Tercel 4WD alternatives?

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StupidMuphin
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Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by StupidMuphin » Mon Sep 10, 2018 6:34 pm

Hello everyone, I've been lurking on here for a while trying to research Tercel's before I potentially pull the trigger on one. The problem is I have learned about the Subaru GL which seems very similar. My question is what would be better in your opinion? I like in Colorado and have to cross the I70 passes multiple times a year (for those who don't know, they are extremely long and steep and fairly fast; my 1999 4Runner can barely make it). I am not the most mechanically inclined but I want to learn and have started with my 4Runner. I am looking for a DD wagon that I can go camping in, take 4wheeling occasionally (nothing too bad, that's reserved for the 4runner ;) ), get good fuel economy (I've read the GL gets about 30ish combined driving), and last me forever with room for future expansion. With the bigger powerhouse in the Subaru and the HI/LO tansfercase, I am leaning toward that. Plus I would more than likely have to go out of state to find a decent tercel. What are your thought?

And yes I saw the thread asking this same question from 4 years ago but I was hoping for maybe a little more insight.

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Petros
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by Petros » Mon Sep 10, 2018 9:26 pm

stock tercel is rather under powered, and the brakes are too flimsy for steep mountain passes. I have gone over the I-70 tunnel in CO in a Tercel4wd, it was slow going in the right hand lane.

the Tercel is more durable and less prone to rust, and suspect it has a bit more cargo room inside too, than the Subaru. Also, the early subaru head gaskets were notoriously unreliable.

However, the larger 4ac engine will swap right into the Tercel, as will the larger MR2 brakes/master cyl/booster to improve both the brakes and add more engine power. Tercels are much easier to work on than subarus as well, I think parts are a bit cheaper too.

Owning any car that is that old will take a lot of maintenance and DIY repairs, more and more things wear out that are not normally a problem, so be prepared no matter what you buy that you will have a lot of minor repairs to deal with with a 30 plus year old car.

A really excellent small 4wd car with lots of power is the Suzuki SX4, more modern twin cam EFI engine, similar 30 mpg economy, 200 hp, and AWD. they stopped importing them in 2014 I think but there are plenty of used ones around.

other than that, there are not too many small and light 4wd cars available, they have all become larger and heavier and with lower economy. The Tercel4wd is only good for what you intend if you put some effort into rebuilding/upgrading it to improve it. ANd likely getting a car that old will likely require some cosmetic restoration as well, unless you get lucky, and be willing to pay for one in good condition.
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

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Mattel
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by Mattel » Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:01 pm

also look at early Foresters and RAV4's they are cheap. I have a Corolla All-trac which is a lot better on the heighway with its 4afe fuel injected 16v engine. The Tercel as Petros states is a lot simpler to maintain than a subaru GL I would only go the SUbaru if you can find a good condition turbo wagon model
Previous: 83 Tercel SR5 4wd, 84 Tercel SR5 4wd
88 Corolla 4wd Wagon 5speed, All power options, Fact Sunroof, Diff Lock, 14" SX Alloys, Hankook Tyres, 4afe, King Springs, Upgraded Headlights, Full Synth oils, Tow Bar, 210,000kms

The Professor
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by The Professor » Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:31 am

A couple thoughts on the question posed by the OP:

First, as you can see by my signature, I'm the friendly, neighborhood Subaru expert and probably the only person on this message board to own both a Tercel AND a GL. That said, comparing the two cars is all about perspective.

There are two Subaru generations that overlap the AL25 Tercel's model run. The 1980-84 "EA81" chassis (up to '87 for BRATs, '89 for hatchbacks) and the 1985-89 "EA82" chassis (up to '94 for the Loyale). The EA81 is smaller, simpler and about as slow as the Tercel. They are dead nuts reliable and about the only things that take them off the road are rust and being run low on engine oil. OHV 1.6 or 1.8L carb'd engines and most came with a dual range 4 speed. A turbo version was available in 83-84, but is too rare to consider a DD today.

The EA82 is the model with the "head gasket" issue that Petros mentioned, and it really only pertains to the turbo versions of this engine (dubbed the "EA82T"). Comparing wagons to wagons, this will be larger than the Tercel, is faster, has vented front brakes on all model years, and a host of other differences.

Both the EA81 and EA82 are exceptionally easy to work on (I don't know where these folks got the idea that they're hard to work on...) however some parts are getting thin on choices. Oil pumps are getting hard to find, Monroe is basically the only supplier for new struts and shocks, and like any old car, plastic and rubber bits are getting hard to find/brittle.

In my honest opinion, neither of these Subarus, or the Tercel for that matter, are what I would suggest for you based on your stated plans for the car. If I were you, I would be on the lookout for a 1990-1994 Subaru Legacy wagon. 120hp 2.2l that is deadnuts reliable and gets decent milage, AWD 5-speed, massive brakes compared to 80's econoboxes and the best part is, there are a ton of them still on the road and you can still buy parts for them.

