This Toyota Tercel promises minimalism, '80s-style

Joe Lorio
·3-min read


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We're guessing it's been a while since you've seen one of these: Toyota's humble Tercel, the brand's longtime entry-level model, an econo-box that resided below the Corolla. This 1983 model is for sale right now on eBay Motors, looking just as you remember. That is, if you remember.

These cars have all but disappeared from American roads despite the fact that the Tercel was quite popular in its day, owing to its combination of an ultra-low sticker price and its high fuel economy. And yet, as those of us who were around in the '80s and '90s can attest, the cars were pretty much invisible even back then. Now, though, the tiny Toyota turns heads — it did ours, at least.

This is the second-generation Tercel, which switched to front-wheel drive. This two-door hatchback body style was the most commonly seen, although there was also a four-door hatchback and the better-known all-wheel-driver Tercel wagon. As an SR5, this Tercel is the fanciest available trim level, but it was still pretty parsimonious.

The included original window sticker (!) shows a starting price of $6,618. That includes power front disc brakes but not power steering, which was optioned here for $185. This buyer also ticked the boxes for alloy wheels ($265), a rear window wiper/washer ($90), and carpeted floor mats ($46). The biggest extravagance was a power sunroof for $460. Air conditioning, however, was a bridge too far.

Under the hood, a 1.5-liter engine dishes up 62 horsepower, and since this is an SR5, the driver can track its ministrations with the standard tachometer. It's fair to say that the new owner will be working the five-speed stick pretty hard to wring the most out of this engine, but just imagine the smile on your face as you motor simply, the way they did back in the Reagan era. After all, not everyone back then was a yuppie or a "Greed-is-good" Wall Street leveraged buyout king. This was a car for the victims of LBOs.

The window sticker shows that this Tercel was originally Light Yellow, and the seller acknowledges that the current golden hue is a respray. The body, though, appears laser-straight — thank that gentle California climate. And the cloth-and-vinyl buckets seats, those carpeted floor mats, and that AM/FM radio all appear well preserved. So far, one bidder has a raised a virtual paddle, offering $3,000. With five days to go, there's plenty of time for the price to climb. Or not. Whoever ends up with this Tercel will likely have the only one for miles around. Oh, what a feelin'!

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