Junkyard Find: 1985 Toyota Van, Santa Cruz Music Video Edition
Inspired by the unexpected success of the K-car-based Chrysler minivans in the early 1980s, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota each made North American-market versions of their small mid-engined vans. Sales of the Mitsubishi Van (based on the Delica) and Nissan Van (based on the Vanette) never amounted to much over here, but Toyota had a minor hit with the Americanized TownAce van, known here as the Toyota Van.The Toyota Van proved very durable and I still see plenty of them in wrecking yards to this day. Today’s Junkyard Treasure packs some extra-special provenance within its battered, 34-year-old flanks: it once served as the sacred icon of a Northern California band, appearing as the centerpiece of many music videos.
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Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Van

When Chrysler had such a smash hit with the K-derived minivans of the 1980s, Toyota USA needed some kind of family hauler bigger than the Cressida, Camry, and Tercel wagons. The solution, from the perspective of the suits in Aichi, was obvious: Americanize the TownAce mid-engined van and ship it west ASAP!

Here’s an ’84 Toyota Van I found in a Charlotte, North Carolina, wrecking yard last month.

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Rare Rides: This 1990 Toyota Town Ace Simply Kills It

High atop Mount Forbidden, the “other market’s” imported vehicle stands alone. It awaits that special day, some 25 years in the future, when the clouds will break and a descent into the mortal realm is possible.

And, after that special day comes, the vehicle gets a chance to stand out beyond all normal cars in any given American parking lot. It was never meant to be seen in this country, and yet someone with an entrepreneurial spirit made it possible. Come with me now, as we experience JDM van goodness.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Van, With Bonus San Francisco Beachfront Rust

Unless they’re air-cooled Volkswagens, cars in non-mountain California don’t suffer much from the teeth of The Rust Monster. Sure, the rainy winters mean that leaky weatherstripping results in rusty trunk floors (especially in GM cars of the pre-1990s era), but plenty of 50-year-old street-parked California cars have solid sheet metal that leave Michigan residents in awe. However, all this goes out the window if you happen to live within a block or two of the not-so-aptly-named Pacific Ocean in San Francisco. During a trip to California last week, I spotted this victim of Outer Sunset District Rust in an East Bay self-serve yard (with a spectacular Halloween display).

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Toyota Conversion Van

The last time we saw a Toyota Master Ace Junkyard Find was when I discovered this super-elaborate ’85 Space Van art car in Northrn California last year. I’ve always admired these mid-engined machines, with their unkillable pushrod fours and goofy Mars Base looks. Here’s one I spotted in a Denver wrecking yard a couple weeks back.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Toyota Master Ace Art Car

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and you need something to drive to Burning Man, you’ll find that the glue-a-bunch-of-stuff-all-over-a-random-vehicle art-car approach will let your ride fit in just as effortlessly on the playa as the soccer mom’s Voyager blends in at the mall parking lot. I’m not against art cars (I consider my 1965 Impala Hell Project to be an art car at heart), but I prefer the approach of the artists who built such fine machines as the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir or the street-driven Denver Pirate Ship to the type who feels contempt for the canvas disappearing beneath their hot-glue gun. Anyway, the upshot of the large number of Bay Area art-car types who glue 10,000 plastic army men or Lucky Lager caps all over their cars is that many of them wind up in self-service wrecking yards. Here’s a Toyota Master Ace aka Toyota Space Cruiser aka Toyota Van that I spotted last weekend at an East Bay self-serve yard.

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Mid-Engined Brown Car For Sale: $1,100 OBO

One of the neighborhood characters growing up was “Toyota Van Man”, a middle-aged gentleman who drove a denim blue Toyota van. We never knew much about him, but assumed based on his vehicle choice that he was some kind of pederast. More likely, he was a hard working immigrant from Vietnam who lived on top of our local pizza joint and we were a group of overprivileged adolescent brats.

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Down On The Mile High Street: Toyota MasterAce

Here in North America, Toyota’s marketing wizards figured out that a vehicle name that sounds like “Master Race” would be something of a liability, so they put in a bunch of grueling all-nighters and produced… the Toyota Van Wagon. Not so fast, said Volkswagen, claiming that the name sounded too much like “Vanagon,” and Toyota lopped off the “Wagon” to create a van name so boring that we still can’t quite believe it ever existed: Toyota Van.

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  • Mark This is what it cost to drive a Tesla Model S Plaid for 11k+ miles in one year. You would pay more to drive a Yaris that far, never the less a performance car on the Plaid level. I don’t know where they got their math, but mine is actual real world results. We live in a cold climate and have removed our wheel covers, both of which hurt range, so your mileage may vary.
  • Jack Bummer, his successor sounds like just another electric car shill :(
  • IH_Fever Nissan should call for a real pickup before they call for electrification...
  • Bobbysirhan Direct injection cuts certain emissions that were already so small as to be completely meaningless, but it introduces particulate emissions that aren't a problem on port-injected engines. Stay tuned for a particulate emissions panic to be used as a justification for banning all of the ICE engines produced under recent EURO emissions standards tiers.
  • Kosmo I want to know why Mazda thinks anybody is interested in multiple teasers on a CUV!