Another alternative that was mentioned already would be a first or second generation Subaru Forester (1998-2002 and 2003-2008). I really like our 1999 Forester S, we road trip and camp in it a lot. It's got over 200k miles on it and while it does need maintenance from time to time, it's not unlike any other used car. The problem with the Foresters is the 2.5l engine. 165 hp is great, but if the head gaskets have never been replaced, or were replaced early in the car's life, it will need to be redone at some point, generally between 80-130k miles. This is not a deal breaker by any means, especially if the seller has receipts for the repair and can show you that the updated HG part number was used.

My vote is a 1994 Subaru Legacy Wagon with a 5 speed and low mileage. Even better would be a Turbo Legacy of the same vintage (no manual wagons though).

If you have any other Subaru related questions, let me know, I'm a Subaru Ambassador to boot.
1975 Subaru SuperStar wagon
1984 Subaru Turbo-Traction wagon
1984 Subaru Turbo-Traction coupe
1987 Subaru RX coupe
1987 Toyota Tercel SR5 wagon
1987 Subaru RX Type-RA coupe
1999 Subaru Forester S
2002 Subaru WRX sedan

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splatterdog
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by splatterdog » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:49 am

At this point a lot depends on availability either way. Some scary deer in your parts!

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Petros
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by Petros » Tue Sep 11, 2018 4:52 pm

the first and second generation RAV 4 is a great AWD mini SUV. they got larger, heavier and more costly after that. they are more truck like, than an AWD car, the early RAV4 rides harsh too, then redesigned second gen RAV4 is a much nicer model, but more costly too. the Rav4 is a larger vehicle, and will not deliver the same high fuel economy of the smaller and lighter cars, but it is not bad either.
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

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rer233
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by rer233 » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:41 pm

Face it people- there IS no replacement for our cars- we've got the best, most reliable cars ever built IMO.
if it aint there, there's a good chance it won't break!
83 SR5 Silver/Blue (Snowmobile/work beater)-totaled but drivable
85 SR5 Blue
88 SR5 White (the 'good' one)-not anymore-totaled
87 fwd silver wagon a/t
87 4wd dx Cream (a/t- not anymore- now m/t)

4doorVIP
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by 4doorVIP » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:42 pm

I agree rer233, if I could buy a new OEM tercel wagon, I would.

That being said I would say rav4, honda element
2JZGTE-powered Tercel SR5

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Petros
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by Petros » Wed Sep 12, 2018 1:21 am

4doorVIP wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:42 pm
if I could buy a new OEM tercel wagon, I would.
yes, that would be nice, but the T4wd would still need several up grades, more power and better brakes (everything else I can live with). That would be an EFI engine like the 4age or 4afe, and larger front brakes. Than it would be perfect.
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

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dlb
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by dlb » Mon Oct 08, 2018 3:48 pm

splatterdog wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:49 am
At this point a lot depends on availability either way.
I agree with this. I too think the old Subaru GL's are really cool but there are so few of them around (or in my neck of the woods, anyway) that when you need obscure parts for them, you will have a bastard of a time getting them. The same goes for all other cars that are about 30 yrs old. So unless you have good access to parts for old cars, I'd look for any generation of Rav4 or CR-V. Both are solid SUV's that get ok fuel economy, and there are still tons of them around so there's no problem getting parts.

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splatterdog
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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by splatterdog » Mon Oct 08, 2018 5:30 pm

Don't forget about true 4wd, not that wussy awd business. My T4 dragged an 05 CRV across the lake last winter. Looked like it gave 90/10, maybe 80/20 at best. A T-case lever on the floor would be a deal maker!

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Mattel
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My tercel:: 1988 Corolla 4wd Wagon (AKA Corolla All-trac) 5speed, AC, Power Sunroof, Windows, Mirrors, Steering, Locking, Diff Lock, 14" Corolla SX Alloys with Silica Hankook Tyres, 4afe, King Springs, Upgraded Headlights, Full Synth oils, 210,000kms
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by Mattel » Mon Oct 08, 2018 6:05 pm

2007 Forester is the sweet spot for me (with head gasket improvements) as they are still the compact wagon shape and have a great AWD system compared to the rivals. In Australia they came with a low range lever and plenty of off road accessories are available.
Previous: 83 Tercel SR5 4wd, 84 Tercel SR5 4wd
88 Corolla 4wd Wagon 5speed, All power options, Fact Sunroof, Diff Lock, 14" SX Alloys, Hankook Tyres, 4afe, King Springs, Upgraded Headlights, Full Synth oils, Tow Bar, 210,000kms

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Re: Tercel 4WD alternatives?

Post by terceldude » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:41 am

As for cars that resemble the 4WD Tercel Wagon:

Honda Civic 4WD Wagon
Subaru Impreza Outback Sport AWD Wagon

JUST TO NAME A FEW!
K-Business

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