The “WOW!” Factor

I have been around cars for a long time. Perhaps, after a while I became complacent, and it took something really outstanding for me to get excited about. But the “WOW” factor kicked in when I first saw a magnificent 2002 Toyota Crown that had been restored by Justin Read.

The Crown is a luxury Japanese car, aimed at competing in the executive market with the likes of Mercedes Benz and BMW.

Justin tells the story of the car:

“This is my 2002 Toyota Crown Athlete V. It's powered by the 1JZ-GTE, a turbocharged, 2.5 litre, inline 6 engine making 206 kilowatts and 378 Nm of torque, a figure in-line with the ‘Gentleman's Agreement’ of Japanese auto manufacturers that stood between the late 1980's to early 2000's. Drive is delivered to the rear wheels through the 4 speed Tiptronic A340E transmission. This is the 11th generation of the Toyota Crown and was in-production from 1999 to 2003 for the sedan variant, production of the wagon continued until 2007.”

Justin took delivery of the car in October of 2020, after having it imported from Japan out of the USS Shizuoka Auctions. It arrived very dirty, with the paint and exterior trims in serious need of some TLC. He began the process of replacing aged engine components that looked like they had not been touched since the car rolled off the assembly line. Once the car was in a more mechanically reliable state, he turned his attention to the presentation of the car. This involved sourcing a new set of headlights to replace the faded, yellow ones that were on the car, and replacing several interior trim components that were showing signs of wear and tear.

Next up was a set of Shockworks coil overs to replace the original suspension struts that were starting to sag. Justin then purchased a set of Work Meister M1 3-piece wheels, with more aggressive specifications in order to fill out the wheel wells a bit more than the original “Eurolines” were. He then had the car professionally paint corrected and ceramic coated. The color is paint code 202 "Black Onyx"

“The result was fantastic. The paint had come up nearly flawless and I finally had the car in a place that I was happy with aesthetically.” he said.

That lasted a total of just 4 weeks before all going down the drain.

Justin had parked the car in the morning and gone to work for the day. After finishing work and walking back to the car, he found that someone had broken into it. The car was a disaster area!

The rear quarter window on the driver's side had been smashed, the key barrel broken in half and the dashboard had been ripped apart in order to gain access to the ignition wiring. It appeared the would-be thieves had attempted to hot wire the car so that it could be stolen. Luckily, that wasn't the case, the immobilizer used in these cars is essentially fool proof and prevented it being started.

The end result was a rolling paperweight, because the key barrel had been destroyed, the car couldn't be started.” Justin said.

Justin continued: “After going back and forth with my insurance company, the car was ruled a total loss. I was told that the parts to fix my car were too hard to source and therefore would not be repairable. I chose to buy back the car as salvage and decided to give the repair work a go myself.”

“After a few months of searching, I found another black Crown that had been written off in a rear end collision out in Geelong. I made the trip down after work one Friday night and managed to source all of the parts I needed to fix mine. I spent the next few weekends pulling out all the damaged components from my car and swapping in the new parts, translating Japanese wiring diagrams to repair the mangled ignition wiring and replacing the complete rear driver's side door, as the rear quarter windows were no longer in production.”

That's the story of Justin’s car up until this point. He says that from here on, the Crown will be reserved just for weekend duties and car meets. No more driving it to work!

“My ultimate goal for the car is to modify it to what I consider an "OEM Plus" stage. I'd like to get the car to around the 300-kilowatt mark with a bigger turbo. Install a shift kit in the transmission to make it a bit more responsive. Being a luxury car, the shifts are smooth, but quite lazy. Perhaps install some bigger brakes and fit up adjustable suspension arms to replace the fairly basic suspension setup that these cars came with. Once all that work is done, I'll consider the car "finished" and then hang onto it forever!” Justin said.

Needless to say, we have invited Justin to bring the Crown along to the Australian National Show and Shine in Euroa on Sunday 2nd October.

.. Ray Read with Justin Read

Pictures: The Toyota Crown after its initial restoration and the damage done by the would-be thief. Pictures by Justin Read.