Friday January 3, 2020
South Hampshire in 1979 was a bleak and lonely place.
It was a realm where remote communities were reputed to regard the Test Card as a form of witchcraft and Children of the Stones was thought to be a public information film.
People would toil for 30 hours per day in the mineshaft dug in the middle of Southampton’s Above Bar Street or in the dark, evil mills of the Fareham Shopping Precinct. And their home was a mortgaged shoebox on the M27 outside of Segensworth.
At this point, the reader may think that I am mildly exaggerating, but 41 years ago, a car such as the S110-series Crown really did seem to be outrageously luxurious.
This was a time when a Mini 850 lacked a water temperature gauge and fresh air vents so the sight of the mighty Toyota parked in Botley Square must have had certain people frantically telephoning Southern Television.
It might have even made the Day by Day news report, with Brian Nissen alerting viewers to this strange new car upholstered in the finest moquette known to humanity.
And the Crown was a remarkably well-appointed vehicle, from the air conditioning and the electric radio antenna to the electric remote-control door mirrors and a boot lid that opened by remote control.
The rear-seat passengers had their own cigar lighter, controls for the climate control and the sound system plus - the detail that truly amazed – access to a miniature refrigerator in the parcel shelf.
The S110 was the sixth-generation Crown, and its looks were unabashedly “Japanese-American” – in comparison with a Ford Granada Ghia Mk. II or Vauxhall Royale, the Toyota resembled a scaled-down Lincoln.
Its lines appealed to those who craved an imported Chevrolet Caprice but who could not face the petrol bills.
Japanese customers were presented with a bewildering array of models but in the UK the Crown was sold as a four-door saloon powered by the fuel-injected 2.8-litre straight-six engine, combined with four-speed automatic transmission.
At £8,840, the Toyota represented a considerable bargain, as it was over £1,500 cheaper than a Volvo 264 GLE and just under £300 more than a Granada 2.8 GL.
It had zero pretensions to the title of “sports saloon” but ‘your every whim in terms of comfort and space is answer for’, in addition to being quiet, refined, and quite amazingly well-appointed.
Toyota modestly referred to the Crown as ‘fit for a King’ and highlighted how the back seat was ‘as comfortable as any office’.
It was clearly aimed at the sort of business who employed a part-time driver, although the MD who decided to take the wheel might have rather enjoyed the experience.
Production of the S110 ceased in August 1983. It was to be the last Crown officially sold by Toyota GB, who decided to focus on the Camry, rather than import the S120 series.
And after all these decades, I still crave the car with the miniature ‘fridge in the rear parcel shelf; to my ten-year-old self that was much evidence of the high life as dining at the Golden Egg on a regular basis…