Man! I like how this car looks – and I bet it’d be fun to drive, because it’s old, and light, and I’ve read on the internet that it handled well. It will be cheap because it’s old, and reliable because it says ‘Toyota’ on it. Perfect car! Love those looks. But wait, isn’t there more to a car than what it looks like? I’ll look up its history on my favorite car websites…Voluntary Export Restraints, failure of General Motors in the early 1980s, rise of the Japanese in America, hrm, this all sounds interesting, but I’m much more interested in staring at its nostalgic shape.
To move past the poorly sarcastic view of how I often think about cars, I should say that I don’t think that there is anything wrong with a light, flirting romance with this 1985 Toyota Camry. I do think it’s handsome, even if it was dowdy in its time and practically a beater today. I do dream about driving it for all the reasons listed above, but just because I don’t haul out a half-dozen books from the library on Toyota and the American car market of the mid-1980s doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate what I found that bright, cold January morning. I saw it right through the living room window, looking like it was waiting for me to come outside with my camera just as soon as I’d finished my coffee.
Bumping into an old friend can be a very satisfying experience – satisfying in the recognition of that half-forgotten face. This Toyota presented me with so many opportunities for that satisfying recognition; the little details of its design are things that I know, but store away in the deeper recesses of my brain. When I look at this car, I can feel wise and affirmed as I pull down automotive encyclopedias from my mental reference shelves.
And so going over this car, whether that means lying flat on the pavement to try get that low-angle shot or sifting though back issues of Japanese Motor Business, is a satisfying fantasy. A fantasy where I can reach out and feel the neon laser lights of the 1980s that I never really lived through, or run my hand along the nurturing concrete cracks of my hometown.
So that is one angle on this 1985 Camry, the first generation of what is often regarded as the most boring car in the world. So plain, so ordinary, so dedicated to the pursuit of being free from vice. In future installments of this series, expect a more detailed view of the 1985 automotive climate in the United States, as well as perspectives on the Camry as a product of Toyota as well as something, to buy, to drive, to own. Will this brief romance get serious?