To The Moon: 1992 Toyota Previa AWD 5-spd

The front wheel drive GM minivans of the early ’90s were known as the dustbusters for their appliance-like styling. When the Previa debuted, it look like a space craft that was ready to hover into the skies, much like the vehicles in Back to the Future 2. Find this space odyssey, 1992 Toyota Previa LE AWD here on craigslist in St. Louis, Missouri, for $4,800.

I didn’t even know you could get AWD or a manual transmission on a minivan of any year or brand. If this was a supercharged model, all my circuits would have blown by now! The mid-engined Previa was Toyota’s second attempt at the minivan market in the US and wasn’t anymore successful than the previous Van. These family haulers were priced well past $20k, making a tough sell against a Mopar or GM minivan. An Astro van provided more room and power while a Chrysler van was more car-like and popular. The biggest draw for this aerodynamic teardrop would have been Toyota’s legendary reliability.

This is the cleanest Previa I have seen in years. Most have been on kid or plumbing duty well past 200K miles by now. The lower cladding looks like it has been rattle canned black, but maybe was done to match the recently added aftermarket wheels. Inside, the carpets, dash, seats, shift knob, and steering wheel all look fairly fresh, minus a stain or two and a rear seat tear. That dashboard design could still pass for new, minus the faded gauge needles. The headlights are a bit cloudy but have aged at the same rate – a new headlight and an old headlight on the same vehicle is never a good sign. Does the metallic beige all match on the driver’s side? Not a sunroof or vintage ABS fan here, so thankfully neither were available on this Luxury Edition model.

Thank goodness Toyota’s rarely need work, because under hood you’ll need a map to even find the engine. Most serviceable items are under hood, while removing the passenger seat and an access panel will get you closer to the mid-engine. All Previa’s were powered by a standard 2.4 liter 4 cylinder that produced 135 horsepower, supercharging would come later. That 5-speed will get plenty of action keeping things moving with anything attached to the trailer hitch (which is said to be the only source of rust). Everything is said to function properly, except just ‘good’ AC and a glitchy radio. Vintage station wagons and SUVs have already taken off, are the family haulers of the ’80s and ’90s the next to rocket away in value?

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Comments

  1. redwagon

    sold.

    had no idea that these were available with a manual trans OR awd. having both is pretty unobtanium. friend had one he used for years as a carpenters truck. others thought he was odd i thought it was genius – did not have to pay for a pickup! or for the gas.

    • Corey Kemendo Member

      Well, that was quick! Was just posted yesterday I think! I know you could get Mopars, Fords, and more with AWD, but never with a stick. Guess someone really wanted this unicorn!

  2. Tony S

    This is the ultimate unicorn!

  3. Kincer Dave Member

    A guy from work had one of these he called it the Easter egg.

    Like 1
  4. sir mike

    And people made fun of the Gremlin…

  5. Tony S

    This egg needs to be sectioned 12+”… Wish I knew photoshop.

    • Brad C

      I only took 5 minutes, but here’s a chopped / laid back windshield version (above) and one that’s been sectioned (below). I still prefer the original, at least compared to my unrefined quickies.

      Like 1
      • JMB#7

        Competition for the Pacifica

  6. Pa Tina

    A $1,000 worth of Armor-all and you sell your Moon Unit in 24 hours. Not a bad investment. “Ground Control to Major Tom” “Open The Previa Doors HAL”

  7. Alex

    I grew up riding in them my best friend his family had 3 of them and they are boss

    • Joss

      That could be my family 😀. We had three of them at the same time, they were even the same color and all AWD. I’ve owned 9 of them over the years, still have two now. I love them, everyone else in the family hated them, except in winter when AWD was required, then having just one didn’t suffice, hence two, plus one for backup.

  8. Dennis Leask

    I once owned one of these unfortunately only RWD and an automatic. I used to joke that it was a sports van, mid engined RWD just like a Lambo.

    I loved that thing, practical, reliable and unique. I could fit 20ft 2x4s in it. I sold it 5 years ago when a buttload of regular maintenance stuff all came up at once and didn’t think it was worth the $600 I’d have to shell out. It’s still on the road though, just saw it yesterday. I’d but this in a heartbeat (it’d be my last heartbeat though, wife would kill me, she hated the thing).

    Like 1
  9. Johnrm

    these were everywhere in California but I have never seen one with a stick. Back when you weren’t embarrassed to own a Toyota. I’d take this over any of their current cars

  10. Brad C

    Here’s another 5-speed manual – up for just 3 hours. Not nearly as clean… but it’s about a fifth of the price.

    https://milwaukee.craigslist.org/cto/d/toyota-van-5-speed-stick-shift/6378676964.html

  11. Tyler

    My family had a supercharged, AWD, 5spd Previa. Went about 250k before it got too rusty (in Vermont). My mom sent it to the junkyard, and I think somebody from a Toyota van forum I mentioned it to went and bought it from them!

  12. Bill

    I have a 92, it still runs great at 260k. I love the 5speed manual trans. This van is quick & turns on a dime. Haven’t had any problems with it. The only minus , is the engine is underneath, difficult to get into & inspect…hence service only at the shop

  13. Chebby

    Previas came in SC, AWD, and 5-speed but not all three together.

    from Wikipedia:

    The first generation Previa was available in both rear- and all-wheel drive versions (called All-Trac) and powered by a 135 hp (101 kW) JIS (99 kW) four-cylinder 2.4-liter fuel injection engine.

