Rare Turbodiesel: 1986 Toyota Camry

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

It’s not uncommon to find older Toyota trucks utilizing diesel power; my very own 1981 HiAce project relies on an old-school 2L diesel powerplant. What is unusual is to find such mechanical sorcery in an old-school Toyota Camry sedan like this one here on eBay. Never sold in huge numbers and practically obsolete now, the seller has listed it with no reserve. 

Being a 1986 model, this Camry is equipped with the 2.0L 2C-TLC, which was only available with the automatic transmission seen here. Also referred to by the nomenclature on the engine cover, the 2000 Turbo-D sold in limited quantities. Whether it was due to poor marketing, consumers’ lack of interest in a Japanese diesel or the modest power output is all up for debate, but today, finding parts for one of these has got to be challenging.

Which is really too bad, as the rest of this first-generation Camry is in pretty fair shape, with a few dings and dents but no rust to report, thanks to being an original Arizona car. The seller doesn’t know much about the car – even mistakenly calling it a Corolla – and purchased it from an estate sale. The previous owner grew ill and the car was parked for about a year, and the seller doesn’t elaborate as to whether it runs. He does say, however, it needs a grille and a battery.

The interior is very basic, which was the norm for Japanese sedans of the 80s. Blue cloth and gray plastic are used extensively, but it’s nice to see the original carpeted floor mats still installed. To buy this Camry is to purchase an artifact to Toyota’s history of importing the occasional oddball, and to remember that their current best seller once had the words “Turbo Diesel” in its name. Do you think this Camry Diesel is worth rescuing, or will parts sourcing make it too difficult?

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  1. Miguel

    These kinds of cars were commonly seen as parts cars for cars with more useable engines.

    I don’t know if it would be worth it to try to fix such a high mile car that has sat for at least a year.

    What would you have when you are done?

  2. Mr. TKD

    This car belongs in a Toyota museum.

  3. Carter

    The other day I commented that the Corolla Alltrac Wagon was the slowest car I’ve driven. A close second was one of these with a blown turbo. It was beige, too. Personally, I’d much rather have a Cressida from this period. Make mine a wagon!

  4. jtnc

    I forgot these diesels existed. Is it really too much to ask the seller to read the “Camry” badge on the trunklid?

    • newfieldscarnut

      The owner has health issues so the Corolla mistake could be related . Nothing about the running condition . Is that antifreeze I smell ? Why is there peanut butter on the dipstick ?

  5. geomechs

    I never heard of a Camry diesel but then, there’s a lot of stuff that comes from across the Pacific that I’ve never heard about. Pickups and SUVs? In my shop, lots of both. I’m sure that parts for this engine will be about as easy to find as parts are for those RHD models that still manage to sneak into the country. The fuel system shouldn’t be all that bad for parts as it is likely supplied by Nippondenso and a lot of parts are interchangeable with stuff on the trucks. The pump looks like a VE distributor pump which is based on (and licensed from) the Bosch VE. Very similar to the VE (Vertweiler Einspritzpumpe in case someone wanted to know what the VE stands for, and yes, my customer’s reaction was exactly the same) on the ’89-’93. Dodge/Cummins. Some parts even interchange. One thing I can say about this: there isn’t likely to be another like it at the show and shine….

    • Miguel

      Who would take a Camry to a car show?

      • geomechs

        I remember saying: ‘Who would take a ’49 Chevy 4-door sedan to a car show?’ Now I take one. This car might not turn everyone on but it IS officially an antique so it qualifies. Personally I wouldn’t take something like this but someone else would….

  6. Gunner

    1 Owner (before me) 141K. 28mpg. Cheap Transportation.

  7. Matt

    Mechanical sorcery, lol. Nice Jeff!

  8. Jon weaver

    The Diesel Turbo Toyota Camry is definitely a keeper. I have an ’84 sedan.

  9. Johnny Hagstrøm

    We actually had a Camry turbo diesel, as the family car when i was a teen, some 25 years ago.
    Unsure if it’s the same model engine, because ours was not an automatic, but a 5 speed manual.
    And as a testimonial as to the durability of the engine, I remember it ate a timing belt on a vacation trip to the UK, and my stepfather had to work on it, I can’t remember what the part is called in english, but the block above the cylinders, holding the valves and camshaft, had warped a tiiiny bit, so it was leveled and for some reason, my stepdad chose to close the wastegate.
    Still ran perfectly when he sold it, some years later.
    Very nice car.

    Johnny Hagstrøm


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