March. It’s a time for car lovers across the much of the world to begin the thaw from a long winter and the coming automotive season. The cold winter may still be in effect in many places, but the coming of March always gets the mind thinking about the warmer and longer days ahead. Here in California, we pretty much have car-friendly weather all year round, but there’s still a certain excitement that comes with spring.
I personally spent the first weekend of the month giving some much-needed attention to my 1969 Toyota Crown Wagon project. We aren’t talking major progress here, but it felt good nonetheless to finally devote some time to the old wagon.
While my mind has been racing about ideas for the project, a busy schedule kept me from doing much to the car physically.This is how it looked when I picked the car up back in November and – how it sat while I was in Japan for most of January and February.
The only real progress I was able to make before heading off to Japan was to get inside, pull out the seats and remove the remnants of the original carpet. The car had been sitting outside in the elements for a couple decades, so there was a lot to clean up in here. It still needs to be gone through, but at least you can work in there now.
After getting back home from Japan, the first order of business was to get the car titled and registered. Since the original title had long been lost and the car had been sitting for so long I was a bit worried about this. I’m sure anyone who’s dealt with the California DMV knows what I’m talking about. Fortunately though, the seller had done his homework and I was able to apply for a new title with ease. Also, because the car’s been off the road for such a long period it was no longer in the DMV’s records. That meant I could start fresh and avoid those dreaded back fees.
Once I had that taken care of, it was time to get the car ready to work on. That meant first addressing the wheel and tire situation. When I bought the car it was wearing three different kinds of rusty wheels and the tires on the factory steelies up front no longer held air. It looked almost like they’d been on the car since new…
That’s the primary reason I headed out to the swap meet, the other day – to hunt down a cheap set of wheels and tires that I could use to roll the car around while I work on it. The great thing about the Crown is that it uses the same 5×114.3 bolt pattern used by most old Ford and Chrysler products. That means that wheels are cheap and plentiful.
I was able to find exactly what I was exactly what I was looking for. I came across a guy selling a set of 15″x7 steel wheels and tires from a Ford Ranger pickup truck. The agreed selling price? $30 for the complete set of four.
Actually, make that $35 if you include the fiver a gave to a kid with a wagon to haul the wheels back to my dad’s truck in the parking lot. Either way, even at a junkyard you’d be hard pressed to get a single wheel and tire for that much.
Back in my garage, we pulled off the crusty old wheels and tossed on the new ones. Perfect fit! Not the best looking wheel in the world perhaps, but you can’t go wrong for the price. Just look at that super sick concave too!
With all four wheels bolted on, the car was rolled (quite easily) out into the daylight for the first time in a few months. I had almost forgotten what the old Toyota looked like under the sun.
With the car now in a rolling state, we loaded it on the trailer and took it over to my parents’ house just a few miles away.
Over there, we’d have a lot more room to work on the car – and also a lot more tools available than the basic stuff I have in my own small garage.
With the Crown secured in its new temporary home on the side of my folks’ house, the first order of business was to give the car a thorough wash.
I had no idea when the car was last cleaned, but based on the amount of dirt and other stuff that was caked on the body it had been years, or more likely decades.
Luckily, my dad has a pressure washer which he lent me to hose down the car…
Now typically you might want to avoid using a high power pressure washer on the body a prized vintage vehicle, but since having pristine body and paintwork are not part of my plans for this thing I wasn’t too worried.
Just look at the difference a wash makes! It’s like night and day! OK, so maybe the car looks just as crappy as it did before, but at least it’s no longer covered in dirt and other gross stuff.
Another thing we were able do is get the rear tailgate open for the first time. It only opens with the rear window lowered, and considering the window is electric it was a bit of challenge. After some tinkering we got the window down and the tailgate open. This meant I was able to get a good look at the wagon’s sideways facing foldable “way back” seat. Who wants a ride?
In the grand scheme of things we made just a miniscule amount of progress on what’s going to be a long and challenging project, but even so there was a sense of accomplishment and pride that came at the end of the day.
There’s just something about rewarding about breathing new signs of life, as small as they may be, into a car that had pretty much been given up for dead. There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done, but I’m even more excited about the project now than I was when I bought it.
The next order of business is to pull out what’s left of the original 2M motor and clean up the engine bay. That will be the the first step in the car’s yet-to-be-determined engine transplant.
And while I’m not yet sure what exactly will wind up under the hood, I’m beginning to get more solid idea of where I want to go with the project. Specifics are still be decided of course, but right now I’m very much leaning towards the idea of lots of low, cool wheels, a cool engine, and a body that looks more or less as it does now. What do you think?
Before wrapping this up I’d like to extend a special thanks to my dad for all the help he’s given me with this weird old car so far.
To be continued.