The warning is coming a little late, but if there had been a warning in 1958 about Toyota’s first tentative step in the American swimming pool, what would the Big 3 have said? “So you’re telling me this pipsqueak manufacturer from Japan that made milling machines, has a car that looks like our 2/3-scale European Vauxhalls, Opels, and Fords (which by the way, nobody is buying), and can’t even build a V8 or an automatic transmission is going to dominate the world market in 50 years? What kind of pills are you taking, boy?” So you can’t entirely blame them for being surprised when ten years later, the Corona experienced an astronomic sales climb that forced them to think seriously about small cars. Or should have (instead, we got Pintos, Vegas, and Chevettes). Check out one of Toyota’s earliest forays, this 1959 Toyopet Crown Custom wagon, for sale with bidding at $3550 and just over one day left to go, in Moreno Valley, CA.
Were there *any* other suicide door station wagons built? While the paint is clearly worn, the body rust is surface-only, and all the panels look to be straight. Crucially, some trim bits are missing, but unlike various etceterini, you will eventually find them, whether here or abroad. The driver’s rear wheel appears to be non-matching, but all trim on this side appears to be present and accounted for. The seller believes this car to have been built in 1958 and sold in 1959, and it appears to be a 1959 model, based on the styling of the grill.
The right side of the car is a little less fortunate. The mirror is broken off its base, there is some significant rust-through in the door jamb, and the rear door window is missing. Rear window seals also tended to fail on these, and this one is no exception – the rear window has gone missing, and incidentally, the windshield gasket is showing major gaps. The chrome trim along the leading edge of the hood is also missing, as is the “P” in Toyopet. Hubcaps are also not shown, so it’s worth asking the seller whether any of these bits are included separately. The wagon is actually not as odd as the sedan – from the front they take definite inspiration from contemporary American cars, but from the rear, the sedan’s proportions are a little off, while the wagon’s roof line and seemingly longer rear fenders give it a more mainstream look, if it’s a little bland and functional.
The engine is not entirely complete, and perhaps while you collect things like the carb, air cleaner, oil cap, and more, you can pour some oil in the spark plug holes and set the engine aside. Surely other people have done alternate engine conversions, so you can replace the 65hp four-cylinder with something a little more capable to pull the stout body, perhaps from a later Toyota pickup.
The interior has clearly seen better days, but is complete enough to be usable in the context of a restoration. You’ll want to sandblast the seat springs and treat them with some kind of anti-rust paint, and the steering wheel, radio, and dash knobs will need restoration. Check out the bizarre placement of the clutch pedal with relation to the gas and brake – have you seen anything stranger this side of a Model T Ford?
Okay, so this car is probably not so trusty in its current state, but it was too unusual (and within the self-imposed price limit) to miss. Thanks to toyotaclub.org for the above image, showing the sleekly glamorous lines on this super-alliterative double duty dandy.