At the 1962 Tokyo Motor Show, a truly unusual Toyota concept car was unveiled: the Publica Sports. For the Japanese manufacturer, it was a first in the compact sports car segment, having made a name for itself over the years with a series of affordable but unpretentious models.

Based on the Publica, a 28 bhp saloon introduced a few years earlier, the Sports is a milestone in Toyota' s history and the beginning of an era of sports cars 'for the people'.

That roof that surprises everyone

The Publica Sports is not just a styling exercise, it represented Toyota's intention to appeal to a new clientele. So, while building on the aforementioned standard Publica, the line was completely transformed and made more appealing.

Toyota Publica Sports Concept

Toyota Publica Sports Concept

Instead of adopting the traditional two doors, the Japanese designers decided to introduce a notable innovation. The entire upper part of the Publica Sports' cabin moves backwards on a system of rails, from the front pillar to the tail, allowing the occupants to literally jump aboard the car.

Although impractical for series production, this solution quickly proves to be a clever move to attract the public's attention.

Powerful and lightweight

Proof of this is that the Publica Sports becomes a true series production model called the Sports 800. The 28 bhp twin-cylinder engine of the original 'Publica' is upgraded to 790 cc, with a power output of 45 bhp.

This may not sound like much, but thanks to a weight of only 580 kg due mainly to its small dimensions (3.58 m long, 1.47 m wide and 1.12 m high), the Toyota is particularly agile and can reach 160 km/h (99 mph) on the track.

Toyota Publica Sports Concept

Toyota Publica Sports Concept

The concept's sliding roof is discarded, although the Sport 800 features a removable "targa" roof (an invention that even predates the 911 by a few years), allowing buyers to enjoy an uncompromising roadster experience.

It is estimated that of the more than 3,000 examples produced, only 10 per cent are in circulation today. Few nostalgics, therefore, can boast of having a piece of Japanese motoring history in their garage.

Gallery: Toyota Publica Sports Concept