Toyota Crown (1964-88) Buyers Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Stuart Grant

Presented by

Toyota Crown  (1964-88) Toyota Crown (1964-88) Toyota Crown  (1964-88)
Toyota Crown  (1964-88) Toyota Crown (1964-88) Toyota Crown  (1964-88)
Toyota Crown  (1964-88) Toyota Crown (1964-88) Toyota Crown  (1964-88)
Toyota Crown  (1964-88) Toyota Crown (1964-88) Toyota Crown  (1964-88)
Toyota Crown  (1964-88) Toyota Crown (1964-88) Toyota Crown  (1964-88)
Toyota Crown  (1964-88) Toyota Crown (1964-88) Toyota Crown  (1964-88)
Toyota Crown  (1964-88) Toyota Crown (1964-88) Toyota Crown  (1964-88)

Fancy a big robust cruiser? Don't buy one of these until you've read our expert's advice

Toyota Crown (1964-88) Buyers Guide
Toyota Crown (1964-88)

 

Toyota Crown (1964-88)

Until 1964, when Australians saw their first Toyota Crowns, Japanese cars weren't taken very seriously in this country.Toyota's low-cost offerings - the Tiara and two-door 700 - were too ugly, underpowered or both to attract much interest. The Crown's only Japanese-made rival was the Nissan Cedric - a car styled like something that had snuck from behind the Iron Curtain.

The Crown had been around in Japan since 1955, but the first car offered locally by Australian Motor Industries was the handsome S40 Series. Complementing its good looks were prodigious levels of standard equipment, plenty of room and a choice of three-speed manual with overdrive or two-speed automatic transmissions.

The 1.9-litre, four-cylinder pushrod engine produced just 71kW and lost out against Holden's six-cylinder EH Premier and the even more powerful AP5 Valiant Regal but performance satisfied the majority of its target market.

Standard equipment included a heater/demister with rear-seat ducting, windscreen washers and two-speed wipers, winding quarter windows and multiple armrests. The Crown Deluxe had a self-seeking radio, an electric aerial and whitewall tyres.

Six-cylinder 2.0-litre ('66) and 2.3-litre ('67) engines addressed the performance deficit and made the two-speed Toyoglide automatic more viable than when it was mated to the four-cylinder. At the same time, coil rear springs replaced the semi-elliptics used in early cars.

Front disc brakes were first seen on a limited-production 2000S model but weren't made standard until 1968 when Toyota launched the fully-restyled MS55.

This square-edged Crown took Toyota further into the quasi-prestige mainstream and challenged some established Europeans. AMI, which assembled Crowns in its Melbourne factory from 1967, also had links to Mercedes-Benz and dealers who handled both franchises would frequently find buyers who arrived to look at a 220-250 Benz, but drove away in the cheaper, better-equipped Crown.

From 1967-71, AMI produced a unique-to-Australia Crown utility but Australia wouldn't get the highly-prized Crown coupe with its Mustang-inspired styling.

For 1971, Toyota made its most radical shift in Crown design. MS65 cars featured a stepped nose with the indicators mounted above the headlamps and probably the first integrated, colour-keyed bumpers to be seen on a car produced outside the US.

Compensating for the bigger body and accompanying weight gain was a 2.6-litre engine with 105kW. Four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmissions were available and 275mm diameter front disc brakes were standard. Luxury remained apparent across the range but buyers had to spend extra on an SE version to enjoy the full panoply of equipment including reclining seats, self-seeking radio and extra courtesy lights.

The distinctive and controversial MS65 lasted only until 1975 when a square-edged replacement arrived. With restyling in 1980 (MS112) and '83 (MS123), this is the Crown shape that would carry through until early 1988 when local sales ended.

In the '80s, Australia's top-spec Crown was the 2.8-litre Royal. Power-sapping emission controls meant late-series Crowns had less power, yet weighed up to 200kg more than the 1971 version.

The final 1986-88 Crown Royal was an expensive car at $47,885, but ran a fuel-injected 120kW twin-cam 2.8 for much better performance.

ON THE ROAD

There is nothing especially sporty or exciting about a Toyota Crown, but those attributes were never part of the car's very conservative design brief.

What buyers found when the Crown was new - and will today if they choose a good example - is a well-balanced car with serene ride quality even on rough roads, decent steering and excellent brakes.

Early bench seats, trimmed in nylon cloth, will be far more presentable if the owners have endured sticky legs by leaving the protective plastic covers in place.

The mid-1960s steering wheel was large and delicate with a half horn-ring. Four turns lock-to-lock helped mask the absence of power steering but still delivered decent response as pace increased.

By the late 1970s when 'steer' had become standard equipment, the wheel had become cumbersome and intrusive and the dash had become crowded with variously sized rectangular binnacles.

Cars with two-speed Toyoglides are rare but the three-speed auto is easier to find and more practicle for everyday driving.

As an interesting and enjoyable recreational car the best choice is a pre-1975 model with manual transmission. The early three-speed cars had a column shift but the rare 2000S model from 1966 and versions built from 1968 until the late-1970s could be bought with a floor-shifted four-speed.

