Toyota Tercel history and information

15 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Toyota Tercel history and information

Toyota Tercel and Toyota Paseo: all American generations

First generation Toyota Corolla Tercel cars (1978-82)

The Toyota Tercel was originally named the Corolla Tercel, but as Toyota’s first front wheel drive car, it had little relation to its more sophisticated, pricier, rear wheel drive relative. High in quality but affordable and comfortable, the Tercel was sold in the United States a mere two years after its 1978 introduction in Japan, and remained in the US for over a decade as Toyota’s base model. The Tercel was built on the same platform as the Starlet, and many have done engine swaps with sportier and heavier cars (like the MR2) to make the light Tercel a speed demon.

Arriving in the United States in 1980, the Tercel was a latecomer to the front-drive scene, joining a bevy of boxy hatchbacks that followed a basic Hillman architecture – including the high-end Volkswagen Rabbit, the Ford Escort, GM J-cars, and Plymouth Horizon/Dodge Omni. The front wheel drive layout of all these cars increased the usable interior space, allowing a very small car to be liveable.

The non-transverse mounting of the engine, then as now unusual in a front-driver four-cylinder, meant that the transmission had to be mounted underneath the floorboards and engine, with half-shafts going out to the front wheels. Rack and pinion steering was used, and both front and rear had independent suspensions (MacPherson struts in front, coil springs in rear).

Steel belted radials were standard, with optional aluminum alloy wheels on the SR5; black urethane bumpers were cheaper and lighter than chromed bumpers, and more scratch and ding resistant; wide mouldings on the side prevented door dings, and the rear windows opened. Originally there was a two and four door sedan, two and four door Deluxe sedan, and Deluxe and SR5 liftbacks; but 1981 was the last year for the four door base-model sedan.

Deluxe models included standard tinted glass (starting in 1982), body-side moulding, and a rear defogger. Most models used 13-inch styled steel wheels, and SR5 had chromed trim rings.

The engine was a 1.5 liter single-overhead-cam model, with easy access to either side, and an electric radiator fan, still unusual, for greater efficiency (it only ran when needed). Electronic ignition was used. The compression ratio was 9.0:1; it used two-barrel carburetion with a secondary system for better economy. The engine was small but had five main bearings for reliability and long duty. The cam was belt-driven.

Cylinders were “siamesed,” sharing a solid cylinder wall with the next, to reduce space and weight.

Three transmissions were fitted, a four-speed and five-speed manual (both synchronized, with self adjusting clutches and direct shift linkages), and a three-speed automatic optional in the four-door Deluxe Sedan and standard in the Deluxe Liftback. The four speed manual was only used in the base two-door sedan; the three speed was a modern, bandless design with carefully engineered valving and gear spacing to reduce gear change shock.

Gas mileage was an impressive 36 city, 48 highway with the four-speed manual; 32 city, 43 highway with the five-speed manual; and 29 city, 36 highway with the three-speed automatic. The base two-door sedan had 60 horsepower at 4,500 rpm, 75 lb-ft of torque at 2,400 rpm. The other models upped the figures a bit, to 62 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 76 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm.

With the five-speed manual, the Tercel was sprightly to 50 mph or so, compared with the smogger straight-sixes of the time, and it held its own against the Escort – albeit not against the 2.2 liter Omnis, but gas mileage was considerably higher than just about all competitors. No surprise, then, that Road Track rated the Tercel best new import of 1980, and Consumer Reports put it onto the list of preferred cars when it amassed their highest reliability rating.

The first Tercels, like most front-drive competitors of the late 1970s, was available as a hatchback and sedan (with two or four doors); the hatchback had 26 cubic feet of space with the rear seats down. Sedans had a meager 9.3 cubic feet of luggage space. The two-door Deluxe and liftbacks had flip-open rear quarter windows.

The SR5 gained a “simulated leather” covered steering wheel and shifter knob in 1982. Controls included an interior hood release and column-mounted headlight switch; the SR5 had a tachometer and trip odometer. Air conditioning was optional except in the base models.

Side window demisters were standard, as were locking seat belt retractors (to hold car seats in); SR5s came with an FM stereo, optional in the others; a cassette player was also offered, along with a sunroof.

Second generation: 1983-1986 Toyota Tercel cars

The 1983 redesign was extensive, and following a favorable public reception, the name Corolla was dropped, making the front-wheel-drive Toyota Tercel the company’s lowest-priced car. An optional four wheel drive system and two more doors were added, so that the Corolla could be a hatchback with two or four doors up front, or a station wagon with four doors. The four wheel drive system included an unusual six-speed manual transmission with an extra-low gear, and could be moved from front to four wheel drive without coming to a full stop; front drive cars got a five speed manual or three-speed automatic (a four-speed manual was reserved for the stripper model.)

The Tercel wagon provided a surprising amount of space, and could accommodate six foot tall passengers with ease, along with their luggage. Gear ratios were changed in 1985, and the interior was upgraded in 1986, but otherwise the wagon continued as it was through 1988. The wagon was taller than American designs, and had an almost minivan-like appearance.

