Automobile

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Toyota Camry LE Liftback

While the actual first-generation Camry was a Japan-only Celica variant, the first time the Camry appeared in American Toyota showrooms was when the second-gen car showed up in early 1983 (and I’ve managed to find one of the very first US-market Camrys in a Denver junkyard). While the Camry has been available only in four-door sedan form since the 1997 model year (when the short-lived Camry coupe and the much more successful Camry station wagon were discontinued), the 1983-1986 Camry could be purchased here in both sedan and liftback configurations. Most American buyers opted for the sedan, and I have been able to find quite a few of those homely-but-reliable cars during my junkyard travels. The Camry liftbacks have been more elusive, though I have found one with well over 300,000 miles on the odometer. Today’s Junkyard Gem isn’t quite as well-traveled, but it boasts plenty of luxurious (by the standards of the middle 1980s) options.

Toyota went to six-digit odometers during the early 1980s, and I’m always hoping to find an odometer with a crazy-high reading when I spot an early Camry (though the biggest odometer reading I’ve found on a junkyard Toyota was seen in a 1988 Tercel 4WD wagon). No such luck here.

The much-weathered 2008 Obama campaign stickers suggest that this car was parked for good at some point more than a decade ago; generally, any junkyard car with ’08 election stickers will have ’12 ones as well.

Because manual transmissions of the 1980s provided much better fuel economy than automatics (and could add more than 10% to the out-the-door cost of a new car), the kind of budget-conscious American car shoppers who bought 1983-1986 Camrys mostly avoided the slushboxes. This car has the rare automatic; at least it was a four-speed.

This car is loaded, with air conditioning that lets you jam econo.

Power mirrors, a rear wiper-washer, cruise control, the works! Strangely, the original purchaser of this car declined to get the power windows and locks.

The Camry Liftback was replaced by the Camry Wagon for the 1987 model year, and sales of the bigger, plusher V20 Camry really took off here at that point.

J.D. Power rated it as the most trouble-free new car of 1986.

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