I recently had to go to Laos for a couple of days, which is always a pleasure. It was one of the first countries I really explored when I came to Asia, and a trip there never fails to perk up the sprit. Lao people are very laid back. The town of Vientiane, on the north bank of the Mekong, is about as peaceful as South-East Asia gets. Alas, as I recalled from my last stay there, the pickings would be slim, CC-wise.
Let me show you what we’re talking about here. This is downtown Vientiane, near the Mekong, at about 2pm. Getting any car at all was sometimes a challenge in itself. Below, a larger street at the 5pm “rush hour.”
And the Lao being quite close, culturally-speaking, to the Thais, their vehicle of choice is identical to their southern neighbours: pickup trucks, preferably double-cab – sometimes Chinese-made, but mostly Japanese or Korean marques. The one above appears to be a Daehan, a Vietnamese marque that started assembling trucks in Laos itself a couple of years ago.
Saloon-wise, a few folks have started buying Chinese cars as well. The MG is perhaps one of the best exports out of China. They are not cheap, but can be seen pretty much in every country from China to Australia. But many other Chinese manufacturers are present here – more than in than in any other country in the region. Even in Myanmar, where Chinese cars and trucks are often seen, the overwhelming bias is towards Toyota.
The Chery QQ is still relatively common there as a taxi, but you don’t necessarily find all these other models, such as that red Chana Benni or the Wuling (top left), which is also sometimes seen in Thailand. Dongfeng, FAW and Lifan vans and trucks are rampant.
So in the midst of this mediocrity, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a glorious derriere, full of chrome and large taillamps… The Kujira was here, in this CC-free environment! And next to a VW Beetle, no less. But I didn’t even notice the Type 1 until I reviewed the pictures later on.
I daresay that I shall skip the Toyota Crown’s illustrious model history entirely. No period photos and no smorgasbord of competitors to compare it with. Others have told this story in sublime detail already. But I will proclaim my eternal lust for this generation of Toyota Crowns. I like all three body variants (saloon, coupé and wagon). They all have their strong points. The saloon is the only one that has no weak point, design-wise. By far and away, this is my favourite Crown and the best-looking Toyota of its decade.
Simple, yet effective detailing, like the chromed C-pillar vents, is evident everywhere on this car. It was the sign of an interesting turn for Japanese styling. The US market was opening up, so the Japanese automakers completely switched to Detroit for its inspiration, after having had a lot of input from the Italians in the ‘60s.
The Euro-Italian connection might have influenced the Crown’s highly distinctive prow. Some hint of Pietro Frua, or perhaps Goertz, who had designed the 2000 GT? Apparently not, but somebody at Toyota must have channeled these guys for this daring design.
The Crown’s quad eyes are sunk deep within the grille/bumper assembly. Thanks to the shade, at some angles, the Crown looks like it has hidden headlamps, like the T-Bird that seems to have inspired it. Neat trick. The car’s dimensions are pretty big, though. No wonder they call it Kujira – the whale.
This is a RHD model, so odds are it made it to Laos, where cars are usually LHD, via Thailand. Or it could be a survivor from the Japanese embassy motor pool. Either way, it looks like it has a 3- or 4-speed manual (with or without O/D), probably mated to the smallest engines – the ever-present 2-litre duo, available as a 4- or a 6-cyl. This Kujira’s had a long life, which doesn’t seem to be completely over as yet, judging by the cabin, the “protective polystyrene” blocks put on the tail and the feather duster gathering dust on the hood.
The Japanese taste for Detroit started to fade by the late ‘70s, though it remained quite strong in certain JDM products (such as the Crown, the Debonair or the Cedric) even beyond the ‘90s. Most Japanese designs of the ‘70s fall into either the “bland” or the “wacko” categories, with precious few managing to bring together a cohesive design. It’s easier to make an American-inspired design work on a larger car, obviously. But many a large Japanese car would fall into the “bland” category. This Crown eschews this fate by having just enough wacko to counterbalance the bland.
This is definitely a pre-facelift 1st series S60 (Feb. 1971-Feb 1973), which didn’t come as a Royal Saloon, so that badge was probably added later. The original badge was still there, on the left rear fender. This is definitely a low-spec Crown – no A/C, no Toyoglide, no power windows. A/C is really something you need almost year-round in Southeast Asia, but I’m sure something could be made to fit a car this big. But with only about 100 hp (the 6-cyl. was a 104 hp (DIN); the 4-cyl. was 97 hp (DIN)) to pull this Japanese XL-sizer (equivalent to a US “M” size and to a Euro “L”, as are all clothes in Asia), there’s not many horses to spare. So no mountains for this whale.
I highly recommend Laos. Just don’t spend more than two-three days in Vientiane. There are other places to see, and it’s really worth seeing. Someday, I’ll go back to Luang Prabang (plenty of CCs there, as I recall), or see the Plain of Jars. And someday, I might get me a Kujira Crown. I’ve seen a few in Bangkok. Gotta have A/C, though. And be in better nick than this one…
Automotive History: Toyota S60/S70 Crown – Thunderwhale., by Don Andreina
Curbside Capsule: 1971-74 Toyota Crown (S60) Sedan – Striking Is The Head That Wears The Crown, by William Stopford
Great write-up! I’ve become slightly obsessed with this generation of Crowns too.
