By on December 13, 2021

1994 Toyota Previa in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin -The Truth About CarsEver since the 1998 model year, Toyota has sold a big, American-style minivan with the engine in the front and cupholders throughout the interior. Prior to that, though, American Toyota shoppers looking for a new van had to take an innovative mid-engined machine designed entirely with the Japanese home market in mind: First the TownAce (known as the Van here) and then the Estima (known as the Previa here). The Previa was too small and too underpowered to compete head-to-head with Detroit minivans, but those who bought them found that they lasted for decade after decade. Here’s one in a Denver-area yard that got pretty close to the magical 400,000-mile mark.

1994 Toyota Previa in Colorado junkyard, speedometer - ©2021 Murilee Martin -The Truth About CarsI see plenty of Previas during my junkyard travels, though I concentrate on the rare All-Trac versions for this series. 376k miles is impressive, though, and so I deemed this van worthy of documenting. Sure, it’s no 413k-mile Tercel 4WD, but then what is?

1994 Toyota Previa in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin -The Truth About CarsIt appears that this Previa was working as an electrician’s van during its final days on the road, and so it’s full of wire nuts, screws, conduit hardware, and so on.

1994 Toyota Previa in Colorado junkyard, LH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin -The Truth About CarsIt’s a plain old front-wheel-drive van with automatic transmission, but at least it still has a supercharger and mid-mounted engine (a 158-horse, 2.4-liter straight-four laying down sideways under the front seats, with the blower and other accessories located far forward and powered by a long shaft from the engine).

1994 Toyota Previa in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin -The Truth About CarsI added this knitted cross to my collection of religious mirror-hangers on display in my garage.

1994 Toyota Previa in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin -The Truth About CarsYou’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

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39 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1994 Toyota Previa LE with 376,407 Miles...”

  • avatar

    376K miles? That’s just getting broken in! Very impressed that given that it’s in Denver with all of the salt and winter weather that the body hasn’t turned into Swiss cheese.

  • avatar

    I’m disappointed that their are no vintage commercials!

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Never one to keep vehicles and put mega miles on them, We owned two of these. The first one an LE and the second a base model. The differences between the two were a slightly plusher interior and window tinting. So we put tint on the second one. We hauled three kids, their stuff and towed a pop up camper. We always arrived at our destination -just not fast. Moved into an Explorer after the second Previa. The build quality of the Explorer was miles behind that of the Previa. A van ahead of it’s time but under powered big time.

  • avatar

    Seems like every Previa of a certain age I’d encounter on the road, S/C and non-S/C alike, emitted a very loud screeching sound like the front end of a jet engine. Or like the sound of a bad bearing as amplified through AC/DC’s sound system. You could hear one coming from a mile away. What caused that?

  • avatar

    MM where is this van? I am 60 mi. N of Denver.
    I need a rear hatch/lid. thanks

  • avatar

    By 7 years and 70,000 miles, my 1995 Windstar was in the shop every month for a $300-$400 hit. Any surprises that we moved on to Toyota/Lexus??????

    • 0 avatar

      Ford would occasionally build a reliable vehicle despite itself. I know several people that took 1st and 2nd Gen Tauruses to 200,000 miles, with rigorous maintenance. Toyotas were much better at going that far with an indifferent owner.

      The Windstar was a complete dog though. If it makes you feel better, nobody ever had a good experience with one. I got burned on the “internal water pump of doom” in an otherwise lovely Lincoln MKZ and swore off everything except the F150 at that point.

      • 0 avatar

        I would bet good money that at least one of those 200k+ mile Tauruses had the 3.0L “Vulcan” V6 engine, which was pretty damn bulletproof. I had a 2001 4wd Ranger so-equipped. Much slower than the 4.0L, but but never left me stranded and was still going strong when I sold it at 232k miles. I kept up with the routine maintenance, and other than needing a new water pump and starter, it was trouble free.

  • avatar

    I always thought the 2wd version was rear drive?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The space-saver tire tells me the owner just couldn’t justify spending another $100 on the Previa, which gave its all in faithful service.

    • 0 avatar

      It must’ve been swapped out – we owned three Previas, a ’94 and two ’95 models, all the supercharged LE S/C. The first even had leather. None of ours had a space saver – there’s no reason for one, since the spare is under the rear of the van.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Almost exactly the same mileage as my kid’s ’92 Camry, which was my FIL’s from new. Still starts and runs great, I’d even trust it on a medium-sixed road trip.

  • avatar

    Rented one of these once, put a couple thousand miles on it. Don’t remember much about it, except the sidewall blew out on the rear passenger tire when I was doing about 60 mph, and the vehicle was easy to keep under control. Despite the small motor it was a decent, if slowish, highway cruiser.

