The Toyota Crown is a globally ubiquitous car – put into production back in 1955, the latest generation of Crown is going strong and you'll still see fleets of Crown variants cruising streets around the world. Crowns haven't been sold in the UK since the '80s, but the best looking fourth iteration was one of the models that did find their way to these shores – this was also the last version sold in the States – and the model shown here was a great example.
Toyota's foray into America with the Crown failed dismally – its small motor compared to domestic alternatives and the vast distances it would be expected to cover doomed the attempt. The example on show here was an MS75 Coupé – the larger-engined variant of the two coupé-bodied options.
Owner Billy Wells and his wife had brought the Crown to London's Retro Toyota show along with an immaculate '72 Celica – a car I'd salivated over when it was parked up at the Goodwood Revival a couple of years back.
This represents a period when Toyota were finally rationalising the application of their company name after years of using Toyoda and Toyopet (the former being the actual surname of the company founder). Old logos are so much better than modern ones. I like the fact that so many car companies are returning to using vintage-inspired badges again, like Mercedes Benz and FIAT.
Most Crown models carry a custom Crown badge rather than the typical Toyota T on the grill.
There were three main variants of the fourth-generation Crown: coupé, saloon and estate. The Coupé styling makes it appear quite compact – although still quite big compared directly to the Celica – and I think it looks a lot tidier than the 4-door sedan.
The engine bay holds a 2.6-litre straight 6. According to Billy, the manufacturing line for these units was converted from an old balling machine factory – an example of the initial low quality output was that the cylinders were slightly out of line from the crankshaft, leading to lots of blown engines.
This Crown was carrying a 2563cc six-cylinder overhead-cam engine with a crossflow alloy head and a two-barrel downdraft carburettor, producing 140bhp at 5200rpm. Compared to the Celica, Billy says that it's a much more relaxed driver – a real boulevard cruiser.
It's still on its original engine, with over 100,000 miles on the clock – not bad for a car that's over 40 years old. This is matched to a three speed Aisin-Warner transmission, and the Crown runs on independent coil-spring double-acting shock absorbers with an anti roll bar on the front and a live rear axle with trailing arms and coil springs.
I really like the double-deck lighting layout with the side lights mounted on an upper ridge-line on the hood. This is a carry-over from the sedan's design and makes the car look a lot more grown-up at the front without compromising the racy nature of the Coupé body.
The car has a couple of quirks: you turn the key backwards to open the boot and the self-seeking radio has a foot pedal to control the frequency seeking functions. It's also got an 8-track cassette with extra controls for the rear passengers.
There are electric windows – but only on the rear windows. The practical excuse for this was that the driver can't reach them! Later models did have the motorised front windows as well, however. The Coupé has an original, dealer-fitted vinyl roof, vacuum-operated central locking and heater controls. The straight six sounds great through its stainless steel exhaust.
Brake-wise it features dual system servo-assisted front discs with drums at the rear; the wire wheels are not standard – they're actually made under licence from Dunlop by Motor Wheel Services. These particular rims were originally on a brown '82 Crown that Billy also owns.
I really like the Crown Coupé's combination of muscle car looks and Italian styling cues. It's no wonder it's won so many awards at Toyota shows.