"Think of the minibus and a converted van with many seats will spring to mind for most of you, as in nothing much to get excited about. But not all minibuses were built equally. As for the last five decades, "
The early seventies Toyota sedan is a superb custom platform
At Mooneyes Yokohama last year custom Crowns were some of the stars of the show.
With their Celica-like face, burly presence and otherworldly styling, the early seventies manifestation of Toyota’s domestic luxury sedan is one of the most appealing and distinctive cars of the era. Lancashire-based Peter Hunter edits the Toyota Enthusiasts Club magazine and owns three Toyota Crowns from the early seventies. Who better to comment?
What is it about the S60/70 Crowns that appeals to you so much?
The early 1970s Crowns are distinctly Japanese in style and character, so they always stand out at any car gathering. For this model of Crown, the stepped corners of the front wings remains a unique styling feature – you may love it or hate it, but you can’t ignore it! They have lots of chrome features; something that has almost completely disappeared from car styling today. The smooth straight 6-cylinder engine and auto gearbox mean smooth unruffled progress. A ‘perimeter frame’ chassis gives a feeling of solidity and stability.
How did you come across the Crown for the first time?
The Austin 1800 I owned at the time (1977) was becoming too cramped for carrying wife and three children, plus two grandparents, so more seats were needed. The Crown Custom Estate has a total of seven seats, and the two small folding seats in the boot area were ideal for our two small boys. The Crown was the best estate of this kind as the folding rear seat is just as large and comfortable for three as a saloon. Other estates of this kind had rather spartan rear seats designed for ease of folding rather than sitting on.
Tell us about the three cars you own.
The 1973 Crown Custom Estate is probably still my favourite as it was my first Toyota and served me so well for many years; it is still a very comfortable long distance car and a great load carrier. The 1974 Coupe is the “glamour” model of the range and attracts the most attention, although I would never have contemplated a 2-door car as a family car when I still had children to carry around! The 1968 Saloon was the first Crown imported to this country by Toyota GB, and was used for appraisal and as a press demonstrator. It is now the only example of this model left in the UK, and the 2 or 3 remaining slightly different face-lifted examples of the same generation are not roadworthy.
images: Peter Hunter
Why do you think the Japanese, and Toyota in particular, make such strong cars?
Probably due to Japanese road conditions when they first began manufacture, as at the time many roads in Japan were unsurfaced and very rough. Also, Toyota had a determination to make cars which were comparable in strength and durability to imported American cars – the design of the early Crown was heavily influenced by American cars. The Japanese also seem to have a characteristic desire first to learn and to then improve.
Is there any comparison for you between Toyota cars from the 1970s and the company’s current model range?
Only in that there is still the determination to build the best car they can in any given category and price bracket. The distinctive Japanese character has largely disappeared as cars are now made very much for a world market to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers. This has tended to produce a blandness in design.
Check out Toyota Enthusiasts Club.
header image: Influx/Michael Fordham
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