CC Capsule: 1989 Toyota Mark II Grande (X80) – Onwards And Eastwards

I’m going to level with you, my fellow CCurbivores: Thailand was not the greatest place on Earth to find CC fodder. I did find a few presentable classics here and there, but the majority of my Thai finds were clapped out and/or highly dodgy oddballs that seemed about as original as Cher’s face. I have a few Thai CCs left over in my files for later, so I’ll take you back there someday. But I’ve now decamped and moved on to pastures new – and perhaps greener.

Yes, it’s Nippon time for T87 – two time zones further to the East and several parallels north from Thailand, but more importantly in a place that has a vibrant automotive culture and tradition. Of course, these days, said automotive culture is made up of angry-looking minivans and ridiculous kepi-like kei cars, but there is hope (and I’m not talking of Mitsuoka – that’s not hope, that’s welcome comic relief). My hope, for instance, is that Toyota et al. might one day wake up and realize that their long-lasting love affair with the hardtop sedan (they’re definitely not ‘saloons,’ in my lexicon), which lasted well into the ‘90s, ought to be rekindled.

The rakishly lowered roofline of this Mark II is a case in point. It’s the antithesis of the GM / Chrysler “formal look” of the same period. It just looks so much better that I wish I could go back in time, capture Irv Rybicki and whoever the f#%k designed the K-cars, and plop them in front of one of these to show them the error of their ways. Not that it was any better in Europe, really. The ‘80s/’90s were a pretty lousy period for car design, in my opinion. But along with the horrid Austin Montegos, Citroën AXs and Ford Orions (to name but three – my personal blacklist is quite long for ‘80s/’90s cars) that I despised while in my formative years, the Japanese cars seen in Europe back then were also very dull. We certainly never got anything like the Mark II. In the US and Australia, the similar Cressida was available, but it lacked this car’s awesome “pillared hardtop” party trick, thinner headlights and slimmer bumpers.

I’m not blaming the Japanese automakers for their strategy, but it does have its drawbacks. Some say the Italians do the same thing with their wine – export the plonk and keep the good stuff. There’s something to be said for that, but it also means that when a new competitor with better plonk comes along (e.g. Chile, New Zealand or South Africa), your exports take a hit. In the Japanese automakers’ case, the competitors were the Koreans, who succeeded in capturing a slice of the global market that the Japanese will probably never see again.

Despite emanating from automotive design’s bleakest era, this Mark II is just the way I like my CCs, with just enough tackiness in the detailing and doilies on the seats to warrant a short post. To give it its full name, it is a Toyota Mark II Grande Hardtop (X80) – an early model of the 6th generation of the Mark II, originally a derivative of the Corona. These hadotoppu Mark IIs were made from mid-1988 to 1992 and came with a range of 6-cyl. engines from 2 to 3 litres, unlike the more mundane high-roof non-Grande Mark IIs that usually had a 4-cyl. and made for decent taxis, but not much else, at least on the JDM.

There aren’t exactly tons of older cars going around in the streets of my little corner of central Honshu – this is Japan, after all, where patriotic duty and government incentives drive the car market harder than anywhere else in Asia. But having been here for about six weeks now, I’m confident that there are some really juicy finds to be unearthed here. To be continued, then. And a big konnichiwa to Jim Brophy – we’re hunting on the same turf now, but I’m sure this place is big enough for the both of us.