The 1983 Tercel is unusual for redesigns because the wheelbase was actually shortened, not lengthened; yet, Toyota took advantage of a smaller rear suspension to actually increase interior space. The hatchback was short on elbow room, but still provided a fairly generous interior for the price and overall size.

Even though Volkswagen had gone to multiple-port fuel injection in 1979 and other automakers were switching to single-port injection on their entry-level models, Toyota stuck with a carbureted engine, with decent enough performance when ordered with a stick but rather sluggish movement with the automatic. The main point of failure in these years was the electronic ignition module; the technology was still moderately new (introduced by Chrysler in 1971 but not picked up by GM or Ford until at least 1974, it made its way slowly through the rest of the world; Volkswagen’s 1979 fuel-injected engines still had points.)

Toyota boasted in 1983 that their cars “have the largest interiors of any subcompacts.” All models were powered by a 1.5 liter four-cylinder with a single overhead cam; the five-speed manual transmission was standard on all but the three-door liftback, which stuck with a four-speed manaul. The Tercel had rack and pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension, and power assisted brakes with front discs; the 1983 redesign also brought less wind resistance.

Length: 159 inches. Wheelbase: 94 inches. Height: 54.5 inches (59, wagon). Width: 64”. Weight: 1,990 – 2,140.

Horsepower: 60-62 depending on year. Gas tank: 12 gallons hatchbacks, 13 gallons wagon.

Cargo volume: 29 cubic feet (hatchbacks), 60 cubic feet (wagon).

Third generation: 1987-1990

We’ll have a huge amount of detail on this generation sometime in June-July 2007 – we hope.

In 1987, the Tercel received a severe cosmetic makeover and cargo-space boost. The engine was moved up to 78 horsepower to compensate for competitors’ horsepower gains (by this time, for example, Plymouth was up to 93 horsepower in its base models, which, to be fair, were far heavier) by adding a second overhead cam, using three valves per cylinder instead of two, and moving to a sophisticated variable-venturi, single-barrel carburetor that adjusted itself to match fuel requirements. The wagon, with the older two-barrel carb and single-cam engine, had the same 62 hp.

Even with the horsepower boost, the automatic Tercel was fairly slow to accelerate, though the manual transmission was satisfactory; but cornering was fairly good for the class, thanks to a fully independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, and the transverse mounted engine. The interior space was not bad in the hatchbacks, though rear seat legroom was naturally short (very, very short in the coupe), and the sunroof cut into headroom. The storage space was quite good with fold-flat rear seats.

Gas mileage for 1987 was 41 mpg highway with the five-speed stick. Three and four speed automatics were also available. The Tercel 4WD – a four wheel drive high wagon – featured a unique six speed manual overdrive transmission, the extra gear being an extra-low gear for getting out of tough spots.

The wide range of vehicles included three and five door Deluxe liftbacks, three-door standard Liftback, two-door Deluxe and standard Coupes, EZ Liftback, and Wagon in two or four wheel drive.

Perhaps responding to the success of the Omni America and Horizon America stripper packages, Toyota set up the Tercel EZ in mid-1987 with a low complement of standard equipment.

In 1989, the Tercel soldiered on without the wagons, which, due to their unique features, must have cost Toyota quite a bit to make in relatively small quantities. In 1989, the four-door was dropped (it was made in 1989 but not 1990), leaving the original two-door hatch and coupe options; four wheel drive also disappeared, but passive seat belts replaced motorized belts for the front passengers.

Length: 157 inches (167 coupe, 170 wagon). Wheelbase: 94 inches. Height: 52-53 inches (56, wagon). Width: 64”. Weight: 1,970 – 2,207.

Horsepower: 76-78 depending on year (wagon, 62). Gas tank: 12 gallons hatchbacks, 13 gallons wagon.

Cargo volume: 36 cubic feet (2-door hatch), 38 cubic feet (4-door hatch), 11 cubic feet (coupe), 64 cubic feet (wagon).

Fourth and fifth generations: 1991-1994, 1995-1999

The fourth generation 1991 Tercel had another makeover with a consistent (some would say overdone) oval/circle theme throughout the vehicle. The Tercel gained an unprecedented level of comfort, with a surprisingly smooth ride and well-finished interior; it was also larger and quieter than past models. The hatchback was dropped in favor of a four-door sedan, and the 1.5 liter engine was again pumped up slightly, to 82 horsepower – below most competitors but pushing a lighter vehicle.

Following Federal requirements, a driver’s side airbag was added in 1993; four-wheel antilock brakes were made optional as well, and minor changes were made to the exterior. In 1994, another Federal requirement moved the Tercel to have non-CFC air conditioning.

Length: 162 inches. Wheelbase: 94 inches. Height: 53 inches. Width: 65”. Weight: 1,950 – 2,005.

Horsepower: 82. Gas tank: 12 gallons. Cargo volume: 11 cubic feet.

