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Surely everyone knows that Japanese cars from the sixties and seventies are obviously all just practical little budget cars offering great reliability, right? Well maybe not only that. Because while the Japanese automobile manufacturers where still in the process of finding their own identity at this point, and only just establishing themselves on various export markets in Europe, America and beyond, they were also experimenting with both big luxurious saloons, proper GT coupés and real sports cars.

In our recent comparison of stylish Grand Touring coupés being offered for sale at prices which most enthusiasts have a fair fighting chance of managing, we have thus far looked at offerings from four different European countries – namely Italy, Germany, UK and France. But this Saturday we’re setting our sight on a big elegant coupé from the country of The Rising Sun. If mainstream companies like Fiat and Peugeot can qualify for this luxury market comparison, then surely so can Toyota. If in doubt, look no further than the handsome Toyota Crown Hardtop produced between 1967 and 1971.

With the third generation of the range-topping Crown, Toyota had made a huge effort to up the comfort levels significantly, in an attempt to keep up with the requirements of Japans rapidly expanding highway network. Vibrations and wind noise were both high priority during the development, and as such this generation of Crowns are truly refined cruisers. The third generation was also the first Crown to include a coupé body in the line-up – known by the factory code MS51, and officially dubbed the 2-door Hardtop. True to the hardtop moniker, they are a pillarless coupé with a very sleek roofline and a raked rear window. The coupés were only available with Toyota’s straight-6 engine – either the 2-litre M engine or the 2.3 litre 2M engine – and with the option of a 3-speed automatic or a 4-speed manual gearbox. The most sporting version, the Crown S, utilized the smaller 2-litre engine and through twin carburettors managed 125hp also peaking at higher revs than the less stressed and bigger 2M engine.

In 1969 the Crown received a minor facelift effecting the front grill, headlights and a few minor trim differences. Luckily though, the Crown Hardtop I’ve found here is the earlier version with its more stylized nose where the bonnet dips down between the headlights leading to a narrower grill. The car is for sale in Japan, and in all honesty you’ll be lucky to find one elsewhere, as Toyota first of all didn’t produce many of them, but secondly also didn’t export the Hardtop anywhere as vigorously as they did the Crown Saloon. With the majority of the survivors seemingly being somewhat ruined by slammed suspensions, ridiculously sized alloy wheels and often a modern engine swap to boot, this particular example presents surprisingly original and unmolested – even right down to the stock hubcaps on steel wheels. There are plenty of decent pictures in the advert, but here are a few choice examples for you:

While I have a great appreciation of Nippon classics, I must confess that I sadly don’t speak the language. The advert does however make it clear that it’s a 2-litre version, though I seem to spy only a single carburettor suggesting that this is the 105hp version. While the 125hp version is obviously more collectable, it wouldn’t really bother me too much as these big coupés were never intended to be a sporty drive – much more a luxurious cruiser. In case your Japanese is better than mine, here’s the full advert from the famous Japanese classic car dealer Takeey’s Auto Shop:

Toyota Crown MS51 Hardtop

The asking price of 1,500,000 Japanese Yen currently equates to roughly £ 10,000, which to me seems very fair for such a rare and well preserved luxury coupé. I do realize that shipping costs and importation costs will be added to that, but compared to the other Grand Touring Coupés we’ve looked at thus far, this ever so graceful Toyota certainly takes the crown (pardon the pun, but I just couldn’t help myself…) when it comes to rarity – at least if you live anywhere other than Japan. I’m certainly tempted, but what say you: Can a Nippon classic match up to its European counterparts?

 

 

With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to primefindoftheweek@viaretro.co.uk

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About The Author

My passion for Bavarian classics is profound. But all classics are charming. My fantasies range from Imps over quirky Panhards to my dream Montreal. I appreciate originality, but most importantly, regardless of origin, year or value, classics are meant to be driven. Anders’s keeper is a 1973 BMW 2002. But then there’s also his nerdtastic lust for classics from the Country of the Rising Sun…

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3 Responses

  1. Holmen
    Agree Anders – fair price. Seen one in Germany for the net sum of 9K Euro a year back with the 2.3 six.
    These are beautiful cars and I’d love to own.
    I would however drop in a 5MGE – take off the injection and do triple carbs and top it all off with a W58 five speed. The cars are capable of being more than just cruisers with minor retro mods that don’t ruin the car and make them absolute hot sleepers.
    Buy it ;-)
    Reply
  2. Anders Bilidt
    Holmen, we definitely share our appreciation of this graceful coupé, but we differ in how we would enjoy it on the road. I would prefer to keep it – if not 100% stock – then at least 100% period correct. Upgrading the stock engine with twin carbs similar to the Crown S would be a nice and true-to-original-concept upgrade in my opinion. But I would probably leave it at that. Regardless, it’s a great looking GT and something refreshingly different from the more common European offerings…
    Reply
  3. Claus Ebberfeld
    Holmen, get down to the fair in Fredericia Sunday – there’s a 1987 Toyota Supra with a later TA10XGE-2.5 something Twin Turbo with your name on it. You deserve it :-)

    But leave this one alone.

    When that is said, Anders: Lovely find, but no – I don’t find it can match it’s European counterparts. It couldn’t in period either. I love its quirkyness and the engine is a little gem, but in real life I’d choose anyone of the previous Prime Finds.

    Reply

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