By on August 31, 2013

11 - 1987 Toyota Master Ace Conversion Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last time we saw a Toyota Master Ace Junkyard Find was when I discovered this super-elaborate ’85 Space Van art car in Northrn California last year. I’ve always admired these mid-engined machines, with their unkillable pushrod fours and goofy Mars Base looks. Here’s one I spotted in a Denver wrecking yard a couple weeks back.
01 - 1987 Toyota Master Ace Conversion Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is the first Toyota Master Ace I’ve seen with the full conversion-van treatment. With rear-wheel drive and the engine under the front seats, space is a bit limited in these things. Still, it was probably fairly nice back when it was new.
06 - 1987 Toyota Master Ace Conversion Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust 132,619 miles on the clock. Just getting broken in!
08 - 1987 Toyota Master Ace Conversion Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou’ll find one in every car, kid. You’ll see.
33 - Spirit of LeMons Racing Cessna - RaceWhen 24 Hours of LeMons legend Speedycop decided to turn a Cessna 310 into a road-race car, he used a Toyota Van chassis as the basis of the project. Short wheelbase, mid-engined, and reliable.

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17 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Toyota Conversion Van...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Finally, a van even I couldn’t love.

    • 0 avatar
      IndianaDriver

      I always thought they had a unique look to them that was different than everything else – they took the cab forward design to the extreme. I never drove one, but I bet you felt like you were looking forward down to the road like a semi-truck driver. Every once in a great while I see one on the road, but they’re so old now that they have rust spots scattered on the sheet metal and look terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      I always liked them. They reminded me of a Brubaker Box.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’ve never seen an old foreign van done up as a conversion and I grew up in the Midwest which was the conversion van capital of the world.

    Weren’t the Keaton’s on “Family Ties” supposed to have a Toyota van toward the end of the show? I remember Alex referring to it as a “refrigerator on wheels” – obviously referencing the styling.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    It’s ok with me if nobody agrees and I do understand the safety aspect. Most of the vans when I was a kid had inside engine doghouses and it seems normal to me. Whatever, I would love to have one of these that had been sealed off and stored just waiting for me. Maybe a time machine would be even better. I think any you find today have had the snot beaten out of them.

    I have been reading and searching for a replacement for my current vehicle. The thing that kills the minivan for me is the fragility of the transmission and the expense of changing one on a fwd vehicle. Because of that I wish toyota had continued to improve the design in this direction. I seem to recall that they were even affordable when new but I always confuse the ToyDatMitsu clones.

    Now you’ve done it Murilee. I will be thinking of this until it gets out of my system.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Like VW never could hit mainstream NA commercial like Astro/Safari or Caravan. They were something of an enigma. Would like to hear from folks who owned/worked one.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Based on the wheels, this is likely a 4×4 cargo van conversion. Rear leaf springs! If it’s a 5MT, it’s truly a rare beast.

    As for space inside, you can put a 4×8 sheet of plywood on the floor and close the hatch, so it’s not terribly different than other 80s minivans

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I seem to recall that, in the early years of Japanese vans, there was some financial advantage to importing them as cargo vans and fitting them out once they arrived. That seems to fly counter to the Chicken Tax, but I remember seeing a ton of the early Toyota Vans being sold as conversions.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      Ford does the opposite with the Transit Connect. Because of the chicken tax, it’s cheaper to out fit them with windows and seats and remove all those at port.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    To think at one time Japan copied Detroit, ALL Japanese vans had this driver ahead of front axle design, very dangerous, little protection in case of an accident, that all changed with the Previa, even though it was RWD, but it was really S L O W they finally caught up with the 1st gen Sienna and at last got it right!

  • avatar
    Doeth

    When I was a kid, I went with my mother to the local Honda dealership to purchase a car. We first went to the used car lot and saw the van in this write up. My mother was excited about the idea of purchasing a slightly used Toyota so we asked for a test drive.

    As soon as we left the dealer parking lot I began to smell smoke and noticed that the salesman in the van with us, looked nervous. The smell got stronger until my mother noticed it and asked the salesman what the smell was coming from. He responded by saying that the van had been having slight engine problems. No sooner had he said this then black smoke began pouring into the van and the engine quit. This was in 1986.

    We did not purchase the van. In fact I have never owned a Toyota in large part because of this experience. My sister purchased a Toyota Tercel a few years later and it was one of the worst cars she ever owned. go figure.

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    I remember seeing a 4 wheel drive cargo version of one of these new at a dealership back in the late 80’s. Never saw one before or since.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I managed a business that had one of these for deliveries. It was a kick to drive, reasonably quick when unloaded, and the turning radius was ridiculously tiny. Ours had a 3-speed slushbox with overdrive, and we burned through a couple trannies.

    It was strange to drive with no hood in front of you, like being in the front of a rollercoaster. Hate to think what would happen in a head-on.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I will always call these a Space Cruiser, even though they weren’t labeled as such here. I know other people who do as well.


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