Junkyard Gem: 1996 Toyota Camry LE Wagon

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Junkyard Gem: 1996 Toyota Camry LE Wagon

The process of station wagons being replaced by SUVs and minivans in the hearts of most North American car shoppers was nearly complete by the mid-’90s, so Toyota nixed the Camry wagon for this continent after the 1996 model year. Some steadfast wagon fans bought ’96 Camry LEs, however; I found this 250k-mile example in a Denver self-service wrecking yard last winter.

You won’t see many 1992-1996 Camrys in wrecking yards with fewer than 200,000 miles on the clock, since they were sturdy (if unexciting) machines that held their value well. This one reached the impressive figure of 251,648 miles, or better than 11,000 miles driven for each year of its life on the road.

Toyota did sell Camry wagons with manual transmissions in the United States— I’ve seen a few in junkyards— but you couldn’t buy a 5-speed LE wagon here after the 1991 model year. North American Camry sedans could be had with three pedals all the way through 2010.

This one was in good shape, notwithstanding the usual junkyard-induced grime and scrapes, and the presence of the ignition key suggests that it was a dealership trade-in that nobody wanted at auction (the big junkyard chains usually get deals on all the trade-in/insurance auction cars that don’t meet the minimum bid). I’d bet that this car’s last owner went with another Toyota.

The base engine in the ’96 Camry was a 2.2-liter DOHC four rated at 125 horsepower. This car has the optional 3-liter V6 engine, good for 188 horses. Horsepower numbers in ordinary commuter cars started getting pretty good as the 1990s went on.

The dual rear wipers look cool.

More room for all the accolades!

Apparently, station wagons were considered very American by Japanese car marketers in 1996, if we are to go by this “America the Beautiful” ad for the Japanese-market version of the Camry wagon.

The JDM Toyota Sceptre wagon was built in Kentucky, which Toyota seems to have felt would be a selling point in the company’s homeland. GM didn’t fare so well selling Toyota Cavaliers a little later, but that may be due to the age of the J-Body design at that point.

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