Home » Even The Toyota Camry Gets Gloriously Weird Sometimes

Even The Toyota Camry Gets Gloriously Weird Sometimes

Weird Toyota Camry Ts Copy
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It’s about to be a big day in America. The first drive embargo for the new all-hybrid 2025 Toyota Camry is up tomorrow, and before we get to that, we’re looking back on some unusual Camrys a little bit early. Yes, the stereotypical normcore car has on occasion, slipped loose from the reins of conformity and got seriously interesting, even if just on a handful of models with low sales volume.

While Japan usually gets all the good Japanese cars, we’re sticking local with this one, plucking a few select Camry models sold in America out of the lineup for their relative strangeness. After all, Toyota has a reputation for being a relatively conservative automaker, so the handful of times its engineers seem to roam free with wacky ideas that could give marketing departments a few headaches are worth celebrating.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

From diesel engines to a feat of supercharging, there have been a surprising number of interesting and unusual Camry variants sold stateside over the past 41 model years. Keep in mind, they don’t come around all the time, but that makes them even more important to cherish.

Toyota Camry Diesel

Camry Diesel

Would you believe that during the 1980s, Toyota sold the Camry with not one, but two diesel engines in America? It sounds almost fictitiously utopian, but rest assured, American-market diesel Camrys are very real indeed. You could even get a diesel five-door liftback, ticking all sorts of boxes for weird car bingo.

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In the beginning, there was the 1.8-liter 1C-TLC turbodiesel four-banger. Sold in America from 1984 to 1985, this engine made 73 horsepower and 104 lb.-ft. of torque, was exclusively available with a manual transmission for the 1984 model year, and was a rare bird indeed. If you’re looking for something even rarer, 1986 saw the introduction of the two-liter 2C-TLC turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, which bumped output up to 79 horsepower and 117 lb.-ft. of torque. Huzzah!

Toyota Camry LE Alltrac

Camry Alltrac

Speaking of models often forgotten to time, Toyota got in on the all-wheel-drive family sedan wave early. By mating the all-wheel-drive system from a Celica with a sensible sedan body, Toyota created a Camry that would get through damn near anything. Sure, the 3S-FE naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine wasn’t exactly potent, but it has incredible longevity, to the point where this car’s only weakness was susceptibility to rust. Offered from 1988 to 1991, the Camry LE Alltrac was a rare oddity, especially with a five-speed manual, and it’s incredibly uncommon to see one today.

I’ve been lucky enough to drive an all-wheel-drive V20 Camry, and while it certainly can’t be described as fast, there’s something undeniably cool about a family sedan with a lockable center differential. Make no mistake, this is a proper all-wheel-drive system, made for blasting through the snow instead of merely getting unstuck. Overengineered? Sure, but that word helps define Toyota’s meteoric rise.

The Double-Wiper Extravaganza

92 94 Toyota Camry Le V6 Wagon Rear

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While having two wiper blades to clean your windscreen is absolutely the norm, using two wiper blades to clean a single rear window is distinctly weird. However, Toyota decided to one-up just about everyone with the 1992 to 1996 Camry wagon by having two wiper blades clean a single rear window. Does this arrangement offer a superior clean? Probably. Is it delightfully odd to see? Absolutely, and I can’t help but give it a shoutout for its uniqueness. Toyota went hard in the paint and materials spend for this generation of Camry, and this rear wiper setup might be the most obvious sign of it.

Toyota Camry and Solara TRD Supercharged

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Believe it or not, there used to be a time when you could get a Camry or its swoopy Solara coupe cousin with a three-liter V6 and a five-speed manual transmission. In its day, that was a zesty enough combination, but the team at Toyota Racing Development wanted more. The solution? As our own Mercedes Streeter detailed, just add boost.

The pièce de résistance of the TRD Solara was the addition of the roughly $3,700 Eaton Roots-type 62-cubic-inch blower. When bolted to the 3.0-liter V6, power gains are a kick of up to 70 HP and 62 lb-ft of torque. Reportedly, this supercharger, which was similar to the one used on earlier Buick supercharged V6 engines, spun at two times engine speed for 4.5 pounds of peak boost. MotorTrend‘s test TRD Solara was making 262 HP and 268 lb-ft of torque. Car and Driver also got to test one, and theirs reportedly made 247 HP and 242 lb-ft of torque. In Car and Driver’s hands, the TRD Solara hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. MotorTrend went faster, delivering the goods in 5.6 seconds. Yep, that’s an early aughts Camry laying down a legitimately fast time.