The overhead-camshaft six-cylinder engines delivered significant performance improvements including a noticeable gain in torque. These cars cruise happily at freeway speeds and were quicker once underway than the sporty 1.6-litre Celica.

A 2.6-litre four-speed tested in 1971 ran from 80-110km/h in 6.8 seconds while the lighter two-door took 7.2. Fuel consumption was a reasonable 12.7L/100km.

The major problem when these cars were new was a serious lack of rubber on the road. Favouring ride quality over grip, Toyota took ages to switch from cross-ply tyres to radials but Crowns that now run wider, sometimes larger-diameter wheels handle well for their size.

Unassisted steering demands some wheel twirling in tight going but it's a lot more communicative than the power-assist that comes as standard in later models. One compensation is the superb climate-control air-conditioning fitted to post-1979 cars - providing it's working properly.

Crowns from the 1980s with fuel injection and electronic ignition also deliver surprisingly good economy. A Super Saloon tested by Motor Manual averaged 13.7L/100km against the 16.3L/100km delivered by a 2.6-litre, carb-fed automatic.

BUYING

Like the Audi 100/200 range, Toyota's flagship model offers plenty of car for very little money. Pre-1968 Crowns are generally the most expensive among locally-sold models. Even with the four-cylinder engine, an excellent S40 might cost more than $7000.

Station wagons, especially the massive MS65 version, are scarce in Australia and worth up to 50 percent more than a similar sedan. So too the handful of fully-imported two-door coupes that in good condition should exceed $10,000.

Later-model Super Saloons are relatively easy to find and recently advertised cars have included a scarce 1976 manual offered at $6500 and a usable looking 1981 model on the club web page for $3000.

Once you've found a Crown to share in your automotive experience, accumulating a stock of spare parts is a wise move. These are available through club contacts, on-line auction sites or swap-meets.

CHECKLIST:

Body & Chassis

Crowns rely on their chassis for structural integrity and the frame needs to be checked for rust and twisting. Look at all tyres for unusual wear patterns and sections visible beneath the engine compartment for kinks or evidence of non-factory welding. Rust affects lower panels including sills and door bottoms, plus window surrounds, roof gutters and wagon tailgates. Make sure that door and window rubbers are in sound condition as these are hard to find, as are good taillight lenses and plated parts. The chassis number stamped into the RH front rail can often be hidden under paint and oil.

Engine & Transmission

With proper care, six-cylinder Crown engines are super-reliable and should last at least 200,000km between major rebuilds. Early four-cylinder engines are less durable and some parts are difficult to find. With any of these engines, look for oil being burned as it passes worn piston rings and clattering from the valvetrain when cold. Stuttering under acceleration may be a vacuum advance problem or a symptom of costly camshaft wear. The early two-speed Toyoglide transmission will be expensive to repair if damaged but later transmissions including the manual four-speeds are easy to find second-hand.

Suspension & Brakes

Worn suspension bushings and shock absorbers will ruin the ride that is a feature of the big Toyotas. All-coil cars can suffer sagging that will require replacement springs to cure. Steering box wear results in wandering when driving on a straight, flat road and excessive free play at the steering wheel. Rubber buffers on the steering column also wear and produce free play. Worn shock absorbers are common and can be replaced at minimal cost. New discs and pads are available, however worn drums are difficult to source. Even when the brakes are in good condition, the pedal can feel soggy but one that sinks to the floor under constant pressure indicates hydraulic problems.

Interior & Electrics

Replacing damaged seat trim in any Crown is an expense that might exceed the car's value. Cracked and sun damaged plastics are common but most parts can be replaced second-hand or repaired. Check the dash and top of the rear seat for brittle vinyl and unsightly cracks. Steering wheels and column stalks need to be basically undamaged and functioning properly. Vacuum leaks affect heater and ventilation operation and can be frustrating to fix. Make sure that vents have decent output with the fan running and the heater generates some warm air.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Toyota Crown (1964-88)

 

NUMBER BUILT: 1.2 million (approximately)

BODY: all-steel, separate body/chassis, 4-door sedan and station wagon, 2-door coupe and utility

ENGINE: 1897/1994cc OHV in-line 4cyl, 1988/2253/2563cc SOHC in-line 6cyl, 2759cc SOHC or DOHC in-line 6cyl; carburettor or fuel injection

POWER: 105kW @ 5000rpm*

TORQUE: 171Nm @ 3500rpm*

PERFORMANCE:
0-97km/h - 11.9sec*
0-400m - 18.4sec*

TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual, 2- or 3-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: Independent struts, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (f); live axle with leaf or coil springs, four-link location and telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: drum/drum, disc/drum or disc/disc; power assisted

TYRES: 6.95 x 14 cross-ply, 185 SR14 radial

PRICE RANGE: $500-$8000 (sedan and wagon)

CONTACT: Toyota clubs in all states or www.tccav.org.au

* 1971 Crown 2600 manual

 

Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more unique car reviews and features plus see the latest unique and classic cars for sale.

Subscribe to Unique Cars magazine
- Print edition
- Digital edition