By on November 9, 2020

Rare Rides has never featured a Camry previously, and that’s mostly down to the model’s general abundance in salt-free locations. However, a fine liftback like today’s example in brown, brown, and tan is well worth some coverage!

Come along as we check out the Camry body style which passed away long before any of the others.

The Camry was new for the 1983 model year, as a global midsize offering from Toyota. However, 1983 was not the first time the name Camry appeared on a Toyota sedan. Between 1980 and 1982 in the Japanese domestic market, there existed a Celica Camry. That model was the sporty sedan version of the popular Celica two-door. With an engine at the front and driven wheels at the rear, when Toyota branched out Camry into its own model it did things a bit differently – and had its eye on America.

And since Americans were all about dumping old rear-drive things in the early Eighties in favor of front-drive, Toyota readily complied. In development, the company planned to go head-to-head with the X-body front-drive cars from General Motors. No small task! In 1980 it took the new Camry idea to Ford and proposed a deal. Given the company lacked any manufacturing facilities on American shores, and the mounting tension around increasing automobile imports from Japan to the US, Toyota proposed that it build the Camry via a joint venture. Ford would build the Camry domestically, which would then be marketed as a Toyota and a Ford. But the Blue Oval had its own small car in development, the Tempo, and said “hard pass.”

Undeterred, Toyota fired up its Tsutsumi plant and the first “V10” series Camry entered production in March of 1982. Body styles were two; a four-door sedan and a five-door liftback. At the time, the Japanese wagon customer in America headed to the Datsun dealership instead and bought a Maxima. Camry was considered a more upscale car in Japan, and the less formal liftback version was not offered there. At dealerships across the country, American consumers who were hesitant to purchase the more conservative and rear-drive Corona snapped up the new Camry eagerly.

Engines in the V10 generation were all of four cylinders, as the luxurious LE V6 was a dream for the future. Power varied in displacements of 1.8- and 2.0-liters, and horsepower figures in North America ranged between 73 and 92. Transmissions on offer were a five-speed manual, or more commonly in America, a four-speed automatic.

The foundation of Camry was established globally with Toyota’s first salvo, seen here. A new V20 generation was ready for 1987, and many were built domestically at the company’s shiny new plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. Today’s Rare Ride hails from the final year of V10 production, and the last year of a five-door liftback Camry. In superb condition for its age and 133,000 miles, it has one dent on the passenger side. Yours for $5,500 in California.

[Images: seller]

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27 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1986 Toyota Camry Five-door Liftback, Brown Plus Brown...”

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “Be still my beating heart!”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Might this article be entitled ‘The Birth of a Legend’?

  • avatar

    A big reason I bought my TSX Wagon, was that I couldn’t fit a plastic lawn chair into the trunk of a rented Camry. The trunk was big enough to hold it, but couldn’t get it thru the opening. So they went into the back seat.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the result of the “four door coupe” design, with sloping rear windows and mailbox-slot trunk lids that make large trunks unusable. I really think that design, with the lower rear headroom and knees-up rear seating, is what killed the sedan.

      Grandma can’t get in the back, or if she can, needs to sit upright, and the driver can’t see out the back window, even through the rear view mirror. The three-box is dead, and the two-box SUV/CUV, now with sloping roofs and knees-up rear seats, is going in the same direction.

      • 0 avatar

        Ive been saying the same thing for the past few years, do people even like this fake-coupe trend?

        Modern sedans make me think of the last Grand Prix models, decent cars hindered by terrible packaging.

  • avatar

    “horsepower figures in North America ranged between 73 and 92.”

    An friend was telling me that if you had the automatic with AC you’d need to turn off the AC if you encountered a grade on the highway in order to maintain your speed. A quick googling shows a 0-60 time of a little under 13 seconds.

    • 0 avatar

      The Camry, even with auto, was not a speed demon–but it was not a dog like Tempos, automatic Escorts, Chevettes, and even J-car automatics.

      It was notable, in my mind, for being the first front-drive, four-cylinder, with a FOUR-speed automatic.

      The next generation Camry would be among the first small family sedans to have a 4-valve per cylinder engine standard.

      Conservative Toyota moved the needle–and the competition was forced to see them.

    • 0 avatar

      The 73hp version was the short-lived Camry diesel. But at least it could beat a Diesel Chevette!

