(first posted 12/18/2013) Back in the eighties, my father spent several years on the road as a corporate gypsy. During this time, he spent two weeks a month in California, time spread evenly between Los Angeles and San Jose. Back home in Denver, he once pointed out a ten year old car in showroom condition and told me such sightings were almost common in California. In contrast, while Denver’s climate did not attack cars like rust belt weather, few eight or ten year old cars remained in perfect condition.
Since moving to California, I’ve discovered that Dad’s statement remains true today. I offer this 1970 Corona Mark II as evidence. Parked in downtown San Pedro, this picture takes me back 35 years. I’m sure this sidewalk, curb, and building all existed in 1970, providing the perfect period backdrop for this car. The license plate is also period correct, so the only modern images in this picture are the iron security screens on the building doors, and the modern design bus benches down the street.
To help emphasize that clean old cars are a common sight here in Southern California, an early ‘70s vintage Datsun Pickup was kind enough to cruise through this shot. I should note that there wasn’t any car show in San Pedro the day of these pictures. These cars are just transportation for their owners. Given the condition of this Mark II it must be someone’s weekend toy, but clearly the owner is not afraid to venture out on the city streets. For that, I salute him (or her).
Toyota marketed the Corona Mark II as a step up from the Corona, but this interior view tells us they had not yet reached Lexus levels of interior finish. While the cockpit includes nicely finished bucket seats along with trim panels over all the sheet metal, the corrugated vinyl door panels and smallish arm rest did not match up to the opulent interiors of their American competition.
This interior shot hints that Toyota drew a bit of inspiration from that American competition. The two spoke steering wheel and wide band speedometer display could have come out of several different Detroit products, and the overall dash shape appears more US than European. I’m surprised the owner left the windows of this car open on a city street, but of course the car is relatively theft-proof. Most stolen Toyotas end up parted out, and there’s very little market for Corona Mark II parts, either here or in Japan.
It appears the owner needs some other folks to part out a few Mark IIs. Judging by this duct tape repair to the rear view mirror, finding a good replacement part has been a challenge.
Growing up in Denver, these Mark IIs were a rare sight. Back then, Toyota sold around 250,000 cars a year, so Toyota badges weren’t super rare. However, I believe that Denver buyers preferred the lower priced Toyotas, leaving the Mark II to gather dust in the showroom. I recall spotting lots of Corollas (both 3KCs and 2TCs) in Denver, while Mark IIs and Crowns were few and far between. I’m guessing the Mark II sold better in California, long time home to our subject car.
This picture shows two styling elements I saw on most Toyotas of that era- Busy body trim and multiple badges. The taillight surround uses multiple googie themed shapes in the escutcheon, and the badging assures us that this Toyota has a 1900 Automatic. This reflects the typical Japanese styling direction of the day.
This mini chrome spear also demonstrates a frequent Japanese design element. While it looks a bit like an external turn signal indicator, it’s actually designed to cover the mounting holes for the Japanese market fender mounted rear view mirrors. A simple solution to a problem created when a manufacturer builds cars for multiple automotive markets.
To complete out styling review, let’s take an additional look at the front grille. During this time, Toyota followed the American tradition of yearly styling updates, and offered this grille-within-a-grille fascia for 1970. The ’69 grille was a bit plain for my taste, but this grille bordered on the weird. The ’71 and ’72 grilles were both an improvement to my eye. To see the 1971 Mark II grille, check out Paul’s article on a 1971 Mark II coupe.
In closing, I should also note that the Mark II coupe in Paul’s article has sexier lines then this stodgy four door. I’m sure the owner of this car values its solid reliability, and harbors no illusions that this car appeals to the hip and trendy eye (especially with that baby blue paint job). This car was never Toyota’s best seller, or hippest offering, but it did lay the ground work for future success. In fact, many of the elements present in this car are also present at your local Toyota dealer. Just drop by and ask to see the Camry, Toyota’s current example of solid (but stodgy) design.