A Shakotan Cressida Built By A French-American Man

You know how some dog owners seem to look like their pet? Or how artists typically make art that somehow looks like them? The same is true for cars, I’d say.

One of my favorite private games is to look at a group of people and guess what cars they drive. I like to imagine I’m often correct. If you found Billy, the owner of this 1978 Toyota Cressida, at a grocery store, you’d easily match him to his car in the parking lot. Frankly, he’s handsome and cool and so is his shakotan MX32.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

Billy is French, though he lives in America and has plans to eventually move to Japan, and car culture is inherent to his nature.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

In his younger years, Billy spent his summers in France visiting his car enthusiast family; his uncle organized the Paris-Dakar Rally for nearly 20 years (and won it once in a first-gen Mitsubishi Pajero); both of his parents worked for Hot Rod and his uncle was the founder of multiple car-oriented magazines in Europe. Clearly, Billy would be a bit strange if he wasn’t into cars.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

He’s had a pretty impressive collection of Japanese vehicles throughout the years including an AE86 Corolla, a couple of ’80s Zs, two S13s and a first-gen CR-X. When it came to the MX32 Cressida though, Billy needed convincing before he even thought about owning one. At first he felt like they were a Japanese/Rolls-Royce/Jaguar bastardization.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

What’s ironic, is that it’s for this very reason that he ultimately fell in love with Toyota’s late-’70s mid-size sedan. For Billy, the X-series Cressida is the last of the look-a-like era. The Celica was basically a stubby Mustang, while the Z of the era wanted desperately to be Italian. Billy says he feels like it wasn’t until the ‘80s that Japanese cars fully found their own design.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

After picking up his MX32 from an estate sale – in completely original condition – a couple of years ago, Billy set about making the car his own.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

For the most part, Billy’s inspiration has come from Japan’s kaido racer subculture, but there are a few subtle nods to France too, including the horn which plays a French tune.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

Aside from the Moonlight Runners front chin spoiler and the early-’80s Dunlop Lemans 24 ‘T-E’ wheels – the latter courtesy of Love20Bee, who re-barelled and re-finished them, stretching the specs out to 14×8-inch and 14×9-inch – it’s the low stance that really sets this Cressida off. That’s helped greatly by an MX63 independent rear suspension conversion, which has allowed for plenty of negative camber out back.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

The original 2.5L inline-six engine remains under-hood, by Billy has added a TRD 5M-GE octopus leg header that was adapted to fit the 4M and a custom exhaust – with attachable takeyari (translation: bamboo spear) extensions – to provide a soundtrack worthy of the car’s appearance.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

Inside, the design cues continue with a faux roll cage, OBA wood-rimmed steering wheel and a pair of classic Pioneer TS-X10 box speakers on the rear shelf, among may other specially chosen details.

a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man
a shakotan cressida built by a french-american man

For me, this Cressida is a modified masterpiece that speaks many languages. Meeting Billy and his MX32 reminded me of what car culture is all about – building connections, regardless of our origins.

Sara Ryan
Instagram: pockowokosara

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