By on April 26, 2012

The last two Vellum Venom editorials discussed the differences between 1980s and 2000s automotive design aesthetics, for two vehicles with similar missions for their respective brands. The point?  We’ve gone silly in our proportions and we need way more ATD (attention to detail) from the auto makers. Behold, my point coming to life: the 1991-ish Toyota Camry.

Before we proceed, remember what one of my design teachers said: success depends on proportion, proportion, proportion!

Aside from the ill-scavanged, left-hand backup light assembly on the decklid, this was a clean example of one of the more respected Toyotas ever made.  While I never found their styling exciting, these GEN-II Camrys are honest and well executed.  With plenty of ATD! But check out the gigantic Toyota badge cribbed from a newer model.

See how proportioning is so important to the rest of the car?

And, regulations and requirements aside, have we gone juuust a little crazy in our quest for larger cars?

One day we will have smaller badges on our sedans, and smaller butts to go with.  If the Camry is any indication, a smaller butt means more rear overhang + less C-pillar so we can actually have a more usable cargo footprint too. Oh, what a feeling!

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

34 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: 1991 Toyota Camry (emblem)...”

  • avatar

    Sajeev, that Toyota emblem is the real deal. 1991 was the first year that Toyota used their then-new “Pillsbury Doughboy scorong a touchdown” (as I recall Car and Driver describing it) logo. My parents bought a new-for-1991 Tercel, and that car was blessed with the new logo as well. I remember seeing leftover 1990 models on the lot with only the “Toyota” script, and thought they looked classier than the ’91s.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you sure? Also note the location of the trunk lock cylinder.

      • 0 avatar
        Sammy B

        That logo is on front grille of that gen Camry. Trunk only had the lock cylinder. My memory fails me, but I feel like throughout that model’s run, they changed how they put “toyota” and “camry” on the trunk. Both on one side and split on either side….can’t recall and don’t feel like looking it up :)

      • 0 avatar

        Sajeev, you are correct, none of the 2nd gen Camrys had a logo on the trunk. TCragg, the “Toyota” script that was replaced by a logo in later years was on the grill – see this picture for an example:

        I think you’re off by a year, though. My old ’90 Camry had the logo on the grill. It was one of the ones produced in Kentucky, for what it’s worth:

        Also, I really miss that car. Legroom, cavernous trunk, all-around spectacular visibility, and a relatively small footprint. 35mpg+ if I kept it to 60mph on the highway, and reasonably fun with the 5-speed.

      • 0 avatar

        ’90-’91 had the emblem on the grille, along with the updated taillights (mostly) seen here. ’83-’91 models all had the exact same “TOYOTA CAMRY” badging on right side of the decklid, and the trim level (if applicable) on the left side.

        My family had an ’85 and a ’91. Both excellent cars. Incredibly dull, but an all around comfortable, economical, solid, decent-driving package.

      • 0 avatar

        Toyota updated the Camry half-way through the 1990 model year. My friend has a ’90 DX, built at TMMK in January of 1990 and it has the “TOYOTA” script on the grille along with the unpainted door handles and standard cloth interior, not the velour type that was on LE’s. Another one of my friends had a 1990 Camry that had the color-keyed doorhandles/grille and the new logo on the grille. In additon, Toyota made the better velour type cloth standard on the DX models during this time and all DX and above had color-keyed door handles, grille, and bumpers.

        For ’91, in addition to the changes I mentioned, Toyota also redesigned the lower valence panel exclusively for ’91 models.

        The placement of the emblems on the back never changed. The one pictured here has them wrong and they were moved during the car’s life. TOYOTA and CAMRY were next to eachother on the right side of the trunk, while LE, DX, V6 were on the left.

        The gen 2 Camry is my favorite Camry and I love seeing clean examples of them.

  • avatar

    As a cartoonist I can say that its not just cars that’ve lost their proportions.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Personally, what I like most about this Camry is the visibility and airiness of the greenhouse. Today’s cars are ridiculous in their bad visibility and claustrophobia.

  • avatar

    I thought that logo looked horrible when it first came out, and I still think it looks horrible today.

    I call it the “cartoon cow” logo.

  • avatar

    I used to stare at this logo when I was a kid. I figured it was because you could spell out T-O-Y-O-T-A with the various ovals and lines. Still not sure what it means, but maybe that’s the point.

    • 0 avatar

      You can do that with the Hyundai “H”, too. I often wondered if that was a consideration in the design. Never noticed it before with the Toyota logo.

      • 0 avatar

        It absolutely was a design consideration. I’ve pointed that out for years now, but it always seems to take people by surprise. Kind of like the forward arrow in the Fedex logo.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    That must be one PROUD Toyota owner, folks. Probably over 200k miles with nary a problem!

    • 0 avatar

      Well, my ’94 Pickup has 270k, but I don’t think Toyota reliablity is quote so awesome as “nary a problem” in 200k.

      Light compared to many other vehicles, sure. But they do have problems eventually, being physical objects.

