• Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
Back in the 1980s and a bit into the 1990s, most of the Japanese car manufacturers offered funky little four-wheel-drive cars for the American marketplace. Honda had the Civic Wagovan, Nissan had the Stanza 4WD wagon, Subaru had "the Subaru" and the Justy 4WD, Mitsubishi had the Dodge/Plymouth Colt and Eagle Summit – and Toyota outsold them all with the seemingly immortal Tercel 4WD. Here's a loaded SR5 version that I found in a Denver self-service yard last week.



This car was sold in Japan as the Toyota Sprinter Carib. In the United States, the Tercel started out badged as a "Corolla Tercel" despite being unrelated to the larger Corolla, but had pure Tercel badging by the time the 1983-1986 generation came to these shores.



This car has the optional six-speed manual transmission, featuring a special "extra-low" gear meant for extricating the car from deep snow drifts or gluey mud. These Tercels weren't sufficiently heavy-duty for crazed off-roading adventures, but they were very competent in low-traction situations.



Back in the mid-1980s, owners of International Harvester Scouts and Toyota Land Cruisers had no problem grasping the concept of switching between two- and four-wheel-drive modes in their vehicles. Car drivers, on the other hand, tended to be confused by the idea, and many of them left their Tercel 4WDs in four-wheel-drive at all times. This would tear up the tires (or worse) when on dry asphalt, and made no-decisions-needed all-wheel-drive a big hit later on.



This one made it to well over 200,000 miles, respectable but not particularly noteworthy for a Tercel of this era.



The 3A-C engine in this car, sedate cousin to the screaming 4AGEs found in AE86 Corollas and MR2s, was very efficient and difficult to kill. Output was just 62 horsepower (16 less than the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage that so many consider intolerably slow), and so drivers of these cars had to be patient on freeway onramps.



Handling was on the not-so-sporty side as well, but the car's uncanny ability to fit startling amounts of cargo and haul it for nickels and dimes compensated for its plodding driving qualities. I have owned a half-dozen Tercel wagons of this generation, some front-wheel-drive and some four-wheel-drive, and I retain great affection for the breed.



This one has the ignition key, which in this context means that it was a dealership trade-in or insurance total that didn't sell at auction. Odds are it would fire right up with a battery and some fuel.



As you'd expect, the home-market ads for this car were amazing.



Caribou!



As usual, the American-market ads were less entertaining. The Corolla All-Trac, with its center differential giving it a true all-wheel-drive system, replaced the Tercel 4WD but cost more and never sold quite as well in the United States.

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