I stopped to photograph a second generation Celica Coupe in Redondo Beach, when I spotted this very unusual Crown Hardtop. I knew it was an early model Toyota, and I also knew it wasn’t a US market model.
Why did I know it was a Toyota? I’m not sure, but as a fan of Toyota’s offering from that time, I knew this coupe belonged in the family. Perhaps it was those rear quarter panels- I’ve owned a ’73 Corolla Coupe and admired the first Celica, and I see similar lines in this (somewhat larger) two door.
For any doubters out there, the boot includes a Toyota badge and the side panel clearly declares this is a Crown. The car does not include any “S” badging or other performance features, so presumably it is a base model. Some base Crowns came with a 2 liter I-4, but this more exclusive hardtop more likely was only offered one of two available I-6s: a base SOHC 2.2, or a performance oriented SOHC 2.0 (with twin SU carburetors). We’ll see if others can provide more specific details.
While I have no personal experience with Toyota Crowns, I have confirmed Toyota built this generation from 1967 to 1971. After a bit of internet research, those square headlights seem to identify this car as a ’69, ’70 or ’71. Based on those forward mounted outside rearview mirrors, it also appears to be a Japanese market car, as well as the fact that Toyota never offered the hardtop version in the US.
This interior shot shows the right hand drive configuration. The door panels and seat upholstery show some wear and there are a few missing trim pieces, but this car is very original and likely a low mileage example.
Oddly enough, I shot these pictures last week, just two days after Paul announced Toyota week. It appears the CC Gods wanted to guarantee that Curbside Classic would have a full slate of Toyotas during our week long celebration, and for that I thank them.
Wow, that’s nice, great find while scouring the alleys of Southern California! That steering wheel looks like something out of an Alfa Spyder and the hinged vent windows are a great touch. Lucky owner!
When I was a teen a defunct Nash dealer in my town re-opened its doors, now selling something called a Toyota. How desperate, people thought, to try to sell these funny Japanese cars. Surely they could never compete with the Mustangs and muscle cars of my dreams or the Impalas and Buicks the adults drove.
Of course this dealer’s family is now worth well into nine figures and this plucky Japanese company looked Detroit in the eye and made them blink. Using early disappointments not as failures, but lessons to be learned and opportunities to improve, the underestimated Japanese achieved its status today through relentless determination and grit.
David Halberstam’s wonderful book, The Reckoning, gives an excellent insight into Japanese business culture and their rise to prominence in the post war years. A culture where long-term vision extends beyond the next quarterly dividend report.
What a clean and attractive shape!
What’s the rationale behind those JDM front-mounted mirrors? My friend & I used to laugh at those, but maybe there’s a good reason for them.
There is. With this mounting, the side-view mirrors can be seen from within the swept area of the windshield wipers!
During my time in Barbados and Grenada, our work vehicles were a Daihatsu and a Datsun 120Y, both RHD and both had the fender mirrors. You can see a lot better with the fender mirrors the traffic coming up behind you.
In the narrow streets and alley’s of Japan’s cities; it may keep your mirrors from being scraped off; or maybe they were just cool–Japanese style.
I can’t say for sure, but I suspect mirrors placed that far forward on the fenders are for seeing into tight quarters….especially when backing up.
BTW, I was watching a “vintage” British movie on tv a few days ago and those “black cabs” ALL had the mirrors way out on the fenders. That got me to wondering if other countries, besides Japan, had vehicle regulations that required those mirrors. Specifically, countries that have RHD….like China or India.
China has been LHD since 1946.
Wing (or fender) mounted mirrors were common in the UK until the late 1970s. Door mounted mirrors came in from the mid 1970s, and were seen first on continental European cars, and of course could be adjusted from inside easily. Wind noise might have been a factor also?
According to this article in the japantimes.co by Alice Gordenker; forward mirrors were mandated by Japanese law till 1983 when they changed them to the door to align with foreign markets. Most of the things we speculated about were true; and more for cabs; the only one that wasn’t; was the “cool” idea I had; the Japanese public overwhelmingly chose side door mirrors. Of course the English had them too.
Sweet looking car. It’s an unforgivable shame that the Crown was never a big seller in the U.S. Is there a reason for that? Was it not safe for American driving? What’s the story behind that?
Maybe the Crown was ahead of its time, as it was/is a luxury model in Japan, but not until later decades have Rambler-sized luxury cars been acceptable to Americans. You could see them in 1970 asking, “That little thing costs how much??” At the time only Mercedes could get away with that.
Probably couldn’t sell them at a price competitive with American compacts. It was the top of the range car in Japan; it wouldn’t have been cheap. Remember, this was less than ten years after the Corona came on-stream in the American market. Sixties customers wouldn’t have paid a premium for a still relatively-unknown brand. For Mercedes, yes; for Toyota, no.
However, in Australia these were locally assembled, and extremely popular as an alternative to the local Big Three which had caught the dreaded bloat.
In this era, Toyota actually decided not to market it basically at all in the U.S. — it was a deliberate decision, although it was imported in small numbers. As I recall, Toyota freely admitted that they thought they’d have a much better shot marketing the smaller cars, which had no direct Detroit competition. They were probably right at that point.