  • avatar

    I’ve always liked these and still do. In the late 80’s/early 90’s timeframe I was begging my parents to get one to replace the series of Chevy Astro conversion vans that my mom hauled us around in, but they never did. The Previa seemed so much like the future in comparison.
    Now that we have 2 little ones, I always thought it would be cool to haul them in one, but my wife views these as “creepy” vans….not sure why but she does. Oh well, her Odyssey is probably a much better and safer choice anyway.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    There’s a bunch of Central American taxi drivers screaming that this thing is barely broken in. When I was in Belize, these were just about the only taxis I saw there. We were staying on a barrier island and there were pretty much just these and golf carts with mud tires.

    I suspect these would have fared better in the states with a different name. If you weren’t around at the time it is hard to describe, but the name Previa was easily mocked and the masculinity of men who drove it would have been questioned. I didn’t understand it then, but I’m pretty sure it led to my parents getting a much more “butch” GMC Safari at the time.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    400k in this would be pretty miserable

  • avatar

    My children’s mother (my ex-wife) was from Mexico and called these vans el Huevo (the egg). I bought a short wb Astro around the time these were being sold as the 4.3l had a lot more go and my Astro was a unicorn – it had a 5/MT, one of only two or so on the West Coast at the time with a 4.3l/manual combo.

  • avatar

    The nice thing about these is that you can park
    on the wrong side of the street and the cops wont
    know if you are going forwards or backwards.

  • avatar

    Getting 400k out of one of these isn’t uncommon. The biggest issues are the SADS couplings, and blown head gaskets.

  • avatar

    “It’s a plain old front-wheel-drive van”

    Uh, no it isn’t. It’s rear-wheel-drive, and mid-engined (AWD AllTrac models were also available, and a five-speed manual was available in the beginning) . The engine lays over at a 75-degree angle, so the oil pan is replaced by a crankcase cover, and the oil pan is on the side of the block. It also has a sender and float, connected to the ECU. If the oil level drops a quart low, a reservoir with pump under the hood supplies oil to the engine via a hose. the oil fill cap and dipstick are accessible via an access panel under the driver’s seat (a latch on the seat allows it flip backward, to give access to the hatch).

    On the passenger side there’s much larger access panel for getting to things like the spark plugs and cap, rotor, and wires (platinum plugs with a 120,000-mile change interval). You have to pop the sliding door sill trim off, roll back the carpet, and pull some bolts to get the panel off.

    The supercharged engine was an option starting in ’94, and all Previas were supercharged for the final year, 1997.

  • avatar

    My guess is this one is a normally aspirated DX, since DX models didn’t have a DX emblem on the liftgate (the LE says “LE”), and there’s no “S/C” on the back to indicate it’s supercharged.

  • avatar

    Unrelated thoughts:

    a) That supercharger writeup is AWESOME, Murilee. I had no idea. [I am convinced that some of Toyota’s Best People really get a kick out of intricate hidden fastener arrangements.]

    b) My current vehicle now has over 200K miles and it’s the first vehicle I’ve ever owned with 200K. I now officially understand that 200,000 miles is A Lot for a light-duty vehicle. 300K definitely gets my respect, and anything with close to 400K is *way* out on the curve. [My sources say around 1% of vehicles make it to 200K and more like 0.03% are still driving at 300K?]

    c) I knew a guy who liked weird vehicles and of course he had one of these. He also enjoyed spirited driving on the hilly back roads near his home. He would just about catch air in his Previa – it was unnerving to ride with him. (For me – his kids loved it.)

    • 0 avatar

      Sometimes it’s how much you’re willing to put up with or spend big money fix. Need engine seals or clutch plates in the transmission? Most people won’t at 200k but those are probably a lot of what makes it to 300k+ I had a 230k mile car and while it was in good shape it slowly started needing more minor things and a few major things. Sometimes it’s not worth the money when the ac is out, the window regulator just broke, and the engine seeps oil.

  • avatar

    I thought they are either Rear wheel drive or AWD only not front wheel drive? can someone confirm with me?

  • avatar

    The Previa was always highly regarded, but I never liked them – probably the design put me off – or – I was still against buying foreign cars at the time. Learned my lesson after being burned repeatedly by Chrysler garbage!

    I wonder if Toyota vehicles are still as reliable as they used to be.

    Seems like Toyota is trying to out-GM GM, which is not necessarily a good thing.

    Having never owned a Toyota, I wouldn’t know, but we do own a Honda CR-V (Wifey’s car).

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