I know, I know – I’m pushing it. It seems not too many of you care for these S130s. Or even Toyota Crowns in general? Still, you have to work with what you have in front of you, in this joint. And there are still boatloads of these, many in very decent nick, wandering about Japan, so I’m just going to have to photograph them and you’re going to have to read about them.
Well, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, of course, but you’d be missing out. There is a reason why these sold like crazy back in the day – not just the Bubble Economy, but also because they were nigh on indestructible, very comfortable and supremely dignified, in a typically Japanese formal sort of way.
The eighth generation Crown is so old-school, it’s almost pre-K. Body-on-frame, rear live axle, straight-6, fender mirrors, in low-rent Deluxe trim yet with dabs of chrome and, just because I care, I even found you some with whitewalls and two kinds of aftermarket wheels. What’s not to like?
And yes, it is a “them,” because there are two. The S130 chassis led a long and fruitful life that included a major facelift, so we have a somewhat angular ‘80s series 1 and a slightly rounded ‘90s series 2. But apart from that and the later car’s odd two-tone paintwork, this is just the same Crown underneath.
These two would have been ordered with the 1G-FE engine, not the Diesel (too smelly and noisy, only good enough for exports). That was the base engine for the S130 chassis (except for vans) since late 1988: a fuel-injected 1988cc DOHC straight-6 good for 135hp, chiefly calibrated for economy and discretion, certainly not performance. Manual transmission was available, but a 4-speed automatic was near universally preferred.
The S130 was launched in September 1987 as a formal saloon, “pillared hardtop” sedan and wagon – the last time all three body variants moved to a new platform in unison. We’ve seen all three variants already (see the “related posts” section at the end of this post), but some things bear repeating: the hardtop moved to the unit body S140 generation in 1991, as the Crown nameplate broadened to include the V8-powered Majesta.
In parallel, the S130 chassis was kept in production, but the body was given a thorough makeover. Thus, from 1991 to 1995, the Crown formal saloon and the wagon were keeping the Crown’s lights on (the S140 did not sell too well, by comparison). The face of the Series 2 Crown S130 was pretty much lifted as was to become the front end of the Crown Comfort in 1995, which became the default Japanese taxi for the next couple of decades, so it’s easy to mistake this mug for the far more common Comfort, which is also a 2-litre formal RWD saloon, with a live axle and (usually) fender mirrors, but crucially not BoF. It’s actually based on the X80 Mark II platform, so it really is a mix’n’match.
So the Comfort took over formal saloon duties in 1995, causing the S130 to lose the four-door, but the wagon kept on going until December 1999. That’s when the last Crown chassis was mated to the last body, just as the Millennium ticked over. Coincidence? Well, who the hell knows. But I’ll go with yes, because the production decisions of a multinational company are unlikely to be influenced by stuff like this. Right?
Back in the late ‘80s then, you could flash the cash and get a high-end faux hardtop Royal Super Saloon with a 2.5 or a 3-litre engine, as we’ve seen already. Or you were a small company CEO, a provincial municipality or a mid-level yakuza – or just a very financially prudent and very conservative private individual – and you bought a base Deluxe sedan with the modest 2-litre six. That’s our black car.
Or so it seems, because it has a couple of oddities, such as the higher-trim Super Deluxe grille (with fog lamps) and a floor shifter. But hey, the chrome bumpers with black strips are pure Deluxe, so maybe someone ticked some boxes on the options list.
The Series 2 car, in contrast, looks exactly like an early model should (the rear lights are different on the 1993-95 cars). If you were a real cheapskate, the “Standard” trim was still technically available, but in effect, only fleet customers (cab companies, driving schools) were liable to stoop this low.
The interior is just as nice – and the seats just as blue, weirdly enough. Here we have the typical Toyota “sponsored by Viagra” RHD column shifter, standing proud above the dash, the bench seat that could never actually be used by three adults, the aftermarket touchscreen…
The rear compartment of the Series 2 (I failed to capture the older car’s back seat) allowed for very decent space for the passengers, many of which would have been the owners or customers of this chauffeur-driven conveyance. This series 2 car’s odd external colour scheme seems to indicate it was some sort of livery car or private taxi (a fleet taxi would not have this upholstery). The controls on the front bench seat back include the A/C and the radio – everything Mr Tanaka might need to adjust on his way to and from the office.
So what’s your favourite flavour of S130? Yakuza-chic black Series 1 with plenty of bling and a slightly more relaxed atmosphere, or chauffeur-driven Series 2 with better headroom and a back-seat controlled radio?
The S130 Crown, particularly in its formal saloon guise, was never meant to stand out of the crowd. But it all depends what the crowd is like: back in the ‘90s, the S130 was as discreet as its maker and owners wished for it to be. But if you chose a chrome-bumper Deluxe, give it some gaudy aftermarket rims with whitewalls and keep it reasonably shiny, they are starting to really stick out of the lot.
It’s not that today’s JDM traffic is less blingy or anything like that – most current minivans are positively slathered in trowels of plastichrome. But the classic upright three-box saloon shape sported by the S130 Crown has pretty much disappeared (except on the false-friend Crown and Cedric taxis), so these old gals definitely look like they belong to a different century. Which they certainly do.
I found the Series 1 car in this online ad. Makes sense, as I photographed it on a used car dealer’s lot late last year. I saw it again when I passed by there recently. The internet ad does not give any hint as to the asking price, but one must surmise it is heftier than what the market deems acceptable. Or perhaps there are still so many of these about that only the top-of-the-line ones command any interest. Shame, as these humbler Crowns are not without charm, as base models go.
Related posts (by T87):