My Former Curbside Classic: 1994 Toyota Paseo – Gone, But Not Forgotten

(Submitted by Gordon Turner)

Let’s take a trip back to the mid-1990s, when gas was cheaper, the world looked brighter and a young fella was getting ready to buy his first new car…

In 1994 I was a 31-year-old school teacher in Southern California with (finally!) enough scratch to buy a decent car. Since moving to the Golden State in 1990, I’d suffered through an oil-devouring VW Rabbit, and later a Geo Metro that was rapidly on its way to automotive heaven. The question was: What do I get? I wanted something cool lookin’ (For the ladies!) as well as affordable, practical and with good MPG. Hmmmmm…

As a young bachelor, I immediately began focusing on cars like the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Honda Civic Del Sol and the Mazda MX-3. If you recall, these are examples of an extinct species of automobile, the Japanus sportus coupeus, which were gussied up economy cars that looked, well, “sporty” (Oh yeah! For the ladies!). Such creatures would virtually disappear from our shores by the late 90s, done in by poor sales and an ever-rising Yen. But that’s a story for another time…

At any rate, I passed on the Del Sol (it shook like Elvis in Vegas) and the MX-3 (crappy rear visibility), and decided to buy a Toyota Paseo. The Paseo, a sleek-looking coupe based on the pedestrian Tercel platform, had a 1.5-liter engine that put out 93 horsies and came with the following options: sunroof, A/C, automatic and a cassette player (you want to be able to blast your new Spin Doctors tape, doncha?). It was known as the Cynos in Japan and other parts of  the world.

Now, the only thing was to find a dealer, buy the car and drive off into the sunset. So I took myself down to Chuck Obershaw Toyota (“the biggest dealer in the Inland Empire”!), gave them 14k and walked out with my first brand-new car. WOW! A car that didn’t slurp oil, wasn’t a hand me down from my dad and had a functioning engine!  Yeah! My first Paseo was white, with auto, a/c, and a cassette player (For the ladies!) Other options? Who cares?

Sadly, tragedy struck about a year later, when an uninsured auto mechanic rear ended my baby and totaled it. Fortunately, I was able to replace it with a teal model with the same (lack of) options. That car shared the following adventures with me:

Living overseas, in Japan (My father, bless his soul, took care of the car for me.)
Various lady friends
Going to graduate school
Becoming a librarian and moving from Oregon to Texas

Every auto-biography must have a final chapter, and mine ended this past spring. My ol’ reliable Toyota developed a nasty idling illness that even several hundred dollars couldn’t cure. Clearly it was time to get rid of the ol’ gal; I replaced her with a brand new Honda Civic, which was as superior to my Paseo as it itself had been to my Geo Metro. I guess things stay the same but keep changing (or something like that, I can’t really remember). I took her down to Carmax (fortunately she didn’t stall when the folks there test drove her) and sold her. Still, there’s a final footnote to my Toyota tale….

Recently, and out of curiosity I searched my local Craigslist for Toyota Paseos for sale and, lo and behold, found mine. Looks like Carmax flipped my old ride to a local dealer, who was now advertising it as a “Hard-to-find model. Clean title and actual miles. One-owner Vehicle. A/C is cold!! Very clean interior. Very cheap on gas. Perfect first car.” They also took a whole bunch of nice pics, which I’ve used for this article. Good thing, since I didn’t have any handy.

Yes, it was a perfect first car for me, and hopefully it will be the same for someone else.

Farewell, last of the sporty coupes, and Godspeed. May your new owner treat you with the same respect as I did.