By on September 19, 2014

20 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’ve owned quite a few Tercel wagons of this generation (though most of mine were the common-in-California front-wheel-drive type), and I respect these things for their simplicity, cargo capacity, and reliability. True, they were underpowered and not exactly inspiring to drive, but they could be very lovable. Living in Denver, I see these cars just about every time I hit the junkyard, but mostly they don’t seem special enough to merit photographing. Realizing that this one is 30 years old, however, inspired me to pull out the camera.
17 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in New Mexico, died in Colorado. There’s some rust, but more of the paint-burned-off/snow-buildup variety than the cancerous Midwestern type,
18 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou are awesome!
19 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe notorious “ice maker” next to the license plate. I’ve never been fully clear on what you got with the SR5 package, which was available on just about everything Toyota sold in the 1980s.
06 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 3A engine was harder to kill than rats and cockroaches combined.
04 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBecause the driver had to select front- or four-wheel-drive manually, many owners of these no-center-differential-equipped cars tore up tires and/or wore out drivetrain components by driving 365 days a year on dry pavement in the 4WD setting. Probably most of those Tercel 4WD owners bought Subarus after this happened.
05 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith the air conditioning turned off, you were jamming econo.
09 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI was able to skip chaining up when driving Donner pass in the winter in FWD Tercels, simply by picking up this emblem at the junkyard and adding it to my cars. Easiest 4WD conversion ever!

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68 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon...”


  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The SR5 package originally gave you a five speed manual instead of the base four speed. It may have been packaged with a few other niceties like intermittent wipers and rear defrost.

    By the mid-80s, SR5 had become just a trim level above “base,” available even with an automatic.

    You could remove the driveshaft from these if the 4wd system broke. It was way cheaper than getting it fixed (and the car was usually terminally rusted by that time).

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Come to think of it, I think that most of this generation of Toyotas’ reputation for being “bulletproof” was based on the fact that you never fixed anything major because the car was too rusted. You just ran them until they broke in half.
      My first car was an 81 Corolla, and I remember a mechanic telling me it was the automotive equivalent to (then-popular) ripped-jeans. No sense patching them, there was nothing to attach the patch to.

    • 0 avatar
      Mattel

      On the Tercel base DLX and the upscale SR5 had 5 speeds with an extra low granny gear in 4wd. making it a 6 speed. There where no 4 speeds in the 4wd wagon however the DLX base model had a 3 speed auto as optional.

      SR5 gave you the really good seats. (multi adjustable and holly s***!!! grab handles) in plaid. They are german like firm but comfy over long distance. The inclometer (83-84 versions) wider side stripes. rear shelf things. Tachometer dash.Internal Adjustable mirrors.

      Seriously great cars. WE have 1,000 members from around the world at Tercel4wd.com

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      SR-5 originally stood for sunroof and 5-speed, but the name has lasted far longer than the meaning. Sort of like Oldsmobile’s 442.

    • 0 avatar

      On the trucks/4Runners SR5 meant better gauge cluster (tach and temp gauge) as well. 4Runners got the cool altimeter/clinometer too.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Jesse Pinkman!

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    One of God’s funniest little jokes was to make salt necessary for driving in exactly the locations where this magnificent vehicle was most useful.

    If I could find an NOS version of this I would drive it till they took away my keys, inevitable weeping wounds and all. Tallboy wagons forever.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Right on. My family came very close to buying an RT4wd 1987 “Wagonvan” Civic in 1996, the deal fell through and we ended up with a 1990 Civic Wagon in fwd/automatic guise. Also a great car that we drove until we sold in in 2007 and bought a new Honda Fit (Base, 5spd manual). We had a neighbor with one of these 4wd Tercel Wagons, and a guy down the street from my parents still owns a yellow SR5 with black bedliner on the bottom half. Sadly these super functional wagons, along with the once ubiquitous Subaru Loyales, have rusted into oblivion a decade or more ago. I still constantly check craigslist for old Wagovans and Tercels and Loyales, if a clean one ever pops up here in the Midwest I’ll jump on it.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        Amen, amen. If anything defines my automotive soul it’s the Japanese tall wagon niche of the 80’s. The only extant successor is the Fit but even it lacks the obsessive (though über rational) emphasis on visibility.

