Comfortable, reliable, solidly built, fun to drive and full of character
Intermittent failures to start during first few months after purchase... by applying cold start spray to the air filter, I was able to get the car going. For the last seven years or more, the car always starts without any problems.
Clutch slave cylinder at 193,450km ($165 for second-hand replacement fitted).
Front window lifter at 199,000km ($85 for second-hand replacement fitted).
Radiator at 209,500km ($250 for second-hand replacement fitted).
Fuel pump at 221,058km ($165 for new replacement fitted).
Clutch, alternator belt at 226,380km (new parts fitted as part of major $900 service).
Rear wheel bearings, front disc rotors, front brake pads at 240,458km (new parts fitted as part of major $700 service).
Air-conditioning regassed at 254,190km ($120).
New front shock-absorbers at 254,300km ($450).
New rear shock-absorbers, rear universal joints, rear arm bushes, panhard rod bushes, rear brake shoes and cylinders, master cylinder, second-hand front lower control arms fitted at 255,073km ($900).
Driver's door key-barrel broke about a year ago, and I haven't yet got around to fixing it.
I bought this car in January 2004 from the original owner's son for $2500. We nick-named the car "Chente" and he has become a much loved and indispensable member of the family. Chente was built in March 1985, sold new in October 1985, and had travelled only 186,868km when we got him.
The log-book shows that Chente was serviced by Toyota dealers at 10,000km intervals up to 145,366km. That was from October 1985 to December 1993. After that, the owner retired and did not use Chente very much. The owner's son told me that he (the son) serviced Chente himself after 1993. The only documented services between December 1993 and January 2004 were at 180,006km (in 2001) and at 184,471km (in 2003). So as you can see, Chente did 145,000km in his first 8 years, but then only 41,000km in the next 10 years. The limited use in the time before I got him probably explains the cold-start problems I had initially. But once he was being used regularly, there was no issue.
As you can see from the above, I have spent a lot of money over the last 8 years to keep Chente in excellent condition. When you add to the above the cost of routine services, tyres, batteries etc., the total cost of all maintenance/repairs has been $5900 in 8 years. That's an average of $735 per year, which may sound like a lot given the purchase price, but I think it's reasonable for the proper upkeep of an old car. The other thing to bear in mind is that most of the cost of owning a new car is the depreciation, whereas Chente's depreciation should be close to zero.
Fuel consumption averages about 10 litres/100km on the highway and about 13 litres/100km in the city. Given that I do mostly short trips in the city, average fuel consumption is about 12 litres/100km. I know that's quite heavy compared to newer cars, but the lack of depreciation more than compensates for higher fuel costs. And as to the eco-footprint side of the equation, I figure that by continually recycling this old beast, I am at least preventing additional carbon emissions associated with production of a new car.
Also, the engine is a 2.4 litre EFI with quite a lot of torque, so in a car that weighs only 1100kg and has a 5 speed manual gearbox, there's always ample power available. In any case, in a city (Melbourne) where the speed limit is often 50km/h, what's the point of having a having a huge and powerful engine? That said, Chente will happily cruise on the freeway all day at 110km/h if required.
Chente may look "square" (literally) and old-fashioned, but to me he represents a dying breed of old-school rear-wheel drive small/medium cars, that with proper maintenance, can easily do 400,000km. He is rugged and can handle Australian dirt roads with aplomb. Apart from the list of repairs above, all of which could be expected on any old car, Chente has been thoroughly reliable. We have taken him from Melbourne to Adelaide, Melbourne to Sydney, and Melbourne to Queensland in hot weather. There is not really much to go wrong, as the only option he has is air-conditioning. He doesn't even have power-steering, which can make parking a bit heavy at first, but you get used to it. In fact, since all major items have now been attended to, I am confident that he will continue to be a reliable car for years to come.
He is not quiet inside like a new car, but the seats are incredibly comfortable; firm but supportive, they are better than many a luxury car's seats. Also, while he is clearly not a sports car, the handling is sharp and the rear-wheel drive set-up provides for good driver involvement. It is quite different from a Toyota Avalon I rented back in 2002, which despite having a V6, felt sluggish and uninspiring to drive.
In short, I love Chente and plan to keep him going indefinitely. One day, I hope to get a 1970s Jaguar XJ6, but I know the maintenance budget on that will be of a different order of magnitude, so in the meantime Chente will plough on!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 1st January, 2012