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Remember When Yamaha Built a Sports Car?

The Yamaha brand means different things to different people. Some think of motorcycles while others see the company as one of the largest musical instrument and audio equipment manufacturers. From golf karts and ATVs to generators and swimming pools, Yamaha has a diverse product lineup. Its involvement in the automotive segment is known to a lesser extent.

However, it did help Toyota develop the 2000GT in the 1960s. In addition, it engineered and built Ford’s V-6 SHO and V-8 SHO. Not only that, but it also collaborated with Lexus for the V-10 of its high-revving LFA supercar. It worked on a V-8 that went into a couple of Volvo models. Some four-bangers powered the Celica and MR2 as well as the Lotus Elise.

2015 Yamaha Sports Ride concept

Yamaha also toyed around with the idea of making its very own car. The 1992 OX99-11 was supposed to go into production in 1994 with a V-12. However, the early 1990s recession killed what would’ve been an F1 car for the road. The Japanese company revisited the idea of a building a car in 2013 with the pint-sized Motiv. That one didn’t make the cut either. A couple of years later, the Sports Ride was presented at the Tokyo Motor Show as a potential Mazda Miata fighter.

The diminutive two-seater coupe built around Gordon Murray Design’s iStream chassis weighed just 1,653 pounds. That made it considerably lighter than the ND-generation MX-5 that was just debuting back in 2015. The rear-wheel-drive sports car was only 153.5 inches long, 67.7 inches wide, and 46 inches tall, so roughly similar proportions compared to a Miata.

The concept’s presentation at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show wasn’t the end of the story. Subsequent patent images of a different design, presumably a closer-to-production version, emerged as part of a IP filing in 2018. It had a toned-down, Lotus-esque design and the exhaust tips were gone. That lead people to believe the Sports Ride had morphed into an EV.

<p>2017 Yamaha sports car design trademark</p>

2018 Yamaha sports car design trademark

Yamaha Sports Ride design trademark

2018 Yamaha sports car design trademark

The trademark application listed on the European Union Intellectual Property Office website shows Gordon Murray as one of the designers. Interestingly, we found a video published by Yamaha with the updated car undergoing testing in 2017, at which point it had become the T40. It clearly still had a combustion engine.

Yamaha never disclosed the engine’s identity but it did say the Sports Ride’s headlights took after those of the YZF-R1. The sports bike had a 1.0-liter four-cylinder that produced 200 horsepower and revved to 14,000 rpm. Just imagine that engine in a coupe that weighed practically nothing. It would’ve given the Miata a run for its money.

Seeing the car undergoing testing with a production-like design suggests Yamaha was serious about selling it. Unfortunately, it abandoned all of its car development plans in 2019, so the Subaru BRZ/Toyota GR86 competitor never came to fruition. Affordable sports cars compete in a rarified segment and it’s a shame the T40 was left on the cutting room floor.

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