This Toyopet was last driven in 1964. In photo 1 you can see it peeking out from the barn where it had been stored for a number of years. As you
can see in photo 2 there was a thick coating of dust on it. Luckily because it had been stored indoors it was very well preserved. Looking at
photo 3 you can see that the right rear door had some damage that occurred because the door opened while it was being driven. Apparently
someone had forgotten to latch it! It was pushed out of the barn for a quick rinse off (photo 5). Because of the irrigation in the farmland there was
often water in the barn. The result of this can be seen in photo 6. The wheels were very rusted. Toyopets were known to have a problem with
rear window molding staying in place (photo 7). In photos 8 and 9 you can see that the front grill and bumper was in good condition and despite
being driven 48,000 miles they didn't have any dents or gouges on them. Photo 10 shows another view of the damage to the right rear door. I am
sure the car was happy to be basking in the sun after being inside for so many years.
The engine had been removed many years ago because of engine bearing failure (photo 11). In photo 12 you can see a nice view of the grass.
Hmm..looks like some key items are missing and others need rebuilding. The master and clutch cylinders, transmission linkage and steering box
all need to be rebuilt (photos 13-15). The whole area needs to be wire brushed and repainted and then a few coats of paint will have it looking
brand new (photo 16). The fuse box and relay need some TLC as can be seen in photo 17.
In photos 18-20 you can see that the door panels are missing. They had been removed to avoid becoming warped. The upholstery was in fairly
good condition. It did not have any tears or cuts and had faded a bit through the years. The wiring under the dash looked clean and didn't appear
to have any damage. The speedometer registered just 48,000 original miles. This is excellent considering the car had been driven for six years.
Photos 22-24 shows that the interior, while being faded from sitting in the sun, is in fairly good condition. All it will take is some detailing to have
the interior looking good again. Looking at photos 25 and 26 you can see that the trunk area is in good condition also and just needs a good
cleaning with some detailing. The trunk mat can be saved by repainting. The wiring on both sides of the trunk was very well preserved, which can
be seen in photo 27.
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Finally the car is going on the trailer for the trip home. I decided I was too old to push any more cars onto trailers. I purchased an electric winch
and it sure made the job a lot easier, not to mention better for my back! No more pushing the car on the trailer
Photo 30 show a smiling Phil Vener standing next to the car for the last time. He was happy that the car was going to a good home.
The car is secured down with all four straps (photo 31) to begin the 1200 mile journey to Tempe.
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Here is the engine installed (photo 44). Prior to that, I put it on a special engine stand and started it up outside the car, just to make sure it was
running properly. I also had the radiator and gauges mounted on the stand in order to monitor the water temperature. Everything checked out
a-okay and it was time to get that baby in there! I had to make sure the engine compartment was protected so I covered it with towels (photos
45-46), therefore eliminating any chance of it being scratched. I made sure the engine mounts were lined up with the frame prior to bolting it
together, as can be seen in photo 47. Next the transmission was secured (photo 48) and bolted down on the center cross brace, including the
speedometer cable. Photo 49 shows the engine in place and the air cleaner installed. Looks good!
All of the original hardware and clamps were CAD plated. You can see this in photo 50. I also made sure they were positioned in the same way
they had been when the car left the factory. The carburetor made a long journey to Japan to be rebuilt and restored to its original condition
(photo 52). They did a great job. Looking at photo 53 you can see the valve adjustment sticker. I had one reproduced and also had some made
for the Toyopet which sits in the museum at the headquarters in Torrance, California. Photos 54-55 shows the engine installed in the car. I would
say it looks much better than the day it was loaded onto the trailer (see photos 11-13). By the way, the spark plug wires are the original ones,
which were coded with the year 1958. They were recycled and are in remarkably good condition after all these years.
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Photos 56-57 shows the fuel tank, which was restored. The holding straps were repainted. The original fuel tank had been boiled at one time and
had too many areas where holes had been soldered. It was beyond saving, but luckily I was able to use the tank from the other '59 Toyopet I had.
