By on February 2, 2012

Denver really is an alternate universe when it comes to the typical inventory in a self-service junkyard (compared to California, where my formative junkyard years were spent). You won’t find many BMW E30s or Volvo 240s, both of which inhabit California yards to the extent that they clog The Crusher’s jaws, but you will find every oddball four-wheel-drive car built in the 1970s and 1980s. I found this ’89 Corolla All-Trac wagon a couple months back and thought, “Man, these things must be a one-in-a-million find, even in Colorado!” Not so, as it turns out; at another yard maybe ten miles away, here’s one more.
I’ve always preferred the Tercel 4WD wagon, the Civic Wagovan, and— most of all— the AMC Eagle when it comes to 80s four-wheel-drive wagons, but the Corolla All-Trac has a certain flair about it.
This car seems very rusty by Denver standards (with 5% humidity most of the time, cars don’t rust much in these parts), but it turns out that this car came from a Minnesota dealership.
I’m sure true Minnesotans— like, say, my parents— wouldn’t even consider this to be real rust, but: yucko!
I’m still toying with the idea of getting some kind of four-wheel-drive winter beater (though my Nord-Frost-equipped Civic does fine in the snow, even with a Californized Wintern00b™ behind the wheel). It won’t be an All-Trac, however. BMW 325iX? Subaru Justy 4WD? Oleg Cassini Edition AMC Eagle (tell me such a thing exists)?

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

  • avatar

    These actually rode a bit nicer than the Tercel wagon due to their slightly longer wheelbase. They were desirable due to their fuel injection, which allowed for better cold winter starts and fuel economy, but I’d still take a Tercel Wagon of the same era first.

  • avatar

    “I’m still toying with the idea of getting some kind of four-wheel-drive winter beater”

    Previa. I’m not sure if you could get the supercharger _and_ the stick-shift _and_ four-wheel drive all in one vehicle, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy B

      Negative. You could get S/C & all-trac. And you could get stick shift & all-trac in first couple of years. But they never allowed for the trifecta of all-trac & s/c & 5MT.

      1986-1989 Toyota Vans could be had as a 4×4 (proper hi-lo transfer case) and 5MT. You could even get a cargo version that has rear leaf springs rather than coils — many of those are what turned into the conversion vans.

      The oddball would be finding a Camry (sedan or wagon) or Corolla sedan all-trac. They were made for a few years in the late 80s and early 90s (same as the corolla wagon posted here). You could get the corolla sedan w/ a stick even. That’s got to be a rare bird! Camry was auto only.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        IIRC the Camry All-trac could be had with a stick for the first year or two.

      • 0 avatar

        My dad had a stickshift Camry All-Trac. Bizarre car! Had an electronic central locking diff, but was completely spartan otherwise. Shame he got rid of it… would have made for an awesome project car. 3SGTE power in the most unassuming shell ever… I can get with that!

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy B

      for bumpy ii — you are correct, sir. I can’t find anything at the moment about the wagon, but the sedan could be had w/ a stick & all-trac initially.

    • 0 avatar

      I own two All Trac wagons, one parts car with a low mileage, imported from Japan engine and one restored model. I picked up the 92 as a winter beater for $300. and ended up restoring it to new condition. The car drives incredibly well, gets great gas mileage with the 5 speed and loves the snow. I also own a new Rav4 V6, a 4wd Matrix and an 89 Supra Turbo and get more enjoyment out the wagon than I do the others. Something addictive about these things!
      I’d love to post a picture, just not sure how to do it.

  • avatar

    Nice find! I remember seeing one of these when I lived in South Carolina years ago. Always found these odd-ball AWD Toyotas to be a bit quirky, especially the Master Ace.

  • avatar

    I’ve never seen a Corolla AWD wagon, but my mom had a Tercel AWD wagon that she loved. She was a nurse up in Pennsylvania ‘Lake Effect’ snow country and she often -had- to get there. Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor dark of night could stop that vehicle. Rust finally did though.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Ah, the era when Toyota was firmly ensconsed in the Buck Rogers school of wagon design. Also, the era when Toyota could afford to build half a dozen different bodies for the Corolla line.

