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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

more content soon. xx

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