Used-up examples of the 1983-1987 Toyota Tercel wagon (known as the Sprinter Carib in its homeland) still show up in junkyards today, but nearly all of them are the four-wheel-drive versions; the humble front-wheel-drive ones weren’t as desirable (once they became beaters, hoopties, and/or buckets) and mostly got crushed a decade ago.
Here’s an ’86 in a Silicon Valley self-service wrecking yard.
The Toyota Sprinter Carib was sold as the Tercel Wagon in North America for the 1983 through 1987 model years, and most examples rolling out of American showrooms came with the more fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive setup. However, the four-wheel-drive Tercel Wagons held their value for decades after the front-wheel-drive ones depreciated into oblivion and were crushed, and thus I don’t see many of the latter type in wrecking yards these days.
Here’s a now-rare FWD ’86 that held on past age 30, spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard.
A couple of years have passed since the last Manny, Moe, and Jack Edition Junkyard Find, so we’re due for another car that was customized with every manner of stick-on hood scoop, property-value-lowering vinyl decal, and brightly-colored interior-trim piece that can be had at your local auto-parts chain store. Here’s a fourth-gen Toyota Tercel done up as a shoestring-budget Fast-n-Furious-type machine.
I’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.
I know it probably made perfect marketing sense for Toyota to piggyback their new subcompact’s image atop that of the fantastically successful Malaise Era Corolla, in spite of the fact that the two cars were unrelated other than having the same their parent company, but the confusion caused by the “Corolla Tercel” name persists to this day. For that reason, these cars always attract my attention when I see them in wrecking yards; in this series, we’ve seen this ’80 and this ’81 so far.
The Tercel EZ sold about as well as the Plymouth Sundance America, Chevrolet Chevette Scooter, and the other zero-frills cars of the 1985-1995 period, i.e., very poorly. Jack Baruth does a fine job of explaining why this is so, but enough of these cars were moved off showroom floors that you still see the occasional example. Here’s a Tercel EZ that I spotted in my local self-serve wrecking yard.
Because the Corolla had become such a hit in the United States during the early part of the Malaise Era, Toyota decided to confuse car buyers and parts-counter guys for eternity by adding the Corolla name to the first-gen Toyota Tercel. This would have been like Volkswagen selling a “Rabbit Fox” or Chrysler selling a “Dart Colt,” but it seemed to work fine for Toyota. Here’s a first-year-for-the-US Tercel I spotted in a Denver self-service yard last week.
TTAC Commentator Ryoku75 writes:
Thanks for your response on my question on modern car grilles, you make a good point on modern cars being a bit taller up-front than needed. Now, I own an ’89 Toyota Tercel that needs a rear wheel bearing and exhaust (muffler, piping), otherwise it works fine and has 125k.
No, the first-gen Tercel wasn’t related to the Corolla, but the marketing suits at Toyota USA hoped that some of the Corolla’s reputation for reliability would rub off on their smaller, cheaper, front-drive subcompact. It worked, mostly because the Tercel really was as bulletproof as the Corolla. It was also noisier, slower, and less comfortable, but painful memories of the Iranian Revolution-fueled 1979-80 oil crisis made the not-so-thirsty 83-horsepower Tercel very popular in North America. Most entry-level subcompacts don’t survive 31 years on the street, Toyota or not, and so this example I sighted in a Denver self-service junkyard is a rare find.
Here’s a car that you still see frequently in Colorado, both on the street and in the junkyard. You see Tercel 4WD wagons on the street here because they’re cheap, sensible winter cars and they tend to keep grinding out the hundreds of thousands of miles in their Tercelian slow-motion fashion… and you see them in the junkyard because they’re not worth enough to fix when something major finally fails.
When was the last time you saw a mint-condition first-gen Tercel on the freeway? This early-80s Tercel (Corolla Tercel, according to Toyota’s goofy “tack on the model name the Americans already know” branding experiment) apparently drove into a time machine around the time the Iranian hostages were released and reappeared on the 405 yesterday afternoon, as I was driving an RX-8 out of LAX.
When we think of Japanese four-wheel-drive station wagons these days, we immediately picture a Subaru product. We often forget that, in the 1980s, most of the Japanese automakers made four-wheel-drive versions of their small wagons. Honda had the 4WD Civic Wagovan, Nissan had 4WD Stanza and Sentra wagons, Mitsubishi had the Mirage and Colt 4WD wagons, and so on. Of all of the non-Subaru 4WD wagons from that era, however, the only one you see with any frequency these days is Toyota’s Tercel 4WD wagon. These things are about as common as the AMC Eagle in Colorado, i.e. you see them all the time.
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