    • 0 avatar

      I remember driving the GM X cars in the early 80s and they always switched off the A/C (automatically) when you needed more juice from the engine. I can’t recall if this also happened with the Tempo.
      Toyota is lucky that Ford turned down the offer to joint venture the Camry. The first decently screwed together Ford of that era was the Taurus/Sable. On those the build quality was good for the mid 80s, but the quality of a variety of parts (like head gaskets, door locks, A/C compressors) was far below Toyota quality and would have been a BIG problem if Ford had sourced the parts.

      • 0 avatar

        “I remember driving the GM X cars in the early 80s and they always switched off the A/C (automatically) when you needed more juice from the engine.”

        You sure about that? I remember the Mustang GT did that, and it was considered pretty innovative. My dad’s Citation didn’t have AC, so can’t draw from my experience.

        I do miss the straight lines of mid-80s Japanese design.

    • 0 avatar

      I had to do the same thing in my 1985 Honda Accord. My 1983 Accord hatch had 75 HP, and the 1985 sedan had, I think, 83. It was AC off even going up a freeway on-ramp.

  • avatar

    That front end seems very AMC Premier to me.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    A friend bought a new medium-blue 88 Camry soon after college. It was an odd car even then, but he ran it forever – and in the Rust Belt.

    This brown one is superb.

  • avatar

    If theres one thing that these Camrys do better than the modern models its packaging, they’re actually fairly spacious despite their size and the rear liftback does give you a bit of extra cargo room. Modern Camrys are designed to get people into Rav4s.

  • avatar

    And this was supposed to compete with Ford Taurus? Camry became a problem for Big 3 with new 1992 model, according to history books.

    • 0 avatar

      The Camry pre-dated the Taurus. It was smaller. When it was launched, it was competing against Tempos, K-Cars, and the outgoing X-car.

      The 2nd Gen Camry was a tad larger, but still more of Tempo/K-car sized car.

      The 3rd Gen Camry, which was peak Camry IMO, was a tad smaller than the Taurus, but essentially very close in size. Toyota made the decision to make it larger for North America to compete with the Taurus, so it became a North American product (compared to previous Camrys which were similar to Japanese/Euro versions). It also had a very rich interior for it’s price point. It was quiet, had a gentle, but not flabby ride.

      It exuded the type of quality associated with Mercedes. I’ve read somewhere that some Toyota exec(s) remarked something like “…yeah, we gave away too much on that car”

      The 4th gen Camry featured decontenting to keep the price down. Having driven both, I’d say Toyota succeeded–but even the cheapened Camry was not “cheap” by any means–and it outsold the 3rd generation.

  • avatar

    The 1986 Camry liftback, although a practical and competent vehicle, was not quite a paragon of style.

  • avatar

    Working for a Toyota dealer in Canada, I purchased an ’86 LE liftback new in Oct. of 1986 for my wife, and waited 3 months for it to arrive. While considered stylish at the time, it was fine if the road was flat, but struggled on long steep hills. The 1987 V20 models were far better performing. We sold it in 1989 for exactly what we paid for it however, [inflation] and the new happy purchaser put over 300,000 km’s before rust got the best of it. As a side note, we traveled to Japan with other Canadian Toyota dealers in Sept. 1982, for the 1983 new model introduction, where the new Camry was on display. I remember talking with a Toyota engineer who was responsible for some engine design, and he was extremely proud of his “hollow” Camshaft which represented a considerable weight saving.

  • avatar

    Back in about 1990 I went to an AC training class. One of the subjects was that many cars now had the compressor clutch controlled by a ‘computer’. The instructor had a chart with the if/then functions for a small GM car. We worked out a flow chart of when the compressor would run. Full throttle the compressor was de-clutched. Also there were sensors on various accessories, so if the engine was at low RPM and the power steering pressure went over a certain level the compressor was de-clutched. Similarly there were bits in the ‘computer’ that de-clutched the compressor when the radiator fan went on high speed or engine temp went above a set point. There were also time delays so that if you got in clear traffic it could take up to 10 seconds for the AC to start working.
    The conclusion was that if it was a hot day and you were in a parking lot or stop and go traffic you would get very little AC cooling. Just when you’d want it the most. Apparently the notion was to conserve engine power to move the car. AC came later.

  • avatar

    What does brown have for me – everything plus sweet sweet velvet.

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