By on September 16, 2019

2005 Scion tC in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsToyota made the Scion brand available in North America for the 2004 through 2016 model years, hoping to lure some younger buyers to the products of a company best known for sturdy machinery that renders its drivers invisible for 400,000 miles. Well, that didn’t work out so well, but plenty of Scions found homes with their intended demographic once they reached their third or fifth owners.

I’ve been seeing Scions in wrecking yards for a few years now, mostly wrecked xAs and xBs, but the only one (prior to today) that I felt worthy of Junkyard Find status has been the amazing Devil Vampiress 2005 xB. Now I’ve found this lovingly customized 2005 Scion tC in a Denver U-Pull yard, and I thought it was worth sharing.

2005 Scion tC in Colorado wrecking yard, quarter window stickers - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou can tell from all the stickers that this car’s final owner wasn’t some sort of AARP-joinin’ Lexus ES buyer. Ever since the State of Colorado legalized recreational cannabis, an ever-higher (get it?) percentage of junkyard cars sport cannabis-related stickers, in addition to the brewery and snowboard-shop stickers they already had. If you’re young and you drive a modified early-20th 21st-century sport-compact car, you need to show your devotion to Mary Jane.

2005 Scion tC in Colorado wrecking yard, speedometer - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf Toyota had just thought to pre-load these cars with the dash covered with multi-layered stickers, maybe some young people would have bought them new.

2005 Scion tC in Colorado wrecking yard, F&F bumper sticker - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe bumper covers have been swapped with those from a (presumably junked) light-blue tC, which ended up looking pretty good for a far smaller investment than one of those furious fiberglass body kits. I see a lot of these “R.I.P. Paul Walker” vinyl stickers in Denver junkyards, so I’m guessing they’re available at all the finer vape and glass shops in the city.

2005 Scion tC in Colorado wrecking yard, grille emblem - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis is the cheap “monospec” version of the first-year tC, which was a great deal for what you got: 161 horsepower, five-speed manual transmission, thumping audio system, and those cool side mirrors with the Mars Base lights.

2005 Scion tC in Colorado wrecking yard, side mirror - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSpeaking of which, the rainbow spray-paint job gave this car a unique personal touch.

2005 Scion tC in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe body damage doesn’t seem particularly severe (and may have taken place after the car entered the wrecking-yard ecosystem), so I’m guessing that powertrain problems doomed this car. With the digital odometer, we have no way of knowing how many miles it traveled during its 14 years on the road.


Only the first three Fast and Furious films had come out when this commercial aired, but their influence on what Scion’s marketers hoped for the brand’s image was unmistakable.


Meanwhile, the marketing for tC’s European sibling (or maybe first cousin), the Toyota Avensis, aimed at young wannabe executives instead of young wannabe street racers.

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47 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2005 Scion tC, Not So Fast Yet Somewhat Furious Edition...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    “…and you drive a modified early-20th-century sport-compact car”

    So what, like a Stutz Bearcat?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      Lol! +1

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Art, you’re going get banned if you initiate yet another Bearcat-vs-Raceabout comment thread flame war.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Nothing’s Worser than a Mercer!

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          ROFL

          I had remembered that that was a rivalry, but I’d forgotten about the “You’d have to be nuts to drive a Stutz / Nothing could be worser than driving a Mercer” thing. +2 to you.

          We can only hope the Stutz and Mercer owner clubs have taken advantage of this: http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=calvin+peeing

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            https://journal.classiccars.com/2016/07/14/wayne-carinis-preserved-stutz-bearcat-hits-times-square/

            I know he sold it, but I would have paid real money to see him put one of those Calvin Peeing on a Mercer stickers on this thing when he took it to Pebble Beach. Bonus Points had Leno shown up in his Raceabout and they lined em’ up for Pinks.

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    This suppository is what Youth knows as a TC? The End is surely near. A REAL and GENUINE TC is a flowing thing of Beauty. Justin, Nicholas, Ashley and Jessica need to be shown that Inclusion and Diversity does not have to mean acceptance of Bland and Commonplace mass-produced Hip.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The areas highlighted in blue in that first picture (front fascia, rocker panels) – there is a Major Award reserved for the first company to market an effective non-stick coating or other alternative surface treatment for those portions of the vehicle.

    Because bugs (fascia) and fresh road tar (rocker).

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The tC had great space utilization for a coupe, the manual trans would make it half way entertaining, and there was strong performance parts support from TRD.

    That’s all I got.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Heh – Last month I was driving to the store in the Mustang with my wife as a passenger. Had a tC 20-something driver behind me.

