Junkyard Gem: 1991 Toyota Cressida

Toyota’s first big sales success in North America was the Corona, which went on sale here in the 1966 model year and proved to be a lot of car for the money (my first car was a 1969 Corona sedan, which I bought for $50 at the age of 14, so I admit a touch of Corona bias here). Toyota did very well selling cars here during the 1970s and 1980s, but never really raked in the big yen from the American luxury-sedan segment until the debut of the Lexus LS 400 for the 1990 model year. Prior to that, Toyota Motor Sales USA tried to get Americans to buy upscale Crowns and Corona Mark IIs, without notable success. Finally, the 1978 Toyopet Corona Mark II showed up here with Cressida badges, and some Americans felt willing to buy this big, six-cylinder-powered luxury machine. Cressida sales never really took off here, but Americans could buy Cressidas all the way through 1992. The 1990s Cressidas are nearly impossible to find in car graveyards today, but I pulled off the feat in Sparks, Nevada, a couple of months back.

The LS 400 was a masterpiece of engineering, with its brand-new V8 engine and all the other innovations, and it scared the daylights out of the suits at the big European car companies. It also made the Cressida seem a bit small and old-fashioned, so it’s surprising that Toyota kept it on sale here for the 1990-1992 model years.

Under the skin, the Cressida was always a close relative of the same-year Supra. That meant that its suspension and powertrain were generally similar to Supra hardware of the same period (much as the rear-wheel-drive Datsun 810/Nissan Maxima shared much engineering DNA with the Z-Car).

This car has the 7M-GE straight-six engine, rated at 190 horsepower and 185 pound-feet (the Supra version got a bit more power).

While the 1991 Mark II in Japan could be purchased with a five-speed manual transmission, American Cressida buyers had to take the four-speed Aisin automatic.

These cars held together very well, though this one just managed 172,794 miles before the end.

In 1991, the Lexus LS 400 had an MSRP of $36,955 (about $81,490 in 2022 dollars), which undercut the Mercedes-Benz S-Class by a dismaying amount but caused problems for Toyota salesmen who were trying to get $22,198 ($48,945 today) for a new Cressida.

The Cressida that year was quite luxurious and very well built, but the new Lexus looked like more car per dollar at the time.

Toyota continued to install combination CD/cassette players in Lexuses well into our current century. Naturally, this Cressida has that rig.

I think this is the first Ouija board I’ve ever found in a junkyard vehicle.

Sadly, we never got the supercharged version over here, nor did we get a Cressida Grande.

The most trouble-free car sold in America!

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