It was midafternoon Sunday in San Salvador. While waiting for my wife to finish some extracurricular activities, I decided to go for a stroll around the block. The streets were quiet on this usually busy part of town were car repair shops are the norm. Just as I turned the corner I came across a vehicle I didn’t remember ever seeing in the flesh, an early 60’s Toyota Corona, also known as the Tiara in the US and some other export markets.
Launched with great fanfare by the carmaker under the Toyopet moniker, the Corona would mark Toyota’s first foray into foreign markets. Alas, the product was yet lacking in refinement, sending the brand into quick reprieve, a chapter already covered in detail by Tatra87.
This being the car-repair-shop area of the city, it’s not entirely unexpected to come across a ‘for sale’ vehicle put together by local mechanics. Still, this particular Corona with its thick blue respray was rather unexpected. Datsun’s of this age appearing every once in a while in daily traffic, a Toyota/Toyopet from this era is an unusual sight. No real idea if it’s a ’62 model, but seemed like a fine ‘middle-ground’ for a vehicle produced between 1960-1963.
About that Toyopet moniker, the company was still trying to figure under which brand it would market itself worldwide. While going as Toyopet in the States, this particular example seems to be full Toyota. Then again, that piece of trim might not be original.
Now, that steering wheel we do KNOW not to be original, as well as other interior trim bits. Some of that cyan respray seems to have been applied to quickly too. Still, local resourcefulness has managed to keep this rare example on the roads for some time to come, originality be dammed.
Toyota’s inroads into Central America date at least to the mid 50’s, with local dealer DIDEA starting distribution of Land Cruisers in 1953. An import enterprise set up by Spanish immigrant Bartolomé Poma in the mid 20’s, the company is now a major real estate developer across the region. The Poma group nowadays commends itself on their foresight to take on Toyota at such an early date (not a bad move, considering the fate of Hudson and Essex -their first imports).
Yes, Toyota had a bit of rocky start, with Nissan’s Datsun taking an early lead in the foreign markets. It wouldn’t last though, and the blues would soon fade away for Toyota.