By on August 31, 2012

We’ve seen a totally Malaise-y early Cressida and a didn’t-know-they-built-them-so-recently Cressida in this series, but I’ve been scouring the self-serve yards for an example of the mid-80s rear-drive Toyota luxury sedans. Finally, here’s an ’84, complete with all manner of high-tech (for the time) features.
It’s very angular, in the manner of just about all Toyotas of the era, and looks so Japanese that you’d never mistake it for, say, a Cadillac or BMW.
The 156-horse 5M-GE DOHC six was the same engine that the Supra got. In fact, the Cressida and Supra of this era were very similar under the skin. 156 horsepower sounds weak now, but this was a pretty good number for 1984.
Toyota wasn’t about to let Mitsubishi and Nissan steal the future with the 300ZX’s and Cordia’s digital instrument clusters, and so the Cressida came up with this Toyota-fied (i.e., more conservative) “Electronic Display” for the Cressida.
Check out this flip-top “Trip Computer” in the center console!
And the analog climate-control system, which no doubt controls a complex system of vacuum-operated flapper valves.
I had forgotten the type of car that donated the power-antenna switch for the Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox, but now the mystery is solved!
The Lexus LS, which showed up a half-dozen years after this car (and overlapped with the later Cressida for its first couple of years), made the ’84 Cressida seem fairly crude. But still, this was a classy ride for the first year after the Malaise Era.

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39 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Cressida...”

  • avatar

    Coincidentally, 1984 was the last year that they attempted to sell these things in the UK, like other large Japanese cars they never sold well.

    There are 18 Toyota Cressida of any year & model left surviving in the UK(via

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Low miles…damn shame this car didn’t get cared for better. Would have been a neat retro luxury ride to own.

  • avatar

    Murilee, as an expert on 80’s Japanese arcana, why do you think the motorized air vents that Mazda had in the 929 never caught on? I had one of those, and that was the coolest feature of the also-analog climate control system.

    The two-piece radiator, however…

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, I’ve wondered the same myself. These motorized dash mounted vents were also in the mid-80’s 626. This is at least as cool as the crotch-cooler vent GM mounted below the steering column…

    • 0 avatar

      I remember reading the Infiniti M has an optional “Forest Air” system that sounds like it does the same thing as the old mazda vents. Not sure if its catching or if its offered on any other models in the two years since I read about it on the M. Id imagine on the mazdas it got annoying after a while seeing the vents swing back and forth.

      • 0 avatar

        I believe my friends 626 that was equipped with those vents either had a switch to enable/disable oscillation, or the oscillate function stopped when any combo of air outlet was selected that did not involve air being routed through the dash “face” vents i.e. windshield only, floor, or a mix of the two. I could live with that in a car or truck quite nicely.

      • 0 avatar

        My 88 Mazda 929 had the oscillating air vents. I didn’t care for that feature–when it’s hot I want cool air blowing on me constantly, not intermittently. So I usually had the feature switched off. I concede it was sort of hypnotic watching the vents slowly swing left and right.

        Electronically controlled transmissions attracted the geeks. My Mazda had “ECO” and “PWR” settings. The latter produced later and harsher shifts, so I rarely used it. Anyways, Mazdas have traditionally needed all the “ECO” they can get. I wonder if SkyActiv will change their reputation for being thirsty.

        Incidentally, the 929’s transmission’s electronic brain was a half-wit. It’s internal logic was that if it had to downshift for a hill or just a long grade, it figured there’d be another hill right away. So it stayed in the lower gear for a while…too long. So I’d lightly tap the brake pedal to tell the gearbox to upshift, which unfortunately also cancelled the cruise control. A bloody nuisance.

        The Cressida reminds me of the first series 929 a couple of other ways. One is the upright “angular” style, which I think is classically formal and elegant. A box is more comfortable for occupants than an egg. Another is the sumptuous trim. My car’s leather (an $1800 option) was a gorgeous dark blue and soft as fine gloves. The cushioning of the back seat was limousine-grade. (Indeed the whole car said soldity and craftsmanship. It weighed as much as a Cadillac of the mid-80’s.) At the moment I have an ’88 Town Car (bought for resale) with similarly luxurious upholstery. The contrast with post-80’s Town Cars interiors underscores the extensive decontenting that was done over the years. The third similarity is the automatic air conditioning. I see it as another overly complicated solution to a non-existent problem.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    These are so hard to find to buy I’m surprised someone doesn’t rescue this one, and fix it up.

  • avatar

    I have love for any car with a straight six. Particularly one that used DOHC and 12 valved heads.

    One ebay motors right now for $1500 in florida (70k on the car):

    1986 Toyota Cressida

    If this car was more local to me I would pull the trigger.

  • avatar

    I had one of these for a couple of years and then I lost it in the divorce. I was really unhappy until I found out the car went through alternators like oil filters.

  • avatar

    A friend in high school had one of these with a 5-speed. It had leather and a sunroof, but none of the fancy digital bits. I think it might have been a 1983. He let me give it a try as my first time driving a manual, and I always wanted one ever since. Sadly, you only ever see them beaten to hell now. They were some of the most handsome cars of their time.

