Curbside Classic (For Sale): 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon – A Cheap Time Machine

What a fine lineup of Eugene-mobiles: Jeep Cherokee (XJ), our featured Tercel 4WD wagon, Volvo XC60 and of course the ubiquitous VW Vanagon (T3). Plenty of grist for the CC mill. But it was the Tercel wagon that we’re here to look at closely, as it’s the oldest one and it happens to be for sale.

Here’s your chance to relive the eighties, with all of 62 horsepower, with an automatic to boot. And with that big roof box. you really won’t want to be in a hurry. There was a nationwide 55 mph speed limit back then, and pretty strictly enforced, so you’re going to be forced to relive the eighties in all its glories.

It’s even got a bike rack on the back. Of course it does.

Here’s the ad. Only 131k miles; this must have been owned by a car-hating owner, of which there are quite a few in Eugene. These folks bought cars and drove them only out of necessity, to get to a hiking trail on the weekends or to go cross country skiing. The rest of the time they rode a bike, walked or took a bus. These folks have been doing their part to try to keep the planet from burning up for a long time, so don’t knock them, even if they can be a PIA toddling along in their Prius or old Tercel wagon at 48 mph on the highway.

And the benefit is that their cars hardly age, as they’re invariably well maintained and kept clean.

Just look at this back seat! No children ever vomited on these. Yes, these kind of folks don’t have kids, as there’s too many people on earth already. And look at that leg room! A veritable limousine!

Thanks to the front seat not being pushed very far back, and the seat back in an upright position. That’s another thing about the earnest owners of cars like this: they sat upright, not in the pushed-back-semi-reclining seat position so favored by many youngish men these days; in fact, it’s become an epidemic. And it really crimps rear seat leg room, but who cares? Who sits in the back of cars anymore anyway?

Yes, this has the three-four-speed automatic, which is not a particularly good thing, for more than one obvious reason. That being a perceived reduction in acceleration. Or can one actually perceive acceleration in one of these?

The manual is much preferred, having several more gears as the automatic. Yup, a low-gear transfer case is pretty much out of the question for a FWD to 4WD conversion, so Toyota slipped in an optional sixth gear in the (manual) transmission, a super low 4.71 ratio “stump-puller”. A granny gear, in other words, although owners like this one were not likely to ever use it. But then a torque converter’s effective gear multiplication can cover some of that gap. Up to a point.

One time we were at Mammoth in the Sierra Nevada in our old Peugeot 404 automatic wagon, all loaded up with kids, grandma, and lots of gear and skis and sleds and stuff on the roof rack. The condo we rented was down a wickedly steep little street, and when it came time to leave, all loaded up, it just only barely made it up the hill. Its ZF automatic had a relatively “tight” converter, for efficiency’s sake, and that made itself felt on that hill. I had it floored, but it just barely crept up, right at maximum stall speed. One more passenger and I would have had to ask folks to step out and walk, like the really old, old days. Or maybe try it in reverse.

Yes, driving in the good old low power days could be challenging. And you can relive it it in this Tercel, for a mere $4,000.  A mighty cheap time machine.


My more in-depth CC on the Tercel wagon is here.