Curbside Outtake: Toyota Crown Athlete Estate and Toyota Avensis – Put Out to Pasture…Prematurely

About a year ago I walked by this Starcraft Ford E150 conversion van in our local suburban Tokyo neighborhood that had obviously been abandoned – I took a trip by this same area last weekend and it was still there – and had acquired a couple of companions…

The Van still looks in pretty good shape, and the Crown and Avensis look like they could be found on any neighborhood used car lot.  It reinforces something I realized when I first arrived in Japan almost 40 years ago – Japanese still view cars as disposable items.  In addition, though its decreased somewhat, there is still a stigma here with driving an older car, i.e., “you’re poor.”  As a result, the collector car hobby is smaller than in the West – just as devoted, but smaller.

Let’s take a look at these new additions; on the left is an eleventh generation S-170 Crown Athlete Estate, made from 1999-2003.  This one has the mesh grille so it must be a 2002 or 03.  During its tenure, you couldn’t get a more top-tier wagon in Japan.  It was also the last in a long line of Crown Estates – subsequent models did not offer one – but this S-170 wagon was kept in production for several years even after the new S-180 model came out in 2004.

They came with a variety of straight six engines from a base 2.0 1G-FE SOHC unit, to the 2.5 turbocharged DOHC 1JZ-GTE, to the big 3.0 DOHC 2JZ-GE.  I had a 1988 GX-71 Cresta with the 1G-FE and a later 1993 S-140 Crown with the 2JZ-GE – both were superb engines; turbine smooth, powerful, and unbreakable.

These Wagons seem to be popular with the current custom inclined wheel crowd…

The Avensis also has an interesting history – it was styled by the Toyota design team in France, and was built with the European market in mind.  Avensis is a derivative of “Avancer” or Advance in French.  It was sold pretty much all over the world, with the exception of North America which already had the Corolla (which it shared a platform, though the Avensis was a touch larger) and Camry.  European models were built at Toyota’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, England.

The one above is a second generation T-250 built from 2003-09 – and looks like a 2003-06 model, again based on the grille.  Engines were a 2.0 1AZ-FSE and 2.4 2AZ-FSE gas four cylinders, and a 2.2 D-4D diesel.  I always thought these were tidy looking little sedans, with a bit of European flair.  I liked the wagon more than the sedan.

There were a couple more cars parked to the right of the Avensis, but they looked as if they were being driven.  As the Van has been here immobile for a good two years now, I don’t have much hope these other two will get back on the road – shame, they no doubt have lots of miles left on them.