      (Mine’s had a loose wire that made the fuel pump randomly stop working, a new radiator, and the transmission’s on its last legs, and eventually the 22RE under the hood will fail because of a broken timing chain tensioner* … but the value proposition has been wonderful.

      * Not worth the cost of repairing.)

  • avatar

    What would be ridiculous is to put the huge Mercedes logo on the grille to the back of the car. Probably would have to be on the top surface of the trunk like a spare tire hump, that’s the only place it’ll fit.

  • avatar

    This is mundane.

    NO, THIS…. IS… TOYOTAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    The VW logo has gotten huge as well.

  • avatar

    I always disliked that ‘lidded-eye’ logo. For a company of Toyota’s stature I thought they should have made something classier. A lot of marketing decisions are a mystery to me, seemingly contrived in a hermetically sealed world, but perhaps this was simply intended to be bland and inoffensive as their vehicles. I own a Toyota but even I wonder if I saw this logo out of context that I would immediately recognize it as a car logo.
    Well, anyway here’s some of their official marketingspeak to explain what this logo means:

    I do like Hyundai’s “H” better than Toyota’s “T”, but I did a quick check at the bottom of this page and there aren’t too many nice car logos it seems! Infiniti’s is OK, it makes me think of the “road ahead”. Or maybe it’s a pie with slice missing?

    • 0 avatar

      Always interesting to a read marketing-speak over analysis of a logo. Makes you wonder if the person who designed the logo had any of that in mind. Anyone else find some irony in the logo debuting on the Japanese market version of what is the first Lexus LS sedan?

  • avatar

    Toyota has a page on their corporate website that talks about the logo with the story behind it and it’s a pretty neat read. I’ve always thought their logo was pretty creative and one of the better automotive logos, and even though it’s relatively young, it has become one of the most recognizable in the world. Much more creative than a simple H like Honda’s or Nissan’s which isn’t even a logo.

  • avatar

    Proportion is everything Sajeev, but it cuts both ways for a skillful designer. I have a second gen Lexus GS and a 90 Cressida. The cars are within 2-inches in overall length, but radically different. The first time I waxed the Cressida, I was shocked to notice how long the hood and trunk were compared to the Lexus. The Cressi is a perfectly proportioned 3-box car that’s light and elegant. The GS, however, has far more tension going on, yet I think it’s a really attractive car. I think the British do the tension thing best, just look at a Jensen Interceptor III.
    While I’ve got my designer’s glasses on, let me ask, when did they forget how to draw wheel openings? They’re all the same on every car. Lips, flares, bulges they used to give cars enticing things like hips or muscles, now all the wheel opening does is say, “put wheel here.”

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting! I think your Cressida-GS analysis is true of many, many brands over the same time period.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re all the same on every car. Lips, flares, bulges they used to give cars enticing things like hips or muscles, now all the wheel opening does is say, “put wheel here.”

      Tastes vary, a lot.

      Me, I’ve always, always hated fender flare and bulges – the 70s are dead to me, for American cars, for that reason.

      I suspect there might also be aerodynamic and thus fuel-economic reasons as well.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    I had a 1990 5sp sky blue without the logo. I still miss that car…. Call it what you want, it will be true, but damn what a perfect car for someone who did not have a lot of money. Only thing I did not like was the stupid auto shoulder belt.

  • avatar

    It’s a nicer logo than the stuff that came before:

    Also if you compare it to say, the current Mazda logo, it’s less awkward on the car.

  • avatar


    Regarding the “ill-scavanged, left-hand backup light assembly on the decklid”, could it be that Toyota was simply using a common lighting design to meet both US and European (mandatory rear fog light) lighting standards?

  • avatar

    I have a hunch that part of the reason for today’s bulbous-ness in car design has something to do with the vehicle being more safe.

    Still, I wonder what would happen if an automaker decided to to conservative-eighties/nineties on us again, what would happen.

    • 0 avatar

      Bulbousness is, I think, partially aerodynamics and partially The Style Of The Day.

      Now, the high beltline and bad visibility? That’s a “safety feature” – the explanation I’ve heard is that somehow that makes it less deadly to pedestrians you run down.

  • avatar

    You want to talk about emblems and bad proportions? I’m a Mopar cheerleader, but even I think the “belt buckle” emblem on the door of the Ram Longhorn is absolutely ridiculous!

    • 0 avatar

      Truck emblems are awful, no matter the brand. They are all guilty of that. I went bonkers with my 2011 Ranger to remove all the F-150 sized emblems from it, with modest success. But I still like it better than the awful factory stuff.

  • avatar

    I’ve always liked Acura’s emblem. A compass in a circle to indicate precision in design and engineering.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • ajla: No forces someone to take out a giant loan but buying a vehicle shouldn’t need to be a journey through...
  • Urlik: There’s no doubt that CR blames the lenders for providing what the customer wants. They hate freedom of choice...
  • Urlik: The military gives it to every new member, it doesn’t help as much as you’d think it would.
  • 28-Cars-Later: Agreed, would make a fine Sunday car.
  • Corey Lewis: I find them very appealing in a 90s fatty sort of way.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber