The 2000GT revolutionized the automotive world's view of Japan. The 2000GT demonstrated that Japanese auto manufacturers could produce a sports car to rival those of Europe, in contrast to Japan's image at the time as a producer of imitative and stodgily practical vehicles. Reviewing a pre-production 2000GT in 1967, Road & Track magazine summed up the car as "one of the most exciting and enjoyable cars we've driven", and compared it favorably to the Porsche 911. Today, the 2000GT is seen as the first seriously collectible Japanese car and the first "Japanese supercar". Examples of the 2000GT have sold at auction for as much as US $1,200,000.
Much of the work was done by Yamaha, which in addition to its wide product range of the time also did much work for other Japanese manufacturers. Many credit the German-American designer Albrecht Goertz, a protégé of Raymond Loewy, as inspiration for the car. He had gone to Yamaha in Japan in the early 1960s to develop a two-seater sports car for Nissan. A prototype was built, but Nissan decided eventually not to pursue the project. Yamaha also worked for Toyota, then perceived as the most conservative of the Japanese car manufacturers. Wishing to improve their image, Toyota accepted the proposal, but employed a design from their own designer Satoru Nozaki.