By on October 22, 2013

11 - 1984 Toyota MasterAce Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinUnless they’re air-cooled Volkswagens, cars in non-mountain California don’t suffer much from the teeth of The Rust Monster. Sure, the rainy winters mean that leaky weatherstripping results in rusty trunk floors (especially in GM cars of the pre-1990s era), but plenty of 50-year-old street-parked California cars have solid sheet metal that leave Michigan residents in awe. However, all this goes out the window if you happen to live within a block or two of the not-so-aptly-named Pacific Ocean in San Francisco. During a trip to California last week, I spotted this victim of Outer Sunset District Rust in an East Bay self-serve yard (with a spectacular Halloween display).
12 - 1984 Toyota MasterAce Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThose of you who imagine California beaches to be warm, sunny places full of movie-star-gorgeous babes in bikinis are getting your imagery from Southern California. Go 400 miles north and you’ll find beaches that feature howling winds coming straight from the Aleutian Islands, gigantic waves, freezing-ass water that will kill you stone dead from hypothermia in minutes (that is, if the Great Whites or rip currents don’t get you first). That’s in August; it gets a lot worse during the winter. Why, it’s enough to make you shoot an OD in your squalid Ocean Beach hotel room right before your struggling band’s album suddenly goes multi-platinum!
05 - 1984 Toyota MasterAce Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo, with constant salt spray from the gigantic waves crashing into the beach, prevailing winds from the northwest, and heavy morning/evening fog approximately 362 days of the year, cars parked within a few hundred yards of the beach tend to spend their lives bathed in an eternal saline mist. Any nick in the paint, no matter how small, will become a horrible festering hole within a year or two. And, of course, cars parked on the streets of San Francisco get dinged, bumped, key-striped, sideswiped, and otherwise have their paint chipped on a depressingly regular basis (which is one reason my super-patina’d ’65 Impala sedan was such a practical daily driver when I lived there).
18 - 1984 Toyota MasterAce Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t have to go very far east— a half-dozen blocks will do it— to avoid this problem. This residential parking permit is for the northeastern corner of the city, far from the ocean, but there’s no way you get rust like this in North Beach— clearly, 1996 was a brief respite from the joys of oxidation for this Toyota.
13 - 1984 Toyota MasterAce Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBecause important structural components (being protected beneath the car) don’t get rusty, you can keep your 48th Avenue car going for as long as you’re willing to tolerate the ugliness and/or big holes that allow chilly winds inside.
09 - 1984 Toyota MasterAce Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis MasterAce got to 300,000 miles before the rust reduced its value to sub-scrap levels and/or parking tickets totaling more than 150 bucks landed it in the clutches of AutoReturn. These vans were as hard to kill as cockroaches, what with their indifferent-to-abuse pushrod Y engines, so we can assume that it was still a runner at the end.
06 - 1984 Toyota MasterAce Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior isn’t so bad for a 300,000-mile, 29-year-old van. Perhaps all the additional ventilation kept mildew from getting to be a problem.
02 - 1984 Toyota MasterAce Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHey, because plastic paneling doesn’t care about salt water, you couldn’t see most of these holes from the inside!

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22 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Van, With Bonus San Francisco Beachfront Rust...”

  • avatar

    This is the most rusty 80s car I’ve ever seen. I certainly wouldn’t buy a house in an area with such salt issues.

  • avatar

    Wow! I’ve heard of that sort of rust,but have never seen it. I guess the rust starts outside and works its way in. Up here, rust does it early damage from within. By the time its breaks through, the damage is done.

    So can I assume that the mechanical components would stay fairly intact? Up here,its brake,and fuel lines,backing plates, gas tanks, and floors,that will send them to the crusher.

    Is there anything the coastal vehicle owner can do to? We have probably ten different products,to “slow” the rustys down.

    I find the best solution is leaving it in garage from Nov- April.