    • 0 avatar

      A Cressida with a stick? That would be incredibly rare.

      Even Camrys back in the day rarely had manual trannys.

      • 0 avatar

        Pretty sure the Cressie was available with a 5-speed trans right up until the end; this boxy-generation version definitely could be had with it.

        Of course how many were actually sold that way was probably a very small number. If I could find a rust-free 5-speed late-model Cressie in decent shape I’d buy it immediately.

        • 0 avatar

          “Of course how many were actually sold that way was probably a very small number. If I could find a rust-free 5-speed late-model Cressie in decent shape I’d buy it immediately.” Is there money or just talk here? I have an 84 blk. Cressie, 5 spd, s-roof, blk W/ tan leather,150K, needs electrical attention, goes to yard soon for $500 because no one in Maryland seems to know what a great car it could again be. I am moving soon & cannot keep it. How does $600 sound ?, I’d guess $1500 max to do a good rehab..

      • 0 avatar

        Cressidas could be had with a manual up through 1987. The ’88, which was the last year of the MX73, did not have one and the MX83 never had one. Wagons never were outfitted with them either.

  • avatar

    Big fan of the Cressida, had an ’86 as a auction runner car for a while back in ’06. Amazes me how epic these things were and how utterly s*it the current Camry is compared to it.

  • avatar

    I, too, always liked these cars, but why in the world would Toyota name a car after an unfaithful woman?

  • avatar

    Brings so many tears to my eyes, these are amazing cars. Just look at my screen name.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    In the early eighties remember being driven around in one on a business trip . I remember the back seat was roomy enough – at least for a little dude like me – but the whole thing felt a bit lightweight and flimsy . Dashboard reminds me of the early eighties Corolla that was my wife owned . I remember somebody converted these into a seldom seen stretched limo version . I used to see one of the limos , usually parked in front of a business for a number of years .

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    One cool feature about these cars, were the flip-up rear headrests. Most people didn’t notice them, but if you look at the pic of the rear seat of this car, those headrests could be flipped up and turned forward, giving the passenger sort of a contoured pillow to rest his/her head.

  • avatar

    My father bought one of these new and the ECT was a nightmare. Once it malfunctioned, the dealers had no training and just kept rebuilding it without solving the problem. If there had been a lemon law, it would have been gone in six months. He traded it for a stick shift Supra.

    • 0 avatar

      The ECT in my ’84 worked perfectly for 28 years…

      • 0 avatar

        It turned out to be a training issue for a new technology. Once the dealers in the US got it, the trans was fixed. Its just that dad lost faith in the car by then, but obviously not Toyota as a whole.

        The lockup TC would stay locked and stall the engine coming to a stop. Techs thought mechanical and the issue was electrical.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    When I was a kid in the late 80’s, I and my father went on a backpacking trip with a guy who had one. He drove to the trail head. I think it was the first time I ever really noticed the amazing difference between types of cars – it felt light but stiff around us, like an airplane. A big contrast to Mom’s Caprice.

  • avatar

    That would make a perfect retro cruiser. Plus I believe the manual transmission from a Supra would fit.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Interesting… I saw her kissing cousin on the road yesterday. She looks just as good as the day I sold her.

  • avatar

    That trip computer is sweet! I’ll bet the original owners felt like Michael freakin’ Knight when they opened that panel and revealed those buttons. Old people were probably intimidated by these cars because they were afraid they’d have to “learn computers” to be able to drive one.

    Lots of cool technology for the time. That being said, the futuristic gauge cluster looks completely out of place in contrast to the rest of the car. How can you have a squared-off design with pillow-top brown leather seats next to that cluster?

    Is the 3.0 liter I-6 in my 2003 IS300 a variant of this same engine? I wonder if the Cressida’s six was as turbine-smooth as the IS300?

  • avatar

    Nice. I’m looking for an ’85-’88 for the engine. However, they are rare around here.

  • avatar

    HVAC folk is bilevel/split-level same thing? That be real impressive on an 80 Tojo cause split-level first debuted in 75 on the Camargue. If this Cressida had it in 80 then I’m drooling on my keyboard.

    Shame GM couldn’t get ONE flap & sensor to work reliably on a Chevette THERMAC.

  • avatar

    It is interesting to know how many American cars of the era had 24 valve engines?

    I also guess 1985 Taurus made all these cars obsolete overnight.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I considered a Cressida when my ’66 Valiant proved no longer capable of daily driving. But the tin worm got to them first. I discovered ’88 BMW 528e as a worthy replacement. I think the I 6 is the best engine design for longevity. The more main bearings, the better.

  • avatar

    I was 11 when this car was made, and even at that age, I strongly recall thinking that Cressidas and Maximas offered a “funky, daring luxury alternative” to everything else we knew at the time. I still have a warm feeling when I see any of these 1980’s Japanese boxes.

  • avatar

    got an 84 Cressida for sale here. Not sure what to ask for it?? It runs and drives, but needs work. Any help?

  • avatar

    Looking at the interior pics of this car, I can see many similarities in a lot of the textures of the leathers and vinyls they used and how similar it is in a way to the 2004 Avalon I drive now. The more things change the more they stay the same I guess.

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