Back around the turn of the new millennium, you could equip any V6 manual Camry or Camry Solara with the TRD supercharger. While not many people did, the brave few who dared to take their Camry to the next level are worth commending.

Toyota Camry TRD V6

2024 Toyota Camry TRD V6

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While the Camry isn’t exactly known for a rakish image, every so often, Toyota lets its engineers off the leash. Back in 2020, Toyota unveiled a scorcher with the Camry TRD V6, marrying a 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with a litany of chassis enhancements to create a Camry for the keener-than-average customer. I actually reviewed this very model the other month and found it deeply endearing, not just because it marks the end of the line for the V6 mainstream midsize sedan.

Not only does the 2GR-FKS V6 emit a mellifluous note, but it also makes progress seem effortless, to the point where the first few gears might be entertainingly traction-limited. Add in springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars that are firm without being crashy, and you get a midsize sedan that really satisfies, doing all the family car stuff you could ask for while adding a dash of verve.

What Could Be Next?

Looking back on all these unusual Camrys makes us wonder what the next Camry will bring. Wouldn’t it be cool if TRD gets a bit crazy and stuffs the 340-horsepower HybridMAX powertrain and firmer suspension in a family sedan? Imagine if things went even further with a full-on GR Camry. While neither of those scenarios is likely, models like the GR Corolla, GR86, and GR Supra are proof that Toyota’s vying for enthusiast cred, so it never hurts to daydream. As for the standard model of the 2025 Toyota Camry, tune in tomorrow when we’re able to tell you what it’s like on the open road.

(Photo credits: Toyota, Thomas Hundal)

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EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 month ago

Well, Mercedes-Benz in the United States offered W123 models with two diesel motors in the early 1980s: 240 D and 300 D. Not to mention many more in Europe (200 D, 220 D, 240 D, and 300 D).

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 month ago

That wagon is peak Camry

Recovering Abarth Owner
Recovering Abarth Owner
1 month ago

You missed the best and most Autopian of all Camry weird editions. The 1992-1993 V6 SE 5-Spd. Yes, they did exist. I had one. It was glorious until I put it into a ditch. Look it up!

Sammy B
Sammy B
1 month ago

yup…they kept a V6 5MT until 2001 I think, but the SE V6 5MT was short-lived.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Sammy B

What was also weird was the V6/manual was dropped altogether after ’93, but they brought back the option in 1997, so it had a 3-4 year gap without it. No SE like you said, so not like they were going after the Maxima, I don’t really know which buyer they were going after. Honda didn’t have a V6/manual sedan, so not competing with that, unless that was supposed to be the differentiator since you could load up an I4/manual Accord while an I4/manual Camry was a stripper.

Sammy B
Sammy B
1 month ago

I didn’t realize 94-96 didn’t have a V6 5MT combo. but now that you mention it, I have never seen one so that tracks.

you’re right that a manual camry did sort of sit in a weird no man’s land between the engaging accord and the legitimately sport Maxima (4DSC!). I’ll give toyota a bit of credit for keeping the manual all the way to 2010 or 2011 i think. the take rate had to be low. We have owned 3 manual camrys, so we’ve done our part at least 🙂

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Sammy B

Yep, and offered it on SEs once they brought that trim back in ’02, but still seemed to favor base models. I always kept an eye out for one, but they are definitely rare like you say – sounds like you owned ~40% of them out there anyway! 😀

beachbumberry
beachbumberry
1 month ago

Everyone should note, that Camry wagon had a rear facing third row. We had one when I was a teenager my mom would let us borrow that we called (inaccurately) the loser cruiser. Easily pile 7 dopey kids in that car and raid a steak and shake or Walmart. The teenage small town shenanigans that we got up to in that car!

That entire generation of Camry really is the pinnacle of smart looking generic design and I love them! I briefly drove a Camry coupe of that generation in the I’m and loved it too. Comfortable, nice to drive, well built and had that distinctive “Toyota” smell.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago

Maybe not too weird, but unusual for the time: two-tone paint jobs seemed all but extinct on sedans in the 90s and certainly 2000s (a couple exceptions, like the Buick Regal GS). Toyota served up the Collectors Edition in the 3rd and 4th gens plus the Gallery Series in the latter. Not THAT fancy, mostly a mix of white/gold/silver, although there were actual colors on the wagon we didn’t get in North America like green-on-gold Camry Gracia wagons.

