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How the Toyota Camry Works

1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 Toyota Camry

©2007 Toyota via Wieck The Camry emerged as Toyota's top-selling model in 1987.

America got a taste of Toyota's rapid pace of development when the popular Camry was redesigned after just four model years. The second-generation brought a station wagon body style, available all-wheel drive, and the car's first V-6 engine. And in a move that would have long-term repercussions for the domestic auto industry, Toyota opened an assembly plant in Kentucky in 1988, and began building Camrys there.

1987 Toyota Camry



With fresh styling, more power and the addition of a station wagon model, the 1987 Camry became Toyota's top-selling U.S. model line.

New exterior sheet metal softened the angular bodylines, but added 6.5 inches to length and a notable 200 pounds to curb weight. Wheelbase was unchanged, as were the car's basic architecture and most interior dimensions.

The four-door wagon replaced the sloped-roof Liftback body style. It came with a 60/40 split folding rear seat for up to 65.1 cubic feet of cargo space, plus a one-piece liftgate. The 1987 Toyota Camry sedan and wagon came in Deluxe and LE trim.

©2007 Toyota via Wieck The 1987 model year brought the Toyota Camry four-door station wagon.

Under Camry hoods, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine switched from a single overhead camshaft to a twincam design that combined with other changes for 115 horsepower, up 20. LEs now came only with a four-speed automatic transmission (again with Normal and Power modes). This automatic was optional for Deluxes in lieu of a standard five-speed manual.

Meeting a new federal mandate for "passive" front-occupant restraints were motorized shoulder belts that automatically pivoted into place with the doors closed and the ignition switched on; lap belts still required manual fastening. Among other new features were an upgrade from 13- to 14-inch standard tires, an available "Acoustic Flavor" audio system, and fold-down rear seatbacks and an optional power glass sunroof for the LE sedan. A Standard sedan with a lower price and fewer standard features arrived during the '87 model year.

Consumer Guide generally applauded Camry's makeover, but found the engine rather noisy, acceleration little more than adequate (betraying the added weight), and the automatic transmission reluctant to downshift for passing without a heavy stab on the gas pedal.

On the plus side, "The front-drive chassis provides capable handling, and the all-season tires have good grip in rain or snow. Highway cruising is stable and comfortable, and the absorbent suspension soaks up most bumps easily." In all, "Camry is a well-designed, pleasant compact that compares favorably with the [rival Honda] Accord in most areas.

1988 Toyota Camry

Reflecting an industry trend, Toyota gave Camry an All-Trac sedan with permanently engaged all-wheel drive. The AWD system split engine torque 50/50 front/rear; it lacked separate low-range gears like a 4WD truck, but had a mechanical center differential that could be locked for maximum traction in slippery conditions via a dashboard switch. The All-Trac came only in LE trim and with manual transmission.

©2007 Toyota via Wieck The all-wheel-drive Camry All-Trac sedan was new for the 1988 model year.

Other models returned from '87 with detail trim and equipment changes, including standard outboard shoulder belts for the rear seat and an available package with power windows and door locks. The LE's power sunroof was newly available for Deluxe models.

Following Honda's lead with its American-built Accord, Toyota began building some Camry sedans at a new plant in Georgetown, KY -- the company's first "transplant" factory. This was in line with Toyota's aim to "build where we sell," and would have long-term implications for Toyota and the entire U.S. auto industry.

At about the same time, the Camry line again expanded, this time with V6 models offered as Deluxe and LE sedans and an LE wagon. The engine, a twincam 2.5-liter with 153 horsepower, would be shared with the Camry-based ES 250, the junior model for Toyota's new luxury Lexus brand launched for model-year 1989. In another first for Camry, V6 LEs offered optional antilock brakes (ABS).

1989 Toyota Camry

The 1989 Toyota Camry saw few alterations, a change of pace after two busy years of developments. The All Trac sedan could now be ordered with automatic transmission and, like front-drive LEs, optional ABS. But the model remained a tough sell, and Consumer Guide noted, "High price and the resulting prospect of limited sales have ruled out a V6 All Trac Camry, according to Toyota."

1990 Toyota Camry

News was again sparse where the 1990 Toyota Camry was concerned. The V6 gained three horsepower for 156 total. Deluxe sedans added available 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks. And all Deluxes got a standard tachometer (previously optional).

Consumer Guide noted the new Kentucky plant "is now at capacity, producing 200,000 Camry sedans per year for sale in the U.S." Camry sales, which had been rising all along, hit a new peak at just under 284,600.

1991 Toyota Camry

Little news again, as the 1991 Toyota Camry mostly marked time as Toyota prepared to launch a fully redesigned version for 1992. The only changes of note were eliminating the Deluxe V6 wagon and the manual-transmission All Trac Deluxe sedan.

Toyota Camry Reliability

Engine head gaskets (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 model years): These seals were apparently prone to letting oil leak into the engine compartment, thus posing the risk of possible fire. Toyota issued a service bulletin concerning gasket repairs or replacement for affected vehicles.

Fuel tank/fuel system (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991): NHTSA received various owner complaints of leaking fuel and/or fuel vapors, possibly the result of improper assembly and/or faulty components. Most reports indicated the leaks occurred from around the connection between the fuel tank and fuel-filler neck. A few reports mentioned premature or unexpected tank rusting. Toyota issued a service bulletin covering "engine sag and poor performance due to fuel foaming," but it's unclear whether this related to the reported problems.

): Various owner complaints filed with NHTSA state that certain components failed or malfunctioned after eight or more years or at high mileage (typically over 50,000 miles). The components implicated most frequently were the ignition system, lighting equipment, power door locks, and the motorized front shoulder belts.

): Various complaints filed with NHTSA suggest some vehicles may have a "sticky" linkage between the accelerator pedal and the engine's throttle mechanism; some owners reported "sudden acceleration" if the pedal did not immediately return to idle position on being released.

Brake pads (1990, 1991): Toyota issued a service bulletin on replacement disc-brake pads to cure a "clicking noise" reported by some owners.

): NHTSA received various owner complaints about poor or erratic air conditioning performance. Toyota issued a technical service bulletin concerning a "retrofit" service program for affected vehicles.

Toyota Camry Safety Recalls

1987: Liquid spilled in the console area may cause failure or malfunction of the electronic control unit for the front automatic seatbelts, resulting in lack of seatbelt protection. Dealers would install a protective cover to the electronic control unit.

1987: The electronic control unit for the power door lock system can fail, causing component damage that could prevent the doors from being unlocked manually. Dealers would install an additional sub-circuit relay control to prevent malfunction of the original relays in the ECU.

1987, 1988, 1989: Lap-belt retractors can lock in the retracted, stowed position, thus rendering the belt unusable. Dealers would install a redesigned belt guide.

1988, 1989: Due to a design defect, the jack supplied with station wagons may allow a raised vehicle to lower itself, thus causing possible injury. Dealers would replace the jack with one of improved design.

1991: Failure of a specific component in the radio can cause an electrical short circuit, possibly resulting in a fire. Dealers will repair or replace the radio.

Confident that Camry had struck a chord in America, Toyota would boldly push the car into new directions in the coming years. Find out how Camry grew, both literally and in market appeal, on the next page.

For advice, reviews, photos, prices, reliability trouble spots, and even examples of used cars you're considering that are on sale in your area, check out:

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