Certified Classic: <br /> A 2JZ-Powered Cressida For The Street
Cult Classic

Has there ever been a model of car that you once thought was boring or lame but then you grew to love it later on in life? For me, that car is the humble Toyota Cressida.


In my case it wasn’t that I hated or even particularly disliked the Cressida – which was sold in the US from the late ’70s through the early ’90s – it just wasn’t a car that I, or anyone I knew, ever talked about.


It was the sort of vehicle that parents might hand down to their kids who had just reached driving age. Old, safe and reliable. Not particularly fast either. I distinctly remember a couple of guys at my high school driving beat-up Cressidas and not being terribly excited about them. This was back during the late ’90s and very early 2000s, and if the Cressida did have an enthusiast following I certainly didn’t know about it.


But a few years later when I found myself becoming more and more interested in Japanese cars, I began to discover that those old sedans were actually pretty neat, and that the Cressida happened to share many parts with the Toyota Supra.


Now, the Cressida would never be as popular as the 240SX or AE86 which had exploded with the growth of drifting in the US, but it made for a cheap and unique alternative to those common Japanese models. Along with that, the car’s resemblance to those cool Toyota sedans sold in Japan gave it plenty of JDM cred.


Whether you wanted to swap in a turbocharged motor and go drifting, or build yourself a Kaido Racer style street car, Cressidas soon began to appear at car meets and events across America.


The one negative was that because used Cressidas were so cheap to buy, it was a lot more common to see ratty, beat-up examples than nice ones. For a long time high quality Cressida builds were few and far between.


But as the car gets older, it feels like more people are beginning to treat the Cressida less like a beater and more like the Japanese classic that it’s quickly becoming.


Over the last couple of years I’ve seen a lot more high quality Cressida builds in the US, and the MX73 you see here might just be the pick of the bunch. The car belongs to Evan Ruiz from Riverside, California, and when we saw it at the recent Offset Kings Irwindale show we knew it would be a worthy recipient of the Speedhunters #FeatureThis Award.

Building It Right

In 2010 Evan decided he wanted to buy a cheap rear-wheel drive project car. When he found the Cressida for sale, he knew it was the perfect fit. At the time he also owned a 1991 MR2, and the plan was to have the Cressida as a secondary vehicle to drive.


Originally, he didn’t plan on modifying the old sedan a whole lot, but he soon found himself being wowed by the Cressida’s charms. Eventually he made the tough decision to sell the MR2 so he could devote all of his time and budget to the Cressida.


Using the money he got from the MR2 sale, Evan began stockpiling parts for the Cressida build. By this point he had a pretty good idea of what he wanted the car to be – a fast, capable and stylish street car, but one that stayed true to the original 1980s styling.


That, of course, meant that the stock powertrain would need some serious upgrading, and one of the first things Evan purchased was a complete 2JZ-GTE engine setup from a Japanese market JZS161 Aristo. Once he had the motor figured out, Evan knew that he could base the rest of the build around the 2JZ swap.


The twin turbo inline six has been fitted using motor mounts and engine brackets from Xcessive Manufacturing – an Oregon company which makes specialty parts for a number of RWD Japanese vehicles.


From there it was simply a matter of how much power Evan wanted to make. Even a bone-stock 2JZ-GTE makes around double the horsepower that the Cressida’s original engine did, so it’s not surprising that power upgrades have been kept modest and street-friendly for now. Key modifications include an upgraded fuel system, Web Cams camshafts, a Driftmotion intake with an HKS filter, custom Driftmotion exhaust and intercooler setups and a TiAL blow-off valve.


There’s also a number of supporting upgrades to improve the 2JZ’s already impressive reliability. They include an aluminum Koyo radiator, Flex-A-Lite radiator fans, a Driftmotion oil cooler, Optima battery and more.


But the most impressive thing might be the extremely clean way in which the engine bay is presented. The valve cover has been color-matched to the body, the chassis harness has been tucked, the battery tray has been removed and many of the engine parts have been polished for a look reminiscent of Southern California’s famous Honda builds.


The 2JZ is backed up by a Toyota R154 5-speed manual gearbox with an Action Stage 3 clutch. Driftmotion also supplied the custom aluminum flywheel and driveshaft.

Footwork & Bodywork

While the Cressida aftermarket pales in comparison to that of a car like an S13, there’s still a reasonable amount of parts available if you do your research.  Suspension-wise, Evan has fitted the car with BC Racing BR Type adjustable coilovers along with Xcessive Manufacturing roll center adjusters and polyurethane steering rack bushings.