The fifth and final generation saw a new exterior and a new engine, as the Echo loomed. The 1995 Tercels had standard dual airbags (in accordance with new laws), three point seatbelts for two rear passengers, and adjustable shoulder belts for front passengers in four-door sedans. Starting in 1995, Tercels met Federal 1997 side impact standards. ABS was kept as an option.

The interior was modified so the dash was further away; and the engine was greatly boosted, to 93 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque with a 15% increase in gas mileage, thanks partly to dual overhead cams. (Amusingly in 1995 Plymouth moved from a 93 horsepower engine with 125 lb-ft to a 132 hp engine with 129 lb-ft, but the Neon was in a different price class and short-sighted cost-cutting measures would hurt its resale value).

In 1997, Toyota adopted a single-grade strategy on the Tercel, with a single CE trim level with many features from DX trim; wheels went up to 14 inches. The dash panel was updated with rotary vents, and new seat fabrics and door panels were adopted. Only a year later, in 1998, the styling was updated outside, including new clear turn signal lights and multiple reflector headlights; the rear styling also changed.

1999 was the final year for the Tercel, as the Echo replaced it; but the Echo itself was to last a fairly short time before it, too, was succeeded by the Scion line.

For specifications, scroll down past the Paseo.

Toyota Paseo / Cynos

The Toyota Paseo, sold as the Toyota Cynos in some areas (including Japan), is a Toyota-based coupe based on the Tercel, which itself was often available as a coupe; it was available from 1991 to 1999 (the last US sale was in 1997, the same year the first convertible – modified by ASC in California even after US sales ended – was produced). The engine was identical to that of the Tercel. No four-speed manual was available (by no means a bad thing), just the five speed and a four-speed automatic that was unusual in a small, inexpensive car at the time (it would not be until 2001 that the Neon would get a four-speed).

(Chris Chapman wrote: “I think the Toyota Paseo has a lot more in common with my Toyota Sera than a Toyota Tercel. See – the Paseo was a conservative replacement that came off the Sera’s Starlet-derived floorpan and power unit?” The Sera, according to Chris’ site. was launched in March 1990, and only about 16,000 were made before the line was cancelled in December 1995. Most (9,000) were made in the first year.

The Sera had gull-wing doors; specifications (from Chris’ site) are in the specs chart. On the other hand, we do have to note that the Paseo had the same wheelbase as the Tercel unlike the Sera.)

The 1995 Tercel had a large number of changes, including a redesigned interior and exterior with a 50-state emissions-legal engine. It also had dual airbags and side impact protection, both of which would be mandatory within the next year or two. The exterior increased aerodynamic efficiency and lowered wind noise; the little engine didn’t need a grille for cooling, so air was taken from under the bumper instead, using an integrated-spoiler design.

This lowered drag (as measured by Cd) from the already good .32 to an even better .31. Meanwhile, the windows were enlarged all around and the pillars reduced in size for much better visibility, particularly in the rear three-quarters, which newer cars from other makers have closed off. The airy interior was made brighter by lowering the dashboard.

New tail lights were designed to make the Paseo look lower and wider, and a spoiler effect was built into trunk styling; the rear logo moved away to show the trunk lock. Bumpers were covered with super-olefin, resulting in considerable weight loss and scratch resistance. The radio and vent controls were moved to be easier to reach, and a sporty white-faced instrument panel was put in.

Door panels included map pockets and padded armrests, while the lower center dash got a slide-out cupholder; the center console was big enough to hold CDs, and the glove compartment was made larger. Fold-forward rear seats were used for better storage.

The engine, a 93 horsepower / 100 lb-ft 16-valve four cylinder, was shared with the Tercel. Emissions changes included a modified intake port and combustion chamber, which reduced deposits. The stainless steel exhaust manifold helped the cat to warm faster, reducing cold pollution, while the exhaust system was made 20% lighter to improve gas mileage; round muffler and cats reduced exhaust noise.

The direct ignition system eliminated the distributor and coils. (Cylinders 1 and 4, and 2 and 3, fire simulatenously).

The front MacPherson strut suspension and rear trailing torsion-beam with integral stabilizer were retained but tuned for more comfort. The throw on manual transmission models was shortened, while a new control unit was used on the automatic to control engine torque as well as shift timing; it also did self-diagnosis and had a built-in fail-safe mode.

To help reduce wind noise, body panel gaps were reduced, rain gutters were given a lower profile, side windows are mounted flush and door handles and mirrors are faired inward.

All Paseos featured color-keyed bumpers, dual outside mirrors, black windshield, bodyside and wheel-well molding, tinted glass, full wheel covers, reclining seats, full carpeting with a fully lined trunk, intermittent windshield wipers, an AM/FM radio with four speakers and full instrumentation including a tachometer.

Optionally available are anti-lock brakes (ABS), air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, a pop-up sunroof, a rear spoiler, alloy wheels, an all-new polycast wheel and an upgraded AM/FM/Cassette sound system.

Comparing Toyota Tercel specifications

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