COAL: Three Generations of Toyota’s Crown – My Life Inside Japanese Royalty

We’ve had some superb recent posts on the Toyota Crown, which hit me as strangely coincidental as I sit and watch  the current Netflix series “The Crown.”  CC effect I assume.  That series continues to be extremely popular and is now entering its third season.  The program focuses on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, from 1947 until the present – over sixty years.  I guess you could say I’ve had a somewhat similar experience with royalty, though mine didn’t involve the Windsors, only covered some thirty-five years, and came with four doors…

I’ve owned three generations of Toyota’s Crown – which other than the limited production Century, and the recent Lexus LS series, has always sat atop Toyota’s JDM model hierarchy.  The recent articles on the Crown addressed its history, so let me just offer some commentary on these three I’ve owned.  Unfortunately I don’t have any original pictures but did find several on the net that were very similar.

Crown MS 60 – Exactly like one I owned

MS 60 – Call Me Captain Ahab…

In 1981, with two years in the Air Force, I was assigned to Japan.  I had recently purchased a 1981 Olds Cutlass Supreme with – wait for it – the 350 diesel.  I could only ship it to Japan on my dime, and after checking on what would be required to get it registered (meet all Japan emissions and safety standards, etc.), decided it would be better to put it into storage.  So I arrived needing wheels.

I looked at the Lemon Lot on base and at several used car dealers off-base.  I quickly discovered that, at that time, JDM models had much shorter seat tracks – understandable given the then median height in Japan.  It was difficult finding something I could fit my 6’6″ frame into.  Finally after a week, I saw a curious looking vehicle at an off-base lot run by a retired GI – it loomed large against the background of smaller Corollas. Celicas, and Sunnies.

It was a 1974 Toyota Crown Super Saloon – model code MS 60.  In Japan, these MS 60’s were nicknamed “Kujira” which is Japanese for “whale”.  The picture above may help explain how it got that name.  This one had about 60K kilometers on the clock, no rust, good tires, nice paint, perfect interior, and two years of Japan Compulsory Insurance (JCI).  The 2.0 carburetored M-series inline six purred smoothly.  Price – $500.  It was at this time that I realized that the guy back at my previous base that told me “everything in Japan is expensive” must have only rode a bike.  The Crown served me well for three years, only needing oil changes and a battery.

Why did I sell it?  Well, I had the opportunity to buy a bright red 1976 Mazda Cosmo with the 13B rotary engine.  I had never owned a rotary before, so…sold the Crown to a buddy for $300.  I got my money’s worth…

Final Thought: Typical Toyota – comfortable, cheap to own, and absolutely reliable.  Throw in quirky styling and it was a real winner.

Ranking (Of three I’ve owned):  #2

MS 85 – Exactly like one I owned

MS 85 – The Snoozy Saloon…

After a few more cars, to include a beloved 1978 Nissan Fairlady Z, I received an assignment to Korea and knew taking the firm-riding, two-seat Z would probably be a bad idea.  An older guy on base was selling his 1978 Crown Royal Saloon – model code MS 85.

It was very similar to my previous one – with exception that the M-series six was now bumped up to 2.6 litres and was fuel injected.  It also had a more modern, much nicer interior compared to the ’74.  Price – $800.  I shipped it to Korea and for a year it floated down the gravel and pot-holed, poor Korean streets – a Queen among a sea of first gen Hyundai Ponies.  Just as importantly, as there were no Toyota dealers, and even few general mechanics, it never gave me a hint of trouble.

Why’d I sell it?  My next assignment was to Hawaii and even though it’s somewhat easier today, back then it would have cost a fortune to try to federalize and get registered.  Sold it to another GI for $600.  Got my money’s worth…

Final Thought: Another very comfortable, dead reliable Toyota.  But the exterior styling of this one was rather bland – so I had more respect for it than passion.

Ranking:  #3

S 140 – Exactly like one I owned

S 140 – The Royal Rocket…

In 2003 I returned to Japan, with a larger family and the need for two cars.  One was easy – we had a Toyota Previa van in the states and wouldn’t think of buying anything else.  While at an off-base lot looking at a first gen Previa (Estima), I noticed a nice looking older Crown nearby.  It was a 1992 Royal Saloon – model code S 140.  Though it was eleven years old, the body and interior looked brand new and it only had 40K on the odometer.  It also had the big 3.0 2JZ-GE DOHC normally aspirated straight six engine.  After a little negotiating, we left the lot with both a car and a van for $7000.

The other Crowns were all very well built, but I could sense the Lexus DNA in this one as soon as I stepped in and drove off – understandable given it shared the same platform as the Lexus GS 300 (called the Toyota Aristo in the home market).  It was smooth, impeccably put together, and powerful.  The advertised specs on this year’s Crown with the 2JZ-GE was 220 hp and 210 ft lbs of torque.  My seat of the pants meter said it made more than that.  That engine had power and torque all through the rev range – and it was turbine smooth.  I can understand why the twin-turbo versions are so highly regarded.

Why’d I sell it? Well, after three years, I saw a very nice 2002 Toyota Mark II with the 2.5 1JZ-FSE direct-injection engine.  Sold the Crown to another GI for $2000.  Got my…well, you know…

Final Thought: Smooth and fast – wish I’d kept it…

Ranking:  #1

2019 Toyota Crown

So, is my time with Japanese royalty over?  Maybe not.  For the past eight years I’ve owned a Volvo C30.  It’s entertaining to drive – rowing through the gears and hearing that unique five cylinder snarl – and I love the seats.  But I have to admit, the new 2019 Crown looks pretty enticing.  And I still occasionally peruse the used car websites for a clean, low-mileage S 140.

Related Posts:

Curbside Classic: 2002 Toyota Crown Comfort Super Deluxe G – Time For A Change

CC Capsule: Toyota Crown – Japanese Import Royalty

Curbside Classic: 1962-67 S40 Toyota Crown – The Generation Gap

Curbside Classic: 1980 Toyota Crown Super Saloon (S110) Hardtop Sedan – Forecourt Queen

Automotive History: Toyota S60/S70 Crown – Thunderwhale

CC Capsule: 1989 Toyota Crown (S 130) Super Deluxe – Conservatism On Four Wheels

In-Motion Classic: 1976 Toyota Crown (S80) Super Saloon – My Kingdom For A Crown