The Crazy Car engineers and designers have also included a selection of Halo Sonic sounds to give the otherwise quiet electric car some sonic presence - in addition to an imitation of the famed engine growl of the original 2000GT, the system also offers the sound of a horse galloping, a spaceship, a railway train, a jet, a cat's meow, a dog barking, and others. Crazy!
The Crazy Car Project has hinted that another conversion could be in the pipeline, but no details are being made available at this time. We'll keep you updated.
In the meantime, watch and listen to Toyota's Naohiko Saito - Crazy Car's project leader - explain the reasoning behind the conversion. Be sure to let us know what you think.