The Toyota Camry made giant strides after the model debuted as a sedan sub-variant of the Celica in 1980. The first Camry to be self-contained was the V10, a very boxy four-door on sale for just four. years, from 1983 to 1986. In the North American market, the front-wheel drive Camry V10 replaced the rear-drive Corona as a compact offering from Toyota. And while the V10 was designed in part for export markets like North America, its successor, the V20, used the North American customer as a starting point.
By the time the V20 arrived, the American consumer was expecting different things from a Japanese car. The V10 was designed during the 1979 oil crisis and was designed to be as bulky and fuel efficient as possible with maximum attention paid to function rather than form. A few years later, Toyota established itself in North America as a supplier of reliable and economical cars. The company wanted to move upmarket with the new Camry, and win over more of its customers: Central America. Toyota also had to outdo its main domestic competition as the quick folks at Honda released the Third Generation Accord (CA) for the 1986 model year.
Toyota entrusted the design of the V20 to Seichi Yamauchi, who had led the company’s design group since around 1981 and wrote the popular MR2. The V20 Camry was sleeker than the V10 and had a much more refined three-box look, although still mostly straight lines. The Camry’s appearance was similar to that of the even more conservative rear-drive Cressida, the company’s only luxury car at the time. Compared to the V10, the V20 was almost four inches longer, slightly wider (66.7 inches versus 66.5), and its roof was half an inch lower. The overall look was more American, and inevitably less true to the typical Japanese car as Americans knew it. The quality has been improved over its predecessor as Toyota has spent a lot more money on tough materials and production upgrades.
There were three body styles in the world, two of which arrived in North America. The standard four-door sedan and its longer station wagon brother were joined by a four-door pillar hardtop that was not imported. The hardtop was reserved for the Japanese market and served two purposes: it replaced the no longer offered V10 liftback and also served as the more luxurious version of the Camry. In the domestic market, the luxurious Camrys were called Vista, and the lineup included a standard sedan as well as the much more expensive pillared hardtop. Although the Vista hardtop looked a lot like the standard sedan, it used entirely different body panels. Toyota renamed the Vista the Camry Prominent in 1989, shortly before the hardtop was slightly reworked to become the Lexus ES 250. The Camry wagon was not sold in the Japanese market.
Production of the V20 Camry has grown significantly compared to its predecessor, which was built only at the Tsutsumi plant in Toyota City. There was additional full-scale production at the new Toyota plant built specifically for the Camry in Georgetown Kentucky. The plant saw its first cars roll off the line in May 1988 for the 1989 model year. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, or TMMK, was Toyota’s first wholly-owned plant in the United States. Other global productions included Port Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, and Chinese production in Zhanjiang, Guangdong. The Camry was produced and sold in China as the Xinkai Camry, through a joint venture. Cars produced in Australia carried the Toyota badge but were also sold at Holden dealerships, where they were called the Apollo.
While consumers may not know it at the time, the V20 used the same platform as the V10. That’s why, although the Camry has increased its dimensions, its wheelbase has remained the same at 102.4 inches. The car’s suspension design was also nearly identical from the V10 to the V20: both cars used a fully independent setup with coil springs and struts, as well as anti-roll bars at the front and rear. back. The rear suspension of the V20 benefited from the new use of a subframe which improved NVH characteristics. This subframe was similar to that implemented by Toyota on the fourth generation Celica in 1986 when the two-door sports car replaced the front-wheel drive and the new Corona platform. The Camry retained a front disc and rear drum brake setup, although on the higher-trim cars there were disc brakes at all corners.
In the V10 generation Camry, all engines were four cylinders and had a displacement of 1.8 or 2.0 liters. The 1.8-liter was also the starting point for the V20, but engine sizes included 2.0-liter four- or six-cylinder mills, as well as a 2.5-liter V6 and inline-four turbodiesel. 2.0-liter. The 2.5 was the star of the lineup (although not the volume seller) and had 24 valves and dual overhead camshafts. As before, the transmissions were four speed if automatic and five if manual. Notably, the entire V20 engine lineup used fuel injection.
For the first and only time in North America, there was a four-wheel drive Camry in the lineup. Toyota’s exclusive system was called All-Trac and was permanent all-wheel drive. Not long before and only in the Japanese market, the system debuted under the nickname GT-Four and was offered on a high-performance ST165 generation Celica. Subsequently, it was offered on several models around the world between 1988 and 2000. The system was technically impressive, and there was a locking center differential in addition to the front and rear differentials. The one in the center was very unusual in a standard passenger car. The system was electronically controlled and off-load, and the Camry All-Trac version was a direct port of the GT-Four Celica. All-Trac was only available with four-cylinder engines and arrived in North American cars in 1988.
The lineup of sedans and wagons in the North American market was divided into base (unmarked), DX, and LE versions, with the LE All-Trac being a sort of rare halo model. The larger 2.5-liter V6 arrived in 1988 as an option on the LE. As TMMK went live, Camry sedans increasingly came from Kentucky, while all V20 wagons were sourced from Japan. Changes over the years included a slight refresh in 1989 with new one-piece front and rear bumpers. The taillights have been changed slightly and a handful of interior trims have been updated. 1989 saw the arrival of an ABS option, but it was only fitted to the LE V6 and All-Trac versions.
For 1990 there was a redesign of the 2.5 V6, which increased horsepower from three to 156. There was another visual refresh in February 1990, when the Camry wore Toyota’s new Urban Sombrero logo. Other updates alongside the logo included color-matched door handles and matching grille inserts on all trim levels except the base. There was a new interior fabric that was longer than the traditional Toyota Tweed, and the DX and LE cars wore new designs of wheel covers.
Camry continued throughout the 1991 model year, as its sedans and wagons spread across North America wearing their new sombreros. TMMK kept the last V20 they made, a white LE V6 with a brown interior, lacy alloys and motorized seat belts. By this time, the Camry name was very well established and Toyota was ready with its high quality full face soap bar sedan. The benchmark Camry that defined what a quality, reliability and longevity midsize sedan really was: XV20.
Today’s Rare Ride icon is very tasty. A 1989 Camry in its base trim, with a few optional convenience extras. Air conditioning, power windows and an automatic are present and functional on this 51,000 mile sedan. Brown on light brown, even the hubcaps are in new condition. Yours in Seattle for $ 9,750.
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