Regardless of one’s personal opinion of the Toyota Camry, it’s a quantitative fact that the Camry ranks high as one of history’s best selling car. With well over 10 million sold worldwide and counting, it is a relatively rare sight to see a Camry that’s, well rare. Yet, every now and then it actually can happen, as was the case with this V20 generation Camry wagon, probably the first one I’ve seen since Howard Dean ran for president of the United States.
For those who don’t remember or weren’t aware, then-governor of Vermont Howard Dean was an early front-runner for the Democratic Party’s nominee for president during the primaries of the 2004 election. Yet Dean rapidly lost his momentum and chances for the nominee to Massachusetts senator John Kerry mostly in part to an unusual speech that ended with a high pitched scream — one that quickly became known as the Dean Scream.
Much like the V20 Camry wagon, the thought of Howard Dean hasn’t crossed my mind in many years, but nonetheless did when stumbling upon this DX wagon and its Dean bumper sticker while walking to Sunday brunch on a rainy December morning. Coincidentally, I recall having a whiskey drink called the Nakatomi Plaza… “Yippee Ki Yay” I guess.
Now as for this Camry, the V20 was the first of four generations to offer a wagon bodystyle, only two of which were ever sold in North America. Replacing the 5-door liftback bodystyle of the preceding V10 Camry, the V20 wagon offered greater utility with 60/40 split folding rear seats extending cargo capacity to over 65 cubic feet, though it lacked any additional seating beyond the sedan’s five.
Stylistically, the wagon shared all forward sheetmetal including hood, front fenders, front and rear doors with the sedan. The very vertical rear hatch — something common on fullsize wagons but less so on smaller wagons — did make for a distinctive if not unusual look, but nonetheless it gave the Camry wagon a more usable cargo space. Otherwise, the Camry wagon was nearly identical in terms of features to the sedan, which wasn’t a bad thing at all.
The V20 Camry was one of those right cars for the right times. While it wasn’t the flashiest, sportiest, or most luxurious, it offered value for the money, a long list of available amenities, and a healthy dose overall refinement and dependability that helped it become the logical choice of many buyers who would become repeat buyers. Toyota would sell over 1.2 million V20 Camrys in the U.S. alone, and even began building Camrys on U.S. soil during this period. I can’t say that many of them were wagons though, for the wagon was just something that couldn’t hold its popularity. Much like Howard Dean.
Photographed in Brattle Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts – December 2018