By on October 28, 2011

The Cressida was never a big seller in North America, and the second- and third-generation versions make up most of the examples you’ll see these days. First-gen ones like this ’80 I spotted in an Oakland self-service yard on Monday are just about nonexistent… and the number of survivors is about to be reduced by one.
Rear-wheel-drive, big 4M engine, and fuel injection made the early Cressida a good driver, but the styling was inscrutably Japanese and Detroit sold bigger cars for much less.
This one is pretty well trashed. The 5-digit odometer shows 54,000 miles, but I’ll bet it’s been turned over at least twice.
I just love the non-focus-grouped look of the controls in pre-1990 Japanese cars. Some engineer probably designed this one during his lunch break.
I had no choice but to buy this Jeco digital clock for my collection of car clocks (now up to 40+ units). I haven’t tested it yet, but it should work.

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46 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Toyota Cressida...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? I thought that every Toyota ever built was still magically on the road somewhere having only received gas and oil changes, and tires – having required NO visits to the dealer otherwise since leaving the lot after being sold.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re either still running as yu describe, or they’ve rusted into a pile.

      That said, there’s a mint 700 sedan at my local dealer. If you’ve ever wanted to know why modern small cars look so dorky, trying to squeeze into what amounts to a 5/8ths scale Ford Falcon demonstrates the issue handily.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Lovely. Always like cressidas, though I’m partial to the 2nd gen wagon.

    Wonder what the ESP light is for (in the instrument cluster)

    • 0 avatar

      ESP (Electro Sensor Panel) was an electronic fluids and bulb check feature found on various 1970s Toyotas.

      • 0 avatar

        My 76 Corona had a ESP just above the shifter. One of the warning lights was for “vacuum boost” which I guess was associated with the brakes or some voodoo. At any rate, the damn light and annoying clicking noise that accompanied it would NEVER turn off. My dad had to disconnect the panel altogether to give us some sanity.

      • 0 avatar

        Here’s a great picture of that Electro Sensor Panel from a ’75 Corona Mark II.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t think Toyota had installed Elektronisches Stabilitätsprogramm ahead of its time…

  • avatar

    Another neat feature is the Jimmy Carter inspired 85 MPH speedometer. It looks like Toyota just Sharpied over the numbers that were higher than 85.

  • avatar

    “I just love the non-focus-grouped look of the controls in pre-1990 Japanese cars.”

    Is that a critical or complimentary comment? Having used that same exact cruise control module in a 2nd gen Cressida I can tell you that it was a model of simplicity compared to the units GM used for years. Nissan and Toyota were using simple stalk-mounted wiper and headlight switches 25 years before the dummies in Detroit caught on. What a great car (the 1st gen Supra too).

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Your report should have read: “Detroit sold LESSER cars for less”. What a shme you can hardly find any used Cressidas for sale anymore, anyone who has a decent one, just won’t part with it.

  • avatar

    I suspect a late Cressida would make a great LeMons car, given all the vehicles it shares parts with.

  • avatar

    You could probably buy this and part it out and make money. The interior has some salvageable parts.

    I just say an 1970 Toyota Crown in a junkyard sweet looking car.

  • avatar

    I remember way back in 1982 when we bought our first Accord, a burgundy 1980 sedan, the salesman tried to sell us that Cressida, or one exactly like it.

  • avatar


    Great post as usual. A question.

    How many of these junkyard finds were voted car of the year? As in Motor Trend/C&D. We had a Renault Alliance/Encore that went to scrap at my work. It fooled the press in its day but where is the retribution?

    Perhaps the subject deserves its own column?

  • avatar

    …and Detroit sold bigger cars for much less.”
    Yes, but could they match that snazzy velour interior? Come to think of it, yes, they could.

    • 0 avatar

      They were also complete trash compared to pretty much anything from Japan at that time, let alone a Cressida. Every Cressida from 1980 onward had EFI, while big land barge Cadillacs with the Olds V8s still soldiered on with Carbs.

  • avatar

    Growing up my buddy’s dad had an 85-86 (bought new) and it was easily the nicest, if not the fastest car in the neighborhood. He didn’t get to drive it until 91 or so. We loved that thing. God, we grew up in the f-ing dark ages.

    • 0 avatar

      The 1980s the dark ages???? Heh! Back when I was a kid (only a decade earlier), I was out in the driveway with my dad changing spark plugs, points, condenser, and rotor every 3K miles, and we always did it in the dark so he could see the timing marks to set the timing. Imagine having to do all that to your car these days, that often – not!

      And back in the 1970s, the dark ages meant having to shift the gears by yourself and knowing what a manual choke was.

      Back in the 1950s, the dark ages were when you had to know how to crank the engine over by hand, and also how to adjust the spark timing while driving.

      And so on . . .

  • avatar

    The fuel injected 4M was a nice smooth powerplant and reasonably powerful for it’s day. It also had an appetite for head gaskets in my experience, and that was not a fun job. And then there was all the vacuum lines, an overly complex cruise control system…..
    When these things hit middle age it got expensive fast and a lot of them ended up like this one far earlier than your average Toyota. That said, they were indeed a hell of a lot nicer to drive and better built than the domestic competition at the time.
    Ugly though.

  • avatar

    Ah, the Cressida, what a car! Back when I was all of 14, my mother’s boss tossed me the keys to her brand new 1989 Cressida and asked me to take it down the road to their new office. It wasn’t very far, but still, I could tell that this was no ordinary car. A couple of years later she would let me take it home and detail it for her for some extra money. To this day that car ranks as one of the finest cars I have ever driven. I wish they still made them (And the Avalon doesn’t exactly count)…

    • 0 avatar

      The modern day equivalent would be something from the Lexus range, either a GS350 or an LS460. I think they’re sold as Crowns in Japan, which is what the Cressida was sold as in its day.

