Curbside Classic: 1986 Toyota Cressida Station Wagon – The Timeless Toyota ‘B-Body’ Wagon

(first posted 1/27/2017)     This generation Cressida has long developed a reputation for its clean, timeless styling, quality materials, and solid construction. In other words, a car built for the long haul. And so it was, quite literally: although its X70 generation sedan counterpart was built for only four model years (1985 – 1988), this wagon stayed in production all the way to 1997, although not imported to the US after 1988. As such, it’s somewhat of a counterpart to the long-lived GM B-Body box wagons, which had a 14 year lifespan, one more than the Cressida wagon. Now if only it had come with wood grain sides like its predecessor. Never mind; I take that back…

Here’s its woodie predecessor, two generations back, whose CC is here. It sported decidedly broughamesque influences, from its Cordoba-ish front end to its bulging hips. The transition stylistically from this pastiche of styling gimmicks to…

…this, a very clean if a bit conservative design, is quite the transition (note: there was another generation between them, which rather split the difference). And its conservative aspects are of course only fitting, given the Mark II’s role in Japan, as something of a junior Crown. It may have come out the same year as the aero-rebel Taurus, but that was not going to fly for the Cressida. At least not for the time being.

Under its hood sat the latest evolution of the venerable M-Series Toyota inline six, whose family line dated back to 1965. In the Cressida’s 5M-GE version, it was essentially the same engine as in the Supra, sported an alloy DOHC hemi-head, 2,759cc displacement, and of course fuel injection. And it sported the first use of hydraulic valve lifters in a DOHC engine, eliminating the need for valve adjustments. HP was listed at 156 for the US version in 1985. Price? $15,945 ($36k adjusted). A 1985 Pontiac Parisienne wagon started at  $11,799. That explains why the Cressida was not ever a high-volume car in the US; price-wise, it couldn’t begin to compete with the US bread-and-butter cars.

Yet the Cressida developed an intensely loyal following, mostly on the West Coast, where it found great favor among a certain clientele. The same ones that would go on to likely become loyal Lexus clients. In fact, this and its successor, the final generation of Cressidas sold in the US, can rightfully be seen as a proto-Lexus.

Cressida buyers generally had higher levels of education and income, and could have afforded something even more expensive, but were drawn to the understated luxury of the Cressida’s excellent material quality, build integrity, and superlative reliability and longevity. These were blue-chip investments, and they still have a bit of a following, although they are finally becoming a bit scarce on the ground. But the ones that are still around are typically well-kept, like this one.

Speaking of longevity: I said at the top that this X70 Cressida wagon was built until 1997. That’s because its successors didn’t offer a wagon version, so Toyota just kept building this one. Why not? It’s hard to improve on, for a wagon. Of course that was mostly for domestic consumption, and wagons in Japan were traditionally commercial vehicles, not family cars.

And in the US, loyal  Cressida wagon lovers just need to keep them going another five years, as in 2022 they’ll be able to legally import 25 year old 1997 Cressida wagons from Japan. Maybe that won’t be necessary; this one looks good to go for another 25 years.