Curbside Outtake: Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon – Eugene-mobile and Pinkman-mobile

These Tercel 4WD were cool long before Breaking Bad made it really famous as Jesse Pinkman’s ride. In fact, these have been cool around these parts since they were new. These are a quintessential Eugene-mobile: long-lasting, thrifty, reliable, and able to get you back in the woods to your favorite hiking trail or ski slope. This is the predecessor to the Subaru Outback, which took over its role as the more recent ultimate Eugene-mobile (or otherwise the best selling car hereabouts).

And there’s still some around, living up to their legendary Toyota longevity.

It’s in good company on this block, with that hardbody Nissan pickup and gen1 Caravan. Well, yes, the VW Passat too.

These came in FWD versions too, and I wrote one up here years ago. But the 4WD was the one to have, out here in outdoorsy Oregon. A low-gear transfer case is pretty much out of the question for a FWD to 4×4 conversion, so Toyota slipped in an optional sixth gear in the (manual) transmission, a super low 4.71 ratio “stump-puller”. Well, with the little 1.5 liter mill churning out all of 62 horsepower, let’s forget stumps; blueberry bushes maybe.

And it all (still) works like a charm in deep snow, mud or sand. Not on dry pavement, though, because like most 4WD systems of the time, it had no center differential.

The little stick shift is the one that selects FWD or 4WD.

And here comes a gen1 Explorer, which too has to pay homage to the pioneering ways of the Tercel (and Subaru) wagon for hooking Americans on civilized AWD vehicles. It’s a proto-CUV.

And here’s a video of Jesse’s actual Tercel wagon, which was bought at auction for the tidy sum of $4700.   These folks borrowed it for an hour and handed out free baggies of blue rock…candy.