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Category: Wagons

Junkyard Gem: 1982 Toyota Cressida Wagon


There was once a time when many car manufacturers each offered station wagons to American car shoppers in several sizes. During the early 1980s, even Mercury had wagons available in small, medium and large sizes, and Toyota was right there with three of its own: the little Corolla, the somewhat bigger Corona and the opulent Cressida. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those Cressidas, found in a car graveyard in the Northern California hometown of John Steinbeck.


The rear-wheel-drive Cressida was available in the United States from 1978 through 1992, going through four generations along the way. It descended from the Corona Mark II, and in fact retained the Mark II name in Japan well into our current century. Until the Lexus LS 400 showed up here as a 1990 model, the Cressida was the most luxurious U.S-market Toyota car during its reign here; the Avalon is the closest thing to the Cressida’s replacement in the United States market.


This generation of Cressida was sold in the United States for the 1981 through 1984 model years, and it was closely related to the Celica Supras of the same era. That means it has an M-series overhead-cam straight-six engine driving the rear wheels. One big difference between the 1982 Cressida wagon and the 1982 Celica Supra is that the wagon didn’t get an independent rear suspension (the Cressida sedan did, though).


In this case, the engine is a 2.8-liter 5M-E with electronic fuel injection, rated at 116 horsepower and 145 pound-feet. Curb weight was just 2,906 pounds (significantly less than that of the current Corolla), so its performance was decent for the era.


A four-speed automatic with an overdrive top gear was standard equipment.


The MSRP for this car was $12,699, or about $42,294 in 2024 dollars. The only 1982 Toyota with a higher U.S.-market price tag was the $13,218 Land Cruiser four-door.


This was a California-market car from the beginning, as we can see by the underhood emissions sticker.


The 1982 Cressida came with plenty of standard features that were extra-cost options on most comparable cars (beyond the automatic transmission, that is). Air conditioning, cruise control, rear defroster and an AM/FM four-speaker audio system were included.


I’ve found plenty of high-mile Toyotas in junkyards over the years, including an Avalon that drove 949,863 miles and a Camry that did 648,928 miles, but this Cressida barely cracked the 100k mark during its 42-year life.


The wagon version of the Cressida was available in the United States from the 1978 through 1987 model years, after which it was replaced by the high-end trim levels of the Camry wagon.


These cars have something of an enthusiast following, but that wasn’t enough to spare this rust-free one from its junkyardy fate.

Nobody else can give you the feeling!

Sadly, we never got the turbocharged version on our shores.



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Junkyard Gem: 2003 Mazda Protege5


Mazda sold its Familia small car in the United States from the 1971 through 2003 model years, with some interesting developments right at the very end of that run. There was the Protegé MP3 for 2001-2002, the Mazdaspeed Protegé for 2003 and the Protegé5 wagon for 2002-2003. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of the latter type, found in a Denver self-service boneyard recently.

The Familia went to front-wheel-drive in its fourth generation, with the first examples showing up here with GLC (Great Little Car) badges as 1981 models. The GLC became the 323 for 1986, and its platform ended up beneath the Ford Escort starting with the 1991 model year. The Familia sedan became the Protegé in the United States for 1990, while the 323 name stuck around on the hatchback until it was discontinued after 1994. For 2004, the Mazda3 became the Protegé’s successor here.

Nearly all reviewers loved the Protegé5, with our own scribe describing it as “a cross between the Miata and the Tribute” with a “way cool” interior and excellent handling.

The Protegé5 was available with one of six different paint colors, but most of the review cars seem to have been done up in the “Vivid Yellow” hue you see here.

Young car shoppers who enjoyed riding mountain bikes and skateboards were targeted by Mazda’s marketers, although most members of that group had already defected from wagons to SUVs by that time. Mazda tried not to use the word “wagon” when describing this car, instead referring to it as “a sporty car with a built-in social life” in the brochure.

The engine is a 2.0-liter DOHC straight-four rated at 130 horsepower and 135 pound-feet.

A four-speed automatic was available as an option, but the wise Protegé5 buyers took advantage of the high-revving engine by sticking with the base five-speed manual. That’s what’s in this car.

The factory 16″ alloy wheels looked good.

The original owner’s manuals were still inside when I found it. We can see from the salesman’s card that this car was sold new in Omaha.

You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

The TV commercials for this car got the “Zoom-Zoom” treatment.

Look, Vivid Yellow paint!

This car was known as the Familia S-Wagon Sport 20 in its homeland.



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Junkyard Gem: 1993 Ford Escort LX Wagon


The original North American Ford Escort was based (somewhat loosely) on its European cousin and was sold from the 1981 through 1990 model years. After that, the mighty Ford Empire turned to its Japanese ally, Mazda, for the Escort’s platform and that’s where it remained until the final ZX2 Escort coupes were sold here as 2003 models. I’ve neglected those early Mazda-based Escorts in this series up until now, so here’s one found in a Colorado car graveyard recently.

The U.S.-market Escort was available in wagon form from 1981 through 1999 model years. For 1993, the Escort wagon came only with the LX trim level and its MSRP was $10,367 (about $22,795 in 2024 dollars). It appears that this one started out at a dealership just outside of Kansas City.

A 1993 non-wagon Escort buyer getting the LX-E or GT models got a 1.8-liter DOHC Mazda four-cylinder rated at 127 horsepower, while all the other American Escorts that year came with this 1.9-liter Ford CVH and its 88 horses.

Wagons deserve manual transmissions, and that’s what this car has. A four-speed automatic was available in several option packages or as a standalone purchase for $732 ($1,610 after inflation).

This car was a platform sibling to the Mazda 323 aka Protegé, which made it a close cousin to the 1991-1994 Mercury Capri. Its Mercury-badged twin was the Tracer.

Station wagons were on their way out of favor with American consumers in 1993, nearly a decade after the first Chrysler minivans and Jeep XJ Cherokees appeared, two years after the debut of the Ford Explorer and the model year of the first Jeep Grand Cherokees. Three years later, the Toyota RAV4 showed up in the United States, followed by the Honda CR-V a year after that, ensuring that Escort-sized wagons didn’t have much longer to live on showroom floors.

This deeply offensive bumper sticker was the creation of the late Frank T. Kostecki, an Ohio fur trapper and businessman who owned Kosky’s Trading Post in Sullivan and offered a full line of stickers promoting the consumption of roadkill possum.

Ford still hadn’t gone to six-digit odometers on the Escort by the time this one was built, so we can’t know its final mileage total.

Your friendly Northwest Ford dealer would toss in air conditioning, AM/FM stereo and a luggage rack at no extra cost!



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