By on June 24, 2019

1988 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, RH view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Toyota Tercel 4WD Station Wagon, known in its homeland as the Sprinter Carib, sold very well in Colorado, where I live, and tended to be both reliable and well-loved by owners. I still see them in wrecking yards here, so many that I don’t photograph any but the most interesting. This one in a Denver yard had an impressive-even-by-Toyota-standards odometer reading, so it made the cut for a Junkyard Find. (Read More…)

By on April 12, 2019

Only one car combines cheap and cheerful motoring with economical driving and butterfly doors. Fittingly, its Tercel and Paseo siblings were also dredged up in this QOTD post.

It’s the Toyota Sera, from 1991.

(Read More…)

By on January 2, 2019

1986 Toyota Tercel wagon in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsUsed-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. (Read More…)

By on February 6, 2018

Image: 1985 Toyota Tercel 4WD WagonTime for the third entry into the sub-class of vehicles from the 1980s that I call Tall Import Wagons. The first was a light blue Nissan Stanza, known as “Multi” up north in Canada. Then, a similarly blue Colt Vista showed us what Dodge could do when it swapped the emblems on a Mitsubishi.

Today, a third competitor takes center stage: the Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon.

(Read More…)

By on November 27, 2017

1986 Toyota Tercel Wagon in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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. (Read More…)

By on February 25, 2015

01 - 1991 Toyota Tercel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA 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. (Read More…)

By on September 19, 2014

20 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’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. (Read More…)

By on September 4, 2013

13 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI 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.

(Read More…)

By on April 16, 2013

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. (Read More…)

By on March 1, 2013

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. (Read More…)

By on May 9, 2012

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. (Read More…)

By on July 2, 2011


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. (Read More…)

By on February 27, 2011


Watching the J30/280ZX/SHO battle for the win on laps this afternoon was pretty exciting, but the Index of Effluency (which goes to the terrible car that accomplishes something orders of magnitude beyond what any sane observer considers possible) is what the true LeMons fanatics care about. A 280ZX coming in first is impressive, but how about an 80-horsepower Toyota Tercel EZ taking tenth place overall? How is that possible?
Team Exhibition Of Slow brought their hacked-up late-80s Tercel EZ— the EZ, as aficionados of rent-a-car-grade econoboxes might recall, is the low-budget/stripper “economy” version of the already miserably underpowered third-gen Tercel, complete with carburetor— and drove it around and around and around the MSR track, all weekend long, and received exactly zero black flags. They beat most of the E30s, all the Mustangs, in fact damn near everything on the track. Definitely one of the easiest IOE choices we’ve ever made. Congratulations, Exhibition Of Slow!

By on February 2, 2011


Going through my old 2X2X2 35mm stereo slide pairs for posting on Cars In Depth (I’ve been messing around with twin-film-camera 3D for about 15 years now), I came across some shots of the ever-varied fleet of late-80s/early-90s Japanese subcompacts I owned during the heyday of San Francisco’s notorious City Tow car auctions. (Read More…)

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