Would love to find a rust free low mileage Whale. Having grown up in the Midwest, I saw many Datsun 510s, Corollas, Coronas and even odd Subarus, but only recall seeing this Crown in National Geographic adverts.
Great find. They might have been channeling detroit, but it sure backfired. This Crown was a total dud in the US, after its predecessors had been moderately successful (at least on the West Coast) for several generations. This is the car that killed the Crown in the US. I guess US Crown buyers were a very conservative bunch, and that front end scared them off.
Yes, it’s interesting how this generation Crown was the last one sold in the US, but was also the first one to have some success in Europe. Toyota sold the Crown in several European markets until the ’80s, though they never set any sales records, they were boxing in a tough category. It was also exported throughout the Asia-Pacific region, like most Japanese cars of the era.
It’s nevertheless a fact that the S60 was a global sales disappointment. And given that it shared the previous gen’s underpinnings, the blame is usually assigned to the S90’s controversial looks (though I suspect the Oil Shock may also have had an impact). Toyota stopped production of the S60 in early 1974 but took over six months to sell their stocks. The next generation Crown was launched in October.
Remembering this Crown well — around college campuses in the early ’70’s.
The nifty styling always drew my attention. Presuming these were known for quality, just as the modern Toyotas are. Must have been a quality machine to have survived driver use to this day.
That’s the dirtiest car duster I’ve ever seen.
I thought it was a cat until I read the text.
It is. I use ours to dust the car with.
Admittedly, he does complain about the stick.
From the front and sides this generation of Crown has always looked, at least to me, like a man who has borrowed a suit of clothes from a much larger friend.
The front bumper looks way too big, and yet appears to want to disguise the fact by being body colored. Even the vents in the roof pillars look to be much larger than they need to be, but that could be the camera angle I suppose?
Having seen all 3 body styles “in the metal” over the years I have to say that I feel that the wagon carries off this look the best, and the 2 door comes across, in a fairly decent way, as Toyota’s take on a late 60s Thunderbird. The 4 door sedan? Looks okay.
Yes, that is one dirty car, but considering some of the factory colors these cars were available in, maybe a dirty car is preferable?
And keep in mind, water can be quite scarce/expensive in some countries of the world.
I really want to like these, but just cannot get past the looks. Which is really two problems for me. First, the obvious: that front end just does not work for me, except in a Virgil-Exner-62 Dart kind of way. The bigger problem is that beltline. I am fine with straight-through beltlines (like a 68 Chrysler). I am fine with big curvy hips (67 Impala) or dips (56 Bel Air) or Hoffmeister kinks (Classic BMW 5 series). What I cannot abide is a midline that cannot decide what it wants to be. The 1970+ AMC Matador suffered from this same problem. It is like the stylists took every possible approach then worked out a formula to average them.
I totally get what you’re saying about the broken beltline issue, JPC. It almost never works. But somehow, on this car, it does. It’s part of the quirkiness of the design that, to me, adds appeal. But this car, more than most, is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it…
Is it my imagination, but the design of the C-pillar of the Toyota Crown reminds me of the C-pillar of the Holden Belmont/Kingswood sedan of the late 1960s-early 1970s?
Only in a general kind of way. When you see the two in the metal, the Kingswood is all flat surfaces, angles and squareness for visual strength (built like a brick dunny, as we’d say), whereas the Crown is curves, lightness, airiness and delicacy in comparison.
I sort-of agree with Pete, though I much prefer the Holden. Interestingly, Stephane, it depends a little as to whether you mean a Kingswood/Belmont or a Premier roof; even though the Premier was just the high trim line, the rear roof is different, and more upright. Closer to the Toyota effort.
Very cool find! I see a lot of Chrysler Fuselage design inspiration in it.
Take off the top tier off the front end and I also see a lot of 1971 Dodge Coronet.
Great find – this was one of the cars that told the UK that Japan was serious about things other than econo-boxes.
Not everyone’s taste, but you’d be unlikely to be meet a dissatisfied owner in the mid 1970s.
Great article. Sadly unlike a Beetle, theres no chance to find a japanese car of this age here in my neck of the woods. They were rare birds back then. If the Crown in particular was imported I don´t know.
This liitle truck with it´s BMWesque front grille looks strange.
That truck is a Dongfeng. Starting to see them in Thailand now as well. The Chinese are coming. The Koreans and Japanese carmakers had better brace for it…
I really, really like these crowns; they strike me as the contemporaneous Mopars of a parallel universe.
(I really, really like the ’60-’62 Valiant/Lancer/Rebel, too, though, so…)
The Mopar connection (as you and others rightly pointed out) and the T-Bird with a unique blend of sake-infused delirium. What’s not to like?
I’m more of a Valiant-skeptic. If you replace the sake with moonshine, the results can be a bit over-the-top (and the sides).
