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Royal Treatment

A supercharged Toyota Crown Royal Saloon like this can be yours for under AUD$4000!

By Michael Knowling

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This article was first published in 2003.

Crown Royal Saloon. With a name like that you might think we're talking about a Rolls Royce specially built to transport a king and queen. Guess again. We're talking about another 15-year-old import from Japan that you can park outside your castle for a mere $3800 (plus ADR-ing).

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Provided to us by Adelaide's Yahoo Motorsport, this 1988 Crown Royal Saloon is the top-range Toyota 'VIP-mobile' showcasing pretty well everything the company had developed at that time. Inside, the Crown Royal is decked out with a parcel shelf fridge, roof-mounted air conditioning in the rear (with separate controls), climate control, oscillating vents, 3D digital dashboard display, large woofer sound system with a Dolby double-DIN radio/cassette and auto-locking doors. This is in addition to the usual luxury features like cruise control, power windows and mirrors.

This particular vehicle was trimmed in thick brown velour, which is comfortable if not particularly attractive. We have seen other Crown Saloons decked out in dark blue velour.

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Most of the '88 Crowns purchased in Japan were optioned with a 1G-GZE supercharged 2.0-litre straight six. The Crown is one of the few vehicles from Japan that is equipped with a positive displacement supercharger instead of a turbocharger (the twin-turbocharged 1G-GTE engine is available in other models). So why did Toyota bother developing a supercharged Crown? Well, quite simply, it gives the relatively heavy vehicle the feel of a larger capacity engine - something like a 3.0 or 3.5-litre V6. Throttle response is decent and there's grunty torque all the way from about 2000 rpm up. However, when you compare it to the twin-turbo variant there is nowhere near the amount of top-end pull. All of this makes sense when you look at the factory claimed outputs. The 1G-GZE is listed with a modest 225Nm of torque at 3600 rpm and 125kW at 6000 rpm. In addition to the supercharger unit, the ultra-smooth 1G-GZE uses an 8.0:1 static compression ratio and boasts DOHC, 24 valves and multi-point EFI. Curiously enough, there is no intercooler - boost pressure from the supercharger was kept fairly minimal.

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As far as we can determine, the Crown Royal Saloon was never offered with the combination of a 5-speed manual and the supercharged engine. The 4-speed power/economy mode auto trans isn't a bad one, though, with reasonably positive shifts and a good selection of ratios. Drive is to the rear wheels, with a standard LSD getting that supercharged grunt to the bitumen.

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Weighing more than 1500 kilograms, in standard form the supercharged Crown Royal is no straight-line demon. Nought to 100 km/h takes around 10 seconds, but note that in normal driving the instant response and torque of the positive displacement supercharger makes it feel considerably quicker. Good fuel economy is apparently a feature of the twin-turbo 1G-GZE and you can expect the supercharged variant to be not far behind.

Australian-Delivered Crown Royal Saloons

Through the late 1970s Toyota officially imported the Crown Super Saloon into Australia; the Royal Saloon variant didn't arrive until the early 1980s. The earliest Royal Saloons were particularly old-fashioned and came powered by a SOHC 2.8-litre six. However, from about 1984, an updated design brought a DOHC 2.8 (coded 5M-GE) capable of 103kW. This DOHC model was a massive improvement over the SOHC predecessor but its $28,000-odd price tag was very steep - about 30 percent dearer than a contemporary Mazda 929 Limited 4-door hardtop. Needless to say, very few Crown Royal Saloons were sold in Australia and Toyota was forced to drop its big luxury saloon.

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Given its name, it's no surprise that the Royal Saloon rides very softly and smoothly. MacPherson struts are fitted to the front while wishbone suspension is employed at the rear. Handling is characterised with turn-in understeer, but nothing excessive. Note that there isn't the front suspension tower bracing as found in the twin-turbo Toyota Chaser - an indicator that the Crown isn't pitched as a true performance car.

The power assisted rack and pinion steering is nicely linear in its weighting and response and the braking system - with ventilated discs at each end - feel adequate.

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The '88 Crown shares a relatively sleek cabin profile with its Mark II and Chaser Toyota cousins - the C-pillar is quite laidback and the pillarless doors contribute to the smooth appearance. Unfortunately, the front and rear styling that distinguishes the Crown is pretty horrible. A fussy grille with inset fog lights and fattened Toyota Seca-look taillights do the car no aesthetic favours. The Mark II and Chaser are certainly the better-looking ones in the family. Conservative 15-inch alloy wheels are in keeping with the Crown's image.

Note that the supercharged Crown was also released in an oddball 7-seater wagon form. Yahoo Motorsport also has one of these vehicles presently in stock.

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Perhaps thanks to the Crown Royal's staid image, these cars typically arrive from Japan in very good condition - the 'young hoons' haven't gotten into them! This example was obviously well cared for and had a genuine 61,000 kilometres on the odometer. The cost? A mere AUD$3800 (plus ADR-ing) from Yahoo Motorsport. ADR-ing should cost somewhere around AUD$1200 to have done by someone in the industry - less if you do some of the work yourself.

It appears that most body and interior parts for the '88 JDM Crown are completely unique. The supercharged engine was also never officially released in Australia, but 1G engines and transmissions are - at present - readily available and cheap at import wreckers. There are no common reliability issues that we know of.

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From a tuning standpoint the supercharged Crown Royal would be a real buzz to get stuck into. Start by ripping off the restrictive factory exhaust system, fitting a fat cold air intake to the airbox and replacing intake resonators. These simple changes should see about 10 - 15 percent more power, placing the 1G-GZE near the output of the standard 1G-GTE twin-turbo. Beyond that we'd advice fitting an intercooler between the blower and the intake manifold and revising the supercharger drive pulley diameters to achieve a boost increase. Don't go beyond about 12 psi or you'll be pushing the boundaries of the supercharger. These mods should give about 165kW at the flywheel along with tremendous low and mid-range torque - something to really put the wind up the owners of 5.0-litre VN Holden Commodores.

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If you're a real sick-o you might also want to look into fitting a 'twin-charger' arrangement where you rely on the blower for low rpm boost and a monster turbo for a butt-kicking top-end. Just imagine it!

1988 JDM Toyota Crown Royal Saloon Supercharged Fast Facts...
  • Interior colours and fabrics not to everyone's tastes
  • Comfortable and very well equipped
  • Very smooth engine
  • Strong bottom-end and mid-range performance but poor top-end (in standard form)
  • Easily tweaked for demented straight-line performance!
  • Extraordinary value when you consider the features, typical condition, etc

Contact:

Yahoo Motorsport www.yahoomotorsport.com

+61 8 8345 0939/ 0416 080462


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