We’ve come to the end of our Cressida journey, and the short-lived fourth generation. Conservative and staid as ever, Cressida’s final entry was squeezed out of the lineup from above and below: The crushing weight of Lexus came down upon the late Eighties Cressida shortly after its introduction, while Camry smashed it from below. Put on your Urban Sombrero and let’s go.
Today we find ourselves in the third installment of Toyota Cressida coverage. The first Cressida bowed in 1978 with curvy European styling influences and was a more luxurious take of the Corona Mark II with which North American consumers were already familiar. After a short run from 1978 through 1980, a second-generation Cressida was introduced for ’81. It pursued a much more traditional three-box sedan shape, and looked quite Japanese despite marketing statements about how it was “European looking.”
Under the conservative shape were a number of whiz-bang electronic features, all applied to an interior that was redesigned solely for the American market Cressida. The second Cressida was more successful than the first, and new tech features like electronic fuel injection made it more desirable. After another short model run from 1981 to 1984, it was time for the third generation Cressida. The new one in 1985 was even more conservatively styled than the two that came before it. Say hello to X70.
In Part I of this series we were introduced to Toyota’s Cressida, aka Mark II in almost every other market. A “new” model for the North American market, Cressida picked up where the Corona Mark II left off. The main reason behind the branding change was that Cressida had greater upmarket intentions than the Mark II. When it arrived for 1978 in North America, Cressida wore entirely different styling to its predecessor: Upright, formal shapes replaced the faster-looking curves of the Mark II. The conservative mid-sizer wore a Euro-inspired visage with many Jaguar cues, and the rest of the styling was a mixed bag of American and Japanese flavors.
But the first generation was not long for the world, and after just three model years Toyota released an all-new Cressida. This second edition stuck much closer to Toyota’s typical three-box playbook and added Eighties technology into the bargain. Time for X60.
Our recent Rare Rides Icons coverage of the main quadrant of mid-Eighties Japanese family sedans ( Camry, Accord, Maxima, 626) brought another sedan to mind. Boxy and conservative, it was an upscale offering at a time when Japanese luxury brands simply did not exist. The sedan in question was popular enough for Nissan to target it directly with their Maxima. Presenting the Toyota Cressida, a comfortable luxury experience.
After Americans proved uninterested in buying the luxurious-for-its-time Toyota Crown during the early 1970s, Toyota brought over the new Corona Mark II, then gave its American-market, Chaser-based successor the Cressida name starting in the 1977 model year. The Cressida remained King of Toyotas in North America throughout the 1980s, but the appearance of the Lexus LS400 for the 1990 model year changed everything; Cressida sales collapsed. However, we could buy new Cressidas here all the way through 1992, and I’m always looking for the rare early-1990s models during my junkyard travels. Here’s a ’91 in Denver.
It has taken a few decades, but Toyota Cressidas now show up at the big self-service wrecking yards in respectable numbers. I find these Lexus ancestors very interesting, so I shoot most of the ones I see; so far in this series, we have seen this ’80, this ’82, this ’83 wagon, this ’84, this ’84, this ’86 wagon, this ’87, this ’89, this ’90, and this ’92 (plus this ’79 and this ’86 wagon in my Junkyard Gems series).
Today’s Cressida is a zero-rust ’83 wagon in California.
Since we had some rusty Junkyard Finds recently and I just spent a couple of days driving around San Francisco looking at ocean-salt horror-story cars, let’s continue with the Toyota Rust theme and check out this frighteningly oxidized San Francisco Cressida.
Since nearly all of my Junkyard Finds are in Colorado and California, both places where the Toyota Cressida sold well, we get quite a few of these Lexus-precursor luxury Toyotas in this series. We’ve seen this ’80, this ’82 this ’84, this ’86 wagon, this ’87, this ’89, this ’90, and this ’92 in this series so far (plus some bonus Michael Bay Edition Tokyo Taxis, courtesy of Crabspirits), and my recent trip to Los Angeles (during which I shot this optioned-up, rust-free ’82 Subaru BRAT) gives us this once-gorgeous two-tone ’84.
The Toyota Cressida was very reliable (partly because first owners tended to be the types who did regular maintenance) and held its value well, so it took until about a decade ago for them to start showing up in cheap self-service wrecking yards in large quantities. We’ve seen this ’80, this ’82 this ’84, this ’86 wagon, this ’87, this ’89, and this ’92 in this series so far (plus some bonus Michael Bay Edition Tokyo Taxis, courtesy of Crabspirits), and these proto-Lexus big Toyotas just keep rolling into America’s wrecking yards. Here’s a 160,819 refrigerator-white ’90 that showed up in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard without a speck of rust.
My wife wants me to sell our pristine, time-capsule 90 Cressida for a 4Runner (or similar) because we live in winter-world. I am looking at used 4Runners and the prices are crazy. Typically a rusted 1996-98 with 350-390,000KM will be asking $5,000 – $6,000CDN. I have seen Lexus LS with half the mileage, far better condition and all services done for that price.
What gives? Are 4Runners that good?
The Toyota Cressida is now at its moment of peak junkyard availability, with most examples finally getting to the point at which repairs just aren’t justified by the car’s value. The Cressida was an extremely well-built car by 1980s standards, and a pretty good car even through our jaded 21st-century eyes (which view vehicles that get scrapped before 200,000 miles as suspiciously crappy and/or abused). We’ve seen this ’80, this ’82 this ’84, this ’87, this ’89, and this ’92 in the Junkyard Find Series so far, but today’s Cressida is the first wagon.
I always notice the Cressida when I see an example in a wrecking yard, and the last two years have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of Toyota’s pre-Lexus rear-drive luxury sedan going to The Crusher. I suppose that means that the balance between real-world value and cost to fix mechanical problems has finally tilted against the Cressida. We’ve seen this ’80, this ’84, this ’87, this ’89, and this ’92 in the Junkyard Find Series so far, and now we’re going to go all Malaise Era with today’s ’82.
How long does the typical Toyota Cressida last? Based on my recent surge in wrecking-yard Cressida sightings ( this ’92, this ’84, this ’89, and this ’80) after decades of the Cressida being a once-every-six-months junkyard catch, I’m going to say that your typical Cressida lasts about 25 years, give or take a half-decade. Part of this longevity is due to the fact that few Cressidas are driven by leadfooted hoons (and those few have all had manual-trans swaps done by drifter types) and part is due to Toyota’s frighteningly good engineering and build quality during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Here’s a California Cressida that just made it to the quarter-century mark before its last owner gave up on it.