I’ve always loved these Crowns. The styling was way out there, walking that fine line between being challenging without being ugly. From what I remember, they were pretty popular here in Australia too.
That’s what I’ve always liked about the 1972-74 Toyota Crown.
Is it a dead crow on the hood or it’s time for me to see an eye doctor.
Great find T87. For some reason, all the sedans I’ve seen in oz are the second series although I’ve seen some s1 coupes but I suspect they are private imports. I’m wondering if we never actually got them, which is odd because that would mean a two-year hiatus for the Crown over here which I’ve never heard of.
I’ve wondered whether Syd Mead was actually involved in the styling; it seems to have a taste of his work but, again, nothing has emerged. He did, however, do the cover for the Toyota US annual dealer meeting issue with the contemporaneous (and kujira-derived) Corona depicted.
Just checked my old Wheels magazines Don, and Australia got the S1 S60 Crown from December 1971. They were assembled by AMI in Custom and SE models – though the Custom disappeared during 1972 leaving just the SE. They were 2600cc, Wheels didn’t list the coupes or wagons – although both those variants were available in New Zealand, so they may have been available by special order in Australia.
In an uncommon (then) move for Wheels, they featured one as the cover car of their December 1971 issue. I took a photo of the cover for your delectation – see below.
Thanks Scott. To this day, I cannot remember seeing a sedan with the colour-coded bumpers. I thought maybe they’d continued with the S50 until 73 but apparently not. Cheers
The 2019 Avalon channels the Kojira. The slim LED headlight / side marker modules resemble the Kojira’s parking lamp / side markers, while the styling of the front corners are similar. Kojira lives! Perhaps someone in Toyota still has a soft spot for the old and charismatic Crown.
These were quite popular back in the day, I didnt know they could be had with a four banger all the S60 Crowns Ive seen had the 2.6L 4M OHC six, might have been a JDM only thing This one will be a four speed some earlier model had a three speed column shift but Ive never seen one of these with it, Popularly repowered with Holden sixes or the baby 253 cube V8 as they almost bolt right in and Toyota engine rebuilds are expensive and common.
Great find – had a 1974 Royal Saloon with the 2.0 litre M series OHC six from 1981 to 83 while in Japan. Can still remember the black brocade seats. Was one of the few JDM cars at the time I could comfortably fit my 6’6″ frame into…
This is my favourite Crown ever. It showed that Toyota could be adventurous and innovative back then. As Old Pete and KiwiBryce say, these were quiet popular in Australia, as were the Datsun 240/260Cs. Unfortunately we never got the (Crown) wagon or hardtop here. In contrast the 240/260s had all body styles offered here. A bit strange as whilst we never received the Crown hardtop I’m our market we always got the Crown wagon, except this generation. I suspect the conservative importer thought the wagon version looked too radical and wouldn’t sell. I once saw a mint light metallic blue wagon in Sydney and fell in love.
We got the manuals and automatics, all floor shift, with the 2600 engine. Unfortunately all or the majority of (happy for any Crown experts to confirm this) the Crowns for this generation were locally assembled. That meant no tinting on the windows, no C pillar reading lamps, no heated rear window, boring paint colours like fire engine red and mustard yellow and ghastly white vinyl seats etc. On a couple of occasions I sported a fully imported example with power windows, tints etc etc and it was much nicer.
The front of these is comical, a real Frankenface. “And lo, beneath the forehead of one face, another sadder one looked out.”
For the life of me, I cannot see fuselage in these. I would almost put money on the side glass being straight up and down, for one.
What I do see is a lot of the ideas of others, lumpily joined into a disparate whole. I didn’t like them as a kid, or, beyond current rarity, now. And they were all orange.
Well, alright, perhaps I kept seeing the same one locally, as all older drivers look the same to a kid (and only older folk bought these and Crowns), but they SEEMED all to be orange.
Mr Bryce of Kiwi is quite right, the engines on these were not stellar. The tappets sounded like a tap-dance class from new, and by about 80,000 miles the class had grown hobnail boots and taken up chainsmoking, but I’ve never heard of the Holden swap. A rare time a Holden engine was superior to a Toyota job.
Good find, Mr 87.
Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve seen one of these I’d forgotten all about them. Not a huge hit in the US, even in California. Now, with the benefit of a few decades, when I looked at the front end, the first thing that came to mind was the cowl of the pre-facelift (‘99-‘03) Fiat Multipla. Could some stylist in Turin have ben a closet Crown fan?
I’ve always been interested in the 1971-74 Toyota MS60 Crown. I consider it damn unforgivable that it never sold well in the USA. I find it more attractive than most Japanese cars of the same vintage that were sold in the USA.
Hi guys, Me and my wife are here in Laos and we saw some very interesting, I’m Cuban so I love cars and I am a mechanic as well, this cars blew my mind “ Toyota Crown Royal Saloon “ what a car so beautiful and well designed, then looking for info we found this article and we realized that is the same car. How wonderful is that, sorry but make me happy see any kind of wonderful engineering, wan to share the picture. Sldos Tony