Junkyard Find: 1988 Toyota Tercel EZ

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Tercel EZ sold about as well as the Plymouth Sundance America, Chevrolet Chevette Scooter, and the other zero-frills cars of the 1985-1995 period, i.e., very poorly. Jack Baruth does a fine job of explaining why this is so, but enough of these cars were moved off showroom floors that you still see the occasional example. Here’s a Tercel EZ that I spotted in my local self-serve wrecking yard.

Yes, that’s 315,300 miles on the clock. Third-gen Tercels were never much fun to drive, but they were incredibly competent transportation appliances.

The interior of this one was just about completely used up by the time it got to The Crusher’s waiting room, and there’s no point in spending any real money to get new carpets and upholstery for a lowly Tercel EZ.

I’ve owned several third-gen Tercels, including an EZ, and their simplicity made the Corolla seem frivolous. Nobody ever really loved one of these cars, though, in contrast to the equally slow but personality-fortified second-gen Tercel.

A lot of LeMons fans couldn’t understand why a Tercel EZ finishing tenth out of 100 entries was such a spectacular accomplishment. Drive an EZ for ten minutes and you’ll get it.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Apr 17, 2013

    Everything is relative. My state highway department had a couple '80s Tercels, and they were MUCH preferred over the newer Geo Metro models. All were manuals while all the Metros were automatics. You had to kick down the Metro to first to get up a freeway ramp, and you spent more time in the breakdown lane accelerating to merge than the the Tercel. If work was being done in the median, engineers just didn't go there in either the Tercel or the Metro - merging with fast lane traffic was too hazardous.

  • Watch Carefully Watch Carefully on Apr 18, 2013

    They say Tercel Owens was great in San Fran, but when he went to Philly and Dallas he was a cancer in the locker room. People mock 'Touareg' and 'Tiguan'...what the heck is a 'Tercel'?

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.