    As I slowed and started making a left turn, he drove by and shouted: “You’ll Lose!”

    I didn’t realize we were racing – silly me.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I enjoy looking at the images of stickers but cannot imagine ever putting them any where much less on my vehicle .

    ? What usually fails on these cars ? .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      Hey, I know this one! Head gasket. All tCs thru mid 2006 suffer from the same problem. This also affects Camrys and RAV4s of the same era with the same engine.

      But it’s a weird problem, and Toyota effectively denies it’s their fault, despite offering a warranty fix for it and changing the design in the middle of the 2006 model year.

      The head bolts are too short, or the threads in the block are too low, take your pick. The engine heat cycles, the bolts are only catching a couple of threads, one pulls loose, and eventually the head gasket fails (usually in the back, between 2 & 3). This allows coolant to escape, but instead of ending up on the floor of your garage, it soaks into the foam insulator between the engine and the plastic intake manifold. When that finally fills up, it drops onto the exhaust pipe, when it burns off before reaching your floor. This invisible coolant leak eventually results in an overheated motor and a warped head. You take it in to the dealer, they charge you thousands to fix the top end and send you on your way.

      What they don’t tell you is that the block is improperly made. When the first ones of these came in, the techs bottled on the new head and immediately stripped the block. Toyota hastily got Time-Sert to make a kit to rethread the hole, put it in a service bulletin, and hoped most cars wouldn’t fail until they were out of warranty.

      The Time-Sert kit /does/ rethread the hole, but it also (critically) moves the threads 9mm higher in the block, so the head bolts actually grab more than a couple threads.

      It’s a massively time intensive job when you do it by the book (engine removal, etc), but it can be done in the car if you are careful with the chips. Taking a half inch drill to six to ten bolt holes in your engine is a hard call for the average DIY guy, and buying the expensive kit can be daunting, but Toyota pretending that this isn’t their fault is the most irritating part. As far as they are concerned, the boltholes strip because you overheated it, not the other way around. And they cannot admit the fact that their TSB kit fixes their manufacturing problem because that motor is used in so many Camrys and RAV4s. If it were just a relatively small number of tCs, they might (ha) admit it.

      I did one almost three years ago, and it’s been running strong ever since.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Thanx ! .

        -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Awesome writeup psychoboy and an underappreciated/underreported issue for sure. It’s one reason I’m weary of recommending a 4cyl ’02-’06 Camry to anyone, despite seeing more than a few going the distance (my cousin bought a Russian-market ’02 with the 2.4 go 1 million KM on the original motor before finally swapping in a fresher used one). I recommend sticking to the trusty 5sfe in the pre-’02 cars, or sticking with the 3.0L V6 if you do buy an ’02-’06.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Wasn’t the 3.0 a potential sludge maker?

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Potential, yes. But assuming anything resembling timely oil changes, a non-issue. I’d like to hear from an engineer whether the ’97+ cars are more predisposed as a function of running leaner/hotter. The 1MZ in my ’96 ES300 was a rich running pig, but under the oil cap was spotless.

      • 0 avatar
        Greg Hamilton

        Sounds vaguely similar to GM’s Northstar problems. Good write-up BTW psychoboy.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        But, but, but, Toyotas are the most perfect, highest quality cars ever made and run 4-evah!

      • 0 avatar
        wayneoh

        That’s Blasphemy !
        Surely you must have this issue confused with a Ford, GM or FCA problem.
        We all know Toyota’s have no problems.

        • 0 avatar

          How then Camry always was on top of CR charts? I cannot believe that Toyota had any issues with engine. Statistically it is impossible. Most likely owners did not properly maintain their Camries.

          • 0 avatar
            psychoboy

            Consumer Reports doesn’t keep their test cars for five years and 100,000 miles. Scion and Toyota also blames me for not maintaining the car, although neither of them could point to the “maintain headbolt threads” procedure in the service manual, nor could they direct me to a dealer who knew how to do it.

            The Scion forums are littered with “my head bolts stripped” posts from 2010-2013. I figured out what the problem was just from reading the TSB (sb-0004-11) long before I bought the Time-Sert kit (2200) or touched a bolt on my wife’s car. Due to the way the inserts are installed, they end up 9mm higher in the block than the original threads were. I measured it directly on all ten of the bolt holes I did. The head bolts don’t have any relief beyond the threads, so they can only thread in so far before they bind. If the bolts had fully threaded in the block, they would bind well before they touched the head with the inserts. Two of my bolts cane out with the threads still in them. They were loose in the hole, and the last two threads of the bolt had aluminum threaded into them. 9mm more thread engagement is a hell of a lot for an 11mm bolt, enough to actually hold the torque it seems, considering my wife has put several thousand miles on her car since I fixed it.

