As you know, I have something of a liking for strange cars from the land of the rising sun. That weird blend of seemingly endless money and technological prowess that Japan was running on in the 1980s produced some of the most interesting metal that I have ever laid my eyes on (through the internet and photographs that is). Curiously, one of my favorite JDM-only vehicles is actually one of the most mainstream and ordinary cars that they sell in Japan. The Crown.
I am not entirely sure why. I know it has to do with the fact that I have always preferred my cars comfortable rather than sporty (although the two need not be mutually exclusive). It could have to do with my perchance for classic-style sedans, like its American namesake the Crown Victoria. It could be that it’s a very rare car around here. A couple of months ago I stumbled upon an absolutely mint silver example that could have been mine for a very reasonable price. How mint? The kind of mint that still has dealer paper floormats on. Sadly, the owner decided at the last minute that he much rather keep on not driving it for a bit longer. At which point I felt some relief mixed with the deep pang of disappointment.
You see, the second I placed the offer and sat back on my couch I realized that there was a chance that he could actually accept. And that would mean I would have to pay for it. In money. Moreover, this would be an entirely new experience for me. Every other car that has made it to the Solis household has been bought dead for a pittance and then made work. Aesthetics were a second concern. Who cared if the vinyl was frayed in places or if someone bumped into it and scratched it? And if it had a hole in the upholstery so what? That same unconscious carelessness simply would not fly with a car that had actually been cared for.
Bringing a car back from the brink, it turns out, is much easier than keeping a car from getting anywhere near that brink. I didn’t even have a place to park it, curbside would be madness (Yes, I am very aware of the name of the site on which you are reading this) and trying to protect it would likely attract the same attention that poor old Fiat got. Never had a car had made me felt to joyous and frightened at the same time. And it made me face and swallow the bitter truth: I can’t really own another car.
Can you imagined if it had been our featured car instead of a normal Crown?
Ever since Toyota decided to launch a more elegant version of the Crown, called the Crown Eight after its number of cylinders, in 1964, the Crown had a problem of serving two masters. The people that bought the normal versions and kept it as Toyota’s chief mainstream mid-size offering in Japan on one hand, and the people that bought the uber-luxury versions to replace their large imports. This segmentation kept on until the late eighties, where a 2L Diesel Crown sedan fit for Taxi or fleet use could have shared showroom space with a fully loaded 4.0-litre V8 Royal Saloon G. If you wanted to go any further up the Toyota food chain, you would have to step up to the Century Limousine (which we quite like around here). Clearly, something needed to be done.
In 1991 with the release of the new ninth-generation Toyota Crown, they decided to do something about it. A split, if you will. You could still have a fairly loaded Crown. But the flagship duties done by the Royal Saloon G (Side note, I really love that trim name) would be taken by an entirely new model. This would be the car for the people that thought that the Century was way too conservative. The sort who wanted to project an image that was more Gordon Gekko than Toshiki Kaifu. This would be a limousine with the latest in technology, Traction control, GPS Navigation. Head-Up display. Crucially, it would be visually different from the normal Crown and ride on a stretched platform.
Our featured model, caught by nifty43(nifticus) is actually a third generation model produced anywhere between 1999 and 2004. I’m saying 2001 to hedge my chances. It is very similar with the previous generation model, which went back to more conservative styling after the first generation’s early ‘90s genericness. Engine choices remained the same through its first three generations, the 3.0-liter 2JZ six and the aforementioned 4.0-litre V8, known on this side of the pond from the Lexus SC and LS.
I can see why someone would go through all the trouble of importing one of these to Canada instead of just going for the Lexus LS. Nevermind the fact that driving an RHD car is ever so slightly more difficult on countries where you drive on the right. Nevermind the fact that you will never be able to overtake anything on a two-lane or drive on roads that have tollbooths. Unlike more esoteric kei-cars or a Century, you can actually find someone to work on the oily bits. Put up with the difficulties and you will have a very rare, comfortable luxury car.
Meanwhile, back in Japan, the Crown Majesta is still being produced and offered as an alternative to the Century. For taxing purposes, the V8 is gone and has been replaced by gluten-free, fair trade, carbon neutral, ethically diverse hybrid powerplants. Batteries mated to either 3.5-liter V6 (A configuration lifted straight from the Lexus GS450h.) or a 2.5-liter four. Japanese fuel economy tests give it an average fuel economy of 43 miles per gallon. I would take it with a grain of salt.
As an ending to this article, I’ve decided to forgo the usual declaration of love for our featured car and instead leave you with the ad campaign that Toyota ran for the Crown. Not knowing Japanese, I am not sure if the Majesta is mentioned even in passing. But I would be forever remorseful if I denied our esteemed readers of the pleasure of such a delightfully strange commercial. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed finding these pictures at the cohort, being denied the chance of possibly ruining a mint classic, and of course, that ad itself.