This Lovely Old Toyota Was Restored By a Kid Starting When She Was 12

Photo: Toyota UK

Normally, when I hear that some Toyota marketing campaign is talking about something called “Toyota People,” that’s usually my cue to run, since I’m not sure I can take hearing another “real person” saying something about cars being grounded to the ground. Incredibly, that’s not the case here. This time, there’s a real person with a real Toyota and they’re admirable and interesting and I’m delighted to hear about them. I’m stunned, too. Meet Gemma Wade, restorer of an adorable 1976 Toyota 1000.

Gemma is now 24, and lives in Ayrshire, Scotland, and her project car, the Toyota 1000, is only one of ten of its kind left on the road in the UK. The 1000 was what the European-market Toyota Publica was called, and was a supermini designed to be positioned under the Corolla.

Photo: Toyota UK

Gemma’s family bought the clapped-out Toyota in 2002 and kept it stored until restoration started when Gemma was 12, in 2007. The car was in rough shape, but salvagable and complete, though a few years of outside storage meant that “a number of woodland creatures decided to make it their home,” and, generally, those sorts of creatures aren’t much help when it comes to a restoration.

With help from her father and his non-trivial collection of tools and parts, Gemma got started. She describes how much she learned:

“I like to be hands-on in all of dad’s projects, so I was always taking parts off, cleaning them, packing them away, or putting them back on. I also took apart the engine after being handed the repair manual, which taught me how to undo the bolts and what order to tighten them back up again.

“Towards the end of the project I even learned how to change tyres by hand – the old-fashioned way by levering them on and off with a long bar. From the very start of the project I had been taught how to start the engine and use the manual choke, and then by the time I was 15 or so I was trusted enough to move the car around the yard.”

Photo: Toyota UK

The little car wasn’t easy to restore, largely because of the difficulties of sourcing parts. Gemma’s father had to hand-make some wheel arches, and a Ford Cortina panel was re-shaped into the rear valence, and she even yanked a carb from her mother’s Toyota Starlet and they re-fitted a modern Yaris exhaust to the car.


Gemma drives the car all the time now, and it’s absolutely charming. It’s great to see someone so young interested in humble little cars like this, and it’s a nice antidote to hearing about how Millennials don’t care about cars.

Clearly, some of them do.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)