Greensoul
Greensoul
1 month ago

So the Camry rear bumper cover dent isn’t weird? Never mind, it must not be weird and just appear magically on every other older Camry I see on the road

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
1 month ago

How about ‘97-‘01 when Toyota installed bumpers that didn’t match the rest of the car (gold models)? That was weird too!

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

That always bugged me. It seemed to be more the pre-facelift ones, but I was thinking about the two-tone Camrys (the special editions where it was intentional, lol) and found a press photo that seemingly shows a mismatched rear bumper – last photo in this gallery.

Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
1 month ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

That drove me crazy. People still have those up and running around here so I get to still see one or two like that so now I’m all nostalgic about them lmfao

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
1 month ago

The first gen Camry’s looked much better as a liftback, which I feel the same way about for most 4 door sedans(?)

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

The Mazda6 was pinnacle of hatch/wagon style supremacy in my mind. How they didn’t survive the next generation I’ll never understand.

Dingus
Dingus
1 month ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

I thought the original Mazda6 was and still is such a handsome design that worked across all three body styles. I keep searching for a wrecked MazdaSpeed6 and a rust-free (ha) Madza6 wagon so I can stuff all the fast and fragile bits into the wagon body.
I know nobody will look back on a Mazda6 as some sort of design success, but I still love how they’re so lean and clean (well, the ones that haven’t rusted to pieces).

The following generation was such a letdown.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dingus
GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Dingus

I always wanted a 5-door 6s manual, but finding a good condition used one of any kind was tough by the time I was actually an in-market shopper in the 2010s.

Dingus
Dingus
1 month ago

I was super interested in a MazdaSpeed6 and found one locally with low mileage. Went to see it, and OOPS, dealer lied about mileage, had over 140k when they said it originally had like 60k. I was there, so I test drove it anyway and it was such a fun rip! I declined because of the mileage, and went on to buy a shitheap BMW 545i. I should have gotten the Mazda.

#regrets

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Dingus

I did like both the ‘speed 3 and 6 although used at that time in my life I would have been too anxious about maintenance/repairs for a used one. Just another vehicle I wish I could’ve bought new.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 month ago

If you want to experience a Camry Alltrac just buy a 1st generation RAV4. Same powertrain.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
1 month ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Fond as I am of the OG RAV4, it’s not as splendid-looking as that 3-box slab of good sense and practicality. Just look at it! I want one very much indeed.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 month ago
Reply to  Gilbert Wham

I had both a v20 and an og rav4, my heart is with the rav4.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
1 month ago
Mike Dris
Mike Dris
1 month ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

I immediately thought of this car when I read the AWD Camry. This CHP-spec Camry must have been awesome.

Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
1 month ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

Imagine getting assigned a Camry instead of a SSP Mustang though. Feels like a Reno 911 bit.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
1 month ago

True. Though an AWD turbo one would probably make you ok with that decision once you found out.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 month ago

I drive a 1996 Toyota Caldina – same, 3S-FE engine, same 4WD system, although ours is a four-speed automatic.
It’s perfectly capable, but it’s also painfully boring! Which is what I like, weird and rare but still goes completely unnoticed.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

Hey TomTom sometimes a long segue builds anticipation. Sometimes it is like the writer needs to reach 500 words.enough said.

Flinched
Flinched
1 month ago

I had an 88 Camry DX wagon, 5sp. with a V6. In some shade of metallic orange. And no sunroof. Would probably be worth 6 figures today on BaT.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

What’s next for the Camry weirdness?

Okay, hear me out:

Camry Hellcat. Keep it FWD, though.