While many Cressida owners like to emulate the Japanese Kaido Racer look with big overfenders, super-wide wheels, external oil coolers and takeyari pipes, Evan has decided to go with much more subtle and understated look for his car.


Rather than running wheels with deep barrels and aggressively-stretched tires, the 15×7.5-inch SSR Formula Mesh wheels and 195/50R15 tires are perfectly contained by the Cressida’s stock rolled fenders.


Body modifications have been kept simple with shaved windshield sprayers, a Volvo front lip and a fresh coat of Root Beer Metallic paint which stays perfectly true to the vintage vibe.


I especially like the addition of Toyota factory-style ’24 Valve Twin Turbo’ decals on the rear doors. It’s just one more little touch that makes this car stand out.


The interior has been upgraded with the same sense of restraint. The most outstanding modification is the 330mm-long bubble shift knob, and there’s also a Grant steering wheel along with a double DIN Sony head unit and Pioneer speakers in the front and rear.


‘Plush’ does not even begin to describe the comfort level of the Cressida’s seating surfaces. Never before have I wanted to crawl inside a car and take a nap so bad.


Evan’s future plans for the car include fully restoring the interior, redoing the wheels and eventually rebuilding the motor with a single turbo conversion. Until then though, he’ll continue to cruise the streets of SoCal in one of America’s cleanest and most well put together Cressidas.


I have no idea if Cressidas will ever be the recipients of rotisserie restorations or become stars of the auction block, and I’m not even sure we want a future like that. But as long as there are people like Evan giving these cars the attention they deserve, all is right in the world.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike

Photos by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto



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Too bad the styling is so boring compared to the JDM Chaser and Mark II hardtops!


ditch the shifter


These cars have such great presence when they're lowered on a nice set of wheels, a 2jz up front doesn't hurt either.

This is one of those articles that makes me search online for the next week looking for clean examples of the car for sale to do my own build.


i have a family member in North Cali attempting to move a 81 Cressida . I can provide pics , we don't know what to do with it .


I have no idea if Cressidas will ever be the recipients of rotisserie restorations or become stars of the auction block, and I’m not even sure we want a future like that. But as long as there are people like Evan giving these cars the attention they deserve, all is right in the world.

Absolutely spot on. Great work from Mike, Larry, and the owner, Evan! I particularly love the Root Beer Metallic and I'll always have a soft spot for Formula Mesh!


That engine bay really is something else when looking at one of these cars!


That is a wicked article!!!! with one hell of a car, that thing is beautiful! and the shoot location with that huge stretch of road in the background... amazing 
thank you so much!!


What's up with the dildo shifter? Looks rather *AHEM* uncomfortable to shift with.


That's.....a LOT of engine for that car.

We're talking WHOA, SHIT! levels of power facilitating Doppler-shifted maniacal laughter-terrified screaming as the car slides sideways past the camera in a blur.




Want one.


Wow, awesome!  This is one of those cars that makes me assume the owner is just a cool person.  

Question: Is that interesting shift knob a socal style thing?  Where does that come from?  I don't know how to feel about it lol


still not cool, sorry but it's the truth.......


This is so brown.  I feel like I'm in a world of brown.  I like it, though.  I like it a lot.

#maximumbrown #wehavebrown #iamthebrownhunter


cutterjones13 Cool as, but that's just my opinion.........


zziro Japanese truck drivers enjoy hanamizu or is it mizuhana - flower in water, not snot, I get them mixed up - as decoration. Some right-wing kyusha drivers use car-sized ones... So, putting a truck shift-knob in a car has to be better, right?


zziro Japanese truck drivers enjoy hanamizu or is it mizuhana - flower in water, not snot, I get them mixed up - as decoration. Some right-wing kyusha drivers use car-sized ones... So, putting a truck shift-knob in a car has to be better, right?


Make sure you guys enjoy the photos in Presentation mode!


cutterjones13 I vote cool. Kakoii cool in fact...


That shifter? Because Japan.


that is my shit...


Very nice! My roommate is on his way out to Sacramento next month; he sold his 1UZ-swapped Cressida here in Boston and plans to build a 2JZ-swapped Cressida once he gets out there.


very nice feature and nice build. Like mentioned in the article I appreciate the stance of the car and glad he didnt follow the trend of extreme negative cambers. I live in Brooklyn NY and Cressida were slightly popular among the west indian community.My cousin had one and we drove it for BK to Toronto Canada in 2003.


bang.  That's a great car.


