I've only owned my Camry for a short time, but I felt compelled to write a review regardless because it's GREAT.
If you're looking for an inexpensive, reliable car that's roomy, practical, gets great fuel economy and is practically indestructible, consider a Camry of this vintage!
Not the most exciting ride on the road by any means, but unless you're clueless about basic preventative maintenance or buy a real lemon, this car will not let you down.
I bought my 1987 Camry station wagon (base model with the 2 liter 4-cylinder/automatic trans) through a friend who knew the seller. 240,000 km on the clock (about 150,000 miles) but you wouldn't know it. Paid the princely sum of $1000.00 (about the same as 2-1/2 monthly lease payments for my previous car).
The engine starts at the first twist of the key, runs like a clock and doesn't use a drop of oil. Not overly powerful but it's smooth and still moves the car along nicely. Trans shifts clean & tight. The original interior & upholstery look almost new, the original paint is in excellent shape and the only rust on the car is a one-inch spot on the front fender lip where a stone chip wasn't repainted (soon to be repaired). I do live on the West Coast, which is kinder to vehicles, but Toyota really built these cars to last.
The only place the car needs a little TLC is in the suspension: the original struts are getting a little worn and one rear wheel bearing needs replacement. Oh, and the rear wiper motor needs replacing. But those are cheap, easy fixes.
The brakes require a bit more pedal effort than a newer car, but they work surprisingly well for a non-performance car of this vintage. They were put to the test in a panic stop today from about 50 mph; the Camry stopped on a dime - no fade, no lockup, no wandering.
And the fuel economy is outstanding! I've tested it over the past week and I'm getting well over 30 mpg in regular driving. That's not granny-footing it either, and it includes highway cruising at 100-120 km/h as well as in-town driving.
My last car was a 2005 Chrysler Sebring Touring sedan which I had on a lease. After driving that car for 3 years and then comparing it to both my old Camry and other, newer Japanese imports, all I can say is I know why the American manufacturers are going down the tubes and Toyota, Honda and others are among the top automakers in the world.
The Sebring wasn't a terrible car, but when the lease ended and I gave the car back with less than 70,000 kms, it had more rattles and squeaks than my Camry does at 240,000 kms. The interior was cheap, low-grade plastic and cloth, and the paint was already starting to peel in places. The 2.7 liter V-6 was reasonably powerful, but I have heard horror stories about blocked oil passages, engines seizing, transmissions wearing out prematurely, etc. Plus, although the rated fuel economy of the Sebring is supposed to be about the same as the 4-cylinder 1987 Camry (mid 20's city, high 20's hwy), I found that the Sebring's fuel consumption was worse than reported and the Camry's is better! The Camry also handles almost as well as the Sebring, aside from a bit more body roll. Outward visibility in the Camry is also great, whereas the Sebring had some bad blind spots.
Bottom line: Sebring = poorly engineered, cheaply built domestic car, indicative of why the American automakers are in so much trouble. Camry = well engineered, well built Japanese car that still works great after 22 years on the road. With regular maintenance I wouldn't be surprised if it lasted another 22 years ;)
So if you want reliable, economical, practical, comfortable, bulletproof transportation at a low price, consider a Camry of this vintage. You might have to hunt a bit to find one in good shape just because of the age, but it will be worth it!