Daniil Ivshin
Daniil Ivshin
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Sorry, closest we can do is a 3.5L Corolla. FWD though.

https://oversteer.co.nz/toyota-blade-master/

Martin English
Martin English
1 month ago
Reply to  Daniil Ivshin

I was thinking of the V8 Camry’s that raced in NZ.
https://au.toyotaownersclub.com/forums/topic/41516-camry-v8-supertourer/
And
https://speedcafe.com/stanaway-set-for-racing-return-in-v8-toyota-camry/

I also have vague memories of a Toyota Camry V8 racing in the Australian Supercars, but google isnt giving me any help.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

Some things people might not know about Camry:

Camry derives from the Japanese word “Kanmuri” – which means Crown

The first Camry was the JDM Celica Camry – basically, a 4 door, three-box Celica.
https://www.toyota-global.com/company/history_of_toyota/75years/vehicle_lineage/car/id60010264/index.html

The JDM version of the 3rd Gen Camry Vista (Hardtop) was brought to the US as the Lexus ES250

The JDM version of the 4th Gen Camry was narrower than the US Camry in order to meet, yet not exceed, a certain width which would otherwise result in higher road taxes. Yet Toyota also sold the wide-body US Camry XV10 in Japan. The hardtop JDM Camry was still called a Vista – but the wide-body JDM version – which was sold as the Lexus ES300 in the States, was called Toyota Windom.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 month ago

How about the Camry coupe of the ’90s?

A handsome, athletic design very much in line with the Hondas/Acuras of the era, but with that classic Toyota durability.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I remember. When the Solara was introduced it was essentially the next generation Camry Coupe, at least underneath. Toyota went to the trouble of giving it its own name and coupe styling, which was awkward, unattractive and somehow even more boring than the sedan it was based on. Especially so for the second generation.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

The 2nd gen Solara certainly was, but the 1st gen seems mostly too inoffensive to go so far as to say awkward and unattractive IMO. No match for the 6th gen Accord coupe of the time though with its NSX-inspired taillights.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago

I was a rep for JBL starting in 2000. JBL did (does?) the upgraded OEM audio systems for Toyota. JBL presented a concept car with some of their aftermarket line for the show circuit. What was it? Yep, a Toyota Solara. Remember, this was supposed to excite the 18-25 male aftermarket car audio demographic. Even with TSW 17s, a body kit, lowering etc., presented in, wait for it, Camry Gold, it was a swing aaaand a miss. There was nothing you could do to that car to raise anythings pulse. I’m sure there’s still pictures of that car floating around the internet.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

Definitely not exciting, I agree. Like the TRD Solara in the article too, that would move it closer to something like, a Buick Regal GS coupe successor. I did know some then-30somethings with gen 1 Solara coupes, but not bought new – they were used purchases. 50+ DINK/empty nesters did like ’em though especially the 2nd gen convertible. Toyota themselves were busy aiming Project Genesis & Scion at the youths, which mostly turned into proof of selling an old person a young person’s car.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I miss all the sensible sedans turned coupes!

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 month ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

My favorite – the VW Jetta coupe, seemingly made by taking a regular sedan body off the line before the rear doors were stamped out.

John Beef
John Beef
1 month ago

Longevity/reliability are some of my top car kinks. We recently parted ways with our ’09 Camry Hybrid after 15+ years of ownership. I could’ve replaced the hybrid battery myself but it turned out the engine was also drinking oil.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
1 month ago
Reply to  John Beef

I figure there is a reason so many cabs are Camry hybrids. Might not be my first choice (I prefer a hatch to a trunk) but if the price was right I could easily see myself driving one.

10001010
10001010
1 month ago

Toyota sold the Camry with not one, but two diesel engines in America?

I first read that to mean that Toyota made a Camry with 2 diesels under the hood, or maybe one in the front and one in the back…then my brain woke up and I realized it was two different diesel options… Imagine my disappointment.

And I still say those Camry TRD V6 are just plain weird, every time I see one in traffic I wonder who bought the “sporty” Camry.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
1 month ago
Reply to  10001010

Yeah, a Camry Sahara, that’d have been a pretty cool Camry, all right.
https://www.lanemotormuseum.org/collection/cars/item/citroen-2cv-4×4-sahara-1962/

AlterId
AlterId
1 month ago
Reply to  10001010

And I still say those Camry TRD V6 are just plain weird, every time I see one in traffic I wonder who bought the “sporty” Camry.

Maybe the ones who couldn’t quite qualify for the Avalon TRD, which was also a thing (a slightly larger thing) in its final generation.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
1 month ago

As of writing this comment the headline reads like a long lost personal ad.

Matt Hardigree
Matt Hardigree
1 month ago

Lol.

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