$2,375 4WD: 1985 Toyota Tercel Wagon

Here’s a good winter car (winter beater?) if anyone is still experiencing snow and ice out there. It’s a 1985 Toyota Tercel Wagon 4WD and this one has a 5-speed! This 32-year old winter wagon is on Craigslist with an asking price of $2,375 and it’s located in Elk Grove, California, a few miles south of the capital in Sacramento.

The seller says that this was a “barn find”, so there ya go! Yes, it’s from the 1980s, but it’s highly unusual, it has 4WD, it has a 5-speed, and it’s about as inexpensive as possible while still being usable and not totally junky and rusted out. How’s that for a sales pitch! I’m putting my Dale Carnegie training to good use. It actually may be more of a sales pitch for featuring a vehicle like this, one that a lot of you will not care for one bit, than for the vehicle itself. This one doesn’t need any help, it has a lot going for it, as far as I’m concerned.

Ahhhh.. the 1980s, you know ’em, you love ’em. Or, in some cases, you hate ’em. Those wacky argyle-pattern seats are super cool! Almost any pattern is better than no pattern for me. You have just one time on this earth, why waste it with boring seats. This 4WD Tercel wagon is older than a decent percentage of Barn Finds readers are and it looks like it’s in decent condition. The interior will need a thorough cleaning, and hopefully there isn’t any rodent damage from being in a “barn”, however they define “barn” (barn, garage, storage unit, etc.). The other, smaller, shift lever is for actuating the 4WD system. It’s in front-wheel drive now, the forward position, and a pull back on it puts the car in 4WD.

Here’s where your kids will sit, and don’t forget your 1980s “Baby On Board” sticker in the rear window just to complete the picture. Don’t forget to push up your sleeves, turn your collar up, and give us a Billy Idol sneer. In keeping with the seemingly-unwritten Craigslist rules and regulations, there are no engine photos, but you probably knew that already. This one, and all of them for the North American market, would have a 1.5L inline-four with about 63 hp. Yeah, you’re right, that’s a puny amount of power and the Honda Civic 4WD wagon had it all over the Tercel wagon as far as pep and the fun-to-drive quotient. But, Toyota ruled the roost, they were tough as nails (this one has 282,000 miles) and they simply lasted almost forever, like a cockroach. Maybe that’s a bad analogy. This one has has “new tires, plugs, wires, cap, rotor, and new master cylinder.” You simply can’t go wrong with a Tercel 4WD wagon for your daily-driver in the winter. You probably won’t take it cross-country but for keeping your “good car” rust-free and for keeping yourself out of the ditch in the winter, these things rock! Have any of you owned one of these little tanks?

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Comments

  1. Dave

    Paint it red and you could be driving Jesse Pinkmans car from Breaking Bad lol.

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  2. doug6423

    I have owned one and it was a tank. When I was in the Navy in Norfolk, VA my buddies and I went in on one. We lost the keys and used a straight slot screwdriver hammered into the ignition to start it. It managed to get drunk sailors back to the ship safely, go off roading (sometimes unintentionally), take us home on leave and other various road trips. We didn’t put a dime in it, just gas. Not sure if we even did oil changes… and before we deployed for a long deployment, sold it to other sailors to use. I still wonder if it’s being passed on to the next group of sailors…

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  3. irocrob

    I had one like this as a beater car in around 1998. The doors were so tinny I swore they were made of aluminum foil.

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  4. 68 custom

    be a shame to subject this one to winter, just update and maintain it and it will run forever. I drove one of these on the Moffat trail in Estes park Colorado, not hard core off-roading but an rough trail for a car and this little Toyota handled it flawlessly.

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    • Tyler

      It is a shame. They are little mountain goats in the snow, but they smell salt and they start crumbling. I’ve had several, and just sold an 85 with 60k on the clock to my little sister. She drove it from NH to Chicago, where we sourced clean fenders and she had it painted.

