Winged Wonder: 1990 Toyota Sera

A 1990 Toyota Sera should be on any vintage Japanese car lover’s list, although the “vintage” part will always be debatable. In the US, the 25-year rule, as far as licensing vehicles from other countries goes, is the law and some of us argue that anything over 25 years old is fair game in the vintage automobile world. This find was submitted by an unknown Barn Finds reader so at least one other person out there shares my interest in these quirky things! This winged-wonder is listed on eBay with a current bid price of under $5,000 and it’s located in Sarasota, Florida.

The Toyota Sera was sold from 1990 to 1996 and was never officially imported to the US so the vast majority of the examples out there that you’ll find will be right-hand drive. I saw a left-hand drive example a few years ago so they are out there. It looks like a fairly normal car from this angle, nothing fancy at all, just a classic melted-bar-of-soap sort of early-1990s design.

But, then there’s this! You will not be able to drive this car anywhere and get out of it without attracting attention. Period. Especially when you get out of the right side of it. Just under 16,000 of these cars were built and a lot of the ones that I have seen for sale have rust, are automatics (the vast majority), and a lot of them don’t have working AC.

From the rear things look highly-unusual again, even with the doors and rear hatch closed; that’s a lot of glass! Thankfully, with all of that glass, the AC blows cold in this one and you’ll need it. The side windows are of the movable-glass-within-fixed-glass variety. Is this where Subaru got their SVX window idea from? Hmm.. It’s nice to see that the two interior roof panels that would have originally come with the car are still there, that’ll help a bit to cut down on the glare from the sun.

The interior looks like it’s in great condition. The rear seats will be a crap shoot for head room, not to mention leg room. But, kids would love a ride in this thing, the next owner could probably charge for rides. The local Toyota dealership team will be surprised, and possibly somewhat horrified, to see this pull in to the oil change door.

But, an engine is an engine is an engine, isn’t it? This is Toyota’s 5E-FHE 1.5L inline-four with a little over 100 hp and you can see that it’s installed backwards for the Japanese market. Ha, just kidding, I was just seeing if you were paying attention! The seller says that this car has around 35,550 miles (57,200 km) and you’ll have to watch your speed since the speedometer is also in kilometers. Have any of you seen a Toyota Sera before?

Fast Finds


  1. Red'sResto

    Even with AC I can imagine this being one hot ride…

  2. motoring mo

    Despite the sporty looks of the Sera, it is not exactly known as a performance machine in either straight line speed or handling. A good part of the reason is all the extra weight of the doors, which of course ends up exactly where you don’t want it; up high.

  3. Scot Douglas

    I really don’t like Toyotas, but this is pretty awesome!

  4. JW454

    I like the looks of this one but, at 6′ and 265, it wouldn’t be a comfy fit for me. After logging several thousand miles during many trips to Japan in my career, getting used to the right hand drive isn’t that difficult but, if you don’t fit in the car… that’s a problem.

    Keep in mind… your first fender bender will probably total it due to the high cost to repair it.

    • Dave Wright

      Right hand drive is fine in a right hand world…….I used to drive my LHD Mistral in England from time to time…….lots of hair raising moments trying to pass on narrow country lanes.

      • jackthemailman

        Oh, RHD takes about 30 minutes to get used to; as long as you’re driving on the right side (US style) of the road. Even we dumb mailmen can do it.

  5. Andrew Cliffe

    No LHD examples were made officially – however people have done their own, by hacking up the standard dashboard, swapping bits around and making bits from fibreglass. Some neat examples, some awful looking examples.

    I have two, a 1992 manual and a 1994 automatic. I turbocharged several with the Toyota Starlet turbo engine – smaller capacity but a reliable 25hp increase which makes a difference. I’ve made stiffer suspension for them as well. This makes them handle quite well.

    Toyota Sera Club UK

    • dan

      Are parts available for this car or are there other Toyota models with interchangeable engine components ? thanks

      • Andrew

        Most drivetrain components are used with other Toyotas of the period – the platform was similar to those used on the Starlet hatch, the Tercel and the Paseo of the period.

        Its the cosmetics that are mostly unique – lamps, glass, panels, trim and so on.

        Like 1
  6. rando

    I saw this one on another site last week. Not exactly a barn find. But a classic of sorts, I guess. And I do come here to learn about cars I’ve never seen.

  7. nick Member

    It cold have been related to the GEO storm or the Isuzu Impulse. Anyone know if the shared anything.

  8. Todd Rouch

    I think it looks like a Geo Storm, from the rear. I have never seen one of these before, but it sure is an interesting vehicle

  9. A.A

    Toyota Starlet based.
    These were quite a dramatic sight in the early 90s and a fair number were imported into India privately. Oh and they cost as much or more than a base Mercedes E class. Headlights used to go dull in a few years and it looked ugly then.
    Haven’t seen one in years now. Looked really nice in metallic lime green.


    really cool, never seen one.

  11. Paul Allen

    This is the car that inspired the doors on the McLaren F1.

  12. Derek F

    Interesting fact: The Sera body stampings were created in an unusual way- Toyota built male-side steel tools and pressed the sheet steel into heavy rubber instead of the typical steel female-side tool to minimize overall tooling investment.

  13. josh h

    A far cry from todays cars with their high beltlines and dark tinted tiny windows. No hiding from the people in the car next to you at the stoplight in this.

  14. Dolphin Member

    Zagato first came up with the idea of a window within a window as a way to have a part of a side window able to open within a larger curved window that conformed with the overall shape of the greenhouse.

    That was in a prototype that Zagato made in the ’50s I believe. Then Subaru used it with the SVX as Scotty mentioned, and around the same time Aston Martin produced a prototype with a window within a window, but that never went into production. So I think the Subaru SVX and this Toyota might be the only production cars that ever used Zagato’s idea.

    • Andrew

      Delorean DMC-12
      Lamborghini Countach

      The Sera’s windows are supposed to be large enough to crawl out through if for whatever reason you couldn’t open the doors – although I’ve never tried!

  15. Todd Rouch

    I just looked at some Zagato automobiles, I didn’t even know what they are, they are such beautiful machines.

  16. Scotty Staff

    This fantastic car sold for $16,089.99!

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