How the Corona convinced Florida’s first Toyota dealer to sell these weird Japanese cars

Today there’s a second “first Toyota dealer” story on the interwebs, but this one comes from Florida rather than France. The story of how Dave Zinn in 1965 opened the Sunshine State’s first showroom for a then-obscure brand called Toyota is an interesting one, and the barikan Toyota Corona played a pivotal role. 

According to Jalopnik, Zinn, looking to strike out on his own with a new car dealership, was running out of options. All the auto brands had established showrooms. Only Toyota, which Zinn discovered in a remote corner of the 1965 Miami Auto Show, was available.

At the time, Japan was facing a double dose of negative associations, first with World War II and then with a general impression that Japanese products were cheap and poorly made. Zinn was interested, but cautious. From the story:

It was the last day of the show, so he asked the man working the stand if he could test drive the car and have one of his mechanics take a look at it. The man said sure.

Dave Zinn brought out his mechanic, who worked on General Motors cars, to inspect the Corona. After poking and prodding about, the mechanic came back and concluded that GM had never made a car that good. The connections were incredibly well put-together. Not even the Cadillacs came close. So Dave Zinn decided to take a chance on this Toyota and convinced the bank that it was a legitimate new car franchise.

The rest is history, and worth a read. Today, Zinn Auto Group owns Toyota, Lexus, Subaru and Acura franchises. The Zinns are also known for having at one time the largest 2000GT collection in America, kept under a hidden garage in one of their showrooms. Things have obviously gone pretty well.

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6 Responses to How the Corona convinced Florida’s first Toyota dealer to sell these weird Japanese cars

  1. WasabiCars says:

    Such a great story, and heartwarming. Not all, but many ‘barikan’ Coronas are cool. Does everyone already know Barikan refers to hair clippers/shears?? Of course, armed with that knowledge, the grille/headlight treatment will never look the same again.

  2. Eric P. says:

    Such a cool car and great history.

  3. nlpnt says:

    Large used-car dealers looking for a “new-car shingle” to access better bank financing for their used customers are fertile ground for new marques. I suppose that’s how the Zinns might have thought of themselves at first, possibly right up to the ’73-4 gas crunch.

  4. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    In the early 70’s my family moved from Japan to the US. My mom left behind her Nissan Cedric and adopted a Chevy Vega GT. Looked OK enough, sized pretty good but man, did Chevy not get it… It handled like a collection of cobbled together parts from the truck parts bin. The engine personified GM’s approach. To mitigate a vibration problem with the engine, how was the problem engineered? Larger motor mounts! I’ve had the chance to drive a bunch of Corvettes from the late 60’s and early 70’s. I absolutely love the C model body but they drove like a boat, compared to my 240-Z.

    • nlpnt says:

      The sad thing about that was that they could’ve done that with the old Chevy II 153 four, saved themselves millions and had a more dependable car. Or set up a US production line for the 1900cc Opel CIH and had a more dependable and less tractor-engine-acting car. But they had to have an aluminum block because they had the production facilities for them that had been built for the Corvair engine, and they put an iron head on it to save money…

      As I’ve said before, almost every JNC newer than ’71 would’ve been far rarer in America if the Chevy Vega had been the car GM Engineering was capable of making rather than the car GM’s internal politics and hubris caused them to stumble into making.

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