        CUVs are a decent devolvement of such practicality but though you ride higher in them you still see less, particularly to the rear.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Yeah, these went away when the CUVs came in, when all they needed was multi-point sequential fuel injection (okay, and a bigger engine) and triple galvanizing. Especially the triple galvanizing. The models with sliding rear doors were terrific in tight parking spaces.

      • 0 avatar
        April

        I bought a near mint low-mileage 93′ (last year) Loyale from a elderly woman’s estate in 2000. I so loved the Loyales boxy styling (I guess it was one of the first “not weird” styled Subarus). The hill holder clutch it had really reduced the anxiety of driving a standard transmission in hilly city driving.

        It was a great car until one of my wonderful co-workers climbed underneath and punched a hole through the engine oil filter with a screwdriver. I made it about two miles before the engine went boom. :(

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          And your coworker did this why? You didn’t make them pay for the car, or file a police report?

          • 0 avatar
            April

            They did it because I did not fit into their redneck-good old boy-backward thinking-non gender conforming heterosexual world.

            As it was management intimidated me into not calling the state police or Sheriff department (where I worked at was out in the sticks). It was doubtful they would do anything anyway because I worked for a state agency so the fix was in. Plus the general hatred for anyone different.

            To be accurate this was one of the milder things some of my co-workers did to me.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Move somewhere else lady! :)

          • 0 avatar
            April

            No worries. They eventually broke me and ran me off.

            :(

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          My grandmother’s last car was a ’92 Loyale, my brother and I have fond memories of the 65hp beast. In fact my brother, anti-car as he is, expressed a genuine interest in buying one for S&G if a clean one ever came up here in Western PA.

          Another one of my friends had a late 80s Loyale wagon he treated worse than dirt and it kept coming back for more. He claimed it finally died after he ran it without oil for fifty or more miles and it seized.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            omg look!

            http://www.ebay.com/itm/Subaru-Other-Loyale-4WD-45k-Miles-92-subaru-loyale-4-wd-awd-45-k-original-miles-loaded-clean-40-pics-/131296564961?forcerrptr=true&hash=item1e91e296e1&item=131296564961&pt=US_Cars_Trucks

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Why do you do this to me :)

            City mileage 22, Highway mileage… 23!

            $11,400 was the original price as well. Something like this would push to $30K in our no-of-course-were’re-not-in-a-depression economy. Nearly three times the cost in a little over twenty years.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You go buy it! It’s not that far and it’s what you want and it’s so cute.

          • 0 avatar
            April

            I’ve been following that auction. Really nice car. I would bid on it if I did not just buy a new car.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            What did you finally decide on?

          • 0 avatar
            April

            2014 Mazda2 Sport.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I must respectfully disagree pete. Salt should be used sparingly, if at all. A good city snow clearing strategy combined with drivers equipping winter rubber and SLOWING DOWN should preclude the need for excessive car killing salt.

      I’m looking at you Calgary!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        For some reason I was thinking you Canadians used sand more often.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          @Corey,

          It depends. My hometown of Winnipeg clears snow like no where else I’ve been. Major routes are cleared within 24 hours of a blizzard and backlanes and sidewalks typically being done within a week. But, they have the equipment, the budget and a solid plan. Calgary, their strategy involves salting for all they are worth and waiting for the next Chinook. Many areas of the city will never see a snow clearing machine all winter (which is pretty bad in the hillier parts of town). I’ve been driving around at -20c while fresh snow is falling, and the roads are freaking wet. An utter disgrace.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Geesh it takes them a week to get rid of it? I can’t say that around here they wait that long to get to any road. The worst parts are the private roads to subdivisions or offices, etc. where they have to do their own snow clearing and sometimes don’t take care of it properly.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Winnipeg FTW, go Jets!

