At $2,900, Could This 1988 Toyota Camry AllTrac Be All That?

Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

Toyota is attempting to spice up its latest Camry with some edgy, aggressive styling. They once did that with cool models like today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe AllTrac. Let’s see if this rusty but trusty Camry’s price makes it the spice of life.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, or so they say. The Sport Utility Vehicle movement has been changing the global automotive landscape for decades, overwhelming all competitors. It has recently aligned with the car-based crossover splinter faction in the goal of total world domination.


That all means that the days of the traditional station wagon, the sporty coupe, and even the mass market sedan are numbered. Pretty soon we’ll all be driving SUVs. We’ll probably also all be wearing the same haircuts and watching nothing but The Batchelor while we fight the Lizard People in a last-ditch attempt to regain control of our lives and our planet.

While we’re doing all that we might as well have some fun, right? And, if we have to roll in an SUV we might as well at least do so in one that’s funkier than most. Last Friday’s 1999 Isuzu Trooper brought the funk with its asymmetrical back doors and rare in its class five-speed stick-shift transmission. That, plus low miles and an overall decent appearance engendered a generally positive response to its $4,500 price, earning the Isuzu a laudable 86-percent Nice Price win.

If you still feel like you just can’t get on the SUV bandwagon, no matter how roomy they are, or how commanding that raised seating position might make you feel, then we’ll just have to look at alternatives. Welcome to the resistance.


One of the perceived benefits of an SUV is the availability of AWD and its inherent foul weather dependability. What if you could get that in a car that didn’t require you to become just another drone? What if that came in a car that expressed your unique sense of individuality, that showed you march to the beat of your own drummer? What if you were to drive... a Camry?


Yes, I know that the Camry has been one of the best selling cars in America for years running and that over that time it’s engendered a reputation for blandness rivaled only by CSPAN and a hospital food, but hear me out.

As its name implies, this 1988 Camry Alltrac comes with AWD. Not only that, but it comes with the rare option of a manual transmission guiding those four wheels in their commitment. That’s some crazy kit for a Camry, and and in fact those are features that are conspicuously absent on the current model. Seems like the new Camry is all hat and no cattle. This one however, well, it’s ready to wage war against all those SUVs. You’ll just have to overlook its current battle scars.


The blue metallic paint here has seen better days. Still, aside from some alarming rock and roll in the rocker, there doesn’t seem to be anything too egregious. This is also a Camry that hails from an era when cars had REAL bumpers. The bumpers on today’s cars are in name only, as they’re hidden under expensive body elements meaning that using the car to actually ‘bump’ someone, say to offer a friendly push to the side of the road should they become disabled, is going to cost you. These big black beauties are made to keep the expensive bits like the headlights and radiator safe from minor shunts. They also tell pedestrians to get the hell out of the way if they value their knees.


Plastic wheel covers on steelies also emphasize that this Camry’s aesthetic aspirations are subjugated by its functional aspects.


The interior looks like it also shops at Amish R Us. It suffers a tear in the driver’s seat bolster and some staining on the squab in back, but otherwise seems serviceable. Mouse belts advertise the car’s age, as does the homey A-pillar mounted radio antenna.

While all that may seem to put this Camry solidly in the ‘meh’ category, it’s the mechanicals that elevate it to battle duty. The car comes with just 106,000 miles on the clock, however the 2-litre 3S-FE under the hood is claimed to be 5,000 miles fresh.


The seller says that it had a main seal leak and since the mill had to be pulled for that fix, he thought why not just rebuild the whole damn thing. The AWD system, which is similar to that of the Celica AllTrac, works 24/7, and includes a button on the dash to lock the center diff. That splits the torque between the front and rear axles 50/50. That seems fair, right?


We’re going to have to decide if this Camry’s price is fair as well. The asking is $2,900. That’s with the freshened motor and all the brown spots on the paint which are about as appealing on a car as they might be on your tighty-whities.


What do you think, could this rare and interesting Camry be worth $2,900 to do battle against the SUV onslaught? Or, is that too much to make this your weapon of choice?

You decide!


Ames, IA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Paul for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.