American car shoppers had the opportunity to buy new Toyota Camrys with manual transmissions all the way through the 2012 model year, which pleased the minuscule group of drivers who wanted a reliable and invisible sedan with three pedals but did nothing meaningful for Toyota USA’s bottom line. I look for manual-equipped Camrys every time I set foot in a wrecking yard, and I spot the occasional stick-shift four-cylinder V20 model and plenty of 5-speed first-gen V10s. The 1988-1991 Camry with five-speed and V6 engine, though, that’s a rare find. Here’s a discarded 300,000-mile ’90 Camry DX I spotted last winter near Denver.
In fact, this car made it 501 miles past the 300,000-mile mark. Perhaps its final owner had set that mileage goal, at which point the car got traded in on a new Camry.
With some unsightly rust and a transmission that most 2018 drivers can’t operate, this car wouldn’t have attracted much interest at auction. Next stop, junkyard!
Stevinson Toyota West still exists, 28 years down the road. Sold in Denver, will be crushed in Denver.
Even with a five-speed and the big engine, the driving experience with these cars couldn’t be considered fun. The U.S.-market Camry has always been about no-nonsense, dependable transportation, and most Camry buyers that opted for the manual transmission did so for cheapness and/or fuel-economy reasons.
The optional V6 in 1990 put out just 153 horsepower; the current Camry gets 50 more horses than that from the base four-banger. Still, if you’re going to drive 10,732 miles every year for 28 years, you’ll enjoy it more with that third pedal in front of you.
Ford wised up about American car buyers’ overwhelming desire for slushboxes much earlier than Toyota, axing the manual-trans Taurus after the 1988 model year (except for the Taurus SHO, which could be purchased with a five-speed through 1995). Amazingly, Chrysler sold minivans with five-speeds through 1995, in case you’re looking for a car-trivia question that will stump everyone.
An optional V6 engine powers you home.