• The Cressida was the most luxurious car the company made in the United States. It was a high-end version of the Japanese Toyota Mark II and Chaser, and it was sold from 1978 to 1992.
  • When it first came out, the Cressida was mostly bought by older people because it had rear-wheel drive and a straight-six engine based on the Supra. But as time went on, drifters and people who practiced the Shakotan stance became more interested in it.
  • When Lexus came out, sales of the Cressida went down. After thirty years, clean, unmodified survivors like this one are becoming harder to find.

The last Toyota Cressida might have been the best version of this once-popular car, but only a few people remember it. The first one came out in late 1988 and had 190 horsepower. It looked as good as a Brooks Brothers shirt. The reports were mostly good, but a few months later, Lexus’s launch, which looked like a supernova, completely blew it out of the water. Up until 1992, it hung out in showrooms like a well-dressed zombie. It was almost forgotten until drifters found it twenty years later.

Our Bring a Trailer pick today is the 1990 Toyota Cressida, which is a proto-Lexus

The JDM Toyota Chaser’s rear-drive chassis and straight-six engine from the Supra were not made for drift drivers or Shakotan fans, but it’s easy to see why people like the car. A lot of Cressidas from the last generation have been changed recently. Due to this event and the low number of sales of the car, it is now very hard to find examples like this 1990 model with 45,000 miles on it on Bring a Trailer, which is owned by Hearst Autos and Invoice Pricing together.

It was easy for drifters to see that these Cressidas had a lot of promise because Lexus was so popular at the time. When they were initially presented, things were different from what they are now.

The Cressida, which was the company’s American flagship car from 1978 to 2008, was the most expensive sedan until it stopped being made. It was made so that Toyota dealers could offer their customers a high-end car that they could change to when their Coronas got too small. At the time of its release, the Cressida, Americans’ views on Japanese cars were changing from seeing them only as cheap transportation to seeing them as more involved. In contrast to the Crown and Mark II, which weren’t very popular at first, sales kept going up until 1985.

President Reagan and Japanese Prime Minister Zenkō Suzuki had discussed “Voluntary Export Restraints” at the time. Because of this, fewer Japanese cars could be sold in the country, but people still wanted them, so lines formed. Toyota thought that if it could only make a certain number of cars, it might as well make types that would make more money. Lexus has been in the works since 1983.

The Cressida, meanwhile, continued to be impressive. It was less exciting and unique than a BMW 5-series and pricey for a Toyota, but it had a similar package and was well-made for less money. When the MX83-generation model came out in late 1988, Acura Legend sales were already going down, which showed that Lexus was about to take over. The new Cressida was built on the JDM Mark II architecture. It was faster and fancier than the old one.

Under Tadakiyo Watanabe’s direction, Toyota engineers made the body shell stronger and quieter. At the time, Watanabe talked a lot about comfort and noise problems in press interviews. But most of the media were interested in the engine. The 2.8-liter, 156-horsepower six-cylinder 7M-GE that came before it had 156 horsepower. The 3.0-liter, six-cylinder 7M-GE made 190 horsepower. The transmission was new and had four speeds. It was controlled by a computer, which made shifts happen faster. Along with other changes to the back suspension, anti-lock brakes were added to the list of options.

Even though it wasn’t a sports car, it was very convenient, with everything motorized, a great sound system, and cruise control. It was also fun to drive. Some people thought the soft-edged design looked too much like the Camry, but most of the reviews were good.

In 1989, sales of the Cressida rose by 68 percent, hitting just under 24,000 cars. However, as excitement about the LS400 grew, new Lexus dealerships received a flood of orders that summer. Toyota was happy with Lexus’s quick success, but the Cressida could have done better. Sales had dropped so low that by 1992, only 3,600 cars had been sold. Because Toyota and Lexus sellers work together a lot, some customers may have been tempted to buy the bigger L, even though Lexus’ second model, the Camry-based ES250, was just a little cheaper than the Cressida.

About 50,000 Cressidas were bought and sold. It was a very advanced car for its time, with many automated systems and the possibility of head gasket wear. It was built like a tank. Most were used and thrown away because they looked like Camrys and didn’t seem valuable. That is until drifters started replacing the manual gears with more modern turbocharged engines.

With 45,000 miles on it, this model is the nicest one you can get. These add even more bone stock to ships that are already nice and easy to live with; they’re too nice to replace. Don’t wait until May 15 if you want to see the best proto-Lexus. The auction stops then.

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