By on November 21, 2011

You want rare? When’s the last time you saw a Corolla All-Trac, anywhere?
Colorado, where I live, is sort of a living museum of four-wheel-drive vehicles that have been forgotten in the rest of the world. The Tercel 4WD wagon is still a common sight here, along with endless IHC Scouts and every possible variety of old Subaru. Even here, however, you see about as many street-driven Packards as you do Corolla All-Trac wagons.
So, here’s this nearly complete example, with beautiful interior and no rust that I could find. It’s hard to imagine these things ever becoming sought-after collector cars, but one day we’ll realize they’re all gone.

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45 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Toyota Corolla All-Trac Wagon...”


  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I’ve driven one once. Not the most exciting or fast car with a 1.5 driving all four wheels, but there was no way we could get it stuck in the snow(except possibly leaving the roads all together, something one just doesn’t do in the middle of night in winter in Norway :)

  • avatar
    Zackman

    When was the last time I saw an All-Trac Corolla wagon? In my case, the better qustion to ask would be “Have I EVER seen one?” I honestly cannot recall these, so they must have been pretty rare, at least in the St. Louis area where we lived at the time.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    2002 or 2003. A gal I went to high school with attended the same university as I did and took her high school car (white All-Trac wagon with a 5-speed) along with her. I’d see that car from time to time.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I drove a friend’s All-Trac years ago. Believe it or not, it didn’t have power steering and has the second worst steering I’ve ever encountered. (First was a Chevy Nova w/o P/S.) I could understand the Nova’s heavy handedness, but not the Toyota.

    In any case, it was a capable car, but not one that I ever wanted to drive again.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I had a Geo Prism with the 4AFE, and had way too much fun in it whenever it snowed. This would be basically the same thing, but AWD. I think I would have gotten myself killed if I had this instead.

    • 0 avatar
      blowfish

      u mean the AWD tracks differently, and the slide is not predictable as ordinary FWD.
      Many yrs a dude told me his SAAB handles much better than a Mitsubishi AWD, He said he went up to ski in Whistler BC, it was a pretty treacherous road, many folks didnt make it home!

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        I mean when I drove the desolate roads rally style at the country club I worked at, and got the prism stuck on it’s side…

        …I probably would have just kept going all night with this thing until it was wrapped around a tree.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Not only that, but you could get going a lot faster a lot more quickly!

        AWD/4WD vehicles I’ve driven have been very predictable, except for a rental Highlander with non-defeatable ESC. Though I suppose you’d get used to predicting that the engine would go into idle mode and you’d just understeer every time you apply throttle with the wheels turned. It handled like a FWD with bald front tires.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    all-trac cars are all over Montana. I see one driving just about every day.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I actually saw (in traffic) an All-Trac SEDAN with Arizona plates, just last week. The damndest things you see when you don’t have a camera.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      Yes, those All-Trac sedans are extremely rare. I saw a Craigslist dealer ad once for a Japanese-spec RHD All-Trac Corolla sedan with diesel engine, 5MT, red interior and power everything.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    There is a red one running around town here that I have been seeing for the last 15 years or so. It’s pretty beat up and rusty, but I see it nearly every single day. Since there are no vehicle safety inspections around here, I’d imagine it’ll keep running until the apocalypse and then continue to run happily afterwards.

    I don’t know what you could do to kill a 1.6 liter 4A engine in one of these, aside from not changing the timing belt and it snapping.

    There was also a very rare Camry All-Trac in sedan and wagon form that was sold in the US for a few short years.

    On a side note, some of the All-Trac components that feed drive to the 4 wheels of the also rare Celica All-Trac ended up on the first generation RAV4.

    • 0 avatar
      cheapthrills

      4A-FE engines are non-interference. It only cost me $13 and an afternoon to replace a snapped one in my Celica.

      It’s a truly great engine for a daily driver:
      -reliable
      -cheap replacement parts
      -thousands available in junkyards for <$400
      -super efficient
      -worthwhile low-end torque
      -sounds decent at high rpm

      All it asks is that you don't mock its 105 hp.

    • 0 avatar
      MR2turbo4evr

      ^ I second that, the 4A-FE’s are awesome. They are really peppy for their size. I’ve driven a few cars with 1.6L engines, and the only one that seemed quicker than my Corolla with the 4A-FE was an older Mazda 323. I was a sportier version, but I can’t remember the details.

      • 0 avatar
        Neb

        The pics posted sent me into a minor timewarp, as (no surprise, I suppose) the dash, shifter, and engine are the same as my old 1987 Camry sedan. With a Standard, even a car closing in on this example’s mileage was fun and engaging. With the fluids changed and a seafoam purgative, the engine was almost annoying in its perfection. Everything cheap-thrills said.

