Rare Rides: 1985 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon in As-new Condition

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides 1985 toyota tercel 4wd wagon in as new condition

Time for the third entry into the sub-class of vehicles from the 1980s that I call Tall Import Wagons. The first was a light blue Nissan Stanza, known as “Multi” up north in Canada. Then, a similarly blue Colt Vista showed us what Dodge could do when it swapped the emblems on a Mitsubishi.

Today, a third competitor takes center stage: the Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon.

Introduced as the Corolla Tercel in the United States back in 1980, Toyota’s cheapest offering on our shores morphed into its second generation for the 1983 model year. Gone was the Corolla name, as the Tercel now stood on its own with a more complete lineup of body styles. It was available as a three-door hatch, standard sedan, or five-door — in hatchback or wagon guise.

Offered in front- or four-wheel drive, all North American Tercels were powered by a 1.5-liter inline-four engine. It produced 63 horsepower, shifted through four-, five-, and even six-speed manual transmissions (on 4WD models only), and also offered a sad three-speed automatic.

We got close to perfection today, but today’s Tercel has a handicap. Though it’s the desirable wagon body style and has four-wheel drive, it also has the three-speed automatic. Dry your tears, B&B.

The Tercel’s four-wheel drive configuration was an assemblage of bits Toyota already had in its bin. The Corolla provided the rear axle and coil springs, and the rest was standard front-drive Tercel. Only the transfer case was new, locking the front and rear differentials in 4WD mode.

Much like an AWD Tempo of the time, the Tercel’s system could only be used on slippery roads. I suspect owners ruined many of these vehicles after flipping the 4WD switch every time it started raining. If only the modern crossover had been available then!

Our example today lacks the optional inclinometer, as well as most power features. It does have air conditioning to cool the spotless interior, though.

This Tercel lived a better life than most of its brethren, covering only 77,000 miles since 1985. The boxy wagon is presently located on the west coast, near the affordable hamlet of San Francisco.

Currently it’s for sale at a Toyota dealer that wants all the money for it. And by that I mean $11,900.

Check yourself, Stevens Creek. At least there are a lot of nice pictures. And would you look at the size of that cargo area?

[Images via dealer]

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  • Craiger Craiger on Feb 07, 2018

    Even my infamously all-encompassing love of all things 80s has a limit.

  • SteveRenwick SteveRenwick on Feb 28, 2018

    Just the thing for the Bay Area Coastside. It makes a Volvo 240 wagon look positively Republican.

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
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