The other day, I fell in love. It was a sunny Saturday morning and I was moseying down the street for whatever reason. The traffic was bad, as it often is in our street. But there was more to it that day than the usual pickup trucks and pink taxis. There was CC royalty amid the riff-raff.
I not only found my phone, but it was charged. Thanks to the snail’s pace of traffic, I managed to get a few decent shots of this brown beauty. Yet another Crown, yes. I have written up this nameplate several times before, but there are so many to pick from. This was my first proper encounter with the fifth generation (S80 / S90 / S100) of the second half of the ‘70s. The Disco Crown.
Sure, the previous generation S60 “Kujira” Crown is more dramatic. It does overshadow the Crowns that preceded and followed to some extent. But this more conservative 1974-79 generation had a lot of class, especially in the metal and among present-day traffic.
I had caught a pristine 2600 Super Saloon, the most conservative of the Crown’s four body styles, in the second highest trim and with the largest engine. The S90 “Pillared Hardtop” and coupé (above) shared a more “Coke bottle” approach, while the more formal S80/S100 saloon and wagon (below) had a roomier greenhouse and straighter fenders.
This generation Crown was still exported to Europe, both cars above being a good example. It had a lot of success in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region in general, but it never made it to the US. Which is a blessing: just imagine how it would have looked with black botox bumpers.
It seems chauffeur-driven, as befits a glitzy, yet dignified and spotless 40-year-old Crown saloon. It’s like a mini Century. I’ve seen a few high-end saloons (Jaguar XJ6, Mercedes S-Class, etc.) of that era around town, manifestly still used by their original owners – always with a driver. The low, sleek saloon glided along silently past me. What a profile this car has! But the sculpting of the beltline reminded me of something…
This Crown looked like it had one of the Citroën CX’s most effective features: a slightly arched double-dipping beltline, the lower end stretching from the very front to the rear doors and the higher end from the windshield to the tail. Given that both cars came out the same year and quite a world apart, this looks like a case of convergent evolution.
It’s a bit wasted on the Crown, though. Robert Opron used this on a streamlined fastback design, where it made a lot of sense. And the CX designer made sure the two beltlines were parallel. On the Crown, it just sits there, not really echoed by the rest of the car in any way. Like the horizontal crease (blue line) that should never have been there. But there’s a way to sort of fix that.
On our featured car, that superfluous blue line is almost cancelled out by the dark paintwork and the way the car is lit. It’s still there, but blends in better. So only very dark colours really work for the S80. It’s a shame and a missed opportunity, but it still makes for a much better profile than the Kujira, which nonetheless passed on quite a bit of its genes to our fifth generation. It would be difficult to guess which came first between the S80 or the S60.
Though I’m thoroughly won over by the S80 Crown, I’m not blind to its main faults. It’s a technological dinosaur in a wannabe-Detroit suit a couple sizes too big. The face and tail lack the S60’s weird madness, or the S40 / S50’s Sixties charm. But it sure beats the successive generations, starting with Crown number six above, which looks like a Lincoln Versailles that shrank in the wash.
OK, I’m being harsh, I take it back. But I do feel this fifth Crown was the last jewel this still-extant nameplate has had. Too bad I only managed to see it so briefly. It has an elegance that few Japanese cars (and even fewer American cars) attained in the cursed mid-‘70s. From the outside, it seemed a perfect size – pretty long but not too wide – and quite roomy inside. And in this country, it’s much easier to find and run these than a CX.
Congratulations, Toyota Crown S80 Super Saloon, you made it to my Bangkok fantasy garage. But there’s still a Kujira of a difference between that and reality.