Yes, I know, it’s getting repetitive. “Yet another late 20th Century white Toyota JDM-only hardtop sedan? It’s the third in as many days, T87. You’ve changed, man,” some will object, hopefully internally. And that’s a fair point, though I haven’t really changed – it’s the setting that has evolved. I’m in Japan now, so it’s going to be a relatively strict diet of Nippon-style weirdness for the foreseeable future.
But I hope others will see this and think “Cool! More unfamiliar Japanese awesomeness, and this time, with a bit more of a sporting edge. T87 strikes again. Banzai!” So to the former lamenter group, I say bear with me – I’m finishing up another round of European Deadly Sins, to be posted as soon as. And to the latter JDM enthusiasts: you’re in luck, because there’s plenty more where these came from, starting with this mildly customized gem of a Cresta GT.
You’re familiar with the Cresta, of course. No, not the exclusive French-built Bentley coupé I wrote about a couple of months ago. And no, not the higher-trim ‘50s-‘70s Vauxhall either. Nor the 1935-38 Hillman Aero Minx hardtop coupé, though well done for knowing about that one. I’m talking about the 2nd generation Toyota Cresta, a kissing bowing cousin of the Mark II, the Chaser and the Cressida, also known as the X70 platform.
The Corona Mark II was born in 1968 as the Goldilocks solution for folks who though the Crown was too big and the Corona too small. By the Corona Mark II’s third generation (X30/X40), in 1977, the sportier JDM Chaser sister model was introduced, along with the export-only Cressida. The Cresta nameplate, launched in 1980, was the last of the bunch to be created. It was essentially a gussied up, 6-cyl.-only version of the Chaser – something of a downsized Crown, if you will. It had fancy trim names such as Super Lucent or Super Touring and was only available as a “pillared hardtop” sedan. Unlike the Mark II and Chaser, which were identical in everything but trim, the Cresta sported some model-specific sheetmetal, which was always Toyota’s way of signifying a certain level of exclusivity.
In 1984, when the X70 platform was launched in Japan, it was therefore available as the 5th generation Mark II (now sans Corona) or 3rd generation Chaser or 2nd generation Cresta, depending on which Toyota dealer you went to and what you want to shell out for the hot new hadtoppu. Toyota were selling these by the trainload all over Japan, but one of the more sought-after models was the Cresta GT, which appeared only in April 1985, just over a year before the model’s mid-life facelift.
The X70 Cresta kept its distinctive rear end and even got its own mock-hardtop greenhouse design, except for some lower-trim models such as the above Customs, which had the same genuine hardtop as the Mark II / Chaser, as well as the traditional wing-mounted mirrors found on the more conservative JDM offerings. Yes, it’s all a mite confusing, but that’s what Toyota were playing at in those days, hitting the domestic consumer from all possible angles with 20-odd variations of three near-identical cars, just to make sure.
Our feature car is the polar opposite of a lowly Custom. It has the restyled bumper and headlamps of the later 1986-88 Crestas, as well as the hottest G-engine available: a 24-valve 2-litre DOHC 6-cyl. twin-turbo that produced 185 hp. This small yet powerful six could also be ordered in Mark IIs and Chasers, as well as in the Soarer and Supra coupés. Unlike contemporary Cressidas with their great big 2.8s, the JDM X70’s biggest petrol engine was the 2-litre.
For most Mark II / Chaser / Cresta aficionados – and there are quite a few here, the Cresta GT represents the ultimate ‘80s sports sedan, because it’s the swankiest one, the one has that unique look. To use a contemporary analogy (albeit a slightly insulting one for Toyota), it’s the Buick Century / Olds Cutlass Ciera to the Mark II’s Chevy Celebrity and the Chaser’s Pontiac 6000.
I wrote it before and I’ll write it again: I don’t care for wider tyres and big shiny look-at-me rims. Classic cars always look better in stock form, in my opinion. It’s no different here, but given the nature of the beast, it’s to be expected. Heck, it’s even more than expected: customizing these Crestas is almost de rigueur. Just do a Google image search of “Cresta GT Twin Turbo GX71,” and you get 90% of pictures of lowered GTs like our CC, with varying degrees and designs of hypertrophied wheels.
It’s so commonplace that even the model car makers started cashing in on the craze. This is where customization loses me: if the whole point is to “individualize” your ride, why feel the need to copy what others have done? Classic cars are sort of the opposite of fashion, yet customizers manage to re-inject that notion into the hobby to “look different,” when stock classics look different by their very nature.
But I digress, and it’s not that important on a car like this, especially since Japanese customizers usually tend to focus solely on wheels and suspension settings, but leave the rest of the car well alone. You can’t really improve on a Cresta GT, it seems. This one was as pristine as a 30-plus year old car can be, body-wise. That certainly wasn’t the case with yesterday’s Crown Majesta.
The interior seems pretty original, except for the gearknob and the aftermarket steering wheel, but I’ll admit those actually look pretty cool. I also like the design of those seats – and for once, there were none of these dreadful white lace covers that make most Japanese saloons feel like Grandma’s parlour. The dark brown fabric is par for the course on a JDM product of this era. I don’t mind it, as it’s certainly more pleasing to the eye than the 15-shades-of-grey interiors that seems to have plagued later big Toyotas, at least those sold domestically.
In conclusion, then, what place could the Cresta claim in the pantheon of desirable Toyotas? It seems that not a few CC writers have waxed lyrical on the same-generation Cressida, including our new lord and master Jim Klein in this COAL post. I have no skin in this game, really, as Cressidas were not really a thing in Europe. Big Japanese cars were rare there in the ‘80s, except in a few specific markets, such as Switzerland, where they were just slightly more visible. I’m sure X70 Cressidas were around, but I don’t recall ever seeing one, and certainly never in hardtop (or even “faux hardtop”) guise.
But it seems to me, just by comparing the photos I took with the American Cressidas documented in several CC posts, that the Cresta positively trounces the Cressida in terms of performance and curb appeal. So here’s the QOTD: How many of you X70 fans are wiping drool (and/or other precious bodily fluids) off your keyboard at this precise moment?