1985 Toyota van

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Mark
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My tercel:: 1984 Automatic, 1981 sedan
Location: Victoria, B.C.

1985 Toyota van

Post by Mark »

Back in December I finally picked up a vehicle I've wanted for years. I think the only reason I like them is their collectible vintage quirky-ness. I had a chance to buy one a couple of times before, but decided "not a chance in hell" when I actually test drove one and had a good look inside. The engine is under the front seats. You unlatch and tilt back the driver's seat to expose an access hole to part of the engine. You can access a few things through here like dipping the oil, alternator, thermostat, etc. To access the other side of the engine (spark plugs, distributor, fuel filter, etc.), you have to remove the center shifter/e-brake console and passenger seat belt. Then unbolt and remove the entire passenger seat. There is then a hatch that you unbolt. It's a mechanics nightmare. For some reason, I bought one after all. Even better, it was sitting on a lawn for 8 years with the windows open, had no papers and didn't run. There were plants growing inside and the rear seats were covered with moss. I have a theory that buying a car in perfect condition is a bad idea since it can only get worse which is upsetting. The idea instead is to buy a car with issues and then make it better which is satisfying. This van took my theory to the extreme. It took me about a month to get the engine to run and about 7 months to get it driveable. Getting the registration in my name so I could licence it and insure it took about 5 months. Off the top of my head here are some of the issues I fixed:
-Re-built starter and rewired the starting circuit entirely.
-new fuel pump/filter and cleaned all the loose rust and gummy old fuel/varnish out of the tank.
-Re-built alternator and completely re-wired those circuits.
-valve guide seals/spark plugs.
-full fluid changes of course.
-Removed rusted out steel coolant lines to heater core and replaced with hoses (replaced all coolant hoses).
-soldered radiator leak.
-removed rusted and seized power steering pump and lines. "Converted" to manual steering.
-Thermostat
-removed throttle body housing and cleaned all the black gummy-ness out.
-Brakes all around and re-built master cylinder.
-Burnt oil in big clouds of smoke. Oil control rings were seized. Poured seafoam into cylinders. Using 15-40 diesel oil to help clean things up.
-Rear hatch upper "lip" on body of van was rusted away. Rain flowed right in. Fabricated new one out of sheet metal and welded it in (probably the biggest job so far).
-Removed rear windshield wiper since it was sheared off.
-welded/filed new teeth on window regulator gears so I could roll up the windows. The sliding door was seized and wouldn't close fully. Removed it and made new rollers.
-None of the door locks/latches worked. Took them all out and rebuilt them.
-Big holes in floor on driver and passenger sides. Patched with sheet metal and Bondo.
Removed all soaked/torn/mouldy carpeting.
-Sealed up leaks where windshield washer nozzles and antenna let in rain water.
-Has an auto trans and wouldn't shift to overdrive even though solenoid tests good. Removed it and installed a blanking plate instead that always keeps overdrive engaged.
-Patched rust holes all around in body.
-Used probably 10 cans of bedliner to coat inside of van in the back.
-Lots of spray glue and new carpeting on inside panels.
-It was originally painted with household wall paint and a roller/brushes (seriously). Re-did it with rattle can primer,paint and clearcoat.
-drilled out sheared-off exhaust studs so piping could actually be connected. New muffler (unfortunately I got a cheap Thrush muffler so it's loud)
-Installed stereo/speakers/subwoofer so you can sort-of hear music over the sound of the loud exhaust.

Anyway, that's maybe half of what I did with this thing so far. It's a mechanic's nightmare and handles horribly, but I'm impractical enough to still like it.
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Petros
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Petros »

I always thought those were awesome little vans. I loved the 4wd ones, they are less common, but I still see them occasionally.

I have worked on them before, but never owned one. as a practical matter I think they are too small to be useful, it has no more room than a mid sized station wagon and less than a "cross over" SUV, and those do not have the quirky handling nor access issues when it comes to heavy maintenance. the engine is unique to this vehicle, it is down low under the drivers/passengers front seats. so is the front suspension as far as I know. replacement parts can be an issue. though I have to say if someone offered me one, it would be difficult to turn it down.