    Kolar had the good fortune to pick two GM brands that would survive the culling.

  • avatar

    Rear drum brakes? OMG the horror!!

  • avatar

    Interesting little shitbox. Some suggestions about a ‘winter beater’…other than a ’97 Accord with snow tires…

    A Justy 4wd would be a suitable winter beater, I know many who had those back in high school, and would proceed to use them to get to their fishhouses on frozen MN lakes.

    Go for the Eagle though. And swap out the 258 for a newer 4.0l out of a Cherokee (and the 5spd that is hopefully still attached to it); more reliable, easier to find parts. Not sure about the ‘Oleg Cassini’ ed., but you could always make one(?)

    P.S. That Kolar dealer sticker makes me want to go up to Duluth and grab a burger and a beer at Grandma’s…:)

  • avatar

    There are so many of these on the road here in Montana that I’d bet you could spot one every day of the week.

    People love them! I found one for sale last summer that was a faded creamy tan, and other than the ripped driver seat looked to be in amazing condition – no rust at all!

    I’ve often thought Toyota nuked the fridge when they stopped making this vehicle.

    Subaru has taken over now and is truly Legion.

  • avatar

    Had one for totally trouble-free 120 000 km. Great funky wagon. Being light and with lockable central diff – it could do wonders in snow or mud, especially so with proper tires.
    Even with a carb (but no emissions control of any kind) it would start in any temperature.
    The lockable compartment attached to the roof above cargo area and accessible from both front and rear is a very neat idea.
    To me this one is one of the greatest Toyota’s vehicles.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Yesterday’s Corolla is today’s Matrix…

    I’ve had a few of the All-Trac Corollas and maybe, perhaps one All-Trac Camry.

    These cars were exceptionally boring to drive. Truth is the only Toyota All-Trac that was a true delight on the road was the Celica… and that was only when you revved the crap out of it.

    I got a 10 year old Celica All-Trac w/ 100k for about $1600 back in the Y2K period. A great car to drive if you chose to give it a lot of gas. Otherwise it was like any other Celica of that time.

    Still kinda miss it… but the profit back then was worth the sale.

  • avatar

    Hey, I know exactly where that dealership is! If it had indeed spent the majority of it’s 23 years in Minnesota, you can bet the rust would be a lot more extensive.

  • avatar

    I can’t imagine how un-fun it must’ve been to be a product designer or engineer at Toyota from the late 80s to the mid 90s.

    The transition from awesome goofy cars to cranking out Camrys and ES300s with micron-grade assembly precision must’ve come at great cultural cost internally.

  • avatar

    I’ve never had any experiences with these All-Trac vehicles but I did have the destinct pleasure of putting about 25k on a 1990 Honda Civic Wagovan 4WD about 7 years ago! That thing was a real trooper! Somehow it actually felt more sure-footed in the snow than the ’98 Impreza OBS that I replaced it with.

    My Wagovan had the 1.6L with fuel injection and the 6-speed (thats 5 forward gears PLUS Super Low and reverse) and I had it in some pretty compromising situations, always with an impressive outcome! PA winters are certainly nothing compared to the truly northern states, but when there is often the possibility of accumulations up to about 6-inches, the ~26 mpg city and plow-through-it ability of that Civic were an awesome combination!

  • avatar

    The Camry All Trac with standard did exist. I drove one on a cross prairie trip between two dealers in 1990. 4 cylinder, all-trac, standard with crank windows.

    Felt like a mid-late 90’s Subaru Legacy.

  • avatar

    Wow, the All Trac in the photo is in really BAD condition compared to my ’89 Corolla All Trac that I bought in new Boulder but is now in the Texas hill country which is low humidity. Body is spotless, interior is very good with only a wear spot on the driver’s seat from getting my 6’4″ frame into the car.

