Now this is a retro design I can really get behind! I’m biased of course, as the Toyota Crown is one of my favorite cars ever. And the Origin, designed to hearken back to the first-generation Crown, pushes all the right buttons. Come on, can you really hate a car with suicide doors?
Funnily enough, unlike the Classic before it, the Origin was not designed to celebrate any major milestone in Toyota’s or the Crown’s history. At least not officially, but 2000 marked the 45th year of production of the Crown nameplate. An incredible milestone for a model name certainly, but not one that is often celebrated with an entire bespoke model. A commemorative options pack at most would do for anniversaries ending in ‘5’, if that.
For whatever the reason, the Origin certainly pulled all the stops to look similar to the original Toyopet Crown. You’ll forgive me for saying this, but I think that the first-generation Crown looks…adorable. Sort of like a parallel universe Nash Metropolitan that wants to be a real luxury car when it grows up. The name Toyopet may not be entirely unjustified, it’s as cute as one (wiki tells me that Toyota marketed their small cars as Toyopets back then).
The first-gen Crown was also a milestone for the company as it was the first Toyota ever to (officially) make it across the pond and into American shores in 1957, as this historic image shows. It wasn’t successful, not by a long shot. That whole war thing wasn’t quite water under the bridge yet and the populace was rather reticent to accept vehicles from Japan, unless they were much better than other imports. The Crown was not as well-suited to American roads as it could’ve been, which meant that sales were disappointing right up until it bid farewell to American shores in 1961. It’d take a couple more years and the Toyota Land Cruiser and Corona for Toyota to get a foothold in the U.S.
Back across the Pacific, the Crown was taken to endurance racing, completing a 19 day/17,000km journey across the Australian outback and finished third in the foreign vehicle class (47th overall out of 86 entries) despite its modest 48-horsepower output.
The Origin wouldn’t have had any problems adapting itself to American roads in 2000. For one, the engine was the legendary 2JZ-GE that you’d see in the likes of the Toyota Supra and the Lexus IS300. Power was sent to the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic. The Origin was based on the platform used by Toyota in another luxury sedan for the Japanese market only, the Progrés.
It’s not the best looking car ever made by Toyota is it? I think the best way to describe it is as a 2001 Lexus GS300 that already came pre-crashed from the factory.
The Origin, on the other hand, is a very handsome looking thing. Unlike their previous effort in the Classic, the language of the original Crown translated very well onto its new environment. Perhaps it’s the fact that the original looked like a big car drawn at 7/10 scale, but the bigger size really suited the Origin’s design language. The lashings of chrome in the front grille and bumper combine with the Toyota name spelled in individual letters give it an elegant and classic appearance without looking tacky or like a quirky period piece.
Looking at it from the side and once again the first word that comes to my mind when describing it is “elegant”. In a darker color the chrome around the windows really makes the profile stand out, especially that lovely reverse slanted C-pillar and the “Origin” badges depicted in deliciously dated cursive writing. It also shows the Origin’s party piece. Like the Crown it’s based on, the Origin has suicide doors.
Here’s a picture of one with them open. I’m fairly certain that when the Origin was released, it was the only passenger car (apart from extended cab pickup trucks) that came with a complete set of suicide doors from the factory (in contrast to the Saturn SC’s single driver’s side suicide door). 2003 would see Rolls-Royce would bring suicide doors back to style in the Phantom, and others like Honda, Mazda, and Saturn would bring them to the regular customer in the form of the Element, RX-8, and Ion QuadCoupe.
The interior doesn’t quite match the splendor and classic elegance of the exterior however. Yes, like the Classic it simply didn’t make financial sense to make a completely retro-inspired interior for a single limited-edition vehicle. So the Origin’s interior is pretty much a generic 2000s luxury Toyota interior with some little distinguishing touches, like the analog clock in the center console. Toyota only intended to produce 1000 Origins, but they went slightly above that, and they were sold at 7,000,000 yen (around $56,628 in 2015 U.S.Dollars). Today you can pick one up for around $20-$35,000 before shipping and import fees to your country (if you’re in America, step 1 is to wait another decade). And really, the only reason I haven’t is lack of funds. And space. I’d probably buy one of every weird Japanese car I could lay my hands on if I had those two.