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Oldtimer | 02.05.2014 - 12:26

The Toyota Cressida – The Cockroach that Doesn’t Die

The Toyota Cressida began its long life as a well-respected flagship model, achieved some notoriety as the mysterious vehicle Mandela was driven in, and now lives on as a taxi cab.

Some models are just a flash in the pan. They get released, you see them on the roads for a little while, and then they’re gone - living on only as scrap parts.

But then there are other models that stick around for years, even long after they’ve been discontinued. The Toyota Cressida is one such car. Here’s its story, from being Nelson Mandela’s car to being the ‘cockroach’ of the road.

From 1977 to 1992

The Cressida, an inline six cylinder motor that took its cue from other vehicles like the Supra and the 2000GT, was an extremely well-built car by 80s standards. It was Toyota’s flagship vehicle for the time that it was in production. Then along came the Lexus, which was established as Toyota's ‘luxury’ range, and we said goodbye to the Cressida. However, the vehicle is actually still being produced in Japan, but under the guise of the Mark II.

A long drive to freedom

In South Africa, before Toyota replaced the model with the Camry in 1993, it sold nearly 198 000 Cressidas across three model ranges in South Africa. One of those is the vehicle in which Nelson Mandela was driven to freedom on 11 February 1990 – giving the Cressida a measure of civic pride. However, nobody today knows what happened to that specific vehicle. Apparently it was simply sold at book value. So somewhere out there is the car Mandela drove on the day of his release, and the owner has no idea about it. Or it could even be in a junkyard somewhere, as an iconic piece of our history rusts away. A search has been on to try track it down, but so far with little luck.

The Cressida lives on

The model might have been discontinued over 20 years ago, but it can still be seen on our roads. Interestingly, it lives on in Cape Town as a taxi. The Cressida just refuses to die, which is why it’s earned the nickname of the ‘cockroach’.  This is a popular used Toyota for sale because of its reliability and affordability. The reason they’re so beloved by taxi drivers? They’re cheap to maintain and more comfortable for their passengers than minibus taxis.

So there you have it. The Toyota Cressida began its long life as a well-respected flagship model, achieved some notoriety as the mysterious vehicle Mandela was driven in, and now lives on as a taxi cab.

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