  • avatar
    colin42

    I see a white rusty one in my local walmart carpark fairly frequently (Columbus IN – Westside Walmart)

  • avatar
    quiksilver180

    My neighbors had one and was their beater for years. Then they retired and moved to Alaska and took it with them. It wasn’t in great shape, but it never gave them any problems.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    I’ve seen em up here in the mountains of NJ. One actually had a clinometer on the dash, which was pretty cool for a mid 80′s rattle box.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    The second car I owned – for totally trouble-free 70 kmiles.
    Rust got it. But then with the amount of salt they used to spray on the streets of Moscow in those days it came as no surprise.
    With the right tires this thing was close to unstoppable on mud or snow.

    The only thing that seriously sucked in it was front seats. Very poor shape, so I replaced them with ones from a Nissan-Primera (Infi G20 out here).

    One of the very few Toyotas that were both interesting to look at and to drive.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I’ve had a couple… which is strange given that I live not too far from metro-Atlanta.

    The All-Trac system went into a lot of Toyotas back then. Celica, Camry, Corolla, Previa, Rav-4… I don’t think the 4Runner or truck had access to that system. But I could be wrong.

    BTW, I’m scheduled to pick up a 1st gen 2dr. RAV4, Automatic with 91k this afternoon. Nice timing!

    • 0 avatar
      jco

      well these would have all been fwd-based transaxle style systems. the trucks have always been traditional motor -> trans -> transfer case systems. but still similar to Honda’s realtime (which was first in the Civic Wagon) where most of the power is going to the front wheels unless you lock the center diff and/or encounter slip. and like the Honda, the manual trans models seemed to get the better little tricks, like the crawler gear and the diff lock (the auto ones didn’t get the diff lock).

      I’ve always thought the 2-door RAV4 with the double sunroofs was a neat little trucklet.

      • 0 avatar
        AKADriver

        Like “Quattro”, All-trac was just a marketing name for a variety of different mechanical systems.

        This Corolla All-trac, and the Camrys and Rav4, had a transverse engine with a lockable viscous coupling… It was just a power takeoff that kicks in when the front wheels slip similar to Honda’s RT4WD system.

        The Previa All-trac had a longitudinal engine, normally driving the rear wheels, with that same sort of power takeoff to kick in the front wheels.

        The Celica All-trac had a sportier system with a center diff and rear LSD.

  • avatar
    jco

    the license plate holder looks like an ATM. and the rear side glass looks so incongruous. but how awesome that is has a center diff lock. obviously meant to compete with the Subarus as well as the Honda Civic Shuttle. from what I understand, these are also nearly unkillable, like most older Toyotas. looks like this one was the higher trim SR5, as well. interestingly, there were also Camry all-tracs, in both wagon and sedan form. there were also Corolla all-trac sedans.

    my brother just acquired a manual transmission Honda Civic wagon, which have a low-crawler gear to the left of 1st. something the auto trans models didn’t have. these cars were on sale at the same time, although the Corolla seems like it was a bigger car. with the popularity of AWD as an option now, its interesting how many little Japanese cars were available that way 20 years ago

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      That was the high point of 4wd/awd cars every mfg had at least one. GM had the Pontiac STE AWD while Ford was selling Tempo and Topaz 4wds.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Local Catholic Priest had a Tempo 4wd, it’s the only one I’ve ever seen “in the wild.” It made sense for him to have it because he tended to two parishes 20 miles apart and mass is not something you cancel. Though I always laughed at the all season whitewalls he had on it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I’ve seen a number of AWD and 4wd Tempazes over the years. Of course maybe that’s because I’ve had 3 of them. With the track-lock diff in the rear and no center diff they are great snow cars. The in and out transfer case made it a 4wd but only the last year 91 were marketed, sold and badged as 4wd, the 88-90 cars were badged as AWD. The trick thing about them is that the transmission was unchanged from the FWD versions the transfer case just replaces the pan. The rear output was then drive at the reduced speed off of the ring gear. However that meant that the pan gasket was selective fit to set the backlash. The bevel gears that sent the power to the rear shaft drove at a 1.07 to 1 ratio to minimize wear and then the rear ring and pinon was 1 to 1.07 to make the rear wheels turn at the same speed as the front. The only problem ara was the fact that they used u-joints in the rear half shafts and they ate them up with their relatively high angle of operation. Thankfully they are the same ones used in the front axle of Rangers and Bronco II so they are in-stock and not too expensive. Ford engineers did an incredible job of making basically no changes to the basic car and so few unique parts.

  • avatar

    There are a ton of these in Alaska; I saw at least 4 or 5 different ones just in Homer.

    Also spotted in Alaska: A running Fiat X1/9, an Opel Kadett, several late 70s Civics, an AMC Eagle, and something I briefly glimpsed that may have been a Lada.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s funny. I was at the Orphan Car Show a couple of months ago in Ypsilanti and while there weren’t any Opels or ’70s Civics, there was at least one AMC Eagle (and a 4X4 Spirit, too, I think), and a Lada Niva in the show and in the parking lot there was a X/19 with an EV conversion.

  • avatar
    htatc

    Anyone who frequents Central America often will find these still roaming the streets some in fairly good condition others not so much.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Is not a bad little car, even made some $ with her.
    Only drove her during summer months so never been able to experience how she can perform.