  • avatar

    Those pictures remind me of when I lived in Hawaii. I shipped my slightly rusty car over there for the three years I was there, and the rust spots blossomed into the brilliant colors seen here. I shipped the car back here to high and dry Colorado afterwords, and the brilliance of the rusty spots reverted back to the more dull and less brilliant colors I was used to.
    Somewhere I still have photos of a 70s car that was abandoned in an isolated part of a Oahu alongside the shoreline. It was a car sized rectangular flat pile of rust with plastic components and the huge 70s bumpers at either end and the motor/transmission still largely intact. My boss there who is a multi generation local, told me her father used to get rid of old cars by driving up to that spot and literally launching them into the ocean.

    • 0 avatar

      “It was a car sized rectangular flat pile of rust with plastic components and the huge 70s bumpers at either end and the motor/transmission still largely intact.”

      Vivid. Like nanite Gort only eats sheet metal.

      Klaatu barada nikto, already!

  • avatar

    Rocky was at odds with the world.

    Rocky locked eyes with Tatiana. He was looking into the eyes of a killer. Even in her casual state, he could see her wantonness to take his life. There was no emotion there. No pity, or remorse for what she had done. She flicked her tail and squinted in the heavy sun setting over the ocean. Rocky broke out of the hypnotic trance with the Siberian and resumed his voluntary duties. One of the dumbest animals on the face of the planet was loose in the zoo.

    Rocky heard an unmistakeable ruckus, and found what he was looking for. “SIR! The zoo is CLOSED!”, he nearly screamed at the man. The father of two dragged his misbehaving brats, one of which was sobbing, off the grounds. Rocky was justified in being an extreme asshole. There were numerous announcements over the loudspeaker for patrons to leave immediately. He was also well-versed at this point in the stupidity of a fellow member of his species. At least Ailuropoda melanoleuca had the benefit of just being oblivious to danger. They didn’t say “Hey, watch this!” before hurling themselves into the tiger pen, or risk certain death for cash settlements.

    Rocky punched out and made his way to the employee lot. He entered the Toyota van and subconsciously recognized the change in the air. The smell of plastic and vinyl, having been cooked by the sun all day, filled the cabin. Gone was the aroma of beasts, aside from what clung to his beige uniform. The destroyed seat crunched under him while he fished out the keys, and fired up the 3Y. A puff of blue smoke blew out at the onset of coming alight. His unclean hand fell to the shifter, pulling it into D.

    The little four buzzed up the on ramp, merging onto 280. The van managed the expansion joints with a motion akin to Phocoenidae. The ride was made worse by the strut Rocky was perched atop of. The oil of which had pissed out over many thousand miles. Rocky bounced down the highway at a steady 60mph. A man in a BMW changed lanes and roared past on his left, shouting something unintelligible. On the outside, Rocky appeared unaffected. On the inside, he was full of rage and contempt.

    The trip to his apartment took twice as long as it should have. Rocky had no reason to hurry. He wasn’t sure what he would do when he got there. He circled the block with extreme patience, trying to find a vacant parking spot on the street. The exhaust buzzed out of the blown out gasket when Rocky parallel-parked the rusty machine.

    “It’s that DAMN van again.”, a woman said. She watched Rocky shut the driver’s door. She could almost hear the rust shaking inside when he exited the vehicle. Property values plummeted, and she made haste to the phone.

    While Rocky showered, prepared Hamburger Helper, and ironed his uniforms, amber lights flashed out on the street. The woman’s fabricated claims had worked. The appearance of the Toyota made them believable.

    Rocky stood in front of the for sale sign of the condo. A Honda CRV was where he expected a certain 1984 Toyota van to be. He was only confused for a few seconds, and came to realize a likely scenario. Nobody would ever steal that van. He pulled out his phone, and matter-of-factually called the day off. His supervisor seemed disappointed, yet pleasantly surprised. The man never took a day off. Rocky turned and made the short walk back to his apartment, phone to his head.

    “Well, I guess SOMEBODY didn’t like my van.”

    • 0 avatar


      My favorite line: “Property values plummeted”. I think my steel wheeled Saturn is doing that right now.

