The Truth About The Perpetually Rusty Toyota SR5 Rear Hatch.

Thousands of them, all with rusty hatches.

In early April Eugene, Oregon resident Paul Niedermeyer of wrote a review of the Nissan Stanza Wagon under his ‘Curbside Classics‘ category. I commented that surely there will be a followup covering the ubiquitous mid-80s Toyota Tercel SR5, with their invariably rusty rear hatches. These cars sprang up like mushrooms here in the Pacific Northwest, and remain ubiquitous on our roads a quarter century later. Nearly every damn one of them in beige, and every damn one of them now sporting rust spots on their rears. I don’t know why, as the WaSDOT rarely if ever salts the roads, and certainly not in Port Townsend. I posit that there was just something faulty about the construction or finish of these hatches as they came from Toyota. Note how the rest of the car is fine, yet the rear hatch looks like it is in the advanced staged of Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Note the HOLE just to the right of the hatch handle. Next time you see one of these old Toyotas on the road check that spot and I bet you a sushi lunch there is a hole, a rust spot, or a primer spot right there. I see these cars fairly frequently as I drive around Washington state and I swear every damn one of them has a rusty rear hatch, and of those 60% have a rusty hole right at that exact location. Let me know if I’m right.

Niedermeyer affirmed the future appearance of the Tercel, but claimed that in Oregon, they are not equipped with rusty rears. Bullshit. I very much doubt this and offer the above photo as Exhibit A in my case. This Tercel with Oxidized Ass was spotted in a grocery store parking lot in Port Townsend, Washington yesterday afternoon. While the rot on this hatch is a rather advanced case I will verify that almost every Tercel SR5 I see looks like this. I’ll snap and post a photo of each one I see until Mr. Niedermeyer admits the error of his ways.

10 thoughts on “The Truth About The Perpetually Rusty Toyota SR5 Rear Hatch.”

  1. Regarding the rusty butts, same ‘modus operandi,’ here too, CG! Really quite an amazing little car for its time. I had a number of customers with them, and had occasion to ‘babysit’ one for a few months. they were gutless wonders, slow as all git out, but were unstoppable! They also were quite capable in snow: The tranny had an ‘Extra Low” on it and when engaged it locked the rear axle. With that feature and good tires (Hakkepelittas, Vredesteins, or Gislaveds, my faves at the time) it would barrel through major snow, as we had in Denver in ’82, ’83’ and ’84.

    The same customer had an AMC Eagle and although Rambler was in its dying throes, and the Eagle *seemed* like a good idea, it was a miserable pile of poo. The Tercels had’em beat by a snowy country mile!

  2. It’s possible that the root cause for TwOA’s is the same as why all Toytooter trucks, from the early 80s till into the 90s, had rusty beds.

    Ever notice that the cab and forward will almost always be beat up, but not hardly rusty? The beds? They would turn into lace doilies, rapidamente!

    Reason? In the 80s, a STUPID American law was passed that put a tariff on foreign-made peekup trucks. w/o its bed, a p/u is referred to as a ‘utility’ vehicle, not a p/u.

    So, Toyota began what ultimately became NUMMI and began making beds here in the U.S (and why Subaru ‘Brats’ had seats in the bed; that made them a passenger car, and NOT a p/u!).

    Yes, the American-made part of the truck would fall off in rusty shreds while the rest of the truck would just continue on. Sorry, but there ya have it.

    And people wonder *why* I rag on American car companies, and/or the processes left to Americans. They CAN get it right…but not nearly as often as the Japanese/Koreans.

  3. The Tercel wagon I’ve shot so far has an impeccable tailgate. And I’ve seen others that look good. How shall I send you the proof? Where shall we have the sushi lunch?

  4. lol… I know an excellent sushi place. Let me know next time you’re in the Seattle area.

    I bet however that if you were to poll the planet’s remaining Tercel SR5 that the vast majority have grotty hatches.


  5. I just shot another while I was running an errand. Zero rust.

    Chuck, they are 25 years old. And, BTW, folks in Eugene do know what that funny-shaped pipe sticking out of the wall in their bathrooms are for.

  6. 25 years is fine.. but why is the rust confined largely to the rear hatch? Look at my photo. Car? Fine. Hatch: OMFG.

    As for Eugene, I have to wonder though, as last time I was there it smelled kinda… funky.

    Besides, how can I miss a chance to poke fun! 😉


  7. I looked at a third a block down the street, and it does have one moderate rust spot on the tailgate. It looks like they’re rusting from the inside out, so obviously moisture is getting trapped – faulty design.

    Are you sure that what you smelled wasn’t the ever-present ganja?

    🙂 Paul

  8. Paul/Chuck:

    I’ll take fotos of the ones I see around here; almost w/o exception, their hatches are, as CG sez, “OMFG!” We can do a research project!

    Guess I’ll hafta start carrying my camera, now….!

    If I could find one of the buggers in decent enough shape, I’d buy one! GREAT in the snow!

  9. Found another one one the way to the Y. Perfect. So far 1 of 4 showed some rust. If I had your e-mail address, I’d send you the proof(s).

  10. cg (at) goolsbee (dot) org

    But how does this play out? if I can come up with 5 grotty ones do I win?

    Have you tried poking your finger at the sheet metal? 😉


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