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2008 August


On June 29th 2008, a 1958 Toyopet Crown sold on eBay for $22,322. To date, this is probably the
oldest, highest selling Toyopet to have ever been sold in the USA. While the actual price of this car comes
no where close to what the legendary Toyota 2000GT brings at auction ($225,000), the significance of
this car is far greater. The Toyopet Crown was the first Toyota to be sold in the United States, and this
particular car may be one of the earliest examples known.

My connection with this Crown began back on May 16th 2008, when I was contacted by a gentleman
named Rob, and he told me he was selling a 1958 Toyopet that had been in storage since 1964. Rob went
on to tell me that the car had been owned by the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, California.
Rob also mentioned that the Crown had not been driven since 1964 and that he had the original pink slip.

I emailed Rob back and he provided me with more information on the car and eventually sent me some
pictures. As it turned out, the car wasn't actually Rob's but a friends. Rob said,
    "It all started a little over a year ago when a friend said he was buying an old Willy's army
    jeep trailer from this guy with all these old cars. Since I'm an old car guy I had to go check it
    out. It is like a time warp from the 60's -  sooooo much cool stuff and old tools, etc. I
    befriended the guy and bought a few cars from him and have been helping him sell some for
    the last year."

    "My friend who has the car, has 50+ old rides from the 50-70's all been sitting since the 70's.
    His father had a used car business since the 50's and these are all back of the lot cars left
    over when they closed down. San Francisco bought all the property when they built
    Japantown and they relocated the cars in 1978. The family is Japanese and that's how they
    acquired the car."

After a few more email exchanges, Rob told me the car would be going on eBay on June 19th. The same
day that this particular Crown went on auction I also went online with a new website for owners and
enthusiasts of these special cars. The site is the
ToyopetCrown Group on Yahoo Groups. The Group is
my attempt to have a centralized location for people interested in these cars to share information, stories
and photos. Along with the Group I created a registry for the Toyopet Crown, so that we could try and
keep track of these rare cars.

Back to the eBay auction - The auction started at $10,000 and after 10 days of bidding on the last day,
the auction jumped from $16,850 to the winning bid of $22,322. Here is the actual description of the car
as posted on eBay...

    Vehicle Description  

    This is the first or one of the first Toyota’s ever imported into the United States. This car was imported
    for the Consulate General of Japan of San Francisco before the cars were sold to the public. The idea
    was to drive around and show the U.S that they make cars.

    The Consulate only put 28,698 miles on this car. The Consulate was no longer driving the car so The
    Consulate General signed it over to the current owner’s father in 1964. He was a friend and a Japanese
    used car dealer in Japan Town. There was nothing wrong with the car in 1964 when signed over. The car
    was never driven after that it sat in the back of the garage with the other back lot cars. We have the
    original Pink Slip stamped by the Consulate General of Japan in 1964. This car is one of five known to
    exist in the United States. The motor turns over freely we did not try to start it to avoid any damage. It
    shifts through the gears with no problems. The car is missing one hub cap, the trunk emblem and the
    right rear reverse light. Everything is there just as it was in 1964. There is absolutely no rust or rot on
    this car. Only the non stainless chrome parts need to be re-chromed most of the chrome is in great shape,
    front and rear bumper need re-chroming. The original hand crank and a can of original Toyota touch up
    paint are still in the trunk. The paint is still liquefied we did not open to see if it could be used as a color
    match. The interior is great shape missing nothing it could use a cleaning to be almost mint. Paint is
    faded the only damage is to the right rear reverse light an easy fix. Looks like something spilled on the
    passenger rear quarter panel no damage just paint removed by whatever spilled on it. It would not take
    much to get this car road worthy or restored.

    This is truly a one of a kind Japanese to US auto history car. There simply is none other like it in the
    world. This car started it all for Toyota.

Once the auction ended Rob forwarded my contact information to the new owner. The next day I
received an email from the new owner and was given some details,but asked to remain silent for the time
being. The new owner promised to join the ToyopetCrown Group and to register his new car.

By the end of July it could be revealed who the new owner was, as a representative had joined my Group
and made a public announcement. On July 30, Daron Pitts, Director Of Technology of the Community
Development Foundation - Tupelo/Lee County, Mississippi informed the Group that the Consulate Crown
sold on eBay would be going to the Tupelo Automobile Museum . What follows is Daron's story...


Myself and a co-worker were the ones that drove cross-country to pick up the 58 Toyopet and take
it to Frenchy last week.  I work for the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, Mississippi
and thought I'd post a few words about the car, why we wanted it and the future of it.

We went to San Francisco to pick up a 1958 Toyopet that we just purchased off of eBay.  We were
looking for an early/historic Toyota to put in our museum and thought about a 1965 Corona, since
it was so popular – but we never dreamed we'd find what we did.  The one that we have purchased
was owned by the Consulate General of Japan for San Francisco.  We have the original 1958 Title
when the car was registered in California and again the registration from 1965.  Both have the
information of the Consulate's office in San Francisco, and the frame number that matches the
plate on the car and also matches the frame number stamped into the frame of the car... so our car
is legitimate – no one switched plates, cut out and re-welded frame numbers or anything like that.

The 1958 Toyota Toyopet that we have purchased will be fully restored and placed in the Tupelo
Automobile Museum in Tupelo, Mississippi. It will also be driven in parades possibly, shown around
town (local Toyota dealer) and I'm sure will spend time often at the new Toyota plant here.  Tupelo
is the location of Toyota's newest (1.8 billion dollar) manufacturing plant (to open in 2010) and the
first location outside of Japan to make the hybrid Prius and it will be Toyota's only all hybrid
facility in the United States.

