Car Show Classics: The JDM Imports At Altona – Some Surprises!

I have already featured some of the imported cars at the Toyota Car Club’s show at the now-closed Altona North factory, some intentionally and others inadvertently, such as the Toyota Soarer (Lexus SC300/400) last week.  These comprise a wilder variety of machinery than was imported by Toyota Australia, including a Toyota Century.

The Century was in production largely unchanged from 1967 to 1997, and I don’t really know exactly when this one was built but it is likely 1988 or earlier, as it is more difficult to bring 1989 and newer cars into the country.

The dashboard of the car gives away its age, preceding airbags and having a 1980s digital instrument cluster, as well as other features such as a parcel shelf under the 1960s style glovebox.

The Century was all about the rear seat occupants though, with owners usually chauffeur-driven; note the electric seat adjustment.

But the extraordinary feature was the front passenger seat’s panel that folded back to allow the rear passenger to really stretch their legs!

This 2000 Crown Majesta is perhaps a more modern iteration of the Century, and this example is the epitome of a Japanese luxury car.  Item one, a very conservative appearance – much more so than a Lexus, for example.

The dashboard is conventional enough, but no doubt features all the latest gadgets.  Power comes from the standard Toyota V8.

You may have noticed the cloth seats that are apparently such a feature of Japanese luxury cars rather than leather, but this car takes things further with some lace seat covers.  Very elegant?

The following 2004 model Crown Majesta has some more flow to its lines.

More Crown variants, a 2003 Crown Athlete wagon (yes really!) and a 2010 model I’m not sure about – there are a huge variety of JDM variations!

For a complete change of tack, here is a first-generation 1981-85 Z10 Soarer, based on the Supra of the day, with IRS and the option of turbo inline six cylinder engines.

An example of the second generation Soarer was also present, which was when the “Aerocabin” or targa roof option was introduced as well as some pretty advanced electronics inside.

While early Soarers are not often seen, the Chaser sedans are a lot more common, and there were several at the show including these 1999 models.  The appeal here is the stout Toyota inline six turbos and rear wheel drive.

Styling is fairly unassuming, but quite sleek.  However there are downsides of driving a car like this, or any grey import, including higher insurance costs not only because of typical risk factors, but also because of difficulties in parts availability and cost.

By contrast, this E110 Corolla based Levin coupe looks like a successor to the classic Sprinter and Trueno AE86, but it is actually front-wheel drive.

I vaguely remember reading about these when they were released in 1995, but I had forgotten the fwd part.

The range of Toyota models that weren’t exported is vast; this is a 1992-96 Mark II Groire.  It is a hardtop-only car that you bought if you didn’t want a conventional Cresta sedan or a more sporty Chaser hardtop – hairs were being split fairly finely.

Getting back to what is probably a more recognisable model, the Toyota Aristo is the car that the Lexus GS is based on.  There was a 4.0 V8 and awd available, even at the same time, but most had the 2JZ 3.0 six – clearly what this 1997 car has as referenced by the number plate.  Unlike my mistake with the Soarers, I know it wasn’t to the next generation car that the GS came to Australia.  Or will this prove to e a case of famous last words?

I assume a lot of readers will be familiar with the 1989-95 P80 Starlet, but this is not the case in Australia.  Or it didn’t used to be at least, but models like this 1993 GT Turbo have been popular on the grey-import scene as an easy-to-modify pocket rocket.

Now for a bit of fun; this unassuming silver sedan has Camry and Hybrid badges on the boot lid!  I suppose it may fool some people even with the lip spoiler, the ONEJZ registration number would surely inject some confusion.  Together with not really looking like a Camry,  you might think that something else is going on.

Have you ever seen a Camry engine bay looking like this?  The 1JZ is Toyota’s 2.5L inline six, here packing a turbo and plenty of aftermarket parts.  Not quite the Hybrid snoozemobile…  That’s not fair really; the Hybrid’s power consumption and distribution displays can provide a lot of entertainment/distraction as you drive.

Speaking of distraction, this 2001-2004 Verossa VR25 could cause one simply through its appearance!  It too has a 1JZ turbo and could even be had with a manual gearbox, ut due to poor sales the Verossa was discontinued before it was due to be replaced.  I don’t think it is too unkind to say this was due to being unpopular among people with eyes?


Is it a suprise to see a 2013 Tundra at the show?  Perhaps yes, although all of the full-size North American pickups can be found on the road here, except perhaps the Nissan Titan.  They are far from common though because of the need to convert to right-hand drive and deal with various other compliance issues from child seat restraints to radio tuning issues.  Net result is you will need to spend over AUD$100k to get a new one.

But perhaps the most surprising car at the show was this 2003  Toyota Voltz, or it would have been if it wasn’t actually a Caldina GT-Four!  (refer to comments below)  Still a 2.0 turbo 260hp hatch/wagon, with all wheel drive is not to be sneered at although they were all automatic.  The Caldina is on the same platform as the Avensis so between a Corolla and Camry in size.

The Voltz is a very unusual Corolla variant, US readers will probably have already pegged it as looking like a Pontiac Vibe!  This is indeed the case, a real case of “coal to Newcastle”.  Or if you prefer, a Japanese version of an American version of a Japanese car built for America.  Hopefully you agree it looks more than a little similar to the Caldina and that I am not a complete idiot!

This is the finish of what has been more than the usual car show coverage, because of the opportunity to step through the Toyota Australia story, and I hope you have enjoyed it.


Further Reading:

Car Show Classics: Toyota Australia – Marking The End Of An Era, Part 1

Car Show Classics: Toyota Australia – Marking The End Of An Era, Part 2

Car Show Classics: Toyota Australia – Marking The End Of An Era, Part 3

Car Show Classics: Toyota Australia – Marking The End Of An Era, Part 4