I'm in love! This is a gorgeous car!


cutterjones13 Cool is a matter of opinion and everyone has different taste. I've come to realise this more and more while browsing this site. If you don't like something then move to the next article or the one after.
I used to hate overfenders (still do to a degree) but despite that I've always found a lot on here to get excited about (sorry if I sound like a cheerleader).
Whether you're into rat rods, hot rods, Rocket Bunny builds, old school Japanese, 90's JDM, stance, the vee dub scene, Kaido racers, track day specials, supercars, drifters, daily driven beaters with soul, show cars, Scandinavian Frankenstein swaps, time attackers, restomods, muscle cars, airbags, salt lake racers, lowriders or whatever else it's likely on this site.


love the wheels - cool car :)


love the wheels - cool car :)


Damn.  I try not to comment on stories too much but props to the owner.  Really really excellent build!!


Good lord that is one clean build! Gorgeous!


Root Beer metallic paint...that just about tops Baachan Brown (^_^;)/


this post is relevant to my interests


Beautiful is the word here.

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

We've got used to seeing 2j swapped Cressidas here in Aus, but 95% are drag spec or sleepers. It's good to see someone trying hard on a car which back in the day, got beaten up regularly. Kudos to the owner! Thats one sweeeeeet Cressida dude! I'd have that in my garage in a heart beat.


Wow, nice build! Reminds me a bit of the early japanese VIP builds. Way better than those stanced-out vip cars nowadays. everything fits nicely. the only Thing i would Change are the fugly huge-ass USDM bumpers :P


This is wonderful in every way.
But what on earth is that gearstick?


Love this thing, all except the dildo shifter. Rest of it is perfect. That interior too!


Beatiful and clean! I want to see a video of how he shifts with that stick LOL.


Beatiful and clean! I want to see a video of how he shifts with that stick LOL.


Now that is something I wanna drive everyday!


I can't wait for the dildo shifter trend to die already.


Cool car, almost a sleeper :)


This is inspiring, im just 14 and i have two cressidas. Fell in love with them when my brother came home with a junky one back in 2008, love it!


This is inspiring, im just 14 and i have two cressidas. Fell in love with them when my brother came home with a junky one back in 2008, love it!


azmedaj Haha!


Slappy Pistons What can brown do for you?


AndrewTaylor Thanks!


JCmelik Glad we could help, haha.


STJ88 Better than having no cool RWD sedans at all though!


True but jdm GX71's are 25 years and older so no problem to import.


DoBeriault people like muilti-function ;)


Super clean ride, absolutely love the simplicity and classy upgrades. Would also love to take a nap in that backseat haha...looks like Grandma's old couch!


I saw this at Jccs in 2013, my father use to work at a Toyota dealership years ago.
So I have seen many a nice 71 and 81. (An original four door sportscar).


This is clean as f**k! My parents owned one of these it was a shit heap but I always thought it could look good, this how it would look!


Mike Garrett Slappy Pistons Actually since you mention it, our local UPS guy loves his cars and always stops for a chat when he drops off parts :)


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner Came here to say this, 2/1.5/1J Cressy's are dime a dozen in Aus. You're hard pushed to buy one without a JZ swap!

Also, as a point to the author, they are more comparable to the Cefiro than a 240sx. They handle like boats and were really cruiser types not sports hatches like AE86's and Silvia's.


cjopant straight crushin


billibean so nice


greenroadster  no bloody way, look at the ride height, it looks pimped as shit


one day we will see 90s Camrys also modified in this way. the Cressidas were considered grand parents cars, it is funny to see a few modified now. i am suprised people dont go directly to Japan and pick up the v10 powered Toyota Crowns or old v12 centurys and fiddle with them. if you have money to burn... do it on something more grandues!  http://www.lextreme.com/V12.html


KrzysztofPiotrowicz I think it is because cars like this Cressida are better for street modding than the big crowns. If you going to build it like a kaido racer, like most of them do, crowns are just to big and sloppy to handle.


DoBeriault I myself have a 79 cressida, on which i'm looking for to change the shifter. But i'm gonna try to swap it with a katana handle ^^


Are the engine brackets sold as a kit where I can order them fron or are the bracket custom made


Im doing a similar swap..how did you do the oil return lines on the turbo side


My mom had a late 80s Cressida. It's styling might have been bland but it's performance was anything but. It dusted every accord, and maxima it ever raced. Along with a Peugeot turbo, a 300 series BMW and a 4.3L minivan someone thought was fast. It would handle twists and turns like a sports car rather than a 4 door grocery getter. It was so comfortable cruising at 100 mph seemed like 60 till you realized how fast you were passing traffic.