Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Van, With Bonus San Francisco Beachfront Rust

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1984 toyota van with bonus san francisco beachfront rust

Unless 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).

Those 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!

So, 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).

You 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.

Because 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.

This 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.

The 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.

Hey, because plastic paneling doesn’t care about salt water, you couldn’t see most of these holes from the inside!

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2 of 22 comments
  • Honda_lawn_art Honda_lawn_art on Oct 23, 2013

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

  • Emanistan Emanistan on Jul 30, 2016

    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.

  • Oberkanone Installing immobilizer is the answer. It's not hard. It's not expensive.
  • MrIcky Out of the possible Jeep recalls to bring up on this site, I'm surprised it's this one and not round 2 of the clutch recall.
  • Dukeisduke I saw a well-preserved Mark VII LSC on the road not too long ago, and I had to do a double-take. They still have a presence. Back when these were new, a cousin of mine owned an LSC with the BMW turbo diesel.
  • Dukeisduke I imagine that stud was added during the design process for something, and someone further along the process forgot to delete it after it became unnecessary.
  • Analoggrotto Knew about it all along but only now did the risk analysis tilt against leaving it there.