      • 0 avatar

        The Cressida was based on the midsize Mark II, not the fullsize Crown. The Mark II was originally a stretched Corona before becoming its own platform (and spawning the export Cressida, as well as the sportier home-market Chaser) with this generation.

        The Mark II was inexplicably renamed Mark X a few years ago. It shares its chassis and powertrains with the Lexus IS and basically looks like a RWD Camry. The sort of thing only middle-aged Japanese men (and me) would buy.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Mark X, because it was the tenth generation of the Mark II lineage. It occasionally gets bandied about as a RWD substitute for the Lexus ES.

      • 0 avatar

        It can be argued that the Lexus GS most directly replaced the Cressida in the American market. The Cressida’s final year was 1992, while the GS’s first was 1993. Both had inline-6 engines (though, of course, the engine itself changed from the 7M-GE to the 2JZ, as the latter was the former’s successor). That was the 1993-1997 GS’s only engine in the US market, just like it had been the Cressida’s only engine in the US market. The V8 option did not appear until the second-generation GS for 1998, though the 2JZ remained the base engine until 2005!

        Of course, Toyota never called the GS a Cressida successor, because that would weaken the Lexus “brand image”.

        Technically, the most direct Cressida successor today is the Mark X, but even that is a relative of the GS.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, the true successor to the Cressida was the Toyota Avalon which was introduced during 1994. It’s closer in price and market position to the Cressida than the Lexus GS.

      • 0 avatar

        For the last few years of availability, the Cressida was in the “forgotten but not gone” category, kinda like CB radios. At the dealer, they were often in the back and never pushed by either the dealer or Toyota themselves. Kind of like Michelobe, though this is a much better car than Mic is beer. These were far better than most other cars back in the day and Toyota did a great job. Everybody was stuck with a rat’s nest of vacuum tubing, but at least Toyota used a durable material for the hose. GM used any hose that was black. But this does bring things back to reality. Well built, yes, but this car, like all from that era, suffered from Malaise Era thinking. The speedo and the vacuum lines just scratch the surface of how things sucked (at least from a car point of view) during this era. Toyota probably did the best job of managing it though…

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    I’ve got an odd weakness for these old Baroque-styled Japanese barges, made just before Japan found its own styling mojo. I’m sure they drive like sofas, but I still think they’d make exceptionally cool beaters today.

  • avatar

    My kindergarten teacher had an ’82 Cressida back in 1989. She bought it new, it was maroon, I think. Kinda cool, yet, as mentioned, one could buy a new Crown Vic, Caprice or Diplomat for MUCH less.

    Nonetheless, VERY different and as such, cool.

  • avatar

    I hadn’t seen this generation Cressida in years.

    In 2009, I went on an excursion with my little camera, inspired by your old DOTSO posts over on Jalopnik and did my own version of it for my online journal. The goal was to shoot as many cars from roughly 1992 and earlier, while on my way to the grocery store from my apartment while I walked.

    This was on Capitol Hill and when all done, I documented some 15 cars or so in the 7 blocks to the store and back – all residing between Broadway and the Freeway.

    A few of the cars spotted:

    An early 90’s Plymouth Acclaim, a bit battered but obviously running
    A rusted out late 80’s Honda Accord, an LX-I I think.
    A late 80’s first gen Bronco II – with fuel injection!
    A bunch of Subies, one or 2 early 80’s GL wagons and several mid to late 80’s GL wagons or early 90’s Loyales (the same car essentially)
    An early 70’s turquoise Datsun truck
    A mid 80’s Toyota Cressida – which I misidentified as an early Camry since I’d not seen a Cressida in years at that point.
    And a bunch of others.

    What a great find there MM.

  • avatar

    I never understood why in the world a car company would name a car after a literary character with the sort of baggage Cressida/Criseyde carries.

  • avatar

    The MX83 Cressidas, the 4th generation, are still out there in decent enough numbers. The MX32, which is the one pictured, is getting to be quite rare, but all Cressidas have a loyal and growing fanbase.

  • avatar

    I haven’t seen one of these cars in almost 25 years. My old boss’s wife had one of these as a daily driver. He had a Jag XJ saloon at the time, I thought the Cressida was more British looking than the Jag…

    AFAIK, it was a good runner, but I really didn’t have much contact with it. I drove it once, I think it was the first car that I encountered that had automatic seat belts. I remember hating that feature (on all cars cursed with it), as the first time I saw it, I watched it work and almost strangled myself doing so.

    • 0 avatar

      More British looking than a Jag…

      I remember this 1st gen Cressida.. how can I say in Europe it was seen as a rather odd, stand alone attempt by Toyota at an executive car. It was reviewed at the time as stodgy and unattractive in the handling department – in contrast to over here – definitely not a Citroen CX or BMW contender. This Cressida’s snout was considered a dated [unimaginative clone] styling attempt at the likes of the late 60’s Volvo 164/Vanden Plas 4 Litre.

  • avatar

    I worked in Saudi Arabia for a spell. Old Toyotas are all over the place there. The various generations of Cressidas I saw were all very basic, having only AC and a radio.

  • avatar

    I want a clock like that. Is it 2 1/16″?

    I’m also curious as to what other vehicles you have clocks from, it would make an interesting article.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    These 4M 6bangers were quite nice in the 1st gen Supra which was more of a luxury/sport coupe compared to later generations.

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