Ian’s GX81 Cresta

As I’ve never really held a terribly large interest in the Totota brand, when my friend Ian asked me to help him collect his new GX81 Toyota Cresta, I honestly didn’t really see the appeal.


I mean, I do certainly understand the allure of a luxury sedan which can simultaneously slide right under the radar for your work commute, whilst still providing a great deal of driving joy in the hills. Still, I didn’t really understand why this car. Why a Cresta? What makes this thing so much more special than the locally delivered MX83 Cressida? or a Chaser, or a Mark II hard-top? As with most things, the devil is in the details.

Although on first glance the GX81 Cresta does share a great deal of similarities to the locally delivered MX83, on a second sweep of the eye, there’s a number of large differences. Beginning with the front end: a narrower, restrained grille allows the nose of the Cresta to sport wider headlights, with a separate reflector for both low and high beam.  Furthermore, the front bar features narrower indicators, which now sit neatly against yellow-beam foglights. Light green, fibre-optically lit bonnet markers also feature as standard on the Cresta.


The rear end is where things get much more black and white when compared to the locally delivered MX83. Similar to the X81 Chaser, the Cresta features a light filler panel, and has the licence plate located in the rear bar rather than between the tails, giving a much tidier look. But really, these are just minor differences. The real story is told with one little badge.


Although there have been many great-sounding straight-sixes from Toyota, nothing quite matches the amazing sound of the 1G-GZE, featured in the Super Lucent ‘G’ version of the X81 chassis. Here, instead of the head-gasket-tastic 7M-GE commonly found in most Australian MX83’s, this Cresta features a super-charged 2000cc engine built around the already fantastic sounding 1G-GE.


Originally only offered mated to an Automatic transmission, the 1G-GZE engine is possibly one of the rarest engines Toyota ever made, given only a very short shelf life – and never included in any base-trim packages. But, this isn’t any 1G-GZE. Slapped on the back of this Super Lucent is a heavy button clutch which pushes power into a J160 six-speed sourced from an IS200. The powertrain is then finished off with an MX83 Grande LSD with a 4.1 gearset.


The engine flows harder and louder thanks to a set of Trust 1G-GE headers, heavily modified to fit around the SC14 supercharger, which then pump air out through a 2.5″ straight-through exhaust. Although I can’t include a sound-clip here, you’ll have to trust me when I say it’s the most amazing sounding Japanese car I’ve ever heard.

The car retains it’s solid, planted feel thanks to a set of BC coilovers and solid sub-frame bushes at the tail end. As the rear arm bushes are in desperate need of replacement, Rob from Ciscokids has also kindly provided a fresh set manufactured by Superpro. Unfortunately, these haven’t made their way onto the car yet, but all in good time.


Sitting just proud from the guards is a set of 17-inch AVS Model 6’s, measuring 8J +30 up-front and 9J +35 in the rear, with 215/45 rubber stretched over everything.


Easilly discernible from the older AVS designs by the gradual taper down towards the mounting-face, the narrow-spoke design help to give the classic cruiser a more modern, late-90’s twist … not to mention nicely framing the drilled and slotted rotors.


But really, I can’t talk about this car without mentioning the interior. Aside from the neatly designed dog-leg shifter which allows the car to retain a factory manual centre-console; small touches like half-seat covers, handmade wooden shift-knob and a wood-grain Momo Indy with polished centre add a bit of personality to the old car. But the real finishing touch is the amazing, linear digital-dash.


So, yeah, I guess you could say I know understand the appeal of this old thing …

more content soon. xx

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