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

The good ol’ Crown. Toyota made generation after generation of these cars, yet they stayed pretty much the same. Well, it was the tried and tested American model: keep the chassis and engine going for eons, but put some fresh styling on top every three to four years. It served the Big Three well and Toyota applied it with their customary aptitude in the Crown.

These are now getting rare in my neck of the woods. When I first visited Burma five years ago, they were still fairly common, but things have changed fast in this country. Luckily, I was able to snap one in reasonable nick. And not a moment too soon, as I’m sure these will disappear completely within the next couple of years. This 8th generation Crown was a bit of a dinosaur by the time it was launched in late 1987, and extinction beckons.

The S 130 Crown is not a car that was exported far and wide, unlike some of its predecessors. Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand) and Australia were still on the Toyota Crown’s target list, but by then Toyota had positioned the Camry and the new Lexus marque in North America, and the Carina in Europe. I’m not even sure any LHD versions were made; I did see a couple post-facelift S130 left-hookers here, but I have no idea where they would have been sold when new.

The S130 Crown still used body-on-frame construction, based on the S40 chassis, essentially unchanged from the early ‘60s. From the get-go, plusher Crowns had better coil-sprung rear axles, whereas the standard saloons made do with leafs. By the 7th generation, an all-independent suspension was available on certain models too, such as the Royal Saloon.

This particular example being a Super Deluxe (Crown-speak for “lower mid-range”), it should have the old cart springs. And a longitudinal 2-litre DOHC straight-6. By late 1987, which automaker beside Toyota (and possibly Nissan) would launch a new flagship model with those kinds of specs?

If you wanted something a bit different, you could go for the Royal Saloon (top pic), which had more gadgets along with an independent rear suspension and a 3-litre engine. Or the Super Select hardtop, with its cool roofline (though it’s not a real hardtop per se). Or the Super Deluxe station wagon, with its nifty double rear wipers, which I’ve sighted in traffic before. Crowns galore! But when 1991 came around, there was change in the air.

Facelifted Toyota Crown S130 – a bit overdone on the botox.


In late 1991, the S130 Crown was extensively relooked and unfortunately lost its quirky ‘80s touches, though it did enable it to carry on until 1995. But a new “Crown family” was also spawned in parallel. The hardtop and Royal Saloon were given their own larger bodyshell (Crown S140) in 1991 and Toyota took the Lexus LS’s platform and V8 to create the even swankier Crown Majesta, which was really a completely unrelated car. The smaller and narrower Crown Comfort was soon created too for the fleet/taxi market, also unrelated to the genuine Crown bloodline: the Crown, once the daring of the taxi trade, had become too bloated to be of use. It all became quite confusing, and remains so to this day.

So all the more reason to celebrate this venerable S130, from a simpler time, when ‘60s BOF technology, once married to garish ‘80s styling, made for an acceptable car for the well-heeled subjects of Emperor Showa. This plain Jane version, with its dull grey paintjob and manual transmission, must be extremely rare in Japan now. They likely all left for other climes, though perhaps not better ones – the Russian Far-East is very keen on old Crowns, it seems.

Myanmar’s not a great place to retire either. Terrible roads, dodgy petrol, hot and humid conditions and bad driving are rife here. It seems this one has escaped its inevitable fate thus far. Uneasy lies the Crown…