In our recruitment process with Toyota, numerous visits were made to Tupelo, Mississippi by
Toyota officials from Japan.  The Automobile Museum was always a favored visit by the Japanese.  
With over 100 classic automobiles ranging from an 1886 Benz, representing the birth of the
automobile, and culminating with a never-driven 1994 Dodge Viper, the collection, valued at over
$6 million, includes a rare Tucker, a Lincoln previously owned by Elvis Presley, other movie and
celebrity vehicles, Hispano Suizas, a Duesenberg and many more rare brands and American
favorites. But we did not have a Toyota.  This 1958 Toyota Toyopet will be a wonderful addition to
our museum and finally, put a Toyota in our collection.  This "Tupelo Toyopet" story will be told in
a display that will include the photographs, documents and video that we collect on our trip.  We
may even possibly produce a DVD Video with the footage and tell our story in a short documentary
that will be available possibly at the museum.  If nothing else, the video footage may be shown on a
monitor beside the vehicle in a running loop or used in Civic Clubs when we go to speak about the
car and its history.

The Community Development Foundation is the local Chamber of Commerce for Tupelo,
Mississippi, and the Economic Development "engine" for our county.  We were the marketing
division of the state wide effort to recruit Toyota.  I am the Director of Technology, thus the one
who did the photography and video during the trip and Jamie Kennedy (who went with me) is our
Research Director and a Project Manager on the Toyota Project.  We both spent about three weeks
doing non-stop research on our car, the Consulate and the history of the Toyopet in the USA.

On our way to San Francisco, we stopped in Los Angeles at Hollywood Toyota.  We met with Don
Mushin (General Manager) and Hasu Popat (Parts Director) and interviewed them about
Hollywood Toyota being the first dealer for Toyota and selling the Toyopet in the USA.  There is a
famous black and white photo of that dealership.  Using that, along with a color version we
received from Toyota Archives (Mitch and Jason) and by actually going on site, we were able to
show and prove where exactly that first dealer building stood by matching up an old light pole that
is still standing (will post photos later on this).

We then went to the Toyota Museum where we talked to Mitch and Jason and interviewed them
(video).  That night we drove to San Francisco – the next morning we had an appointment at the
San Francisco Public Library with a research specialist – we read through old microfilm, walked
up to Japantown (Consulate's office location when he had the car), visited the Maritime Library
(where we looked through old shipping logs and container information) and we met with and spoke
to an early Bay area dealer in Larkspur, California about his early memories of the Toyopet... a full
week of research, interviews, video and photography...

It will take months to comb through all of the information we obtained.  I took about 2,800
photographs during our 9 day, 8 states road trip... all culminating in this 1 historic vehicle.

From what we have found out, it is safe for us to say that we have the only authentic 1958 Toyopet
Custom Crown Deluxe (left hand drive) known in existence.  Of course, the second I click "POST"
on this message, one may be found in a field somewhere, but let me explain why we think our is so
unique and how lucky we are.  The one in the museum in Torrance is missing the clock, the radio
and the chrome "Deluxe" metal plate on the back trunk... our vehicle has everything original...
original 4 tires, mats in the car (not rotted out at all).  Even the front windshield is original (it's not
in the museum) - each window has the Toyota 58 etching in it, the air filter is original (original
Toyota logo on it) and we have the original key with the Toyota logo on it....

...but, we are missing the jack and one hubcap…so I guess it's not "ALL" original.  But a hubcap is
the same on some early Land Cruisers (according to Frenchy) and the jack may have been the
same on other early Toyopets... so we think we can find this stuff without a problem.

We were very lucky that this vehicle has been sitting indoors away from the elements of the
weather.  It is just as it was the day it was parked.  There are even cigarettes butts in the ash tray
in the back seat still.  We have yet to prove the Consulate General actually DROVE the car himself
(Akira Nishiyama) but it was probably used as an errand car or by someone else in the office.  We
have been and still are in contact with the Public Relations person at the Consulate's office and
they are looking in their history for information about the car.  The last we heard, they were going
to look for information in the Japan office --- was the Consulate "presented" the car by Toyota,
was it a sample car at first and given to him before they were sold, etc...

Doing research in microfilm of an old Japantown newspaper, we found an article from 1957 where
the Prime Minister of Japan "ordered" all Japanese officials around the globe to start driving
Japanese vehicles.  So this is good evidence that the Consulate was given this car by Toyota –
being that at that time in history, San Francisco had one of (if not the) largest collection of Asian
Americans on the US... what better place to have a Japanese official driving around and promoting
a Japanese vehicle. ???  But like I said... we haven't proven any of this yet.

There is a ton more to share and say and in time it will be made public.  A website will be built,
video put online, photographs... restoration process posted here and of course we'll keep up with
Frenchy's engine-rebuilding process...

It is extremely exciting and we will let everyone know the progress and the research we found as
soon as possible.

Tupelo Automobile Museum
The new Toyota Prius Plant
Community Development Foundation

Local newspaper article about the Toyopet arriving in Tupelo

The Japantown newspaper that did a
story on our trip and the Toyopet:

Daron Pitts
Director Of Technology
Community Development Foundation - Tupelo/Lee County
300 West Main Street, P.O. Box A
Tupelo, MS 38802-1210
Toyota Tales
UPDATE - 1 September 2008 - Follow the progress of the Consulate Crown on it's very
own website which recently went online -
Tupelo Toyopet.
To learn more about Toyopet Crowns or to share your own stories or knowledge about these cars, please visit and
join my
Toyopet Crown Group.