      • 0 avatar

        My neighbor Matt’s endless project ’73 Nova has done that for months now, sitting in the driveway being an eyesore with blocks behind the rear wheels despite the motor, transmission, and most of the exhaust system being done in the summer.

        It’s a running, driving car, but a cosmetic mess and he doesn’t do anything to hide it. Throw a tarp on there for the good of us all.

  • avatar

    This is only a mildly rusty van compared to many of the vehicles I see still in order up in central new York. Hell, this would be probably still be worth more than scrap value up here.

  • avatar

    I saw several vehicles like this when we were on Kauai, including a 63-66 Dodge pickup that had the top rusted out an inch above the windshield all the way across, so that the wind caught the front of the top, lifting it an inch or so and scooping the passing air into the cab.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    When we lived in the Bay Area and were up in the City we would often park at Sloat and The Pacific Highway and listen to the waves crash on the beach. True, very misty but very romantic. Often time our dark cars had a thin layer of salt on return to Santa Clara.

  • avatar

    I seem to recall Toyota actually paid royalties to Ford to use its patented rustproofing process. Maybe they didn’t get around to using it on their vans. Then again, by ’84 Chrysler was using heavily galvanized steel and a zinc-based primer coat, and no royalties were needed for that. Toyota was already building bullet proof drive trains back then, but may have been laggards in other areas.

  • avatar

    I use to work as a mechanic for a our state highway department back when I was in college. After 9/11 the state decided to use the oldest, highest mileage trucks as rolling blockades for the tunnels that run near the Chesapeake bay.

    So basically, these trucks sat their on the bridges, 24/7, except when they came in for service (they were still street legal….). Wow, you want to talk about rust!

  • avatar

    In the mid 80’s, a kid in my elementary school class lived just up the street from me and his parents had one of these in red, AND an Audi 5000. I was soooo jealous. At the time, my parents had an ’82 Celebrity on it’s last legs (former company car, high miles) and an ’82 Skylark that my dad bought off an el cheapo lot (and I to this day remember how the engine vibrated so badly it shook the steering column and dash at idle).

    The van was freaking cool, almost like riding in a Star Trek shuttle craft with the shape and all that glass. I can’t stand Toyota now, but in the 80’s, their products were amazing.

  • avatar

    I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon my entire life and trips to the coast are a summer tradition here in the PNW, even if it’s 95 and sunny in the city, it doesn’t mean it won’t be 60 and foggy some 75 miles away in Seaside or Cannon Beach. We don’t use road salt so cars that are virtually extinct elsewhere are thriving here; first-gen Explorers and Chrysler vans are among those seen frolicking about on daily basis. Pickup trucks sometimes see an interesting re-use here that would never fly in a salt belt state. Once the front end and powertrain wears out, the cab is separated from the box right down to the frame and the front end is scrapped, turning the bed into a trailer.

    Despite this lack of rust inland, I recall going to Cannon Beach as a kid and seeing a not-very-old Subaru Legacy wagon (maybe six or seven years old at the time) with the door skins completely rusted out from the rocker panels to about 2/3 of the way up. And when I say rusted out, I mean GONE. It must have made for a drafty ride but if that was any indicator of the car’s life, it probably never went much more than a few hundred yards from the ocean anyway so it was unlikely of much concern to the parties involved.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Where is Rust-Oleum when you need it?

  • avatar

    Great Salty Oysters! The oxidation looks nearly complete. I’d love this to spawn some entries to the rustiest still running car on TTAC.

  • avatar

    Hard to believe now, but back in the early eighties when these first came out in the states they were considered the pinnacle of cool. In my elementary school at the time it was almost every kid’s ultimate dream car-either this or a Trans-Am. I remember lobbying my mom to buy one. They were considered so futuristic looking (of course under that avant garde angular sheet metal, they were basically just an old fashioned 1960s style compact van) that they starred in sic-fi TV shows of the period with some regularity.

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