Restoring the Crown #5: Clearing the Tricky "Model Year" Hurdle


This series explores the project to restore a first-generation Crown, a car that embodies Toyota's origins. Part 5 deals with the issue of model years, an unavoidable factor in the restoration of old cars.

A project to restore this first-generation Crown started in the spring of 2022 at the Motomachi Plant, bringing together a diverse group of skilled members. This series closes in on their restoration efforts. In this article, we highlight the project team’s earnest efforts to confront the “model year (version)” issue that is inescapable when restoring old cars.

An unavoidable aspect of full restoration

The first-generation Crown appeared on Japanese roads in January 1955. Some 70 years later, in human terms the car is now well into old age.

Even the healthiest among us experience problems with various parts of our bodies as we get older. If the need arises, we undergo medical treatment or surgery.

Like human bodies, cars inevitably run into problems as they age. Even the sturdiest parts will wear out or break down over years of use, requiring repairs.

What’s more, the original Crown and its peers certainly cannot match the quality and durability of today’s vehicles. Over the past seven decades, the car will have run into all kinds of troubles and repairs.

On top of that, the parts needed for repair are not available forever. Carmakers are legally required to supply replacement parts for set periods of time, and some may be kept around beyond those dates. After a certain number of years, though, brand-new components will no longer be in circulation.

The go-to solution for repairing these old cars is used parts. Many car buffs own multiple salvaged vehicles of the same model to serve as a source of spares. In tackling this first-generation Crown restoration, Toyota found itself in the same situation.

Yet fully restoring classic cars to their original salesfloor condition involves dealing with an unavoidable issue. Since designs varied in different years of production, even the same parts from the same model may be unusable for repairs or require modification before they can be fitted—the so-called “model year” problem.

The exterior before restoration. While the two-piece windshield is a hallmark of the original RS model, RSD-exclusive parts like the side moldings and ornaments were also added later.
The pre-restoration interior. Despite the RSD emblems, the interior coloring and upholstery materials do not match the RSD model. Team members initially figured the car was an “RS dressed up as an RSD.”