    Had one Tercel 4×4 6spd, but the dif ratio seems to be different on front & rear, when engaged it drives very rough, felt like the front is dragging the back wheel but did took me out of a stuck once.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Check out that lockable center diff button. After 1989, I believe all Alltrac drivetrains just had the viscous unit. Locker wasn’t a huge improvement in traction, but it helped when either end was in ditch/snowbank.

    Took a road trip in one of these with a buddy about 10yrs ago. From Colo to Penn. Expected better mpg(around 20), but we were pretty loaded up and the pedal was to the floor to maintain 80-85mph. My Celica Alltrac turbo would get about same or slightly better mpg under same conditions!

    4AFE was a good engine, but speed density MAP baseds EFI was not as precise as flapper door MAF systems at that time. Also engine was mounted vertical in these cars. Not kicked back at an angle like celica/camry. Made for ponderous, but not horrible, handling. Easier to work on, for sure. Honda 4wds would be a somewhat rarer find as their engines were of interference design. With Toyota it was just a tow if t-belt broke.

    I also remember that Toyota must have changed their galvanizing after 1989, as 90+ cars rusted a lot less.

    And these are not that rare on craigs around Colorado.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    I strongly encouraged my parents to buy one of these back then but my dad has an aversion to anything with more than two doors so they ended up with a Chevy Beretta. They got 200k out of the Beretta without any major issues but I still think they would have been better off with the All-Trac.

  • avatar
    epsilonkore

    A co-worker of mine still has hers and drives it daily! Rust is gnawing at its fender wells, but otherwise it purrs like a kitten on afternoon lunch trips. I had the 4A-FE in my 94 Celica, was good for 12 years and 210,000+ teenager driven miles with few non maintenance issues, for the whole car actually. I miss the total quality of that Celica (and obviously her Corolla). Late 80′s to mid 90′s was Toyota’s prime.

  • avatar
    clutchrider

    I currently drive one (though not for much longer, 2012 GLI being delivered). It’s my 2005 Toyota Corolla Matrix XR AWD. Basically the reborn Corolla AllTrac.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The number of cars that Burt sold over the years and where they have migrated to amazes me, as well as the fact that they continued to use the outdated screw on units that look like they were cast in the 60′s. I often see cars around the PNW with those badges. Just last week I was behind a car with one on it.

  • avatar
    RayH

    My first car was a 1989 Camry All-Trac. I drove it in high school and a year afterward, until 1997. My parents bought it new, and the other car they were considering was the All-Trac Corolla wagon. The Corolla was too slow and the steering felt funny, according to my parents. I think after well over a decade of station wagon driving, they didn’t want another one.
    I liked my Camry All-Trac, but it was slow, mine was automatic. I kept the center diffential locked most of the time like an idiot and hooned it around turns, so I was constantly ruining/tearing constant velosity joints in front…. inner…. outer…. literally 3 times a year. I wish I would have taken better care of it.

  • avatar
    340-4

    These things are everywhere here in Montana. Owners love them and maintain them and pet them and keep them.

    I just assumed they were legion all over the country!

  • avatar
    scottcom36

    The size of this car seemed more practical to me than the Tercel wagon, which was pretty small.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    That Patagonia sticker there is priceless!!! save it..

    Seriously though, I remember seeing quite a few of these in NJ around Princeton and I can’t think of a single one of them that didn’t have the requisite Patagonia sticker in the window. Same for Subaru’s of the same vintage.

    I think it just goes to show what type of demographic these cars appealed to at that time.

  • avatar
    robinculver

    I see and drive one everyday. It has just shy of 200,000 Kilometers on it. Not sure where it was made but yeah it’s in kilometers. I bought it 2009 with 103,000 K on it and I put the other 93,000 on it, most of it since this March (2011) when I retired and began driving throughout the US. Currently I’m in the sunshine state of Florida in the Orlando area. It’s red and automatic and I’m looking forward to driving it for a long long while.

  • avatar
    Lemmiwinks

    I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I’ve been doing a retrospective on these Junkyard Find pieces this afternoon. (It’s been a slow day.)

    For the record, Murilee, you can find a decent number of these buggers (as well as their Honda brothers-from-another-mother) actively roaming the streets of the SF peninsula and east bay. The fact that you can find a lot of vintage Japanese metal near ’round these parts is nothing special in and of itself, but the other half and I always take a picture when we spot one of these little 4wd oddities… I believe we’ve caught at least three dozen examples in the past couple years. (And no, I’m not thinking of the Tercel.)

    Folks around here love them some AWD Tahoe machines, even if it means the trip from Placerville to South Lake on 50 will take three hours.

  • avatar
    JMA510

    I still have one! A little different though, mine is a Sprinter Carib right hand drive, same deal mostly. See quite a few of them around B.C. interior region since the used Japanese importing market has become so popular in this area. Mine is a 1988 AE95 model, also with only 94000Km so hopefully she will be around for quite a while.


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