1981 Toyota Tercel SR5 1.5 Gasoline from North America


It was the best vehicle I have ever owned


I replaced clutch and transmission at 130,000 Kilometers. I replaced CV joints several times--these were jobber replacement units and were guaranteed, but kept failing--so I blame the re-manufacturer of these parts. I replaced brake calipers 2 times--the originals lasted 15 years, but the jobber replacements lasted less than 2 years so I used units from another 1981 which was low mileage that I bought for parts. These lasted 3 years.

General Comments:

My previous posting was the one that said "I wish I could find another of these cars as I could make it last 20 years". Unfortunately, that particular vehicle was destroyed 3 nights ago by a hit and run pickup driver.

I have been able to find a 1985 4x4 Tercel wagon as a replacement for the written off vehicle--however, this has a 3-speed automatic and no overdrive so revs out badly at anything over 60 MPH--I would like to know if anyone knows if the 5 Speed transmission from the 1981 could interchange on the 1985 4x4--even if it means losing the 4 wheel drive function and keeping the newer vehicle as a front wheel drive.

The new posting is to to convey this request for information, and to give Lil Red (the 1981 SR5) an appreciatory sendoff to "Tercel Heaven". Happy motoring to all you Tercel owners!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 11th November, 2002

27th Apr 2003, 17:13

I'm interested in all comments about Tercel SR5 as I have recently purchased one in excellent body and chassis. Not sure about mechanicals as car has 270,000k on the clock. Would like reviews to be more in depth and with hints and tips on keeping the Tercel alive.

19th May 2006, 20:07

I don't know if the 5 speed would work, but you should be able to pick up a six speed from a wrecking yard for $50-$75 and that would work.

1981 Toyota Tercel sr5 1.5 from North America


It is a good car for first time driver


This car was on its way to wreckage. I picked it up at no cost.

I rebuilt the starter, Alternator, new tires, new breaks, new muffler.

It has a five speed transmision, but the fifth gear was not working.

I found a five speed transmision for $80.00 and it works since.

I replaced both drive axles.

General Comments:

I want to drive this to the ground, but it is still so faithful to me.

My son likes it so much, he tinted the windows.

One day I would like to convert it to a convertible.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 23rd June, 2002

1981 Toyota Tercel SR5 1.5 from North America


I wish I could find one of these cars new, for I could make it last another 20 years


I had the clutch replaced in 1993 at 90,000 Km.

I replaced the transmission at 110,000Km.

I replaced the front axles at 120,000 Km.

I repaired the rear shock towers at 205,000 Km.

I replaced the left front wheel bearing at 260,560 Km.

General Comments:

I bought this vehicle with 76,000 Km on the odometer after owning a 4 speed model of the 81 Tercel for the three previous years.

I attribute the clutch failure to the previous owners, as the replacement unit has lasted over 150,000 Km's.

The transmission failure was caused by a bad shift (clutch disengaged while still shifting).

The Achilles heel of this vehicle is the three (only) bearing outer CV joints that do not last -- Later models had 4 or more bearings in the CV's -- and much better reliability. CV wear is accentuated by accelerating while cornering -- coasting through corners decreases wear dramatically.

Hope to get to the 300,000 Km mark without major work, engine performing well and burning only a small amount of oil. I attribute this to regular oil changes (5000 to 8000 Km's).

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 11th February, 2002

1981 Toyota Tercel Corolla Tercel 3AC from North America


A bargain!


Timing belt broke.

Replaced the clutch, and CV half axles.

Headline fabric detached.

Seats came apart, replaced with '83 Celica seats.

Needs a ball joint replaced.

Fan motor keeps seizing.

General Comments:

Fairly peppy car for only 60 hp. Engine is small. CV joints seem to have a problem with sharp turns under hard acceleration.

Does not outperform other cars in straight line acceleration. The size is good, easy to park, easy to drive.

Car is twenty years old, though, and has been on the road longer than I have. I paid $800 for it (more than Blue Book!) and installed a CD player with good speakers. Car lived in Texas and still has almost no rust after 3 winters and no garage.

Car has room for my mountain bike, and kids if I put the seats in the upright position. It has been very dependable, and it's getting old enough that it is starting to look 'classic' rather than 'tired'.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 30th May, 2001

9th Jul 2003, 11:05

My '81 Tercel also had CV joint problems. Eventually, the driver's side CV joint broke while I was making a right hand turn. The headliner also came loose. I ended up tearing it off & removing the glue with nail polish remover. I sold my Tercel about 8 years ago, but sometimes I really miss it. It was such a fun car to drive.