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Junkyard Gem: 1997 Toyota Cresta Exceed G 2.5


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While there are plenty of JDM vehicles roaming the roads of the United States (I daily-drive one myself), they don't often appear in the big self-service car graveyards that I frequent while researching this series. Until now, I'd found a discarded 1979 Nissan Fairlady Z originally brought over by an airman and that's it. Then I got word from some of my local junkyard tipsters that a final-generation Cresta had appeared at a yard near Denver, and I got over there immediately.

U-Pull-&-Pay's inventory system doesn't have entries for vehicles never sold in the United States, but whichever employee did the data-entry task for this car knew enough about JDM Toyotas to list this car under the name of its closest U.S.-market relative: the Cressida. The Cressida was sold here through the 1992 model year, and it was based on Cresta-sibling Toyota Mark II.

For decades, Japanese Toyota shoppers could choose between what amounted to three trim levels of the same midsize rear-wheel-drive (or all-wheel-drive, late in the game) sedan: the entry-level Mark II, the hot-rod Chaser and the luxurious Cresta. The final generation for these cars was built for the 1996 through 2001 model years; after that, the Cresta was replaced by the Verossa. These cars might have cannibalized sales from the Lexus LS on our side of the Pacific and Toyota was doubling down on SUVs here anyway, so they weren't sold in the United States.

This one has the G Package, which included a bunch of comfort and convenience upgrades.

This car is here because it got crashed, hard. Normally I won't document a vehicle this unrecognizably bent out of shape, but you don't see JDM iron every day in American junkyards.

The airbags worked correctly and the cabin remained essentially intact, while the body structure did its job of absorbing crash energy. Let's hope all occupants were wearing their seat belts.

The engine is a 2.5-liter 1JZ straight-six, rated at 197 horsepower.

It appears that this generation of Cresta could be purchased with a manual transmission, but only with the base 2.0-liter engine.

Its final owner swapped in some 18" Lexus wheels with low-profile rubber.

This car doesn't share much with U.S.-market Toyotas and Lexuses, though it's possible that a few of its unmashed mechanical components might bolt onto a Lexus SC or late Cressida. Much of the cloth interior looks very nice, so perhaps another local Cresta owner will rescue it.

This generation of Cresta featured prominently in the "Great Teacher Onizuka" anime series of a quarter-century ago.

The Cresta was below the Crown and Celsior in the late-1990s Toyota prestige pyramid, but above the Corona and Camry.

Makes you an unhittable baseball pitcher.

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