Junkyard Find: 1986 Toyota Camry

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1986 toyota camry

The Camry first appeared in North America for the 1983 model year and gathered sales momentum in a gradual manner. By 1986, Camrys were not uncommon, but it seemed as though you saw 20 Tauruses and 15 Accords for every example of Toyota’s front-drive sedan. It was the next generation of Camry (starting in 1988) that unleashed the armies of unkillable, bland Toyota midsize sedans that conquered the country. First-gen Camrys are still out there, but sightings are increasingly rare. Here’s one I spotted last week in a Denver junkyard.

Like just about all cars, the Camry got bigger with every generation. The ’86 isn’t much bigger than the current Corolla, but still had room for a rock group or a group of rocks.

221,890 miles on the clock. Even Neons manage figures like this nowadays, but not many mid-80s cars ever saw 200,000 miles.

Toyota kept this overdrive button on the gearshift well into the current century.

You have to love the dated look of the Econo A/C button. Americans don’t want Econo anything when it comes to comfort, a lesson Toyota figured out years later.

Subsequent Camrys had all the quirky Japanese styling eliminated by endless focus groups, but the first-gen still had this goofy rear quarter window.

It was no Cressida, but it also wasn’t anywhere near as expensive as a Cressida.

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  • Cackalacka Cackalacka on Jun 14, 2012

    Had an '84 as my first car, and my brother had an '86. '84 being the family wagon, I remember that 'ECONO' button, quite well. Nothing like sitting in the back-seat crawling up I-95 with the sun on your back on a 100 degree day with your pops insisting that it needed to be on ECONO. Backsweat. At one rest-stop we staged a coup, got him to ride in the back seat when we changed drivers. Curiously, he ceded the whole 'lets keep it in ECONO mode' for the remainder of the trip.

  • Forty2 Forty2 on Jun 16, 2012

    I had a more-or-less identical '85 Camry LE. It was pretty slow. By the time I traded it in at only 96K miles the front suspension was shot, the brakes were always awful, and the transmission was beginning to slip. It had been my mom's and was always well maintained and no, I didn't hoon it which was more or less impossible thanks to that wheezy 2.0, crappy mushbox and flodgy suspension. A serious junkyard find would be the turbo-diesel Camry which I think was only sold in 85-86 model year and not in California.

  • FreedMike Race car drivers are all alpha-types. Aggression is part of the deal. I think you see more of that stuff in NASCAR because crashes - the end result of said aggression - are far more survivable than they would be in F1 or IndyCar.
  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.