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The Toyota Crown is coming to the U.S. for the 2023 model year. But US-based Toyota fans may not know that the Crown is the longest-running nameplate of any Toyota car. In the days before Lexus, it was the top trim luxury product Toyota made. Most Toyota car names, such as the Toyota Corolla, Corona, Camry, and Avalon, all fit with the “Crown” theme–in various languages. To compete with U.S. cars being exported to Japan, Toyota even upgraded the Crown with its own version of the Hemi in 1963.

  • The Toyota Crown, coming to the U.S. for the 2023 model year, holds the distinction of being the longest-running nameplate of any Toyota car. It was originally a luxurious sedan with unique features like rear-hinged “suicide” doors.
  • Before the advent of the Lexus brand, Toyota’s luxury offerings included the Toyota Crown, which was introduced in 1955. Over the years, it catered to various market segments, from Japan’s elite to taxi and police fleets.
  • Toyota briefly exported the Crown to the U.S. between 1958 and 1973, although it faced challenges due to its engine’s power limitations compared to American V8 cars.
  • You may want to know more about the interesting history of the Toyota Crown, including its unique features and its role in inspiring the names of other Toyota sedans, such as the Corolla, Camry, and Avalon because Toyota is now bringing the Crown back to the U.S. for 2023, with a hybrid 2.5-liter I4 engine.

The Toyota Crown was the original Lexus

The original Toyota Crown luxury sedan parked in a museum.
1955 Toyota Crown | Wikimedia Commons

Toyota branded its luxury division as Lexus in 1989. But the automaker certainly built luxury cars before it rolled out the Lexus logo.

Toyota first rolled out its four-door “Toyopet Crown” luxury sedan in 1955. You could buy this car as either a sedan or a station wagon. Notably, in the rear it had rear-hinged “suicide” doors, like the 1960s Lincoln Continental.

Over the years the Crown has been a popular sedan among Japan’s elite and for the government. Toyota has also released more affordable options, such as the “Crown Comfort” targeted at taxi and police fleets. It is one of the few Toyota vehicles with its very own logo: a crown.

Toyota exported a small number of Crown sedans to the U.S. between 1958 and 1973. The first generation Toyota Crown came with a 1,450 cc I4. Though Toyota increased this to 1,890 cc, it was still not enough to keep up with highway traffic, so Toyota briefly pulled it off the market in 1960.

Toyota built its own Hemi V8 for the Crown luxury sedan

A 1962 toyota Crown sedan in a parking lot.
1962 Toyota Crown | Wikimedia Commons

By 1960, it became obvious that Toyota would need a more powerful engine for its halo sedan. It had trouble exporting the car and many Japanese business people preferred importing American V8 cars.

Rumor has it that Toyota tore down multiple American V8 engines, and that’s how they landed on a hemispherical combustion chamber. This Toyota Hemi was a V8, but only 2.6-liters. It was a regular old pushrod V8 with two valves per cylinder. Unlike Chrysler’s current 5.7-liter V8, Toyota’s old Hemi only had one spark plug per cylinder. Yamaha helped Toyota engineer an all-aluminum block to save weight. It was rated for 114 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque.

Did Toyota copy Chrysler’s “Firepower” V8 of the 1950s? There is no way to tell. The Crown’s V8 was not a perfect copy of the Chrysler Hemi. And Chrysler was far from the only company with hemispherical combustion heads. You could get those in engines by Alfa-Romeo, Jaguar, and even Lancia.

Many Toyota car names are actually a variation on the Crown

An original Toyota Crown luxury sedan with a V8 engine is parked in a museum.
1964 Toyota Crown V8 | Wikimedia Commons

Very few Toyota Crowns made it to the U.S. The automaker really found its footing in North America at the other end of the market. But you might say the Crown is the most important Toyota you’ve never heard of. It is central to Toyota’s Japanese-market offerings and inspired the name of most of the Toyota sedans we know and love in the U.S.

Toyota Corona? Latin for “crown.” Toyota Corolla? That’s Latin for “little crown.” Toyota Camry? An interpretation of the Japanese “kanmuri,” which also means “little crown.” Even the Toyota Avalon is named after an island from the King Arthur myth because…crowns.

As laws changed, and Toyota found it could make money exporting high-dollar cars, it launched the Lexus brand. Obviously, the brand has been popular here, and in Japan, but the Toyota Crown never went away. And now for 2023, Toyota is exporting this luxury sedan to the U.S. It does’t have a Hemi anymore, but a hybrid 2.5-liter I4 with an available turbocharger upgrade. Alongside the Camry, Corona, and Avalon, the Toyota Crown will fit right in.

Next, find out why Toyota is returning to its roots or see the Toyota Crown for yourself in the video below: