By on February 18, 2013

I now believe that at least half the Toyota All-Tracs ever sold ended up in Colorado, based on the quantities I see in junkyards around Denver. We saw the only Camry All-Trac I’ve ever found anywhere last month, and the Corolla All-Trac wagons are well-represented by this ’89, this ’89, and now today’s ’89.
Toyota didn’t go in for crazy-futuristic dashes like so many of their 1980s Japanese competitors (unlike, for example, Subaru and Mitsubishi), but the Corolla All-Trac still got this cool center-diff control panel. Yes, back in those days you had to make decisions about car four-wheel-drive while driving.
Bondo as rust repair?
213,269 miles on the clock, which is pretty good for a 1980s car.
The Toyota 4A engine family was the real workhorse of its era, going into everything from AE86s to MR2s. This one appears to be the not-particularly-hot 4A-FE.
The interior in this one is pretty nice, but the rust is bad by Colorado standards and it just wasn’t worth keeping. Next stop, crusher!

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

  • avatar

    That herringbone tweed fabric is some tough stuff. I don’t think I’ve seen an old Toyota with it where it was in bad shape*!

    *Unless damaged by pets.

  • avatar

    What made these, and the similar 4WD Tercel wagon superior to the Subaru’s of the era was the solid rear axle.

    Sure, they didn’t handle as well as the Subaru’s but it was way more durable, and if you overloaded the car well beyond its capacity (I did all the time) it wouldn’t squat as bad a Subaru, which had a fully independent front and rear suspension.

    The Corolla All-Trac and 4WD Tercel also had way more articulation, which helped off-road. They’re both seriously tough cars.

    Observe: watch?v=4NQAlVtGUD8

    You’ll have to reparse the link as TTAC doesn’t allow embedding of Youtube videos(?!)

    • 0 avatar

      The Tercel 4WD was a helluva car. I’ve owned a few. Never tried to do any serious off-roading (or, for that matter, any off-roading beyond driving on fire trails to get to backpacking trailheads) in one, but they broke very infrequently and were easy to fix when they did break.

      They were also horribly slow, even by the standards of the time, and the handling was very tractor-ish. But lovable cars all the same, and tremendous cargo capacity.

      • 0 avatar

        My math professor one year in university gave me his ’84 Tercel wagon 4WD. I had to answer a skill-testing question of course, but I was the winner.

        I loved that thing for the short time I had it. I put in a junkyard radiator and it ran just fine. Problem was the rust. It was so far gone, the tool set couldn’t be stowed as it would fall through. But the 5 speed, with that extra-low gear was cool .Everything basically worked too, and it always started. Had to get rid of it because of the rust, which was causign the whole thing to fall apart. I’ve looked for others, but can’t find any. I wanted to jump it, but never did.

      • 0 avatar

        One advantage of the Corolla is the 4A engine, which benefited greatly from having fuel injection, and was less prone to valvestem seals going bad, like they did in the 3A that propelled the Tercel.

      • 0 avatar
        H Man

        My roommate bought an 89 Corolla Wagon Alltrac 5 speed Turbo on local craigslist a few months ago for a steal. It absolutely smashes the 4×4 Tercel wagons of that era. (I still love those.) I’ve google’d for another Turbo and can’t find a single instance. Not even on wikipedia. Have you ever seen one? I’ll be doing an article about it on Curbside Classic soon, in any event.

    • 0 avatar

      Hmmm I think you’re just making some stuff up there because you liked your Corolla better ;-)

      The Hitachi R160 in the Subarus survives to this day under the back end of 260hp WRXs and survives the attendant modding and abuse, not even close to the weakest part in those cars. Those same R160s are soldiering right along under RWD Datsuns too. Even better the old Subarus with rear LSD would have a sweet clutch unit not the tame viscous unit later Subies would get.

      Loading is a function of spring rate, sounds like the Corolla may have have been set up for more load capacity, though typically at the expense of ride quality.

      • 0 avatar

        Just to be clear, I actually had a 4WD Tercel SR5 wagon, which featured a very similar rear axle and suspension design that the Corolla All-Trac did.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m pretty sure the Corolla AllTrac wasn’t turbocharged, same deal with the Camry AllTrac and Tercel AllTrac.

        However, the Celica AllTrac was a Turbo, my brain is fried from a hard day at work, but if memory serves, it was the 3SGTE engine that was also used in the MR2 Turbo. These Celicas were really rare cars as they were really expensive back then and Toyota had other options for enthusiast drivers (AE92 Corolla GT-S FWD, MR2 Turbo and the Supra Turbo)

      • 0 avatar
        H Man

        Got the stock back window logo and everything. I have driven many Toyota 4 bangers and this thing is a rocket by comparison. My 83 Tercel 5-speed, preppy enough if you gun it, can’t come close.

        Look for my article on CC soon.

      • 0 avatar

        Huh. I’ll check my parts catalogue tomorrow. If so, that’d be a pretty interesting car. Toyota has done some strange things with their cars, even in America. They did offer the USDM Hilux and 4Runner(!) with an honest to goodness 22RTEC turbo engine. Rare, but they do pop up from time to time, you can still get some parts these engines.

        Not only that, but Toyota of Japan had some REAL oddballs……

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    “Yes, back in those days you had to make decisions about car four-wheel-drive while driving.”

    If Suzuki still made cars for sale in the states, you could still have this option on a new car.

  • avatar

    This car was in 4wd all the time. The center diff button was only to be used when stuck in a snow bank, not while driving. I actually read the owners manual while riding in one to find this out.

  • avatar

    i can’t remember where I read this.. it was either a comment or a post about the wagons somewhere, but it makes me laugh every time: the rear license plate area looks like an old ATM.

    i still think the Tercel all-trac is the most desirable of the toyota 4wd cars (non-celica of course)

  • avatar

    John was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.

    He worked with a bunch of younger hipster types at the .com grind. He was a stiff introvert. Some of the “kids” there jokingly called him “Robot”, “Johnny 5”, “Terminator”, “John-bot”, and other related names. Usually, it would be a contest of who could invent the next hilarious name for him at the company snack bar.

    John mentally groaned as he strolled up to the snack bar. The usual suspects were already there, sipping their coffee, waiting for the robot to arrive. He gathered his usual frosted doughnut and coffee, black. He stood there and waited for the inevitable.

    “DANGER! DANGER Will Robinson! The corrosion on the space wagon is compromising it’s structural integrity!”

    The Lost In Space reference was well-worn, but they were exploring new territory by making fun of his Corolla. The kids cackled of course. Even Sheila, one of the secretaries, laughed. She never laughs. He felt the blood flow to his face. Everyone else noticed his embarrassment and the laughter immediately segued into an uncomfortable silence.
    “So….did you guys catch the game last night?”

    John left for the day and climbed into the blue tweed cockpit of his “Space Wagon”. He checked the rear view mirror. Something was written on the dust on the hatch window. “Space…..oh, god dammit.”

    On the way home, he started thinking about the “structural integrity” issues. He pulled into a Pep Boys. He asked a pimply-faced teen at the register for advice on fixing the rust. This was no Manny, Moe, or Jack. “Well, we have this stuff here.” Then, the brilliant automotive advisor was gone. John stared at the 1gal can of Bondo body filler, and admired the picture of the beautiful repair being performed on it’s label. “Hmmm, so you just mix this stuff up and butter it on huh? Sounds easy enough.” He also grabbed the spray can of Toyota Super White and made his way home. Working diligently till 1AM, John had the basic shape of the fender done. He ignored the advice in the instructions and adopted a technique he once used in a pottery class long ago to apply the stinky, sticky body filler. Frustrated, he tossed his , now ruined, dishwashing gloves in the trash and went inside. After enjoying a diet cola, he grabbed the rattle can and finished off the project, abandoning the idea of wasting any masking tape on the repair. He lay in bed, and imagined the jokes that would result from this tragedy.

    The next day, John admired his work in the sunlight. He remembered something one of his school coaches said long ago: “Close only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades!” On the way to work, he wished the repair had gone as easily as in the SNL commercial parody of the Adobe car, “The car made out of clay”.

    John dragged his feet to the snack bar, expecting a hazing of the highest order. Surprisingly, nobody said a word. Not in his presence anyway. It was worse than he anticipated. He logged onto his computer and began looking at new Subarus and VW’s.

  • avatar

    I am surprised that a lot more Toyota All-Tracs weren’t sold in Canada, at least very few showed up in Alberta. But, then I remember the Canadian dollar was at about 64-cents back then and we Canadians are also very cheap and would be loath to pony up for an expensive option like All-Trac.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    When these were new I was living in the Denver area . At the time I thought they were interesting and ah- unique looking . While these undoubtedly sold better in Colorado than most other places , I remember only rarely seeing them > The Tercel FWD wagon seemed to be a much better seller . At the time I probably saw 10 of the Tercel FWD wagons for every one of the Corolla All-Trac and I don’t think I’ve seen one in the last decade here in Texas .

  • avatar

    Drove an ’89 in Denver for a few years in the late-90s. Great car around town but the gearing was way too low for highway driving. As I recall it was spinning around 4200 RPM @ 80 MPH. Gas mileage in town was 26 or so but dropped to 22 on the highway. Shifted into fifth gear at 35 MPH.

    Great in the snow, though. The center diff lock button ensured that at least one front wheel and one rear wheel was spinning.

  • avatar

    There were popular in Maine for a while, until they all rusted away.

    One of my High School buddies managed to total his Dad’s Tercel All-trac by rounding a corner too fast and losing it into the trees. On dry pavement on a sunny summer day.

  • avatar

    That “LOCK” button is awesome. Pretty forward thinking of Toyota to install something like that in a normal passenger car. Most Subarus these days don’t even have that capability. To my knowledge the only one that does is the STI by way of DCCD.

  • avatar

    This junkyard car’s not too rusty, not by a long shot! My old 89 Corolla FWD wagon’s so rusty the front fenders aren’t even attached at the bottom anymore, and the “rocker panel” areas have pretty much rusted away, and the back side storage compartments right behind the rear wheels (where the jack is stored) are now open to the air at the bottom. Holes rusted in the back hatch & a few doors are almost rusted through in a few places, rusty hood, almost rusty everything. Still drives amazing, little carb cleaner every 2 years and it’s smoooth & quiet (last year of the 4A-F with carb, even 89 sedans here were 4A-FE).
    If I saw that nearly rust-free white Corolla wagon around here (AB Canada), and it ran ok, it would probably sell for near $1,000, maybe even $1500 if it ran well with ok tires & windshield. My poor old rusty FWD I may be lucky to get $500.

    FYI, I saw one of these white wagons for sale in Edmonton 3 years ago, maybe a 1991, being sold by a Dentist (real jerk, must’ve been kicked out of med school ;) the fool wanted around $1,200, had some cock & bull story about a random grocery store manger offering him $1,500 2 years before, even though this fool managed to smash up the rear passenger corner AND got the hood to open & flip up & backwards on the highway, bent the crap out of the hood to get it fairly flat again, looked terrible. Poor tires & windshield cracks too, rusty spots and fairly high mileage. I offered the fool $600, even tried $800 but this guy was ultra rude, as if he’d never bought or sold a used car before, even tried saying it was saving him on his insurance by keeping it, but him or his wife/husband must be a terrible driver or he just lies to the company about what they really drive. Anyway, about 2 years later the SAME white AWD wagon was for sale AGAIN, same phone number, same dentist fool, now for one hundred and fifty dollars, only to whoever shows up first behind his slum dentists office the next morning. Moral? Being a jerk will cost you money, lol

  • avatar

    Can anyone tell me where this car is at and how I can call/locate that JunkYard? I’m looking for that drivetrain and I really want to get in touch with them and I can’t find them in Chicago. Please and thank you.

  • avatar

    I had this exact car (but red) in Rwanda in 1990. Great car for that time and place.

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