Importing a car from Japan can easily involve sifting through a catalog of weirdness. You could buy an Autozam AZ-1, an insect-sized mid-engined sports car with gullwing doors. You could also buy a Honda S-MX, an asymmetric car explicitly designed for hookups. You could even buy a Daihatsu Mira Walk-through Van, which looks a bit like a 4/6-scale Toyota Tercel wearing a shed. However, I recently stumbled upon something that trumps the lot. It’s a beige Toyota Camry with cloth seats and a dent on the side, up for sale on Canada’s west coast.
On the face of it, this Camry is basically identical to the ones you can find in every zip code. It’s beige, it’s a 2005 model, it’s even the North American-style wide Camry rather than any funky JDM variant. Under the hood sits the same 2AZ-FE 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine that came standard in America at the time. It’s hitched to the same five-speed automatic gearbox offered in North America, driving the front wheels.
As far as exterior condition goes, this Camry appears to be in good shape, but not outstanding shape. The fog lights haven’t turned opaque from years of ultraviolet radiation and road grit, which is more than you can say about most 18-year-old regular cars. Actually, if your fog lights are looking haggard, I’d recommend just replacing the assemblies since they’re dirt-cheap for most cars. I think I paid $30 for E90 fog lights with bulbs. Anyway, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, the Camry. It’s got a few bumps and scrapes but no egregious rust or anything, which means it’s probably good transportation for years to come.
Moving to the cabin, this Camry appears to basically be analogous to our XLE model, save for its cloth upholstery. It’s decked out with automatic climate control, a now-useless navigation system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and woodgrain trim from the reddest of trim factories. Aside from power-folding mirrors, it doesn’t offer huge equipment perks over the Camry models we got here, which shouldn’t be surprising because it’s a Camry.
This is the stealth mode of JDM cars, a wholly anonymous and baffling choice that most people won’t bat an eye at. Rarely has a JDM car blended into North American traffic so well. It’s impressively boring, the sort of machine Akio Toyoda railed against when he approved such cars as the GR Supra and GR Corolla. It’s so uninteresting it’s interesting, a ton of effort put towards securing a predictable outcome. Think about how far this Camry has traveled, how much of the world it’s seen.
So why would anyone import a Camry like this from Japan? It only takes a glance at the odometer to find out. If the dashboard is accurate, this monument to normalcy has covered just 24,943 kilometers, or 15,499 miles, since new. Not bad for a car that’s listed for $8,000 Canadian, or $5,877 in greenbacks. In today’s crazy car market, where else are you finding a low-mileage Camry for such little money? Sure, it’s not the most exciting car in the world, but it’s famed for reliability and it should be easy to service anywhere in North America.
While bringing an exceedingly normal Toyota Camry halfway across the world isn’t the most daring choice one could make, this particular example seems unusually sensible on the face of things. It’s the sort of vehicle that could be a star a smaller car meet, yet come without the hassle of sourcing rare parts from a land off yonder. Perhaps that makes it the smart choice, the thrill of something different without any of the pain.
(Photo credits: Facebook Marketplace seller)
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