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Seriously? I’m talking back roads and sidewalks scraped in a city of 730k people, every time its snows, all winter. Its actually pretty impressive.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The Winnipeg Jets logo is tremendous. It is so awesome that I recently purchased a Jets t-shirt.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I guess I don’t go downtown here, so I can’t give a report on how they do there. I stick to the suburbs, they suit me better.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        I personally agree with you in the sense that I’ve quit using any salt on my own property, just sand. That presents a nuisance when wind kicks it up and it embeds in every little external house and garage crevice, but a power washer in the spring takes care of that.

        I can’t speak for any level of gummint, though.

      • 0 avatar
        macmcmacmac

        I was always amazed at how well cars lasted in Alberta. There is one good thing about it being too cold for salt to work. I left there in 2002 with an 87 LX 5.0 which was near mint. Four Ottawa winters later it was leperous, and it finally packed it in when the right front wheel fell off. There was a good 4 inches of ice on the road in Edmonton by the time February rolled around. They would just dump sand at the intersections and the rest was up to you.

  • avatar
    bkmurph

    There’s an 80s vibe that I like about these things. They’re certainly weird, but not TOO weird. Plaid seats, Toyota/SR5 graphics, that single center-mounted reverse light, the supertall rearmost side windows (opposite the CUV trend today). Occasionally (rarely) I’ll see one of these in decent shape for sale in western Washington.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      “There’s an 80s vibe that I like about these things.”

      Another thing that makes a deity laugh is to put the cars you’d kill for in the decade where you’re too struggling to buy one new. Then the salt trick has destroyed them when you finally can buy what you like but almost everything new is puke.

      Then the hat trick is achieved by giving one the constitutional inability to have ever tolerated climates where salt isn’t needed. Thanks, supreme being.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    A friend in high school managed to total one of these by getting it up to a speed fast enough to slide it off the road sideways into a tree. On dry pavement! I cannot imagine how, as it was about the slowest car I had ever been in. It was replaced by one of those Mitsubishi wagons that looked like a Dachshund, I can’t remember what they were called.

    In Maine these things rotted out faster than Subarus, and that is saying something!

  • avatar
    Carilloskis

    There are some good reasons for chain laws, by adding 4×4 badge to your vehicle , 1 you did not gain four wheel drive and second to get out of chaining up, you put other people at risk, so go out and buy some chains or some snow tires, or real 4×4. The SR5 is still a trim level on 4runner, Tundra, and Tacoma

    • 0 avatar

      Are you sure about that? I don’t have any experience with chain conditions, but with snows on four wheels, the major difference in the snow I notice between FWD and 4WD is the ability to start from a stop on a slope; once in motion, the drive system is a wash (yes, added speed and stability at the limit in a corner, but just stay below the limit).

      I’m not an especially skilled driver, but I’m skilled enough that I’ve been able to drive FWD cars past half-stuck AWD vehicles in the snow. Maybe Donner Pass is a different story.

      • 0 avatar
        Carilloskis

        There is no substitute for experience and intelligence, in bad weather, and snow tires help even when roads are dry in cold temperatures because of the diffrent rubber compounds the tires use. I live in an area that requires winter tires or chains (when there is snow on the ground) reguardless of 4×4 or not and I went to school in Colorado. True 4×4 really does help maintain controll off vehicles and make it up grades with alot less stress than fwd or awd. As someone who goes skiing nearly everyweekend of the season, i see many times when a fwd car or awd cross over cannot maintain forward progress on a grade and is stopped spinning its wheel, or sliding backwards. This creates a hazard to other drivers, in the forms of other people having to take sudden evasive manuvers which on slick surfaces results in loss of control and accidents. Remeber its not speed that kills its a diffrence in speed that kills.