    But I have a problem with mine. While it runs very well with 250,000 miles, I had some engine work done and the owner of the shop kept it TWO YEARS and then retired. His daughter’s boyfriend put it back together and never filled the 5-speed transmission with oil. A few weeks later FIFTH gear died and the shop owner had disappeared. (Health/retirement from TX to CO)

    So I need to work on or replace the transmission. I have the full shop manual but cannot find any info about the actual steps in pulling the transmission. Sure, I can pull the engine/transmission combo but I am hoping to be able to drop the transmission out the bottom IF THAT IS POSSIBLE. Anyone with real experience with this job on an 89 All Trac can possibly tell me. I spoke to a 20 year Toyota mechanic here is Texas and he had never even seen one before!

    I drive it every day, just that I limit myself to 55mph and the mileage is not as good without 5th gear.

    Any help out there?? (From someone who really knows what they are talking about!!)


    • 0 avatar

      Hey –
      I had mine done recently, and the mechanics at the garage struggled to get the gearbox down – till somebody came by and told him; no go, man – have to lift out the engine with it. So he sure fiddled more than the 6 hrs that his book scheduled for the job (but didn’t say HOW9 , but he was decent and didn’t charge me for more than 5 hrs labour. Runs well, now – in Australia !

      Dunno if you’ve had it done? Wishing you all the best :)

  • avatar

    Ford Tempo 4WD! The offset driveshaft is kinda weird.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I would simply ask the dealer for the schematics on that repair and then use enough of their parts and/or fluids to make it worth their while to help you.

    Another option is to go to Alldata DIY and pay $15 for the step-by-step process. The subscription is usually good for a year and you can find discount codes online as well.

    Good luck!

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy B

      Also check your public library. Depending on the size of the library system, they may offer Mitchell On Demand or Alldata for free w/ your library card! A lot of research databases and whatnot are free through the library, but you may need to be there and not remote in. Could be worth the cost to print out some pages/screen prints or what have you.

      Electronic versions of Chilton’s manuals might be out there too [the Cleveland library system makes those available from home if you remote-in]

      Definitely look into it, though I realize $15 or less for Alldata DIY isn’t a terrible price and may make the above more work than it’s worth. But free is always good!

  • avatar

    I have the 1800 page shop manual on CD, just that some things are not obvious in the manual. Such as if the transmission can be dropped out the bottom, internal lighting on the heater/AC controls, and the details on how to change the starter motor for example.

    I have decided to call the dealer in CO where I bought it and see if I can speak to a mechanic who knows about it.

    Thanks — John

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I was working for an oil company in Denver in the late eighties when these came out and they were about as seldom seen as any current car,even in Denver which seems like it would have been the perfect market. I always liked these and the similiar Tercels though at the time these seemed even wierder with the nsrrower side windows. In 89 I was fired and returned to Texas where they were almost non-existent.I wonder if a high price resulted in few being sold.

  • avatar

    So are these drivelines much the same as what found it’s way into the RAV4 or the CR-V (in the case of the Honda cousin).

  • avatar
    ce owens

    Colorado is a great place to find odd AWD. And I had a very rare Toyota Awd. In 2009 I bought my grandmothers 1991 Toyota Camry all-trac sedan, pretty rare onto its self. But this was imported from Canada, as my G.Mam live just across the border in Idaho, and was a Diesel! Short story, my G.MAM owed the car for 18yrs and 120k, I had the car 9 months, and drove the car on my commute to UC Denver medical from Colorado Springs, Co until a drunk driver totaled it! This car was awesome had shift on the fly AWD fitted to a 4cyl. diesel with a 4sp AT, and got 40+mpg highway. Came across this site as I still have new unused parts for the car and am trying to find production dates for this rare car. Toyota needs to get on the new clean diesel campaign and import diesels again, as Toyota diesels as well as petrols seem to last for ever. I still have a old ’83 Toyota FJ40 diesel that runs like a champ.

  • avatar

    I currently have a 1989 Corolla All Trac automatic. It runs fairly good at 218,000 km but needs transmission work (for the last 60,000km) but I’ve had my mechanic looking for parts since January with no luck (or maybe he just doesn’t want to bother with it). I’d love to get it running in top shape. I just love this car! I’m in the Orlando Florida area, does anyone know anyone who wants to take on the project? This is my daily driver and I’d rather not be without it for longer than a week or two. Any recommendations?

  • avatar

    Which yard is this one located in? I need parts for my All Trac.

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