1991 Toyota Tercel (Red): Trusty and Reliable

1991 Toyota Tercel (Red)

I bought a 1991 Toyota Tercel, two-tone red in color, from my friend Francois back in 1998 or so. I only paid $500 for it, and it was worth every penny, but not one more, believe you me. I know that Toyota Tercels had a great reputation for reliability, fuel economy, et cetera, which is why I bought it despite its terrible condition. Before we go into details, feast your eyes on what this gorgeous car looked like.

1991 Toyota Tercel (Red)
1991 Toyota Tercel (Red)

If you think this rust-bucket looks terrible – and it does – that’s nothing compared to what mine looked like. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what was wrong with it:

  • My Toyota Tercel had been in an accident and rolled. As a result, the windshield was severely cracked and both mirrors were dangling (one eventually fell), the roof and hood looked like crumpled paper that’s been flattened again, and the right-front quarter panel had been replaced with one a different shade of red. Classy.
  • The aftermarket radio had been stolen, so that looked great.
  • The right rear tire was not standard and a little bigger than the others, so if someone was sitting in the back, the tire would scrape again the wheel well at the slightest bump in the road.
  • It only ran on three cylinders. When I got it, I could do a decent 500 kilometers on a tank of gas, but by the time I sold it (and I did, believe it or not), it was only running on two cylinders, could not go up a hill and went through a tank of gas in less than 250 kilometers.

After letting it sleep in the snow and not starting it for a whole winter, I decided to sell it. I put an add in the newspaper for $600, praying that I would get a call. I thought I was being greedy asking for $600, but there were a couple of other Tercels for sale that weekend, all of them $3,000 and over, so I received over 275 calls over 2 days! The ad ran for a weekend, and the car was sold at 6h30 on Saturday morning! The guys that bought it struggled for over an hour getting it started, but eventually managed to drive it away.

Imagine the scene. Four burly guys in a Toyota Tercel that’s running on 2 cylinders and that hasn’t been started, let alone driven all winter. There was plenty of greasy blue smoke coming out the exhaust, which is how I’ll always remember this car, as it turned off my street and out of sight.

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