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      4wd doesn’t make the car any more controllable or less dangerous. It just makes it less likely to get stuck. Many states, sensibly, allow you to use “snowflake” rated snow tires as a substitute for chains. California does not, but DOES allow 4wd as a substitute for chains.

      That 4wd badge allows him to do in California something that would be perfectly legal north of the border in Oregon.

      I’d much rather be next to the guy with fwd and snow tires, then the guy with 4wd and all-seasons. Yet in California the 2nd is legal to drive unchained, the 1st not.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Too bad it wasn’t from BEAVER Toyota in Santa Fe. I laugh every time I see the big chrome badge that proudly screams “BEAVER” on the back of a Camry bought in the state capital.

    (Although I also smile at the commercials with proud family member Linda Beaver proclaiming: “I’m Linda Beaver for Beaver Toyota in Santa Fe!” Yes it is juvenile but I can’t help it.)

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Off topic, but since you mention it. There is a well known place here in Colorado to buy beer and spirits near Beaver Creek. Name of the store? Beaver Liquors of course.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Awesome.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        We went to Breckenridge when I was about 9, and ended up going through Vail and Beaver Creek too. Beaver Creek was a bit of an in-joke, since there’s also a Beaver Creek near where we live, a tiny town of maybe 250 people. It has an elevator and a few churches and a school it shares with the town 6 miles away and the Beaver Bar.

      • 0 avatar
        statikboy

        The town of Beaverlodge in northern Alberta has a store called Beaver Liquor. The nearby town of Pouce Coupe across the BC border has a liquor store called Liquor Box. Not sure if it’s a theme in that area, but I keep my eyes open for more.

        • 0 avatar
          iMatt

          Beaverlodge is also home to a hair salon called the ” The Sheared Beaver”…nice place, that.

          In these neck of the woods (GP), you come across the odd Tercel wagon, usually with B.C plates on em’. I would love to have one as a daily driver…or an AWD Fit if Honda ever makes one.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      That’s about as good as the “Zia KIA” dealership there used to be in Albuquerque, I think. (The Zia is the ‘rising sun’ symbol on the nm flag).

    • 0 avatar
      PunksloveTrumpys

      I bet it reminds you of…

      Lt Frank Drebin: “Nice beaver!”

      Jane: [producing a stuffed beaver] “Thank you. I just had it stuffed!”

  • avatar
    deliverator

    I got one of these cars about 10 years ago given to me by a math professor in university. It was all rusted, very badly, but the engine and trasmission (5 speed) and transfer case seemed to work with no issues. It did have at least one bad CV joint though (clicking but I couldn’t get it to break). I put a junkyard newer radiator in it and drove it for most of a year, which was a lot of fun. I couldn’t believe I had a car with an extra low gear. Junkyard ones had these clinometers, which I bought one but didn’t get around to installing in mine (sold it on ebay later). The car just kept running, but was so rusted it was just falling apart. Finally had to let it go, as reliable as it was. Good memories.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Those gingham seats are KICK-ASS. Just imagine if you put some newer style wheels on there, and painted it electric metallic blue.

    Also, these are very charming in my eyes. They are just derpy and solid. An old faithful little thing which time forgot.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    30 years old. Wow. These things have aged well.

  • avatar
    zach

    That rear side window, it’s so oblong, it’s not even a 1/4 window like today, it’s a FULL window, I drove a late 90’s Integra a few years ago and couldn’t get over the lack of blind spots, and I drive a 4th gen Camry, that I thought provided less intrusive blind spots.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Funny. Every time I got into my brother’s ’99 ‘teg, I thought it was really difficult to see out of. Then again, I was driving a ’92 Jetta at the time, which was basically a fish bowl.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    I have a bizarre love affair for these unbreakable little guys.

    I saw one on Ebay for like $8K about a month or two ago. It was just ridiculously clean. I got to thinking “I wish I needed a winter beater, just once” (although that Tercel on Ebay was damned sure no beater).