The rear end was wire brushed, repainted and the fluid was changed. Photos 59 and 60 shows that the brake line was restored, I flushed out any
fluids that were in the lines. All the wheel cylinders were rebuilt, the brake shoes were rebonded with new linings and the drums were turned.
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After the chrome was installed it looked like a totally different car. The detail is amazing. My son and I put in many hours of hard work on the
exterior but it was all worth it. Photo shows the original plates that were issued to the car in 1963. They were never installed on the car because
due to the car sitting idle for so many years.
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Finally! Here she is after eleven months of hard work sitting in the driveway in front of our home in Tempe, Arizona. Now the fun can start and
I can't wait to show her off. This is such a unique car and I am sure it will draw a lot of attention at shows.
I decided that the car would make it's debut at the 13th annual Toyotafest in Long Beach, California. I borrowed an enclosed trailer from a
friend and loaded her up for the trip across the desert. As we arrived at the show grounds a crowd gathered to see what was inside the trailer.
We were greeted by Michael, otherwise known as the Toyotageek. You can read more about him here. He directed us where to park the car,
which was in the area designated dedicated to the old school Toyota's. The crowd began to grow around the car to look at one of the five 1958
Toyopet's known to have survived here in the United States. People were amazed by the car. I showed the handle that started the car with the
hand crank. Soon after I demonstrated to the crowd how to start the car with the hand crank. People were amazed that the car could be started
manually with a hand crank. The hand crank was an option that the car had. It was part of the original tools which had come with the car. It was
an original factory item. I demonstrated it at least 100 times throughout the show. One of the owner's of the Japanese Nostalgic Car magazine
asked me if he could do a video of the car. He took a video of the car and of me starting it with the hand crank. You can see that video here.
The Toyota Museum had several cars on display at the show. One of them was the 1958 Toyopet Crown Deluxe that was restored in Portland.
TORC had a team of judges walking around the show looking at the cars. When it came time for the trophy presentation everyone gathered
around the stage area. My car won first place in the Unrestored Class and first place in the Oldest Toyota. At that point, I started to walk away
but my name was announced for a third time. This time it was for Best In Show! I went up on stage to get my award and thanked everyone who
was involved in the judging and to everyone who had stopped by to look at the car. After the show was over, a crowd gathered once more to
see me start the car by the hand crank. I don't know when I have had so much fun at a car show.
I began my quest for a Toyopet just eleven months prior to this show. After all the hard work involved to bring it back to it's original condition
winning Best In Show was quite an honor.
I have been employed by Toyota for most of my adult life and being the car guy that I am I thought it would be cool to find and restore an old
Toyota. In 1976 I spoke with Louis Coppola (my boss at the time) and asked him if he knew what the oldest Toyota was. He told me that Toyota
began importing to the US in 1958. The first Toyota was a Toyopet Crown. He said he owned one but ended up selling it. He also said that it
would be nearly impossible to locate one.
After many years of restoring VW's I was ready for a new challenge and in 2000 I decided it was time to locate a Toyopet. I searched on the
internet but did not have any luck. I found out that the Toyota facility in Portland, Oregon had located one and were in the process of restoring it.
In February 2005 I flew to the Portland facility for business. Of course I got a look at the Toyopet. Seeing it, I knew mine was out there waiting
for me somewhere. Doug Warnekee (the supervisor in Portland) told me that someone by the name of Phil Vener would be able to help me.
Apparently Phil owned several of them. I spoke with Phil and he told me he had a 1958, 1959 and a 1963 Toyopet. He told me the '63 was for
sale. I drove up to Portland in September of that year and made a detour to see the '63. He was selling it for $1500. I told him I would pick it up
on the way home. I was thrilled to finally own one, but I knew this was not the one worthy of a restoration job. Soon after, I found a 59 on ebay
for $375. It was in Ione, California and my buddy George and I made a trip up there to pick it up. You can read more about these two Toyopets
here. I now owned two of them, but I really wanted to find a '58. I asked Phil several times if he would be willing to sell his and he was not
interested in doing so. In March 2007 I decided to ask Phil one more time and this time he said yes. He agreed to sell it to me because he wanted
me to restore it correctly and take the car to shows for other people to enjoy. I picked the car up in June 2007 and here is the story of the
(Click on any photo for an enlarged view.)
