What makes any 1970s car better? Simple – more horsepower.
Few classic cars can hold a candle to modern ones in terms of vehicle dynamics, stability, or cornering speed. So why even bother worrying about any of that? Most of the fun in these old cars tends to come from more casual cruises rather than backroad runs on the limit, so you might as well put your money where it makes the most impact.
That’s precisely what Michael Lorey has done with his Toyota Cressida. The exterior is straight but not without its imperfections, likely boasting its original finish on most panels, and the fantastic factory red velour interior has been retained. These features are actually quite charming, and instead of messing with that, the car has simply been built for the maximum rush when stomping the loud pedal. And loud it is.
This isn’t to say the car couldn’t handle some hairpins, as the suspension has been overhauled. But with the significantly increased horsepower outmatching the slightly reworked factory brakes, this car is just perfect for rolling through town with the occasional — or frequent — romp on the throttle.
The third-gen Mark II, or Cressida, or Chaser, or X30/X40 — whatever floats your boat — is one of my favorite body styles. Sara’s too, and you might remember that she grabbed a few photos of this car for a spotlight over a year ago. Since then, we’d been looking to meet up with Mike to take a better look at his example and see what he’s done to it.
As president of the PNW Cressida Club, it only makes sense he’d own one, or two, (or three?) in the first place. What doesn’t make sense is why I still haven’t purchased one myself, but that’s a different story…
I do love the classic styling; the goofy circular headlights flanking the square grille, the subtle swooping body lines that lead into the brick-like rear haunches – it’s all reminiscent of an American muscle car. Only, it’s Japanese, and there wasn’t much muscle out of the box.
What to do about that, then?Muscle
Well, this is why the engine bay of Mike’s Cressida has been stuffed with a 2JZ-GTE paired with a single BorgWarner S257 SX-E turbocharger. With more than a few times the horsepower and torque that the car made from factory, I think it’s safe to say a proper muscle car has been made of this humble Toyota.
The setup is controlled via a Link G4+ Monsoon ECU, which was adapted to the engine via a custom Panic-Wire harness. (If you’re in the mood for a great 8-bit jam, head to their website.) A heat-shielded air filter feeds a Vibrant intercooler, and the setup was plumbed locally by Fuse Fabrication, who also built a fuel cell for the car. Meanwhile, spent fuel is forced out a 3-inch stainless exhaust into a Vibrant resonator.
The swap was made possible thanks to a slew of parts from Xcessive Manufacturing, another PNW outfit, including their engine and transmission mounts, cross-members, adapter brackets, clutch pedal, drive shaft, skid plate, and more. Power is delivered to the ground through a 5-speed R154 manual transmission sourced from a MkIII Supra and the stock 7.1-inch rear end with open differential.
While the Cressida might do better in the quarter-mile with a limited-slip diff, that just isn’t the point. This is ’70s Japanese luxury at its finest, with a bit of ’90s horsepower and 2000s tuning mixed in. It’s a wonderful mix, and the car isn’t trying to be anything that it isn’t.Style
On that note, one quick look in the interior helps to explain. The awesome red velour interior is like nothing from the ’90s or 2000s, and nothing but a ’70s car could pull it off anyway. The way the light danced off the seats as the sun went down just exuded a bygone era, and I’m very glad this aspect of the car was retained.
In fact, the entire cabin is a bit of a time machine, retaining its stock gauges, woodgrain trim, old switchgear, scuffed parking brake handle, and informational factory stickers. For the sake of sensibility, three AEM gauges have been added to better monitor the new engine, but the factory trim has been utilized in doing so.
A Cube short-throw shifter has also been installed along with a not-so-matching shift boot, but I think that just captures the essence of the car all the more.
On the same token, outside, you’ll notice that the passenger-side fender has been rattle-canned a close match, but at the right angle you can see the factory paintwork is still glossier.
If you subtracted the super-sweet refreshed 14-inch Hayashi Techno Phantom wheels, you might not think twice about this old beige car driving down the road. With that grandma-spec paint code, you might even hope to see an old lady behind the wheel, and I really love that about this platform. Such a wide variety of people have owned these cars — this very car — over the decades.
Add in those Hayashis with relatively meaty 205-series tires and the front lip, and you realize something might be going on here. As I alluded to previously, the brakes are basically stock, with cross-drilled rotors added up front and the rear drum setup retained.
The suspension has been modified as well with Techno Toy Tuning front and rear coilovers and their rear 4-link kit among other parts. The car sits lower, but not too low.
Really, a lot has been done to this car, but you just wouldn’t know it at first glance. And that’s the beauty of a four-decades-old canvas like this.
There is no one way to build it, and even with a finite and reasonable budget you can aim high to create something cool and unique. The charismatic styling is still there, the vintage interior feel remains, and you have all the power you could ever need. And then some.
It isn’t perfect, but it is the perfect sleeper.