    When I was a kid, my buddy’s mom had one of these. Tan, SR-5, 4wd. It was already rusty and this was back in the early 90’s. Lol

    It was a rough riding S.O.B., but felt like a Mercedes compared to my same buddy’s dad’s 85 B2000 Mazda.

    Riding in that Mazda was just awful, loud, and rough. It actually hurt. Good God. Lol

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I see these in So. Cal. Pick-A-Part Junkyards often , almost always silver or champagne colored , never wrecked or rusted .

    It seems a shame they’re tossed aside looking in V.G.C. .

    I can’t figure out who’d buy a 4 X 4 Toyota Wagon in Los Angeles ?! .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Go East from L.A., to the desert and mountain trails, where you can get stuck in even more inaccessible places than you can imagine. I’ve met a few people who think AWD is code for “rugged” or “heavy duty”, assuming these cars were perfect for finding new, less crowded camping spots, like dry washes.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Odd as it sounds, the styling killed a lot of these cars. The body lines wrapping over the roof made handy fold lines. In even minor rear-enders, those fold lines folded, making the cars writeoffs. I’ve seen more than a few driving around with concave hatches, the back end sagging, and the fold lines folded.

    They were a favorite of hardcore mountaineering bums, ski bums etc.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    People used to refer to the tailgate/license plate as the ATM. These were great wagons too bad Toyota phased them out in the late 80’s. I bet many owners who were quite satisfied with these and longed for a newer version ended up buying a Subaru.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    A friend of mine needed a car badly, and bought one of these from some old guy in TX. A white SR-r with an auto, it was totally rust free and in great shape. It was pretty much bulletproof, until the rust began to eat it. It didn’t take long for the street to be visible through the floor. He went and had his brother in law replace the floor with zinc coated sheet metal, but when water came in from around the windshield, he had to say goodbye. It had about 300,000 miles on it by then, it had 100K on it when he bought it. 10 years of Ohio winters wasn’t bad for one of these at all.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I had the only true competitor to this, a Honda Civic ‘tallboy’ Realtime allwheeldrive Station Wagon ‘Wagovan’.

    One of the best cars that I have ever had. Did everything required, without any problems.

    Manual with a ‘super low’ gear and dealer installed A/C.

    Only sold it when the family grew (again) and traded it for a new Caravan.

    Honda eventually had a marketing brainwave regarding their Wagovans, inflated them, jacked them up a bit and renamed them CRV’s. If you look at the first generation CRV and the last generation Wagovan you cannot miss the resemblance and the mechanicals were fundamentally the same.

  • avatar
    Jolgamazatlan

    I`m late to the party on this one but this brings back warm and fuzzies about my black SR5 Tercel. This one was my first Japanese car and got me hooked on reliability after a succession of car disasters: a new 78 Trans Am, then even worse a new Fiat X 1/9 then a new Fiat Brava (arghhhhhhh). The Tercel ran like a top for countless years. Never had any rust thanks to yearly Rust Checks.
    One minor quibble, which was really more of a quirk than a problem, was the key. After an evening of carousing in a local hotspot my friend and I came out three sheets to the wind. We were wandering around singing songs and looking for the SR5 in the parking lot. (yes, so young, so stupid) Found it, however the key was very stiff in the door. Surmised it was frozen as this was midwinter. Managed to open the hatch and crawled in. We fired up the motor as usual and I saw two tuques (wool hats if you don`t speak Canadian) on the dash. “Hmmmm” said my brain, “don’t worry”, said the alcohol, “It`s nothing. Drive on”.
    Suddenly it hit me that my black Ninja Smurf which rode proudly on the dash was no longer there. We both said “Holy shi*!!!!!” and then started to roar with laughter, we laughed until we could hardly breathe. Surreptitiously we slipped the car back into its parking spot. Put the tuques back where we found them and meandered back to my car.

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