            You can believe what you like, but feel free to tear one of these down and prove yourself wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            I know one TTAC’er here who’ laughing at me because I didn’t ask him (he works for a Toyota Dealer) before buying a clean low mileage, one owner 1991 Camry LE with v6 that waited until I’d re painted it and done the brakes, suspension, hoses and all the rest of the routine things before the engine violently overheated and grenaded as I was puttering down the freeway….

            Oh, crap .

            I put in another engine , it blew after one year, off to the junkyard it went, $4,700 flushed, it looked beautiful as the tow truck towed it away. I sold it for $250, the old guy was so sure he was going to slap in another engine and motorvate happily ever after….

            -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        ^^^
        +1

        I learn some of the most esoteric car knowledge from this place! Sure beats arguing about politics.*

        * although I sometimes try to slip one past the goalie with an embedded political comment… or maybe I should use the phrase “steal a base” instead of “slip one past the goalie,” oh what a debate that could start!

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    Wonder what the owner replaced it with….

  • avatar
    ajla

    Back in 2009 when I was poorish and practically right out of school I test drove a tC vs an Astra XR and a G5 GT as potential first “new car” purchases. I remember liking the Saturn the most, but none of them were worth the price to me. 4-speed autos just aren’t a good match to naturally-aspirated 4-cylinders even if the power is fine on paper.

    So I tested a G8 GT, which I greatly enjoyed, but even with the Pontiac bankruptcy discounts it would have been like 90% of my annual gross income at the time which seemed like an unwise decision.

    So I decided to stick with my value-priced 3800 cars.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I got my 05 tC in the same color as this one, Flint Mica, in September of 2004. Over the 6 years I owned it I came to love it. I became heavily involved in the ScionLife.com tC message board.

    It came with the lip spoiler and that was it. As time passed I threw most of the factory accessories on it. I had the shift knob and pedal covers like in the commercial though mine was an automatic. I added TRD lowering springs, sway bar, and the TRD exhaust. I even bought the accessory steering wheel. I replaced the seats with ones from an RS 1.0 which had red details in the center of the back and bottom. I added a full length 3rd brake light and VRD fog lights which fit nicely into the fake brake ducts. I added a Kenwood eXcelon stereo and a subwoofer. Eventually I added 18″ mesh wheels, tint, and I painted some of the chrome/silver trim to match and added custom made eyelids. It sounds awful, but trust me, it looked more reasonable than you would think.

    I never had any issues with it over the 56k miles I owned it aside from one failed sun visor hinge. I ended up selling it to a guy who works for my company, he gave it to his twin boys as their first car. It was perfect for someone their age and it was a good time for me to move on as I neared my mid-30s. I still miss it though, it was a great car. My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, liked it so much she bought one of her own and we had an arms race to see who could have the best one.

    I’m not sure what Murilee means by “monospec.” In 2005 you got either the standard car or you got the RS (Release Series) 1.0 which was red and had a few other touches like the seats and 18″ Enkei black wheels as standard. Later in the generation, I want to say 2009?, you could buy a “Spec” version which ditched the sunroof, alloy wheels, and a few other luxuries. The idea being it eliminated the things you were just going to change out and customize anyway.
    They continued on with the Release Series throughout the run, with most of them being paint and trim options, the exception being the 2010 version which had TRD suspension and brake parts. At least in the first few model years you could option a TRD supercharger for it. Those turned out to be very unreliable, however.

    Car Domain!!! http://www.cardomain.com/ride/2047636/2005-scion-tc/

  • avatar
    Fred

    The TC was faster around a track than the GT86, mostly because of it’s larger softer tires. It didn’t get much credit for that because, well FWD and reviewers couldn’t hang the tail out.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    The RegularCarReviews video on the tC was completely on-point.

    Anyway, my former college roommate got one of the first manual transmission models off the boat back in the day. It served him reliably for more than 170,000 miles until it was totaled in a crash.

  • avatar
    NayNay

    So just over a year ago(May 2018) I bought a used/preowned 2007 Scion Tc with around 120k miles. It ran great and then in March or April of this year the motor blew. Of course I wasn’t very happy because I hadn’t even owned it a year yet, but the car dealership I bought it from gave me a good deal (I think anyways) on replacing the motor. I payed the cost of the used motor he was able to find($980) and $500 for labor. It was in the shop since the engine first blew and i finally got it back at the end of august. Hopefully this engine will last the remaining life of the car.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    As far as I know, the manual transmission is a weak spot on these cars. Which is too bad, because it’s a hoot to drive with the stick… of course the example I test drove had 5th popping out of gear without provocation.

