Thursday, July 9, 2015

They Made That? 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback

In the "completely boring when it was new but somehow cool and interesting now" category, please direct your attention to the specimen below. It is slow, pedestrian, and cheap - but if you need a commuter car and want something quirky yet still useful and reliable, compare this to anything else in the sub-$3k price range and it starts to look pretty decent. Regardless of cool factor, it seems to be an amazing survivor. Find this 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback for sale in Burbank, CA for only $2500 via craigslist.


This car represents the first full generation of the Camry as a standalone model (previously it was based on the Celica for some typically inscrutable Japanese reason). The V10 generation Camry went on sale in the US for the 1983 model year as a reasonably compact, lightweight, 4-cylinder economy car - a far cry from today's near fullsize Camry. The V10 was smaller than the current Toyota Corolla - even the Liftback rides on a 4 inch shorter wheelbase, is 8 inches shorter overall, 3 inches narrower, 4 inches shorter in height, and anywhere between 300 to 500 lbs lighter than the Corolla sitting on Toyota dealer lots right now. Just for reference.


The engine in this clean survivor Liftback should be a 2S-ELC, a 2.0 liter inline four with a single overhead cam, iron block, and aluminum head. This is old school tech but not ancient, and was equipped with basic EFI - a bonus today for easy service and lasting reliability. With only about 100 hp and at 130,000 miles, this understressed 4-banger should keep on chugging for a long time, assuming basic maintenance has been kept up. Toyota also sold a miserly 1.8L diesel engine in the US Camry during this time, but good luck finding one of those in simiar condition...


This Camry Liftback holds true to the axiom that most clean, cheap survivor cars have automatic transmissions, for whatever reason. I think this says more about the types of people who bought slushbox econo cars new - that they treated their cars as appliances, yet kept them clean, maintained, and functional. Depression-era mindset? This one is on its 2nd owners and looks almost new. The blue CA plates look right for the year, and the interior must've just been relieved of grandma's plastic seat covers - it looks that fresh and sanitary.


The big question is: could you endure the snail's pace of a 2,500 lb car with 100hp and a 4-speed slushbox? I think you could do a lot worse for a $2500 car that looks brand new, fits five people, and is somewhere between a wagon and a hatch for utility.

See a more exciting 80s survivor? email us here: tips@dailyturismo.com

32 comments:

  1. http://hartford.craigslist.org/cto/5083039695.html

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    1. Nice pull, anon.

      Is there a slower vehicle extant?

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    2. Del...wrote you in your "find me a car" thread, but not sure you saw it. Going after the Volvo on BaT huh?

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    3. I had no idea these even existed.

      Pre-'95 diesel so I believe it's CA smog exempt.

      This may require a phone call. How long could it possibly take to drive it out here from there? Has anyone ever driven an Amish buggy cross-country?

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    4. Thinking this is one of a few cars that the fuel tank will outlast your bladder.

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    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    6. The critical point is that since it's smog-exempt the state doesn't need to know what it really has under the hood. The number of E28 524td BMWs in California that still have a smudgepot under the hood is probably just about nil.

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    7. Almost exactly 3000 miles. Never been to CT, PA, OH, IA...been to everything west of there on the Google Maps routing.

      Think it'd make it? Should I call him?

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    8. That would be an epic road trip - if you do it, you NEED to provide pics / words for a DT writeup...

      I did a very similar (but about half the mileage) road trip from Seattle to LA last year, yep, you guessed it, importing a pre-98 diesel car to CA so I can have my way with it. In my case it's an '84 Volvo 245.

      I've teased it before, but it will make it to the DT Project Car section soon enough...

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    9. In short: yes, call him. Do it. What's the worst that could happen? What could possibly go wrong with a 30-year old oil burner?

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    10. I'll help get you set up in IA if you don't drive straight thru.

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    11. I need two days to think about this (preceded by a trip to Bevmo for a couple fifths of Old Overcoat) and I'll get back to you.

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  2. I had the same ski rack and it came off so easily, how could you stand to drive around with that noise when it's not ski season?

    Love the car, it's in beautiful shape. Will probably run forever and ever.

