What is it that makes vintage Toyota Crowns so cool? For me it’s the way they blend Japanese and American influences into one very unique automobile. Sure, there were plenty of Japanese cars in the ’60s and ’70s that borrowed styling cues from the USA, but there’s something particularly special about the Crown.
Given that I’m an American boy who happens to love both old cars and Japanese car culture, it’s hard to think of a more suitable machine for me. That’s surely the reason I own a 1969 Crown Custom Wagon project car myself.
But of course there are some drawbacks to having such an unusual car here in the States, chief of which is the severe lack of parts and knowledge when it comes to restoring or modifying an old Crown. That’s a big reason why I’ve yet to make much progress with my old heap.
With this in mind, on my last trip to Japan I made a point to stop by and meet one of the country’s leading Crown experts. His name is Kenichirou Fukuda and he owns a shop in Tochigi Prefecture called Ken Automobile.
Ken Automobile has been in business for more than 15 years and deals in both classic Japanese cars as well as American imports. But it’s the vintage Crown that Fukuda-san is best known for. I’d been reading about his shop in Japanese magazines for years and was very excited to finally see it for myself.
So one morning I hopped on the Shinkansen (thanks again JR Rail pass!) for the short journey up to Utsunomiya City. After arriving at Ken Automobile I introduced myself to Mr. Fukuda and then had a peek around his shop.
It’s not a large shop, nor is it a particularly fancy one, but Fukuda-san’s passion for old Crowns was readily apparent. Mixed amongst the stacks of auto parts were a couple of examples of Toyota’s iconic machine, including this fully original S40 sedan that was in the garage for some servicing.
He even has one of the rarest Crowns ever produced – an MS56 double cab pickup. This was the first time I’d ever seen one with my own eyes.
I also chatted with Fukuda-san about his history with Crowns and told him a bit about my own wagon and how hard it was to find parts and information in the USA. I was very pleased when he said that he’d try to help me out with the project in whatever way he can.
After that he led me across the street where he had more Crowns parked, including this unrestored S60 Kujira coupe. Amazingly, this was just a small fraction of the vintage Crowns that Fukuda-San has in his possession. He actually has the things stored all over town, and we would have gone to see them had they not all been covered in snow on this particular day.
Along with the Crowns and a few old school Japanese vans, the parking lot across the street was also home to this ’67 El Camino which was part of the Ken Automobile dealership inventory. Crowns might be his first passion, but Fukuda-san has also owned and restored many American classics over the years.