KIDNEY, ANYONE? The oldest known Japanese car officially imported to America needs a new home – UPDATE

About ten and a half years ago, we told you about the oldest known Japanese car officially imported to the US. That car was a 1958 Toyopet Crown, which was then auctioned on eBay and purchased in part by the Tupelo Automobile Museum in Tupelo, Mississippi. Unfortunately, that museum is closing and all its cars, including the now-restored Crown, are to be auctioned off.

The Crown was originally owned by by the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. After putting just 28,698 miles on the car, the consulate signed over to the title to its second owner in 1964 and it sat in a garage for 44 years.

In 2008 it was auctioned for $22,322 and purchased by the Tupelo Automobile Museum and Tupelo’s Community Development Foundation in honor of the Toyota factory that opened in the city in 2007. Restoration took about three years and was completed in August 2011 (the photo above was from when the car was listed on eBay in 2008; you can see current photos here).

The car currently resides at the Tupelo Automobile Museum along with 176 other cars. All of them are being auctioned off as the museum closes. We don’t know where the so-called “Tupelo Toyopet” will end up, but we hope it finds a good home. It’s a rare chance to own the earliest known Toyota (and the oldest known Japanese car, period) officially imported to the US.

UPDATE: We received an email from Kurt Ernst of Hemmings, who corresponded with Stephen Mancuso, the Tupelo Auto Museum’s Director of Collections. Mancuso wrote: “Unfortunately we do not own the Toyopet. It belongs to the city due to some poor management of the restoration. The museum paid a large portion of the restoration but the city found the car and somehow it was titled to the city during the process. It will not be included in the sale.”

So it looks like the Crown might stay in Tupelo after all. Perhaps the Toyota factory there would be a good home for it!

Thanks to Mike F. for the tip.

 

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13 Responses to KIDNEY, ANYONE? The oldest known Japanese car officially imported to America needs a new home – UPDATE

  1. Bill Wilkman said:

    The 44 year hibernation was surely the best thing that ever happened to this car. It’s great to see this gem in survivor condition including stock wheels, hubcaps, and unaltered stance. Assuming the paint and upholstery are original, this car should be preserved as is with only mechanical work done to make it roadworthy..

  2. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    This was the model my mother had in Yokohama until she upgraded to a Nissan Cedric in the mid 60’s.. I spent many hours in the backseat of that car. For some reason I thought it had electromechanical semaphore turn signals between the front & rear doors but maybe it was another car. I really thought they were cool.

  3. Power Tryp said:

    Honestly this thing is a time capsule. Toyota USA should be buying this up and putting it into a heritage collection.

    • Ben Hsu said:

      They had the opportunity 10 years ago to get it, and passed. The timing was bad. 2007 was Toyota USA’s 50th anniversary in the US, and they had just finished restoring a different Crown for that. They have two S30 Crowns now, and probably don’t need a third, but I agree this should be the one to have!

  4. Ryan P. said:

    I know of a late 50s Toyopet Crown that was for sale recently. I don’t know if the owner still has it, but I can forward inquiries if anybody’s interested.

  5. gaijinshogun said:

    This LHD USDM Crown would be a perfect addition to the “Discover Crown Spirit Project” for Toyota in Japan.

    https://toyota.jp/information/campaign/discovercrown/sp

    Toyota did not fully understand the US market when they introduced this car, but quickly regrouped….and the rest is history. The early Crown really motivated them to make sure their next car was right for the US market, and they made sure the T40 series was up to the task.

  6. Bill Wilkman said:

    The British influences in the design of the Toyopet are distinct. Witness the engine crank protruding through the front bumper, decades after electric starters had become a fixture on cars the world over. Removeable starter handles we’re still a common feature of British cars well into the late 1950s and even into the early 1960s.

  7. Censport said:

    It probably goes without saying that I’d like to have this at the Lane.

  8. Daron Pitts said:

    The 1958 Toyota Custom Crown Deluxe Toyopet is now at the TOYOTA Motor Manufacturing Mississippi facility in a newly built visitor’s center that has not opened yet. The car will remain there on display. The car is owned – oddly enough – by the community, that’s kind of the only way to say it. The title I believe is in the name of the Community Development Foundation (CDF). The local Chamber of Commerce (CDF) along with many local banks and businesses pitched in money to purchase it. It has been that way since the day it was purchased. When the Automobile Museum closed, there was discussion as to what to do with the Toyopet, but having it out at the Toyota plant made perfect sense and it was moved there.

    We GREATLY appreciated Frenchy in his help restoring it and rebuilding the engine and transmission.

    Also it is good to note to any historians that this is the only “known” COMPLETE 1958 Toyota Custom Crown Deluxe Toyopet. “Complete” meaning it has the clock and the radio and the chrome “Deluxe” name barde on the rear trunk. Toyota has one in their museum in Torrance, California WITHOUT the clock and without the radio.

    It is truly an unknown piece of Toyota’s history in the USA and we are proud to have it here in Tupelo.

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