Home » Might Just Run Forever: 1992 Toyota Previa All-Trac vs 1993 Honda Accord Wagon

Might Just Run Forever: 1992 Toyota Previa All-Trac vs 1993 Honda Accord Wagon

Sbsd 12 27 2023
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Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! If you like your cars Japanese and well-loved, then today’s pairing is for you. We’re going to look at one car from each of Japan’s titans of longevity, both a little threadbare, both with a pile of miles on them already, but carefully maintained where it counts.

Yesterday’s vote count was way down; I’m assuming that many of you had the day off, like I did, and thus weren’t sitting around surfing the web while pretending to work. From the comments, I expected this one to go for the Corvair, but imagine my surprise when it lost two-to-one to the Vanagon. The silent majority of Volkswagen lovers have spoken, it seems.

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As for me, I’m team Corvair on this one. It’s just cooler. I can definitely respect the Vanagon, and I have a good friend who owns one and loves it, but that Corvair is just perfect: the mag wheels, the red and white interior, the patina, everything. I don’t even mind the rust and dents, actually.

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I feel like I’ve been neglecting Japanese cars of late, and I guess the reason is that most of them I just don’t find very interesting. They’re excellent, no one can deny that, and do their job admirably, but it’s not really fun to read (or write) about a reliable car that does everything well, unless you’re actively shopping for a reliable car that does everything well. It’s not “Sensible Used Car Showdown,” after all.

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However, if I’m going to celebrate the questionable cars, then sometimes I should give the sturdy, dependable ones their moment to shine as well, especially well-worn ones with lots of miles. So that’s what we’re going to check out today, in the form of a tidy Honda wagon and a very weird Toyota van. Here they are.

1992 Toyota Previa LE All-Trac – $4,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, AWD

Location: San Mateo, CA

Odometer reading: 347,000 miles

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Operational status: Runs and drives great, current registration

Before the minivan market settled into the Caravan Formula – a transverse V6 driving the front wheels – manufacturers tried all sorts of things. Ford and GM scaled-down their full-size vans, Volkswagen soldiered on with rear-mounted flat-fours, and Japanese makers simply brought over their existing cab-over-engine vans, which were already “mini” by American standards. They were also weird by American standards, with drivetrain layouts and locations that hadn’t been seen since the early Ford Econolines and Dodge A-series vans.

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The biggest problem with this arrangement is the big lump in the interior between (or under) the front seats. Toyota, after finding some success with its toaster-shaped TownAce (simply called “Van” here in the US), refined the design and flattened the floor for the Previa by laying the engine nearly on its side, only 15 degrees off horizontal, under the front seat. The engine in question is a longitudinally-mounted 2.4 liter four, driving the rear wheels, or, as in this case, all four.

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Despite the high mileage, this van runs great, the seller says. They’ve owned it since 1998, and maintained it well mechanically. It’s currently registered and just passed a smog test, always a good sign. Even the air conditioning works.

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It isn’t the prettiest thing on the road, though. The clearcoat is gone, one front fender and some side trim are mismatched, and despite the seller’s assertion that the interior was just detailed, it still looks pretty grubby to me. Still, it’s a good-running Toyota minivan, the predecessor to one that’s about to get a lot better-known around these parts.

1993 Honda Accord EX Wagon – $4,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

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Location: Napa County, CA

Odometer reading: 217,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great, current registration

The Honda Accord, in four-cylinder manual form, has been my go-to recommendation for a durable, reliable, economical car that’s also a bit of fun to drive for many years now. Choose whatever generation you like, you’ll find a willing engine under the hood, firm and direct controls under your hands, and a rock-solid platform supporting it all – as long as you avoid the rusty ones.

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The fourth-generation Accord just about perfected the formula, with a fuel-injected 2.2 liter four, crisp styling, and excellent road manners. I’ve never owned an Accord of this generation, but I’ve admired them since they came out, and I’ve driven quite a few. It’s really hard to find fault with them – the performance, the economy, the driving position, and the visibility all add up to a near-perfect driving experience. There’s nothing special about it; it’s just all really, really good. I’m not sure how Honda engineers would feel about me saying they peaked thirty-three years ago, but I’m not sure I care, either.

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This Accord EX wagon from the final year of this bodystyle is the one to get, too. An update in 1992 fixed the biggest problem with them – those damned motorized seat belts – by replacing them with a driver’s side airbag. The EX model has all the power toys, and the seller says it all works, though the driver’s side window is a little slow and sticky. It runs and drives great, and has had a ton of work done in the past year and a half to keep it that way.

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Cosmetically, it looks like the worst damage has been caused by the sun. The interior has faded, but it’s intact and in good condition otherwise. The paint is dull, and somehow has failed, but only on the left pillar of the tailgate. There has to be a story behind that, though the seller doesn’t say what it is. But most Accords of this era turned to rust long ago, so this one is doing pretty well, it seems.

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I already know you’re all going to say these two are both too expensive, and you’re probably right. Toyotas and Hondas tend to be over-valued in the used car market, because everyone knows they’re reliable and durable. Are they worth it? I can’t answer that for you. But this is all conjecture anyway, so ignore the price, and just focus on the cars. Which one jumps out at you?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Yuriy Khramov
Yuriy Khramov
2 months ago

80% voted for the stick, that’s ridiculous))))))))))

Last edited 2 months ago by Yuriy Khramov
Dr. Asteroid
Dr. Asteroid
3 months ago

I’ve not owned or driven either but the Accord is definitely my jam. It actually looks to be in pretty solid shape and I don’t mind the manual either.

Last edited 3 months ago by Dr. Asteroid
Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
3 months ago

Uhgg. I want the stick wagon, but my heart has always had an Eggvan shaped hole in it.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

Are you kidding? An Accord or Camry wagon always wins any contest by default.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
3 months ago

I am absolutely gonna say both of these are obscenely overpriced. Fuck me.

Timothy Swanson
Timothy Swanson
3 months ago

I voted Honda because of the stick, but I’d take the Previa over a lot of other vehicles. A friend had one, and, although it felt like the engine was working a bit hard and shifting to make power, it was a comfortable cruising vehicle.

Chris D
Chris D
3 months ago

The Honda of this generation and the following (’94-’97) were (and still are) almost bulletproof, and excellent in every dimension (except ease of replacing the alternator). With a stick shift, this wagon is highly desirable, at least for me.

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