    A friend had the same issue with a Vibe 5MT; the Corolla of that time has the problem as well.

    Ironically, the hot version with the high-revving engine and the six-speed manual was stout.

    How you screw up a manual transmission is beyond me. Not what I would have expected from Toyota.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    These reminded me of the first generation Prelude, in that they only came well-equipped with a sunroof and they were primarily sporty in being more powerful than the least powerful cars sold by their brands and having two doors and a sunroof. Preludes were more expensive in practice, if only because of markups and waiting lists. They were popular with professionals and academics who were trading in British sports cars. The Scion TC was popular with young women who wore lots of makeup.

    • 0 avatar
      retrocrank

      And those young women have now grown up to be the clueless pilots of large urban assault vehicles, and they can be seen daily to be turning the steering wheels while stationary.
      I disagree about the trading in British sports cars. Those drivers moved on to Beemers and Audis in order to avoid the pretense of a Porsche; those vainly holding on to their Youth continue to buy Miatas. Meanwhile, most of the professionals and academics would prefer public transport if it were inexpensive, convenient, clean, and available – which it is not in this country. Therefore they buy reliable transport appliances like Hondas, Toyotas, Scoobies and Mazdas. The choice among those brands is made based on the image they wish to project in the interest of perceived hipness and/or awareness. It’s not about driving for that demographic; Kia, Hyundai, and the evolution of Mercedes Benz from an engineering feat to a marketing tool are my proof.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        The Prelude guys I knew, who were academics, actually did replace rubber baby buggy bumper MGBs and TR7s with Hondas. Some of them would have been as likely to buy a German car as they would have been to trade in their silly flat-brimmed hats for lederhosen.

        Most of the academics I knew who went with Audis and BMWs in the ’80s were trading in increasingly frustrating Detroit cars. One of them had a tiny Datsun and a Subaru between his string of large GM cars and his first Audi A4.

        My sample size on the Prelude front is pretty small, but I was a member of the BMW CCA for years and both of my parents are retired college professors. I can certainly say that crossovers between British cars and German cars in the ’70s and ’80s were the exceptions. It was much more typical for British car drivers to switch to Japanese cars, which sometimes seemed like superior interpretations of British cars anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          retrocrank

          I should clarify that my views have been tainted by living among Yankees for more than a decade. From the previous five decades in rural Ohio, my experience was more in line with what you say. Those Young and Silly who weren’t into Novas and Chevelles, or pickups, bought exciting Brit sports cars (because they were cheap and fun), graduated to Murkin Iron, got frustrated and started buying Japanese, or if better funded, Cherman (mostly VW or Mercedes, some Audi where I was). The Chevelle and pickup crowds all went to their own hells.
          Yankees on the otherhand are a different breed, reflected in my first response. And Audis and Beemers now appeal to a totally different crowd than in the 80s and 90s. Nobody driving an Audi in the 90s had moussed hair and dark glasses, those guys were all in M3s, crashing them into the wall on the inside of Turn 1 at MidOhio. Now it’s the Audi guys who are the brutal aggressives, at least in Yankeeland. The Beemers are increasingly being driven by oldsters desperately hanging onto their youth and skinny guys from the island who want that Roundel status.
          I got into academics (so I’m not a genetic academic) when I came out here, and still haven’t been able to get rid of the TC (and never will) but there is an air cooled VW in my barn. Actually has FI.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Someone was into weed and Pokemon Go.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Some Subaru motors have similar head bolt thread problems. When I saw that a fine thread bolt was screwed directly into the aluminum block with no steel insert, I thought, “Somebody is nuts, or they don’t care that the engine is not repairable.”

  • avatar

    On that Toyota Avensis commercial Europeans look like jerks. Why? There is nothing more boring on European market than Toyota Avensis.

  • avatar

    Hey Murilee: if you had a 9 volt battery could you connect that into the proper wiring to light the digital odo? My guess it’s too much work for the result desired, but wanted to ask.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      He could check for service reminder decals on the windshield. If you see one that says next service due at 178K miles, you can pretty safely assume the car went at least 175K miles.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      If I remember right, you can plug in a “hot” lead in the cigarette lighter of a Toyota of this vintage and it will make the instrument panel go live- as opposed to the way a lot of makes are wired with the cigarette lighter on the battery bus (in other words, the works when the key is turned off or removed, but thus isolated from the instrument panel, radio, etc.).


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