By on January 14, 2013

Here in Colorado, the self-service wrecking yards tend to be museums of four-wheel-drive cars that disappeared into obscurity a couple of decades back. When it comes to Toyota, everyone knows about the Celica All-Trac, and of course you still see the occasional mid-80s Tercel 4WD wagon. Go to a Denver junkyard, though, and you’ll see lots of Corolla All-Tracs. But a Camry All-Trac? We’ve all heard of them, but this may be the first four-wheel-drive Camry I’ve ever seen in person. It was fitting that I found this one during my freezing-cold Half Price Sale adventure on Saturday.
This was the generation of Camry that really established the car’s reputation as a cockroach-immortal, if stunningly boring, family sedan.
Just another 1,397 miles— Denver to San Francisco via Cheyenne and I-80, more or less— and this car would have made it to the magical 300,000-mile mark.
Because I’ve never been in a Camry All-Trac, nor has anyone I know, I can’t tell you what it’s like driving one in snow or mud.

Fortunately, at least one All-Trac driver has documented the experience for us.

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35 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac LE...”

  • avatar

    These really are as rare as hens teeth. I’ve only seen one in person in my entire life. The Corolla All-trac wagon is also a bit of a rare AWD Toyota passenger car from this era.

  • avatar

    Ya dun goofed! You missed the coolest feature in this car- the diff lock button by the handbrake!

    My dad had a stickshift one back in 89. So cool. I want to get another one and do a 3SGTE swap into it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jai Slaughter

      They do have this button however only the Manuel tranny actually act like lockers. I own two automatic all trac Camary’s! These things are amazing in snow ice any weather they out preform my 84 4wd Tercel all day long!

  • avatar

    I’ve never seen one IRL! I would certainly have noticed that All-Trac badge on the back. IMO, they should have made these two-tone like Subaru, to distinguish they were AWD. A nice white/beige to say “hey 90s!”

    Also, what’s up with the brake lights? Something has been replaced, right?

  • avatar

    I remember seeing these up in Minnesota circa early 90’s. Aside from the badge was there anything to differentiate from the FWD version? This era of Camry might have been bullet proof but they were compact cars by even the standards of the time. I remember my old man balking at the size saying it was overpriced for “a beer can car.” As memory serves they did feel a bit tinny.

    Oh, and those automatic seatbelts, hated those things.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Yeah, I was criticized by friends and family when I got my 86 Camry, while they were buying Caddy, Taurus, Pontiac 6000 and Corsica. ALL of those expired while my POS Camry kept going and going and going.

      • 0 avatar

        In Maine it was Hobson’s Choice. You could buy Japanese and junk it due to rust, or you could buy American and junk it due to mechanical sucktasticness. The smart money bought Swedish and German. A nickel here and a dime there, but they lasted at least 2X as long.

  • avatar

    I’ve never seen one of these in real life, but I’ve heard about them. The fact that an AWD car from the 90s went nearly 300k miles is nothing short of amazing.

    I wonder if it still has its original transfer case.

  • avatar

    Fitting that the video is one of the most boring hoonage videos I’ve seen too…

  • avatar

    I’ve actually driven one of these before. I went to college in snowy upstate NY. A bunch of us were headed to the Capital Region to go skiing (what? I don’t ski!) and on the way back, the white stuff started to fall. I was riding with a bunch of kids in a girl’s Camry All-Trac, and she hated driving in the snow. Naturally I volunteered. I tried my best to break it loose in some of the fresh powder, and couldn’t (it was especially hard to drive over the screams of terror from the other people in the car).

    Come to think of it, I had an experience at that same school with ANOTHER odd AWD car – a white four door Tempo. Who knew they even made those!?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of Asia, comes a legend… the legend of All-Trac, defender of the snow belt.

  • avatar

    It looks more RWD than AWD to me, wonder what the split f/r and how it works.

  • avatar

    “cockroach-immortal in places like Denver and California, where rust is unheard of”. There fixed it for you.

    On a quiet night in Maine, you could hear these things rusting away. There were plenty of them around, for a short while. About 50X as many Subarus though, they were a lot cheaper.

  • avatar

    That exhaust pipe is sitting pretty.

