Behold, a lovingly repainted Toyota Crown, from circa 1983.
This weekend the Classic Race took place in Aarhus. I went along to have a look at the cars on view near the race track. However, the most interesting and unusual car I saw was not among the 911s, Ferraris, Beetles, Amazons, 2002s and Morris Minors gathered in the paddock.
I haven’t seen one of these for so long I can’t even recall if I ever saw one before. As you know, I have re-evaluated Japanese cars. When this car was new (1979 to 1983) this car was the kind of vehicle that was lazily written off as chintzy Japanese junk. Looking at it now, I see it as a fascinating fusion of American details and European proportions. If you squint hard enough you can see the Mercedes Benz W-123 in there somewhere, but squared off. It has about the same amount of chrome too.
What makes it different is the treatment of the edges and feature lines. The side rub-strip is elaborately recessed rather than simply snapped onto the doors. In architectural terms, its placement is articulated. There is a feature line running from the top of the front to the top of the rear lights that has another subtle under-lining below it. The chrome bezels on the lamps have grooves stamped in them. At the same time Peugeot and BMW were leaving them entirely plain. The grille has a slight peak, suggesting something vaguely Buick (or maybe that’s the colour suggesting something vaguely Buick to me).
Inside the car is a symphony of burgundy velour and plastic. It is very, very American but from what I could see, extremely well assembled and comfortable. It is not, under any circumstances, as austere as a W-123. It is not a clearly conceived as Citroen CX. It eschews the sporting focus of the BMW 5-series of the time as well. If anything it has “I don’t care about performance” ethos of a Silver Shadow but with no natural materials in evidence. The Japanese simply had other idea about how to use plastic and cloth than we do. Now that I think about it, it is superior to what the British, French and Italians were offering for the same money.
This car was not merely a survivor but evidently a cherished possession: a close inspection revealed it had been carefully resprayed. Ten minutes after I photographed it, the car had vanished.
If you are interested, 0-60 took 11.8 seconds and there were versions with 2.0 litre, four cylider and 2.8 litre straight-six petrol engines.