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  3. Quite an attractive design honestly; faintly reminiscent of the Gandini-penned Reliant FW11 concept (and Citroen BX) in its angularity. Would it be possible to add a 3S-GE engine and manual transmission from a period Celica? It's not a sporting car, but the extra power would be helpful and make it more lively. Though it's probably the refraining from such craziness that kept it alive so long.

    It's heartening that such bargains are still available.



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  4. The bad: It was a boring shape even for 1984. You've got to crank your own windows but you don't get to shift your own gears. 98 raging HP through a better-than-average-for-the-time slushbox is just about enough to keep up with a Nissan Leaf. No airbags. Funny looks from your kids' friends' parents at the lack of three-point belts in back. Age and exceptionally thin Toyota paint have conspired to deplete the junkyard stock of these, so scrounging parts won't be that easy.

    The good: Toyota from back when you could buy a Toyota to get classic Toyota material quality (paint aside), which now is reserved for the ones with Ls on them. Lots of useful space. Most minor mechanical service parts are very cheap.

    The ugly: When you're tired of the 2S-E you can eBay yourself up something like this* and, if you're not into spending a couple months sorting out wiring send this guy your harness and seven or eight Benjamins, a set of late 15in wheels and some Miata-grade 205/50-15 tires, and have yourself a nasty little sleeper. You won't beat that Boxster S around the onramp, but you'll stay a lot closer than he expected, and you'll have little trouble with the local rice contingent.

    * Just make sure it's a REAL SS3 setup, you HAVE to have the worm-gear LSD.

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    1. I will note that getting away with something like this in California requires either a lot of effort to try to make your redtop BEAMS look old, or a smog tech who forgot his glasses that day, or a little of both, so this may all be best reserved for those in the saner parts of the country.

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  5. They even made a turbo-diesel 1st gen Camry. How do I know? Because when I was 15 in 1985, I begged my Dad to get one when he was shopping for '85 Camrys. Looking back, it was probably slower than the 2 liter gas engine...

    - Average Bear

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  6. Interesting that you guys are all in a tizzy over the diesel Camry. I brought it up back in January and got nada response. The stars aligned, I guess.

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    1. [img]http://www.tugberkugurlu.com/Content/images/Uploadedbyauthors/wlw/560581a7261c_92FF/why-wont-you-validate-me-hrrrr.png[/img]

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    2. Nice. You can't even acknowledge another human being and you're so smart you can't even sign your name, as per the Commandments. Or maybe you can't read. If so, I'm sorry about that. You might consider learning.

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  7. I learned how to do a handbrake turn in a car like this. It was one of the first cars I drove with a brake like that.

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  8. Anybody know when hand brakes like on this Camry first appeared? Until then, I had only driven cars with a foot actuated parking brake or one you pulled horizontally outward from under the dash.

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    1. Ooooooohh man, I loved my green '83 Marquis (not my '83 Grandma Key; that one was brown). Why, you may not be asking? It, like errythang USA then, had one of the foot actuated parking brakes. Only this one had no locking mechanism/ratchet. Just a return spring. Just like the right pedal on most motorcycles.

      F'kin awesome around the tight corners of the South Morrill sand pits.

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    2. 79 RX-7 has a hand emergency brake that sits between the seats. That's as early as I can verify.

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    3. Good one, Shane! Pic:

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/RVwky49.jpg?1[/img]

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    4. 1961 MG Midget

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/xl5ErUK.jpg?1[/img]

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    5. 1952 MG TD

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/v4GGqgm.jpg?2[/img]

      There's got to be even older.

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    6. My wife's 1966 Volvo 1800S had a hand brake, but it was off to the left of the driver's seat (between the seat and the door). I believe that the earlier P1800 had the same setup, starting with the 1961 model year.

      You can see the tip of it in this shot:

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/cu4LORBm.jpg[/img]

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    7. Another view with the seat removed:

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/y1u35Psm.jpg[/img]

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    8. Anybody know what the setup is on a SS Jaguar 100?

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    9. BTW, thanks for the pics, CFlo. One of my favorite cheap sports car also had that setup...

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/2SyvH2t.jpg?1[/img]

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    10. Here's a pic from a 1936 SS100. Does it lay horizontally when it's not locked? If so, then this may be the earliest example that I can think of. Still, I'd be surprised if there isn't something even earlier.

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/DLaJBWh.jpg?1[/img]

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