Vintage PR Shot: 1958 Toyopet Crown – It Bombed In America, But The New Crown Is Back For Another Shot

I ran into this shot by accident, but it reminds me that although the Crown bombed out here twice before, Toyota is bringing it back again, right now. Will the third time be the charm? Hmm.

The first attempt with selling the Crown in the US was poor judgment, inasmuch as Americans were gaga about cheap, small imports at the time, and the Crown was too big, heavy, slow and expensive. Its $2187 sticker was about the same as a low end ’58 Chevy, and for a 60 hp four cylinder from a country (and brand) that had not yet established any reputation for cars, that was not going to fly.

Toyota had to retrench (and change the brand name to Toyota) with Land Cruisers and then the Corona before it found traction in the US.

The quite attractively-styled S40 Crown made it back into Toyota’s US lineup sometime in 1965, but it was a rare bird here.

The S50 (1967-1971) was the closest thing to success that Toyota had with the Crown in the US. It was not an easy sell, as many prospective buyers couldn’t see the value proposition, which was so obvious with a Corolla. It just didn’t have the cachet of a Volvo or Peugeot, so it mainly sold to early Toyota cognoscenti, whose numbers were increasing rapidly in the West Coast, and who appreciated its excellent quality and reliability.

But the controversial styling of its successor (S60) quickly killed any momentum the Crown was starting to make, and the storied Crown was discontinued in 1971 after a very short run here.

Of course Toyota eventually offered ever-more popular larger sedans here, especially in the form of the Avalon, which was discontinued last year, and is now set to be replaced by the new Crown.

Curiously, the new Crown sports a horizontal motif across the top of its front end that all-too obviously echoes the one on the ill-fated S60. Now that’s an interesting choice. And of course, it’s really a crossover sedan, as it sits tall and sports the obligatory black wheel-well extensions.

The base powertrain is the familiar hybrid setup consisting of the 2.5 L four teamed with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive (eCVT). Its combined EPA rating is 41 mpg. For those wanting something a bit brisker, there’s Toyota’s “Hybrid Max” system that teams a turbocharged 2.4 L four with an electric motor and a six speed transmission. Now that’s a bit different, for Toyota. Power is 340 hp, and it’s brisk, but fuel economy drops to 39 mpg combined.

The initial reviews have some mixed feelings; apparently there’s a few ergonomic oddities and a back seat that doesn’t seat three all that well. Prices start at $41,045 plus $1,095 destination charge.

Will this be the new senior citizen sedan of choice, like the Avalon, which was a better Buick? We shall see.

I’m still surprised to see that stylistic tribute to the ill-fated S60, but no one else in the media seems to have picked up on it.