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Photos 32-33 shows the engine compartment being prepared prior to painting. The master and clutch cylinders are missing from the photos
because they were sent to White Post, Virginia to be rebuilt. You can see the all the wiring has been masked off to avoid being sprayed on.
After painting and detailing the engine compartment is ready for the engine. I received the master and clutch cylinders back and they are in place.
It is looking good (photo 36). Photo 38 gives a view of the coil. This is the original coil (which did work) and I repainted it very close to the
original color. You can see the fuel filter assembly and element in photo 39. This proved to be a very difficult part to locate.
Now it was time to rebuild the engine (photo 40). Photo 41 shows the intake and exhaust manifold. It was sent to HPC in Tempe for a special
heat treatment process. As the engine was being rebuilt, new main bearings and rod bearings were located (photo 42. The crankshaft was
polished and a valve job was done with the newest style of intake and exhaust valve. I found a crack rocker arm assembly and was able to
remove one of them from the '59 Toyopet.
The transmission was rebuilt and painted, as can be seen in photo 43. The transmission fluid can also be checked from the top, as can be seen
from the top of the inspection plate.
Now that the mechanical was taken care of it was time to turn my attention to the exterior. The paint is original and it took some good old elbow
grease to bring out the shine. I started with wet sanding the entire car (photos 61 and 62) with 1200 sandpaper and water. The chrome parts were
removed prior to starting in order to make the process easier. On photo 64 you can see my son Marc hard at work. It was his idea to wet sand
the entire car. He said it would look better than the chalked look it originally had and he was right. It was a very tedious process, but very worth
it in the end.
The wheels were powder coated and new tires from Coker Tires were installed (photos 65 and 66). Photo 67 shows the engine installed and the
chrome, which had been replated, ready to be put back on.
The trunk area wasn't overlooked; it received some touching up as well. The mat was repainted with a special rubberized paint (photo 69. What a
difference from what it looked like in photos 25-27. The tools in photo 71 are the original ones and were never used.
You can see the original way the gas cap looked in photos 72 and 73. They came from the factory with a small string attaching it to the gas door
bracket. The idea was that this way the customer wouldn't leave it at the pump. Here are the parts that were sent for re chroming (photo 74) to
Gil's Plating in Long Beach, California. I located more than two dozen of the original style hub caps to find four good ones to use on the car.
Here in photo 75 are the ones that made the cut.
The interior was next and as can be seen by photo 80 a major clean up was needed. A local paint store matched the color and made a special
vinyl paint to restore the front and rear seats (photo 81-83). Our granddaughter Jacqueline is wondering when Papa will take her for a spin
around the block.
The new car sales manager, Steve Boomer, of Tim's Toyota Dealership in Prescott, Arizona contacted me about displaying the Toyopet in their
showroom. I agreed to this so on July 17, 2008 I put it on the trailer and delivered it to the dealership. I was greeted by about a dozen salesmen
and managers who were all very eager to see this car. It was driven through the front showroom door. Some models had been moved to make
room for the Toyopet. Some of them were wondering what the hole in the center below the grill was for. I told them it was for the hand crank
and went to the trunk to retrieve it. They couldn't believe it would actually start with the hand crank. I did it and they were all amazed and awed
by it. I stayed for a couple of hours to answer questions from the managers and some customers who were in the showroom. Some of the
mechanics came by on their break and checked the car out. The car will remain there for one month and then it will be displayed at another
This car was a challenge to restore, but definitely worth it because it is such a part of Toyota's history and is so unique and rare. Everyone who
has seen it has been so amazed by it, due to the fact that it has been so well preserved. It has made quite a journey in just eleven months from
the barn to the marble floor in a Toyota dealership.