Toyota Crown S40
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
When the Toyopet Crown was released in Australia it came with a £1369 pricetag – which made it exceptionally good value. At the time, it was one of the best equipped cars to have ever been sold in Australia. It lacked little other than safety belts, but these were only an additional £10. Perhaps the only problem was with the car's appearance – which was arguably a little too Nippon – but when compared to the American compacts it was not too bad.
All the early S40 Crown’s sold in Australia were fully imported. Later iterations were assembled from CKD kits by AMI in Port Melbourne, with significant local content. AMI, which assembled numerous brands including Triumph and, for a short time, Mercedes-Benz, was to become the basis of Toyota's current Australian manufacturing operation.
The exterior bodywork
was very well sorted, all the panels fitted very tightly and that the paint was top class. We have no crash test data on the car, but suffice to say that the bumpers at least looked substantial, although the indicators mounted on them seemed look as though they would have been prone to damage at the supermarket car park.
obviously didn't enter the head of the man who designed the front of the car; it presented a vertical shape to the wind which belies the obvious care that went into achieving the highly desirable wedge profile. The rear styling of the Crown showed strong U.S. influence, particularly the Ford Falcon.
Behind the Wheel
The doors were wide and gave good access to the interior. Finely woven carpet was used on the floor and the seats were faced with a soft cloth material, into which was woven a glistening thread. The rest of the trim, including the head lining, was plastic. The steering wheel was big, and its spokes were arranged in an inverted vee position with a horn-ring arcing between them. As was the trend for this era, the wheel was too big, and too close to the driver – but given this was a fault on nearly all cars the Crown was in good company.
As steering column changes went, the one in the Crown was good. Road testers compared it to the Tiara – which had already won considerable praise. The instrumentation was also very comprehensive. The speedo was the ribbon-band type and was calibrated to 120 m.p.h. The other gauges included oil pressure, water temperature, fuel and battery
charge. In addition, there were warning lights which covered such things as handbrake and overdrive engagement.
The rest of the dash was pretty much a button-presser's paradise. There was a large knob for the overdrive, slides to regulate the air-heat system (which has a variable speed fan), buttons for the headlights, screen washers and wipers. And elaborate out of all proportion to its function was the master control for the radio and its retractable antenna. The radio itself was something of a masterpiece for the time. It had two strengths - one for country, one for town - and it also featured automatic scan mode – this in an era when nearly every radio required you to dial in the station, and for the lucky few there may have been a push button mechanism to memorise the location.
On The Road
Mechanically the Crown was a well-engineered vehicle with quite good performance. The 1897cc four-cylinder engine developed 95 bhp at 5000 rpm on a compression ratio of 8:1. It was a very smooth engine with good torque characteristics in the intermediate speed ranges where it did the most good. Only when the engine was being revved to valve crash did it become obvious that there were four not six cylinders up front. The lack of synchromesh on the lowest of the three ratios was the biggest fault – particularly given the engine was slightly reluctant to pull from dead slow speeds in second.
The o/d would cut in automatically (after its knob was pulled) at 40 m.p.h., but the car lost the advantages of engine braking at less than 40, which meant that the drums were asked to do a lot of work. The brakes
themselves were adequate - but drum brakes
were never great and those on the Crown were noticeably worse at low speeds. Hard use would often result in dirty or glazed linings which made them even worse.
On the road and the Crown had a very solid feel. It had a big box-section chassis with a coil spring for each wheel (independent at the front only). It handled Australia's rough roads well - although country owners were soon to discover that it was not particularly well dust-proofed. They also noted that there was some back axle movement on corrugations, but not enough to be a worry.
The handling was unexpectedly good. The tyres
would bellow but still hang on with a moderate amount of body roll. Of course, the Crown understeered, but only to a limited degree, so that there was never any question of a major front-end slide. All in all there was nothing exceptional about the Crown's road behaviour. Road testers were unanimous in cliaming it did most things the way it should and was just as happy on rough dirt as it is on smooth bitumen.