  • avatar

    We know about the Tempo awd, the Corolla Awdn but has the B13 Nissan Sentra awd ever been spotted in the wild? According to the FSM I have for the B13 and N13 series they did exist.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      B13 Sentra never had an AWD option. The B12 wagon did have an optional part-time 4WD steup. The N14 Pulsar lineup did have full-time AWD on the GTI-R, but those were never sold in North America.

  • avatar

    Saw a few of these growing up in western PA, but not a lot. All were consumed by the tin worm. Been a long time since I’ve seen any of those Camrys around here. Same with the AWD Tempo, except just being an 80’s Ford got most of them.

  • avatar

    I had a 1995 Previa super charged alltrac for about 5 or 6 years. Motor centrally located 50/50 weight distribution. Really loved that van and it would go through anything!

  • avatar

    I briefly owned one of these as a winter car several years back and it was ALOT of fun while it lasted. It lasted me two winters, which is amazing considering the 250k+ mileage and $500 purchase price. It was quite rusty, which is what lead to its eventual demise, which is a shame because i really miss it! These are super rare, and I would love to have a non rusty one to do a 3SGTE/5MT swap into. Mine was a beige LE model with an automatic, 3SFE 2.0 engine had the diff lock switch. It basically has a transfer case and two differentials, almost the same setup as the Celica alltrac on which it is based. Thing was amazing in wet/snow/ice! I had the basket weave mesh wheels like this one with some continental snow tires and I had a blast with it. I miss that car!

  • avatar

    I’ve been a Toyota parts counter person for about 6 years and have only dealt with one time…. the customer wanted the All-Trac emblem on the trunk…. discontinued though. I think the only other Toyota that’s rarer would be a diesel Hilux (this would be in Southern California) I’ve seen the 22RTEC Turbo engine more often then the diesel. Only had one call for a diesel truck. Just once.

  • avatar

    I delivered a brand new one of these between two dealers. (1990?). All I can remember is that it was 4 cylinder that struggled a little more with the setup. It had a hard time maintaining 100 mph up hill and it was a little buzzy for the 500 mile trip through the barren prairie.

    The new car purchaser never did thank me for burning all that new engine smell off for them…

  • avatar

    Saw one of these Camry All-Tracs a few months ago and was surprised because I didn’t know they even existed. I’d imagine the one I saw had high mileage as well.

    “Transverse engine FWD cars re-engineered for AWD have to be an interesting transfer case setup.”

    What’s funny is that the Tercel 4WD had a longitudinal engine in the early 80s, despite also being a FWD-based car. The first-gen Tercel was the earliest FWD car from Toyota, and the longitudinal setup made it easy to replace the transmission and easy to make it a 4WD:

  • avatar

    Seen a couple out and about and there was a clean ’91 All-Trac LE on Autotrader not long ago and one on eBay just last month.

    Rare? Yes. But if you look you can find one. Condition varies though.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Thanks for surprising me. I didn’t know they made these.

    298 603 miles and 23 years of service should be money’s worth even for a Camry.

  • avatar

    A few friends’ parents had these in upstate NY when I was young. I hadn’t seen one in ages until last week (post-Nemo in Boston) when a maroon model in good, though visibly tired, condition sailed past us on the clear streets…

  • avatar

    I have a 1990 Camry LE Al-trac, 149k, for sale in Boulder Colorado. I’ll be posting the Craigslist ad shortly so google it if you’re interested. It’s in grandmotherly condition given its age. Driven 3k/yr for the past 14 yrs and well-maintained.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got the Craigslist ad up at . If anyone can offer pricing guidance I’d welcome it. Although BlueBook no longer searches on 23 y o cars, Edmunds does and I have the private and retail figures from both 2007 and 2013 (interesting; retail value drops 6% and private value drops 11% in that timeframe). I don’t know if, due to its rarity, this vehicle might command a higher price than the Edmund values.

  • avatar
    Camry GLi 4wd

    I own one! :) This is a great car to drive!

    It’s an 1988 Camry GLi sedan 4wd with 280.000 km (175k miles). Without catalytic converter, and it put out 128 bhp.

    This is the best car I have ever owned. I’ve had six other cars, four BMW’s, one other Toyota and one MB, all RWD. This Camry beats them all!

    The comment about four wheel drive not being necessary unless going up a snowy hill, I don’t agree with. Comparing FWD and 4WD is two different stories all together. I live in northern Norway and the roads here are varying, as is the weather. Driving this Camry is pure joy!

