Saloonacy

Words: Dave Smith, photography: Lukasz Markowski

It may not be the Skyline that the owner had his heart set on, but this quick, clean, retro more-door shows that there’s nothing that can’t be made cool with a whack from the street machiner’s stick.

Who remembers the Toyota Cressida? What, no one? Come on, someone must remember these mid-range, Cortina-size four-door saloons and estates from the days when far Eastern imports were like hyenas, stalking the stumbling, wheezing British Leyland, just waiting for it to keel over? Still no one? Oh…

I can’t say I’m that surprised. They were very mundane transport back then, quietly blending in with the crowds of Cortinas and Cavaliers until the price of an MoT was greater than their market value, at which point they were scrapped or banger raced, just like the Cortinas and Cavaliers. Cressidas were utterly unremarkable. But that’s because they’d never met Shaun Farmer.

Shaun, from Wakefield, is hardly new to the scene, and has had “a bit of everything” over the years, but this is a car he wasn’t even looking for!

“I was on holiday with the lads in Ibiza back in 2012 when I spotted this car on eBay,” says Shaun. “I really wanted an older Skyline, but they’re just so ridiculously expensive that I knew this was the closest I’d get, so I put a cheeky bid on. I was waiting to get on the plane to come home when I saw that I’d won the auction! As soon as I got home, I dropped off my suitcase, jumped in the van and headed down to Kent.

“It had sat under a car port for 21 years, but had recently been put back to roadworthiness, so I just pumped up the tyres and drove it home. It had a really lazy four-cylinder and a three speed automatic, so it wasn’t a quick journey. I thought to myself that nostalgia is great, but I really want more power…

“It was a good running, driving car, in bright yellow, but absolutely peppered with these little rust spots, so I stripped it down and took the whole car back to bare metal. I couldn’t believe it – it was perfect; all original panels, had never been welded and didn’t need any.

“The Cressida is rare, and I’d never seen one done before – almost everything else has been done. I had an idea of what I wanted to build, but most of my time was spent sourcing parts. There’s almost nothing available over here, so I had to source a lot of stuff from Australia. It was quite a labour of love.

“The first job was the engine swap, so I pulled the old motor and auto ‘box. I’d bought a Lexus IS200 for £500, with a 2.0 straight-six and six-speed manual ‘box, and after I’d taken the bits I wanted, I broke the rest for £350, so my engine swap cost me £150 – not bad! I had to make up some engine mounts, but it went in perfectly. It was really easy: for instance, to fit the Lexus clutch master cylinder, I just popped a couple of rubber bungs out of the bulkhead and it bolted straight up, like it was made for the job. The only difficult part was the wiring. The IS200 uses a throttle cable AND fly-by-wire, so I ended up using a cable throttle only and going for an aftermarket Link G4 ECU. I had to build my own wiring loom, but should I decide to add a turbo in the future, I know the Link is ready for it.

“As the shell was in bare metal, I had it painted inside, outside and underneath in Ferrari Tungsten Silver, which was the closest colour I could find to the silver they used on the old Skylines. My mate, Oscar, painted it in another mate’s paint booth. Oscar used to be a professional painter, and it’s as good underneath as on top. He also painted on the black stripes – they’re not stickers. The arches are from a Datsun 240Z, massaged to fit, and the boot spoiler is from a MkI Capri, which fitted perfectly!

“There’s no off-the-shelf performance suspension available for the Cressida, so most of what I’ve used is for a KP61 Starlet, from Techno Toy Tuning, that I’ve adapted to fit. The front end has been converted to coil-overs with Techno Toy adjustable top mounts, so it’s adjustable for caster, camber and ride height. The rear axle is stock, also converted to coil-overs. The brakes are stock disc front and drum rear, but they’re surprisingly good, for some reason!

“The wheels are SSR Longchamps XR4s, which are very rare old Jap wheels that were usually only 14 inches in diameter, and never more than six inches wide. I got these from Barrel Bros in Australia, who put the SSR centres in a wider 15” rim, to my specification. The tyres are Toyo Proxes and had to be stretched a bit to clear the arches.

“The interior was immaculate, even the headlining, so I’ve left it all stock. The only change I’ve made is the engine-turned aluminium panel with digital gauges to replace the stock instruments, which couldn’t work with the digital ECU.

“I’ve had the engine tuned and dynoed at 197bhp, which is quite a step up from the original engine! It’s quite quick, and drives stunningly – it’s fast, and it handles; the only downside is that I’ve set it up so low that it’s a pretty bumpy ride. It’s a beautiful running engine, and since I finished it in 2012 – the build took me eight months – all I’ve had to do is change the oil. It gets driven quite a lot; not daily, but never trailered. It’s won lots of trophies and has picked up a prize at pretty much every show I’ve taken it to, even though I’ve never entered it for judging!

“Very few people have ever recognised it as a Cressida. I’ve only spoken to two, one old boy who used to work on them in the Seventies, and one who used to banger race them. Lots of people seem to think it’s a Cortina! But that means that it’s different, and that’s the beauty of it, and probably why I’ve kept it so long. Normally I build something, sell it and move on to the next project.

“The car does keep evolving. Since the photos were taken, it’s got some even wider arches, and I’m having the wheels rebuilt to match. I may upgrade to Wilwood brakes, too. I may also do the interior, although I really don’t want to ruin what’s there. It’s a good feeling when you finally get something just right.”

1977 Toyota Cressida
  • Toyota/Lexus 1G-FE 2.0 straight-six
  • Toyota J160 six-speed manual gearbox
  • Link G4 standalone engine management
  • Crisp Tuning custom 6-2-1 stainless manifold
  • Crisp Tuning custom stainless side-exit exhaust
  • Stock rear axle
  • KYB adjustable coil-over front suspension
  • Techno Toy adjustable strut top mounts
  • KYB adjustable coil-over rear suspension
  • Stock disc/drum brakes
  • SSR Longchamp XR4 wheels
  • 9.5×15″ front, -27ET, 195/45R15 tyres
  • 10.5×15″ rear, -13ET, 205/50R15 tyres
  • Ferrari Tungsten Silver paint

Thanks to MP Auto Refinishing, Wakefield; to Oscar for the paint; to Crisp Tuning for the exhaust; and to Steve, my brother, for the wiring etc.