Probably. It’s too bad they weren’t willing to market the Crown for the US market. I can see its competition being Mercedes-Benz or BMW of the same vintage. If they wanted to compete against the larger cars, like say, the Chevy Nova. The Crown would need a larger engine, probably 3 litres or more.
In 1971 I worked for a Richfield gas station and one day drove a lady customer home and spied in her driveway a 1965 Toyota Crown four door sedan just sitting all dusty .
I asked what the deal was and she said ‘ you can have it for 450 , we didn’t like it very much from new ‘ .
Back then $50 was a months rent (including Utilities) so I passed , probably a mistake in retrospect .
From 1971 ~ 1973 several of my friends bought 1966 ~ 1970 Toyota Sedans (and one Coupe) used , paid top Dollar for them from the local Toyota Dealer and apart from the ones with the 3RB engine , all were pretty nice & reliable little cars .
I wish I’da bought a Coupe as they’re good drivers , super easy on gas and handle O.K. unless you go stupidly fast in them .
Some basic defects ; the GM licensed two speed slush box tranny had a *tiny* reverse band and Americans are lazy/stupid and always like to engage reverse when the car is still rolling forward , this almost always instantly snapped the reverse band , leaving you driving only forward…. young kids can’t afford a $900.00 tranny rebuild when they’re paying the monthly note on a $1,300.00 car so we’d park carefully and push it back whenever necessary .
The passenger side seat had a nice recliner that stripped it’s gears in even a small rear bump traffic collision so many of these cars had the passenger side seat belt permanently holding the seat back up .
Gas tanks were made of crappy steel and rusted out often , always on the top , you’d get one (if lucky) or a dozen (more common) tiny pin holes that’d leak fuel or fumes into the trunk depending on how full the tank was .
There were more niggly little things but in the main they held up well .
A nice looking car, though almost “generic-looking”. Nissan, during the same time period sold a VERY similar looking Bluebird 2 door hardtop that strongly resembled this Crown. And except for the front and rear treatments this also resembles a 68 Ford Torino 2 door hardtop.
Still, for the novelty of it’s being a Toyota, and it’s rarity….I’d still be interested.
The 240 Coupe was the Datsun that competed with this not the smaller 4 banger Bluebird, that was competition for the Corona
Once again I guess I needed to be clearer.
I meant this car looks like a few other (and therefore not HUGELY distinctive), cars that included in some markets: the same year Bluebird 2 door hardtop and in the U.S. the 68 Ford Torino 2 door hardtop. And the rectangular tail lights and headlights further make this a bit plain looking.
It’s most distinctive feature, in the U.S. is that it was never sold new here. And as a runner–up feature? The engine/transmission, as an OHC engine until “recently” in the U.S. was a bit unusual.
This car is absolutely beautiful! The one thing that would make it look better would be some round headlights, in my opinion. Those rectangular headlights don’t work with those beautiful curves!
Another Toyota on my wish list
Nice to see this non U.S. Spec. car wasn’t thrashed then crushed decades ago .
I like the simple , clean lines .
I agree. I’ve heard of JDM Japanese cars that have been left to rust by the side of the road.
I know of one red Honda JDM Coupe that now sports a 2 liter engine and some other go fast things , it’s a daily driver here in Los Angeles , I *might* be able to get it some day .
A fun and fast little pocket rocket .
Hopefully you’ll be able to buy it one day. I miss the Japanese cars, Toyota among them, of the 60s and 70s.
Me too ! .
because he’s a Racer and Hot Rodder , he’s not keeping it as clean and tidy as I like my cars , he’s given me quite a few when he tires of them but most are too beat up to be bothered with so we’ll see .
I keep my fingers crossed .
I know what you mean. I like my vintage cars to be as original, as unrestored, as possible.
it says Dart to me more than anything else.
Gorgeous vehicle. I’m surprised nobody has made mention yet of how these S50 Hardtop Coupes were outright status symbols of the day in Japan. Outside of a Century, 2000GT, or Nissan President sedan, not much could be considered higher on the totem pole. Upon debut, there really wasn’t anything directly comparable from other Japanese manufactures, and these were priced quite a bit above their sedan counterparts as a result. This particular example is likely a basic R-series 4 cylinder model, as it’s lacking the deluxe interior with embossed Crown emblems in the seat backs.
As a bit of an aside, these were one of the first Japanese cars marketed directly as a “personal luxury” item versus a purposely functional family vehicle. Brochures for the hardtop really focus in on this, and almost minimize the actual vehicle itself behind artistic backdrops and traditional symbolism, as shown in the photo below:
I wanted share this photo of a lightly “Americanized” example for those who aren’t sold on the looks of the featured car. The simple steel wheels and white paint of the above example hides a lot of the (potential) beauty these cars have:
Yet another great find Dave.
i have a nice and rare 1970 left hand drive 2door Crown MS51 4 sale with the round front lights
Jean I am interested in your ms51. How do I contact you to talk more?
Old post but just came across it, if anyone know where I might be able to find some parts needed, It will be greatly appreciated, thanks.
Post up the year, model and engine etc. then what you need…..
? Do you have the original Toyota part #’s ? .
NAPA stores used to have nifty printed OEM part # catalogs, maybe you can find an older NAPA store…..