Imagine for a moment that you’re a car-nut from Sweden. Your first car is a Volvo (naturally), but you long to explore other facets of car culture so purchase multiple Japanese cars in the hope of building a path to your ultimate street machine. But something doesn’t feel right; you still need some Volvo magic in your life. What do you do?
In Nicke Kurki‘s case, after owning dozens of JDM legends, including an R32 Skyline, three MkIV Supras, a Honda S2000 and a Toyota KE70 to name just a few, he settled on two cars: a 1970 Toyota Crown, which kind of resembles an old Volvo, and a 1977 Toyota Celica, now with a Volvo twist. I’m going to show you both of these builds, but let’s start with Nicke’s very cool MS55 sedan…
I first spotted this car back in 2020 during the annual Japdays meet at Mantorp Park, and knew right away that a closer look was needed. Fast forward two years, and I find myself standing outside Nicke’s garage in south Sweden, five hours from where I live. It was a nice drive, despite dark clouds looming above.
I arrived to find the Crown on the back of a trailer. For Nicke, it’s been a never-ending story of problems, and just a few days prior to the shoot he wasn’t even sure it would be running. But by some miracle, Nicke fired it into life and backed it off the trailer.
In comparison to my GT86, the Crown is huge.
I get the feeling that Nicke is quite a spontaneous type of a guy, and how he ended up with the MS55 speaks to that. Nicke came across an ad for the Crown during a random Facebook Marketplace browsing session, and the next thing he knew he was driving towards Jönköping to pick it up.
At first glance, the car looked to be in amazing condition, something akin to a barn find, but within a year or so, some questionable ‘fixes’ began to show themselves. Remedying them is an ongoing process, but all part of the classic car ownership experience.
Exterior-wise, Nicke has kept the Toyota stock. As the values of old Japanese cars keep rising, preserving the Crown’s body seems like a good idea, but looking at his Celica, I don’t think that preservation was the driving reason. It’s just the look he wanted for this particular build, and it’s certainly hard to argue with.
Where Nicke has made a change is in the wheel and tire department. The rare 17×10.5-inch Panasport C5C2s wrapped in 245-section Toyo Proxes T1Rs not only give the car an aggressive look, but also serve a function given the level of performance on offer from the powertrain. There’s plenty of rubber on the road and room for modern Supra brakes.
Opening one of the Crown’s heavy steel doors reveals the car’s mostly original interior, which is in nice shape given it is 52 years old.
The only additions are a few new analog gauges and a new (old) steering wheel. Nicke could have gone all digital, but sometimes simplicity is hard to beat.
Even under the hood, Nicke’s approach is subtle. Well, as subtle as a 3.0L 2JZ-GTE with a big single Precision T62 turbo can be.
A 500hp 2JZ is certainly a big leap from the MS55’s original 110hp, six-cylinder 2M engine, but according to Nicke it’s nothing too crazy. After all, the Crown is a bit of a cruiser for him.
Nicke says that the hardest part of the engine build was finding all the parts for it within a limited budget. eBay and Facebook Marketplace turned up the bulk of them, including the secondhand turbo which now sits on a Boostlogic manifold from the USA, and the Sard Racing ECU. The latter is a rare JDM item, which amazingly Nicke had owned previously. He was only able to get his hands back on it when one of his old MkIV Supras turned up online being parted out after a crash.
You might have noticed the Crown’s original 4-speed shifter knob in the interior photos, but don’t let that fool you – there’s a MkIII Supra R154 5-speed gearbox backing up this 2J swap, and out back a Ford 8.8-inch rear end.
Mixing classic looks with modern performance is a build approach taken by many, and despite some gremlins still rearing their heads in Nicke’s Crown, this sleeper-esque creation is proof of how cool the concept can be.
Now, wait till you see his Celica…