Attention car collectors: The next hot classic import could be Toyota's failed — and fabled — Toyopet Crown from the late 1950s.
With fewer than 2,000 Toyopets sold in the United States from 1958-61 and only around a dozen thought to survive, the small sedan certainly is rare. As the first Japanese car sold in the United States, it has an interesting place in history. And with its suicide doors and instrument panel lights that change color based on vehicle speed, it has some unusual features.
Collectors are taking notice. A well-worn and partially disassembled Toyopet Crown sold recently on eBay for $6,000. The drivetrain was out of the car. There was rust on the fenders and floorboards, and some trim items were missing.
Spokesman Mike Michels said Toyota has noticed a growing cadre of collectors of vintage Japanese iron. A recent classic car show in California, he said, featured all sorts of obscure and rare Japanese cars. But he chuckled when he heard about the eBay Toyopet. "I suppose anything old gets intrinsically valuable," he said. The Toyopet Crown died in part because it was overweight, underpowered and overpriced.