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  5. philthyphil

    back in1988 had one of these when I lived in Australia,put 14 in wheels and tires….tyres.. on it….same size as a holden easy to find replacements..and gave extra ground clearance…then put 60000 kms on it in the outback,drove the track to darwin,drove the birdsville track,drove the oodnadatta track drove the tanami track….broome to alice.was in every state esp up in top end w.a. and queens land.Never let me down, lowest spot on car was bottom of roo bar it had…weak spot was ground clearance but if roo bar cleared was ok,kinds a test process..was great in sand…not to zippy but will run forever!!!!

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  6. Howard A Member

    Perhaps I’m being a bit vain, but clearly, Scotty is trying his darndest to bring me over to “the Asian side”, and coming pretty dang close with this one.( and I may be going to Cal. soon, to boot) Always thought these made the most sense, (AWD Subaru’s too) economical, sure-footed, dependable cars. We, in the midwest, had a fleeting glimpse of these. People in the snow belt tried every 4×4 that came down the pike, especially, ones that got good mileage, as commutes in all weather increased, with varying results. Trouble was, one or 2 winters ( why else buy a 4 wheel drive) was all it took, and they melted away. If this was an automatic, I’d be on “Cheapoflights” right now. Great find, Scotty, sorry, Jamie, TR6 on hiatus for now. This is what a good one looked like ’round here. http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f131/matt51773/PapuaTercel.jpg

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    • olddavid

      Howard, are you going to the dark side, or just going west for a visit? You and George are my go-to guys for stability on these sites. If you start West-Coasting it, I ‘ll have no rudder. Plus, these Tercels used to be everywhere.

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      • Howard A Member

        Hi od, no worries, my kids live in L.A. and I’d like to just visit. N.Wis. and L.A. are about as opposite as you could get. I could never live there. I do have my sights set on Colorado though.( with a short stop in Montana) 🙂

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  7. Don

    I had one almost new back in 1986. I live in Wisconsin and that 4 wheel drive made the worst snowy roads pure fun to zip over. Ground clearance became the issue in deeper snow, but anticipating drifts and deep piles at intersections only meant …go faster, blast your way thru. Everyone made fun of its looks, wife, family, and friends. Some called it my aquarium on wheels.
    27 miles per gallon, fun to drive, exceptional on snowy roads. I worry about those miles tho, no matter how you look at it.
    I’d love to own it just to take it out in the winter and drive like a maniac. I live on the other side of the country, so that’s not happening for me. Hope whoever buys it gets to enjoy it in a winter setting tho.

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  8. CowboyChris

    Smdh

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  9. Mike

    I always loved these things, they’re so quirky. But I always thought the rear hatch looked like an ATM machine.

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    • Mike H

      I always thought that too.

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  10. Woodie Man

    Like the Seventies, the Eighties couldn’t end fast enough for me. From a design perspective is that the most awkward looking assemblage of right angles on the dash and plastic bits?

    But a tank it is

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  11. David H.

    I seem to recall this car being one of the first to offer a 6-speed manual transmission on the 4WD versions — an ultra low first gear or something like that. Are you sure this is a 5 speed? The wikipedia entry mentions the 6-speed: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Tercel#Second_generation_.281982.E2.80.931986.29).

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    • Nate

      It is a six speed David, but the extra low gear can only be used when in 4 wheel drive.

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  12. Gear Head Engineer

    I delivered one of these from Chicago to the east coast back in the late eighties. Like most of the small cars at that time, it was pretty tinny and didn’t like to climb hills at freeway speeds. But I liked it anyway.

    I’m looking to replace my current DD with an AWD/4WD vehicle, and this was tempting until I saw the 282k miles. Even for a Toyota that’s too much for me.

    – John

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  13. KevinW

    I’d rather have the ’77 Corona wagon I used to own. Same color, but way better looking in my opinion. We were coming home from my oldest daughter’s play in 6th grade one night and the piece of trim on the passenger side half came off, and my wife had to roll down the window and hold it up all the way back home. My kid thought it was the kickstand and was supposed to do that. Lol!