    The five-speed manual Previas (North American models) were made from 1990 through to 1993 (model year 1991 to 1993); none of these have a supercharger.

    I don’t mean to be a crank here, so please consider this constructive criticism: a statement like “I didn’t even know you could get AWD or a manual transmission on a minivan of any year or brand” doesn’t really have a place in a published article. It’s an indication you should spend a few minutes Googling.

    Chrysler also made 5-speed minivans, 1989-90 with turbo engines, 90-04 versions with AWD. The GM “dustbuster’ vans had AWD, Chevy Astro had AWD, Ford Aerostar had AWD, Toyota Sienna is available with AWD to this day.

    • Corey Kemendo Member

      My sentence should have stated ‘and’ not ‘or’ and was clarified in response to the first comment. I’m not allowed to change a story after it has been published nor am I the editor. And no, the Dustbuster vans never came in AWD.

      • Corey Kemendo Member

        I realized after re-reading the published story it should have said ‘and’ but couldn’t change it. When I said my circuits would have been blown away was a joke at both supercharging and Back to the Future 2 and in response to it not even being an option. I promise Chebby, I do lots of research and have a photographic memory. The second generation FWD GM vans, which were not the Dustbuster vans, were the ones that had the option of all wheel drive. The 90-96 Dustbuster were front wheel drive only.

        Now for you, name another US available AWD/5spd minivan, cause I can.

      • Chebby

        Ok I got ya Corey, that one little word “and” does make a big difference. And I am not trying to pick on you personally, just giving feedback that as a reader, the impression I took away was, “Hey, I don’t know anything about this category” when clearly you know plenty, so maybe there’s a better way to say that. And yep you are correct, the early series U-vans were FWD, so Google is not always my friend.

        As far as your challenge, now we’re talking! The only things I can think of are sorta not-really minivans: Vanagon Syncro, the Nissan Sentra and Dodge Colt tall-wagon versions, Honda Civic Wagovan. Maybe the 1991 Mazda MPV?

        I come here to learn. Whatcha got, brother?

    • Corey Kemendo Member

      Yep, definitely the Mazda MPV has the option of four wheel traction and a 5-speed. I hadn’t thought of the Stanza Wagon wagon, or Axxess, but that one too. Dodge/Plymouth Colt/Eagle Summit/Mitsubishi were my other thought as well and looks like that might be it? For the VW, not sure if those ever got the nomenclature of minivan. I now more about that wonderfully weird world of minivans. The original Mopars and the dustbusters are still my favorite. And I grew up in Safaris and Astros.

  14. Puhnto

    Consumer Reports called the Previa the most unsafe mini van on the road.

    • Dick

      Consumer Reports also picked the Opel GT over the Porsche 911. Not the best testimonial.

  15. Bull

    The second generation Previa van is one of the most reliable Toyoto’s on the road. Many Previa;s with 300K-400K miles on them. The mid engine design with the engine layed down on its side, the “SAD” shaft running the options for packaging and easier service, the “All-Trac” AWD option and available stick made these a good running unique van that handled great for those so inclined to drive a “Mini-Van”.

    The second generation Previa now has a “Cult” following just like the air cooled VW vans and the early Vanagons. An All-Trac Previa is simply amazing in the snow and ice. One of the best vehicles you can drive in Winter weather!

    With a supercharger also available in the 1995 and up models these vans warrant a look IF you want a mini van. $4800 is all the money in the world for one right now however you never know what the future holds!

  16. Kevin W

    Hard to believe people are actually interested in crap like this, the new generation I guess. Poor souls, they don’t have a clue.

  17. Gay Car Nut

    I remember the Toyota Previa. I loved the styling. I found it more attractive than either the Toyota Van of the 80s or the Toyota Sienna offered later.

  18. Gay Car Nut

    I got to ride in a Previa when I was visiting England. My parents and I had been visiting the UK the past few weeks and we were on our way to Heathrow Airport in London. It was the first time I had ridden in a Toyota Previa, and I actually found it quite comfortable, a great vehicle for taxi use.

  19. Marty

    We had a 91 which we bought in July 90. Ordered it in June. Couldn’t pick color or options. Thank heavens it was white and not yellow as was a color option. Drove it 70,000 miles and traded it in 93 for an Audi CS 90. Quite a change. Previa was not all wheel drive so it was terrible in the snow but otherwise a great car. Loved the split 3rd row seat design.

  20. Jesse Waterston

    I had a light blue 1991 Previa DX 5M All-Trac for years back in the 2000’s. Maintenance was EXPENSIVE bc of the mid-engine layout. The only things I could do myself was the brakes, tires, & oil changes.

    I removed all of the rear seats so I could put FOUR mountain bikes in the Previa! I sold the van after 175,000 miles when the 5M went. The previous owner had beat the stuffing out of the van for catering as long as he had it! New 5M installation would have run me around $6,500 bc of the optional All-Trac & I said forget it. Now, would I replace the 5M & hang on to the SUPER RARE Previa? Possibly. I still have the VIN. See if anyone owns it TODAY.

    VIN: J T 3 A C 2 1 S 4 M 0 0 0 1 3 9 4

    P.S. I just found the license plate bracket that says: 1991 PREVIA on top & RARE 5SPD AWD on the bottom!! O m g………….

  21. Car Nut Tacoma

    I’d buy a Toyota Previa if I could find a decent low mileage driver.

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