They Made That? 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback

In the “completely boring when it was new but somehow cool and interesting now” category, please direct your attention to the specimen below. It is slow, pedestrian, and cheap – but if you need a commuter car and want something quirky yet still useful and reliable, compare this to anything else in the sub-$3k price range and it starts to look pretty decent. Regardless of cool factor, it seems to be an amazing survivor. Find this 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback for sale in Burbank, CA for only $2500 via craigslist.

This car represents the first full generation of the Camry as a standalone model (previously it was based on the Celica for some typically inscrutable Japanese reason). The V10 generation Camry went on sale in the US for the 1983 model year as a reasonably compact, lightweight, 4-cylinder economy car – a far cry from today’s near fullsize Camry. The V10 was smaller than the current Toyota Corolla – even the Liftback rides on a 4 inch shorter wheelbase, is 8 inches shorter overall, 3 inches narrower, 4 inches shorter in height, and anywhere between 300 to 500 lbs lighter than the Corolla sitting on Toyota dealer lots right now. Just for reference.

The engine in this clean survivor Liftback should be a 2S-ELC, a 2.0 liter inline four with a single overhead cam, iron block, and aluminum head. This is old school tech but not ancient, and was equipped with basic EFI – a bonus today for easy service and lasting reliability. With only about 100 hp and at 130,000 miles, this understressed 4-banger should keep on chugging for a long time, assuming basic maintenance has been kept up. Toyota also sold a miserly 1.8L diesel engine in the US Camry during this time, but good luck finding one of those in simiar condition…

This Camry Liftback holds true to the axiom that most clean, cheap survivor cars have automatic transmissions, for whatever reason. I think this says more about the types of people who bought slushbox econo cars new – that they treated their cars as appliances, yet kept them clean, maintained, and functional. Depression-era mindset? This one is on its 2nd owners and looks almost new. The blue CA plates look right for the year, and the interior must’ve just been relieved of grandma’s plastic seat covers – it looks that fresh and sanitary.

The big question is: could you endure the snail’s pace of a 2,500 lb car with 100hp and a 4-speed slushbox? I think you could do a lot worse for a $2500 car that looks brand new, fits five people, and is somewhere between a wagon and a hatch for utility.

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