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  14. Paul B

    We had one of these and a two-wheel-drive version at the same time. They were two of the most useful, rugged, economical cars we ever had. I actually liked the looks for their bizarre quality. The high roof provided plenty of headroom, the rear cargo area had more useable room than a Jeep Cherokee of the same era (we had one of those also, to our regret) and the steering, ride and overall handling were really quite good. The seats were excellent in both versions, making these excellent over-the-road cars. There was good space for four adults especially if the people in the rear weren’t much over 6 feet tall. The 4WD was slower and less thrifty on fuel, but we expected that. I hope someone does not beat this to death, but rather cleans it up, drives it and keeps it nice. It may sound crazy now, but I think these predecessors to small SUVs will one day be classics for their quirky design, usefulness, and rarity, as most of them were used up and thrown away. Have you checked SAAB 95 prices lately? Buy this one and hang onto it. I wish I could.

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  15. Stefano Di Rocco

    My parents bought the FWD version new back in the 80s. It was also a manual transmission car. I remember many long road trips from NJ to FL in the back seat. Wish this one was on the east coast. It’s a beaut!

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  16. Rustytech

    This might be the perfect winter beater. Not pretty, not sophisticated, but great economy, and so dependable it could put your mechanic out of business! It gets bonus points for being cheap! My bad, ( affordable ).

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  17. JoeR

    These were the best. My friend in high school had a blue one of these, but auto trans and FWD. This car took a group of us almost everywhere for several years. We used to pull trailers with dirt bikes or lawn mowers, go mudding at Englishtown raceway, haul just about everything, multiple NJ to FL trips…the car was filthy and smelled and the windows were almost always left open, but it never had any mechanical issues for 200K+ miles.

    It was eventually given to a needy family who put at least another 100K on it last I heard.

    Until I saw the photo in the listing, I never knew what type of car it was….it was just a set of wheels to us. After all of the neglect, I wish I could pay that car back somehow.

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  18. Car Guy

    Never drove one of these, but always wanted to. This one is in great shape for the mileage. Obviously the owners cared for it. Correct me if I am wrong, but I remember seeing an option of grade and tilt indicators like Toyota offered on some of their other 4X4’s being available on the SR5 trim level.

    I never could figure out who styled the rear license plate holder. It didn’t go with anything else on the car…………

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  19. Pete

    In 1987 after I got out of the Army I was a Toyota salesman for a hot minute. I remember selling a blue one just like this one for $6995.00 + tax & tag. The only reason I even remember this sale was how odd it was from the git go. This little old black lady shows up with 4 grand children and one son. She walks up and down the line of used Toyotas asking how much on each one. When I said the 6995 she flat says ok I’ll take that one. So I get her inside fill out the paperwork and have her sign the purchaser form. Then her son hands her a paper bag and she proceeds to start counting out cash in 1’s, 5.s, 10’s and 20’s to pay for the car. I said Mam, I have to take you to our Finance guy to do the paying part. She says why I am not financing anything I am paying cash. Yes mam, But they won’t allow me to take the money only the finance man is allowed to do that I’m sorry. Oh ok, well lets go then. I gotta get these babies home so I can feed them. So we did. Down the road she went about an hour later. Her son had this sheepish look on his face when he whipped out that bag of cash. Made me wonder how he earned that money. I actually watched them get off the bus and walk onto the lot. That was just a strange day. The other salesman didn’t want anything to do with that family because they figured they were to poor to buy a car. Just goes to show ya, ya can’t judge a paper bag with what is printed on the cover right? LMAO

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  20. Pieter

    Absolute dreamcar. This or the Bizzarrini Strada and nothing in between!

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  21. notpurple

    owned one. completely trouble free. loved it. slow as molasses, only fault. tough as nails. great car.

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