I hope you did not pay much for it, in that condition it sounds like it was only worth scrap. not many are foolish enough to redo a rusty body like that.
'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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Mark
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My tercel:: 1984 Automatic, 1981 sedan
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Mark »

I paid way, way too much for it ($800 CAD). I didn't think with my head and I was probably hoping that it wouldn't start because of the dead battery and once I replaced that, everything else would be mechanically fine. As it turns out, just about everything didn't work. The few things that did surprised me like the distributor and all the high-tech fuel injection stuff like the computer, MAF sensor, TPS sensor, etc. Over the months I was working on it, I was determined to scrap it 3 times (once while pushing it back down the street at night when it died during a test drive), but each time it was late in the day so I figured I'd call a tow truck in the morning. After sleeping on it, I thought I'd keep trying. The rusty-ness didn't really affect the underside of the van so all the "frame" was good, which tilted me towards taking it on. It also had pretty low kilometers (180,000 or so) although the speedometer gear from the cable was stripped so who knows how long the odometer wasn't working for.
There is plenty of room in the back since I gutted it and am using it like a cargo van, but with better visibility with all the windows. The useable space in the back is about 8'X4'. I can lay sheets of plywood down almost flat (over the wheel humps).
It still has lots of issues like transmission shifting (shifts late even though kick-down cable is adjusted all the way), interior finishing, no rear window defrost, need to build a spare tire mount, hot engine-ey smells in the cab while driving, cracked windshield, etc. I'm also a bit worried about the steering gear durability now that it's fully manual without the power assist.
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Mark
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My tercel:: 1984 Automatic, 1981 sedan
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Mark »

This one is also a 1st gen ('84-'85) which has a smaller engine (2l instead of the later 2.2l). I actually wanted the smaller engine for better fuel economy. Also with all the weight removed from the interior, the lack of power wouldn't be such an issue. It still accelerates faster than my tercels. All the weight removed (including 80 lb steel plates over the rear wheels) probably makes traction much worse since it's rear wheel drive.
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Mark
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My tercel:: 1984 Automatic, 1981 sedan
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Mark »

As far as the rusty body, I didn't put the effort into doing it properly or anything. Most of the holes were along the bottom (where I have it painted black). People will probably cringe, but I just wire-wheeled away most of the rust, covered the holes with lengths of aluminum foil tape and then smeared a layer of Bondo over that. Then I sprayed bedliner over it. The main reason I patched up the holes was to stop exhaust gasses from coming in.
Last edited by Mark on Wed Dec 16, 2020 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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marlinh
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by marlinh »

That's quite the laundry list of things you had to repair. They are quirky little vans. I hope you get enough use out of it to make your efforts worthwhile.
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Mark
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My tercel:: 1984 Automatic, 1981 sedan
Location: Victoria, B.C.

Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Mark »

I hope so too. I feel like I'm kind of stuck with it anyway since I don't think anyone would buy it and I wouldn't want to scrap it after all the work and money I've put into it.
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Petros
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Petros »

on the auto trans, I have pulled non-running cars out of the forest, a honda CRX I got for $75 to rebuild for my daughter to drive. it was an auto trans (which was better for her being a low experience driver at the time). I got it running after much restoration/repairs. the auto trans, despite fresh fluid, also was shifting funny. Hoping not to have to replace it, I added some valve body cleaner additive to it, and the problem went away. shifted perfectly for many years. it is available at autoparts stores. I suspect the valve body gets sticky and deposit build up, the additive cleans it out and restores correct operation. worth a try, cheap and easy.

I think many repair shops will poo poo additives, will say they are a waste of money. bring it to them and for thousands of dollars rebuild it for you. yet, on every old auto trans car I have bought, I have added to the ATF additives to improve performance and transmission life, and it has always improved the way it shifted, and even done amazing restorations. I have used it on two auto trans Tercel4wd, and many other auto trans cars. It works better than I would expect. so I say, do not listen to the "experts" especially who have something to gain, give it a try. it is cheap enough where it is well worth it small risk of wasting your money on it.
'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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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: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Mattel »

Great Van, In Australia we had them as the Toyota Tarago. The model after this was simarly named and was the same as the Previa in the USA. Probably one of my favourite vans ever especially in the AWD manual format!
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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dlb
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by dlb »

Wow, congrats on this thing. Super quirky vehicle, and I have heard about their weird handling issues too. Apparently they are very difficult to align, they tend to wear out tires quickly and unevenly.

I can't believe how much work you put into it, good for you. I hope to see it around town at some point. It looks great in the pics.
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Mark
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My tercel:: 1984 Automatic, 1981 sedan
Location: Victoria, B.C.

Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Mark »

dlb wrote: Thu Dec 17, 2020 11:42 am Wow, congrats on this thing. Super quirky vehicle, and I have heard about their weird handling issues too. Apparently they are very difficult to align, they tend to wear out tires quickly and unevenly.

I can't believe how much work you put into it, good for you. I hope to see it around town at some point. It looks great in the pics.
It does pull to the right a bit. It might just be the slope of the road, but I usually have to steer about 10 degrees or so to the left to go in a straight line. I don't notice this in parking lost so maybe it is just the road slope. It's a pretty tall vehicle so you really have to slow down to go around corners.
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Mark
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Joined: Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:49 pm
My tercel:: 1984 Automatic, 1981 sedan
Location: Victoria, B.C.

Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Mark »

Petros wrote: Wed Dec 16, 2020 11:58 pm on the auto trans, I have pulled non-running cars out of the forest, a honda CRX I got for $75 to rebuild for my daughter to drive. it was an auto trans (which was better for her being a low experience driver at the time). I got it running after much restoration/repairs. the auto trans, despite fresh fluid, also was shifting funny. Hoping not to have to replace it, I added some valve body cleaner additive to it, and the problem went away. shifted perfectly for many years. it is available at autoparts stores. I suspect the valve body gets sticky and deposit build up, the additive cleans it out and restores correct operation. worth a try, cheap and easy.

I think many repair shops will poo poo additives, will say they are a waste of money. bring it to them and for thousands of dollars rebuild it for you. yet, on every old auto trans car I have bought, I have added to the ATF additives to improve performance and transmission life, and it has always improved the way it shifted, and even done amazing restorations. I have used it on two auto trans Tercel4wd, and many other auto trans cars. It works better than I would expect. so I say, do not listen to the "experts" especially who have something to gain, give it a try. it is cheap enough where it is well worth it small risk of wasting your money on it.
I actually did put a full bottle of Seafoam Trans Tune in it after a couple of drain/refills, but it didn't make any difference. It doesn't slip or anything so I think the fluid pressure is off a bit. Usually, I don't think adding a detergent/solvent to an auto trans makes any difference since there's nothing really to build-up on the surfaces unless it's been repeatedly and severely overheated. In this case, when I drained the original fluid it looked like new engine oil (not red at all, but a golden colour) so I wasn't sure what they put in it. I think there was a time when OEM Toyota Dexron II fluid wasn't red but a darker brown. This stuff was a light gold, but the viscosity seemed right for auto trans fluid (pretty thin) so I have no idea what it was they put in it.
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Mark
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My tercel:: 1984 Automatic, 1981 sedan
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Mark »

Mattel wrote: Thu Dec 17, 2020 7:31 am Great Van, In Australia we had them as the Toyota Tarago. The model after this was simarly named and was the same as the Previa in the USA. Probably one of my favourite vans ever especially in the AWD manual format!
I think in Japan it was the Hiace. In Europe it was the Space Van. In North America they originally called it the Van Wagon, but then Volkswagen (Vanagon) threatened them so now it's just called the Toyota "Van". There are still 4WD versions here, but they are very rare since by now people have destroyed most of them by taking them "in the bush". It seems the "4WD" designation compels people to drive them in rough terrain for fun. 1950's American cars had wings, but that doesn't make me want to drive them off cliffs thinking that they'll fly.
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dlb
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by dlb »

Mark wrote: Thu Dec 17, 2020 2:25 pmIt seems the "4WD" designation compels people to drive them in rough terrain for fun. 1950's American cars had wings, but that doesn't make me want to drive them off cliffs thinking that they'll fly.
Well said, I totally agree.
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Petros
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Re: 1985 Toyota van

Post by Petros »

the 4wd on these vehicles was not intended to imply it was for going off road, but it was rather to improve traction and safety on snowy and gravel roads. this was actually in the owners manual of most of light AWD cars they were importing in the late 70's and 80's.

I remember reading an article in a 4x4 magazine in about 1978 when they reviewed the early 1600 cc subaru, they went bouncing around off road and promptly got it high centered and stuck. This was the magazine that always had high lifted trucks with massive tires and very large engines, on the front cover. to them 4x4 literally meant "off road". After they got stuck, they then pulled out the owners manual for the Subaru and read it was intended for better traction on snowy roads, and loose surface roads (gravel). needless to say they were not impressed. of course true off road capablity came later after the backyard guys "fixed" the subaru with 18" of ground clearance and 20" wheels. I had a friend that turbocharged his subaru 1600 along with the other suspension mods. it did not last very long.
'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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