The seller of today’s Nice Price or No Dice Tercel SR5 calls it, “the best car I’ve ever owned, hands down.” Let’s see if this rare but rough AWD wagon’s price also makes it hands-down a best deal.
With only 62K on the clock, the 2003 Pontiac Bonneville SEEi we considered yesterday appears to be, for all the world, a total time capsule. Considering it comes from a decade-dead brand, it could easily be considered a museum piece as well. However, neither of those factors swayed the majority of you toward the seller’s $9,500 asking price. That ended up with a 62 percent No Dice loss.
The concept of the AWD wagon has been a popular player for decades now. Subaru has made its name on such models, and Audi has taken the idea to near supercar levels of performance. Along the way, there have also been some quirky takes on the genre, cars like the ’80s Honda RealTime4WD Civic wagon and the subject of today’s rumination, the Toyota Tercel wagon.
Toyota introduced the first Tercel model in 1978 with both hatchback and sedan models on the ticket. This was the first FWD car for the brand, but showing how risk-averse a company it was, Toyota designed the Tercel with a longitudinal engine — just like Subaru and most Audis — so that owners used to RWD cars wouldn’t have to freak out at the prospect of looking at a transverse engine when popping under the hood.
That initial Tercel iteration was so successful that when the time came to refresh the model, the range was expanded to include more hatchback versions and a funky little wagon with an iconic picture window on either side of the load area. The longitudinal drivetrain layout was retained for the second generation, making for easy adoption of a secondary power take-off from the gearbox. With the addition of a rear axle taken from the then still RWD Corolla, that allowed for the creation of a basic AWD version of the wagon.
These cars have no central differential, and power is split evenly between the front and rear axles, making the system only really applicable for slippery surfaces. For all other times, the manually-engaged AWD should be left in FWD mode.
The SR5 version of the Tercel AWD wagon added some cool features like plaid upholstery and grab handles on the sides of the front bucket seats. The wagon also included a fun added-on gauge cluster on the top of the dash with a 4WD indicator as well as side and fore-aft inclinometers to show the angle of the car’s dangle.
Sadly, the AWD wagon version of the Tercel only lasted for the one model run. When Toyota redesigned the Tercel in the late ’80s, it decided that cool was not to be in the cards for the small car any longer.
These days it’s getting to be that the cool editions like this 1984 Tercel SR5 wagon are getting fewer and farther between. These were always cheap and somewhat dispensable cars and so many have either rusted into irrelevance or have crap-canned their way into junkyards.
Not only is this one still ticking, but it also seems to have been shown some needed love along the way. The ad — well, a screen-grab from some other ad at least — claims the car to be mechanically “super sound” and notes a long list of maintenance and repairs undertaken to keep it so.
The most notable of that work includes new axles and ball joints, all the wear items on the front brakes (with the parts for the rear drums waiting in the wings), a new radiator, a timing belt, and an alternator. There has been a bunch of other minor work done to keep the 1.5 liter four purring along, but you get the picture. The transmission behind that little mill is a five-speed stick.
The seller admits that while the mechanical bits have been kept up, the bodywork has not, calling the car “no looker.” The body is sound beneath the fading black primer, with whatever areas of surface rust having already been addressed. The car was originally silver, which must have looked very fetching with the blue and white plaid-upholstered interior. That’s all kind of wearing out now, but it at least looks worn and not… you know, dirty. A few boxes of parts accompany the car, showing just how spacious the load area in the back is.
The car additionally comes with 198,000 miles on the clock, but as a plus, also a clean title. The seller calls the car the best they have ever owned but claims that life events are forcing its sale. To that end, they are asking $4,500 for this quirky and admittedly kind of homely Tercel.
What’s your take on the car and that price? Does that seem like a deal to keep this Tercel 4-wheeling and dealing? Or, is this quirky little wagon just too far gone to ask for so much upfront?
H/T to Don R. for the hookup!
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