Tasty Vanilla: 1988 Toyota Camry LE All-Trac

The Camry isn’t exactly on everyone’s cool cars list, at least a standard spec one isn’t. A lot of people blame the Camry for dumbing down vehicles, which is probably more a case of Toyota making them so drop-dead-reliable that most of the soul has been taken out of them, turning them into sort of the vanilla ice cream of cars – good, somewhat bland, and reliable but not super adventurous, taste-wise. This car is very, very tasty to those of us who are fans of rare Japanese cars. This 1988 Toyota Camry LE All-Trac 5-speed sedan is a unicorn find in that, as the name suggests, it has AWD and a 5-speed. It’s listed on eBay with a $4,995.99 buy-it-now price or you can make an offer. It’s located in Dublin, Virginia and yes, you can drive it home “if you’re adventurous”, according to the seller.

Finding a second-generation V20 Camry in decent condition today is enough of a struggle, but finding a rare SV25 All-Trac, version is incredibly rare. This one gets even better in that it also has a 5-speed manual transmission! Unfortunately, even though this is a West Virginia car, it does have some rust to deal with. The bottom of the LF fender is gone and there’s an area around the LR wheel arch that needs attention. That is, if a person wanted it to be perfect. With some incredible luck, a person could possibly, maybe find the same color Camry and get a rust-free replacement fender from a junk yard. At least from one underside photo that was provided by the seller it looks pretty solid under the car, so that’s a good thing. NADA lists a high retail value of $4,050 so there may be a bit of Pawn-Stars-like bargaining room.

A couple of rust spots notwithstanding, this car looks pretty nice. It surely won’t be on too many Barn Finds reader’s wish-list even with AWD and a 5-speed, just because it’s a Toyota and/or a Camry, or both. But, this is the sort of car that really appeals to lovers of unusual vintage Japanese vehicles. I love unusual cars with unusual options, whether they’re American muscle cars or imported cars like a 30-year old Camry All-Trac. There is probably enough paint work and rust work to do on this one to do some bargaining on the price. The All-Trac system has a button or lever to lock the center differential. Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Kentucky started pumping out cars in 1988, but this example is from Japan given that the first character of the VIN is “J”. 1988 was the first year for the All-Trac system being available in North America.

There are no engine photos but this car would have had Toyota’s 2.0L 3S-FE twin-cam, inline-four with 115 hp in North America. The seller says that this one “Runs great, shifts great, handles amazingly. 4wd works great. Hot heat and cold AC.” The interior looks relatively good on this example, other than those damnable automatic seatbelts! But, as far as a good looking dash – other than a cracked portion on the right side seen above – and great looking seating surfaces both front and rear. If I was still in random-car-buying mode this one would be headed west asap. Have any of you seen a Camry All-Trac sedan?

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Comments

  1. Andrew Tanner Member

    I had a feeling this would be one of yours, Scotty! Nice example.

  2. Todd Zuercher

    wow – a 5 speed with All-Trac – must be a real unicorn! I always liked this body style. I had a friend that drove one in this color that I think lasted between 400-500k. I always thought the front seats in these cars were extremely comfortable.

  3. Larry K

    At first I thought is this my Honda Accord?

  4. Steve

    Is this Mrs. Buckets car?

    • Greg

      They drove a Honda Civic- sorry

      • Larry Ragans

        Despite its Honda underpinnings, Hyacinth and Richard’s car was sold as the Rover 216. So, you’re correct technically in calling it a Honda Civic.

    • Sandy McInnes

      Even though it looks similar, the Bucket’s car was a Rover.

  5. Mike

    I remember they had the All-trac Corolla wagon but I had no idea they had an All-trac Camry. I always love those oddball cars too.

  6. Wolfgang Gullich

    There are tons of these up here in Alaska. I never knew they existed till I moved up here. Strangely, you never see them for sale on Craigslist.

  7. OIL SLICK

    5k for a rusted out old camry? dream on

    • Rodent

      Kind of thinking the same thing. If NADA high is $4050, and this one needs rust repair and complete paint, then it’s worth what? $999 ?

  8. Mike

    The Want is strong for this one.

  9. Mark Evans

    This is the kind of a car to use as a winter beater as your creampuff is tucked away from the elements. That alone makes it barn find worthy. I have an old Subaru for just that purpose.

  10. Gearheadengineering

    My wife had a ’91 Camry when we started dating. It was brand new at the time. Same color as this one. We kept it for 12+ years. Drove it cross country in ’92 and reverse trip a few years later, loaded up with all of our belongings and towing our jet ski.

    Bland but great gas mileage – 30-32mpg. Ours was front wheel drive w/ auto trans. Manual windows. Large trunk, good visibility.

    It threw a rod at something like 135k miles. Somewhat my fault – combination of neglect and hard driving. I put in a cheap junkyard engine and we put another 40k or so on it before we donated it. They all rust above the rear wheel wells.

    The seat material wore like iron – they still looked like new when I last saw it. I ran a carfax on it a few years later and it was still on the road, with well over 200k miles.

    Despite our many good experiences with that car, I don’t want another one. These are reliable cars but they don’t stir the soul.

    The AWD and five speed make this one interesting, but only as a winter beater.

    – John

  11. Gay Car Nut

    Actually, compared to the current generation Toyota Camry, I actually like this generation. I regret that I’ve never driven a Camry All-Trac.

  12. Fogline

    Mom had just the 2 wheel drive with the 4 cylinder and 5 speed. Got over 300k on the original clutch. 2 water pumps and rear brakes ( the fronts may have finally been replaced) and my sister is still driving it. Lots of highway miles (obviously) but the car seems to be bullet proof and I think the auto seat belts even still work.

  13. GEORGE GILLESPIE

    I had 2 Camry Alltracs. 1 was a 1988 5speed. Drove it to 160000+ and traded for a 1994 Toyota pickup. Second was a 1991 Alltrac with an automreaatic. The 88 was quicker than the 91 for obvious reasons. Both got about 25 to 29 mpg. Damn they were great cars and I am yet to find better bucket seats in any car!

  14. Pete

    AWD is not that common for Toyota, especially on a Camry. With a 5 speed is unobtainium in my part of the country. The only way I could like this car better is if was rear wheel drive. But they didn’t make them like that. His price is pretty steep unless he has like under 50K miles on it. Toyota’s have issues with the clear coat over the paint, the darker the car the quicker it goes milky, then it starts getting into the paint. Toyoguard kits are useless.

  15. Car nut from Wpg Member

    Swap in Celica AllTrac motor, fix rust, Krown spray every fall and drive for 10 Winnipeg winters.
    Would the intercooler fit under the hoodline? Or would it have to be re-plumbed behind the bumper?

  16. Hugh Greentree

    I owned a 1988 Camry AllTrac LE; bought it new on May 1, 1988. I kept it until 2006 and put 140K miles on it.

    Things to worry about: the electronics started going funny on mine around 1999 (power locks and power windows started giving me trouble); getting replacement drive train parts can be difficult (they are NOT the same as those for the more common FWD version).

    I donated mine to charity because it needed a new clutch, a new AC, and a new radiator all at the same time…too many expensive repairs at once (especially since I also had a 1999 Audi A4 Quattro in my garage).

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