New car dealers have strange cars on their lots. You can’t even find a manual transmission at a Ferrari or Lamborghini dealership in 2021, but if you have a hankerin’ for a mid-engine car with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel-drive, skip the fancy new dealerships and head to craigslist. Yeah. Because the mid-engine car you are going to buy today doesn’t have a prancing quadruped on the hood, but it does have a stick shift and seats 7. Find this 1992 Toyota Previa offered for $2450 in Albuquerque, NM via craigslist. Tip from FuelTruck.
Cars that are born to be driven hard around race tracks or tricky mountain roads (lookin’ at you Nurburgring) need to have certain assets like power, handling, and torsional rigidity. But if you chop the top off that same car, you’ve now got something that is more for cruising and now the vehicular aesthetics are more important than the ratio spacing of the gearbox. Because when you’ve got a soft top, you need cool looking wheels…and this next car delivers in spades. Find this 1983 Toyota Celica ST convertible offered for $8900 in Atlanta, GA via craigslist.
I got this next link from prolific tipper Rock On, who put in the subject; Cheap City Runabout. And I thought to myself; this must be something cool and kooky like a Subaru 360 setup to run on camp fuel, or an El Camino’d Gillig Phantom Bus, or a Honda City Turbo II…but no. To my shock, surprise, chagrin, and sobering mortification…it was a Toyota Prius. The anti-fun car. The car that everybody loves to hate. The car that even radical Hummer torching environmentalists agree is a blight upon the planet…the Prius. Hmmm. But if memory serves me correctly, there was a time when everybody hated the VW MicroBus and now they are worth more than the average hippie’s 401k, so maybe the Prius will eventually get a cult following and…nah. Find this 2007 Toyota Prius offered for $3900 in San Diego, CA via craigslist.
The 2nd generation Celica was great little rear-drive coupe from the makers of our favorite appliances, Toyota. It was built in Japan from 1978 to 1981 as a 2 door coupe or 3 door liftback, but it was not available from the factory as a convertible version. US dealers complained enough that Toyota outsourced the hacking of the roof off to the Griffith Company which installed a targa-style top with folding rear convertible back to roughly 2000 examples to make the Sunchaser. Find this 1980 Toyota Celica GT Sunchaser offered for $6,850 in Vancouver, WA via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!
Don’t think of this next car as a big white Camry…because while it might share the same basic bland styling direction as a contemporary Toyota, it is superbly well refined example of the horseless carriage. And for all the people who ridicule the meh…zzz styling, the other side of the coin is the new Predator face grill LS500 or the similarly old Bangled butt on a 7-series…which is a great shopping comparison vehicle. Except the Lexus is quieter on the inside, more reliable, cheaper to maintain, and just as executive in execution. This next example is low in miles and high in class — it just needs a few JDM finishing points like a bumper pole and a Crown Athlete grill. Find this 2008 Lexus LS460 offered for $18995 buy-it-now or make-offer located in Stafford, TX via ebay.
This next car comes a tip from Safety Fast who writes; Oh what a feeling… blue… on blue. I don’t know why I’m sending this in to DT instead of just going out right now to buy it. I’ll be surprised if it lasts through the weekend. When I first saw this car I had competing feelings of respect and disgust. Respect because this blue-beige machine is so clean and I have to give props to the owners who kept it from the sun, shopping carts, kids, and the crusher — disgust because out of all the cars to save from 1991, why would someone choose something from the underwhelming buffet of beige like a Camry to save from the elements and shopping carts. I guess it doesn’t matter, because if you want to drive something from 1991 that makes it feel like 1992…this is it. Oh…what a feeling. Find this 1991 Toyota Camry offered for $5500 in Sacramento, CA via craigslist.
This next Previa looks so familiar at first glance, but falls apart under scrutiny. What’s up with those headlights? Is that wing stock? Why is it so narrow and skinny? Why are the bumpers so trim and tight to the body? Why does it have a postal truck backup mirror and a bumper mounted parking pole? The engine starts with the glack-glack sound of a turbo diesel 4-cylinder? White curtains and seat cover doilies? But the steering wheel on the right side is what gives it away — this is a sweet Japanese Domestic Market version of the Previa, known as the Estima Lucida and it comes with Lexus rims, a 3C 2.2 liter turbo-diesel, 4-wheel-drive and a manual gearbox. Looks like fun. Find this 1993 Toyota Estima Lucida offered for $13,890 in Canton, GA via eBay.
The last time I posted a Tercel, I made the mistake of calling it a Corolla…which CFlo caught and pointed it out. So this time I’m calling it a Turdcel, because even though this next car might have some wicked SR5 stripes on the side and louvers to die for…it’s got a seriously scuzzy headliner and a case of paint psoriasis that’ll take more than the potentially deadly ointment they are always trying to sell me in commercials (you know the one where the lady is running around in shorts and playing tennis and the calm doctorish voice warns you about fungal infections and travel from certain third world countries — are they reading my browser history, how do they target these ads on the TV so well??) Anyway…I wish this car was more of a survivor and less of an active patient. Find this 1982 Toyota Tercel SR5 offered for $2999 in Suwanee, GA.
The ST185 generation Toyota Celica All-Trac was known as the “Super Round shape” version of the high performance version of Toyota’s liftback Celica (1989-1993). It combined a turbocharged 4-cylinder 3S-GTE engine with all-wheel-drive and a 5-speed manual gearbox. With 200 horsepower in the USA version, it won’t be the fastest car you’ve ever driven, but it is a part of Toyota’s rally history and will be a desirable classic someday…if it isn’t already. Find this 1990 Toyota Celica All-Trac offered for $7000 in Katy, TX via craigslist. Tip from Graham.
I responded to the sight of this car with a visceral utterance that was something between an “uggg” and a “whoa”. What happened to the boxy lines of the 80s Corolla? Was it really necessary to turn it into a giant 4-wheeled suppository? Oh. This is a Tercel, which Toyota occasionally badged as the Corolla II and Windy. Find this 1992 Toyota Corolla Windy II offered for $4750 in Seattle, WA via craigslist. Tip from JB1025.