1981 Toyota Tercel 3 Door 3-A from North America


Good performance for the price


The seats have worn through in places.

All front bearings have been replaced.

Carb has been rebuilt.

Rear shocks and mounts have been replaced.

Timing belt was replaced.

Now starting to rust on the rear wheel wells.

Back hatch glass needed to be replaced.

Struts for the back hatch glass replaced.

General Comments:

For a $200 beater, It still starts every morning, and I now rarely have any problems since replacing all the old parts.

The engine still has over 170 compression when cold, and 195 compression when hot.

Steering isn't bad, but it could use thicker sway bars, or thicker springs.

I keep finding that a lot of people are surprised that my car is a 3-A engine with a automatic transmission. It came from the factory that way and everybody I see says that the factory only made around 600 of these cars.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th May, 2004

1981 Toyota Tercel Base 1.5 from North America


I sold this car in 1996 and have regretted it ever since


Fuel diaphragm burst at 150,000, original timing belt broke at about the same time.

General Comments:

Far and away, the best car I have ever owned. I picked it up for $600 in 1996, and though I regularly performed the scheduled maintenance on it, I beat the heck out of it. Try as I might though, I never could get it to break. Off-roading in places my friends wouldn't dare take their 4x4s, fording streams, carrying ridiculous loads for long distances--the car was invincible. The interior of the car was made entirely of vinyl (even the floors), so clean-up was a snap. I will never forgive myself for selling it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 19th January, 2004

1981 Toyota Tercel Standard 1.5 from North America


A great aging economy car!


Fuel pump leaked.

Valve cover gasket leaked.

Was in an accident and needed a new radiator.

The seats (both front and back) have begun tearing.

Rear brakes needed replacing.

General Comments:

Great, cheap car. I paid $600 for it, to the FIRST owner! (he owned it for twenty years) this included a cover for it, which I seldom use, and a ski rack which I never use.

It has consistently returned 40-45mpg economy.

But is a little slow with only 60hp to move 1900lbs. of car, and can barely keep up with traffic and will be going only 35-40mph by the time it enters the highway from the on ramp, unless I rev the engine fairly hard.

The rear brakes will lock up under hard braking, but you can still maintain control, they are a little weak by today's standards as well - but the car is two decades old after all.

Until I got into an accident, the car was rattle free, after the accident the car is still relatively rattle free! - good solid construction.

Rust is beginning to show up in spots, but nothing bad, overall the paint is still in good shape and not faded at all.

For $600 it was a deal that'd be hard to beat, and with 45mpg economy it's been cheap to run - excepting a few things I had to replace due to the accident and age of the car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 31st May, 2003

6th Nov 2003, 18:47

Well the little Toyota is at 173,000 miles now, and still doing as good as ever. However, it's become really hard to start in freezing weather (but all carbureted engines seem to be this way) and the brake warning light on the dash glows dimly, I've had it in the shop to see if there was a problem with the brakes, and nothing turned up - so I'm still wondering why it's glowing, maybe it's an electrical problem.

14th Dec 2008, 05:56

Hello, I was just wanting to say that I have the same car!

I love this car! The windows rock.

Also, I see your problem with the acceleration.

If you kick down to 2 at about 50-60km/h, then go back to drive it will see what you're doing and kick into a higher gear to rev faster.

Also, just wondering if you know anyone that has any spare parts for the 81 Tercel 1.5L coupe?

Thanks so much