    The balance in this car is amazing. The transverse mounting of the engine makes it get as far back as possible. It’s a 57/43 weight distribution, which is not bad at all. It feels light and nimble and I think more importantly than distribution of weight, most of the mass i the front is located relatively far back. We’re talking about the polar moment of inertia here, which is good because of the engine placement and orientation.

    I don’t know what the torque-bias in this system is, but the speed ratio between front and read is 1:1 when driving normally (of course), and the differential lock button gives you the option of 50:50 torque distribution. I’ve never had to use the lock, never felt the need to turn it on.

    The center differential can distribute most of the power either to the front or to the rear, and provoking the rear to slide in the snow is no problem. However, long four-wheel slides is the most fun, and can be made with ease, and in high speeds. This is fun! :D

    My car has some electric equipment, like glass sunroof, power windows, heated seats, central locking, adjustable mirrors. It also has the blue velour sports-interior with great comfort and side-support. Exterior is grey.

    I’ve switched out the headlamps with a set from another Camry with less miles, put in Xenonlook H4 bulbs, mounted extra lights with H3 Xenonlook bulbs, new 15″ winter tires (Nokian Hakkapelitta 7), new windshield and new wipers. New timing-belt, water-pump, oil, filters, plugs, and so on.

    It is a very durable car. I’m impressed! A happy owner.

  • avatar

    I too have one.
    I picked up a 1988 Camry All-trac LX about a year ago. Paid $1500 with virtually no rust and only 138K on the clock and a new clutch. Its been my daily driver for the last year. SUPER DEPENDABLE car. Its fantastic in the snow. My other ride is a lifted wrangler, I picked this up as a second car to commute with. I now keep the jeep parked on snowy days and drive the Camry. I have never had to use the center locking diff, as it plows through just about anything you can throw at it in standard awd. I live in the northeast and commonly make the 260 mile trip to Vermont and back. Great winter machine. My only real issue so far is rear shocks. Because of the AWD system they are different from the 2WD models. Good luck finding them. Some auto parts stores list them, but beware, they are 2WD shocks. The only place I have found the AWD shocks is at the dealer, and im not paying the $380 each they are asking. This car was purchased to be a beater, and has become a favorite.

  • avatar

    Just found this post, and I can tell many stories and sing the praises of our Toyota V6 All Trac.

    When we owned it, I drove it from Eugene over Santiam Pass to Mt. Bachelor to downhill ski (as well as drives up to Odell Lake Lodge in Willamette Pass to Xcountry ski).

    I had a set of separately mounted studded tires for the winter season.

    I can tell you this — that car hugged an icy or snowy highway much better than either of my Nissan Frontier (true) 4WD pickups with high-end winter tires. The car was relatively heavy, with a low-center of gravity and a relatively wide wheel base. The center diff “lock” was a TRUE 50/50 power delivery lock. I mean I could fly around mountain curves in winter conditions, and it was like driving on dry pavement.

    I still look for a contemporary vehicle that has this kind of 4WD. Contemporary “AWD” is such a scam — cuts out below 30 mph. I drive a 2020 Kia Sorento EX V6 AWD with top-of-the line Nokian winter tires, and I can’t begin to drive above 35 mph when there are icy/snowy road conditions.

    Best story ever: Driving back late in the day from a trade show in south L.A. a rare hard snow was falling way down the south slope of the “Grapevine” pass. Read:

    As it got dark, semis and late rush hour cars were stacked up on the slick ascent to the pass. I was able to move around and past a few cars, but as I was moving ahead in the left lane, a jackknifed semi was slowly sliding down towards us.

    Oh Sh*t!. I had already locked the diff, but I was driving on new all-weather tires — good tread, but no studs. I had faith! I pushed moderately on the gas pedal. … The wheels held their grip … and into the snow-covered grassy median. … Woo Hoo! Drove that sweet All Trac a 100 yards or so up the median until I was passed another jackknifed semi which had all traffic stopped.

    I swung back into the travel lanes without a car in front of me and drove without any obstacles over the pass and down I-5 into the San Joaquin Valley. There weren’t any car lights in sight for 100 miles. When we checked into a motel, we saw on TV that we were apparently the last car over the pass that night.

    The All Trac was in mint condition when we sold it to a lucky buyer at just over 100,000 miles. Best car ever!

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