I know my efforts on this feature have been a bit erratic lately; last week I kind of just blew it off, because I'd planned on writing something about the recently concluded half-season of Mad Men (and I might still do that). Next week I'll have another Random Sighting of a genuine classic, but today I want to try something a bit different.
In walking around my neighborhood, whether with the dog, running errands, or just generally wandering, I've been lucky to spot some interesting old cars, primarily ones from the 1980s. But there's another category that I haven't paid much attention to: the daily driver that's approximately 20 years old, not yet old enough to be considered a classic or antique by any standard measure, and probably at the low point of its monetary value due to high mileage and resulting wear.
There are quite a few such cars where I live, and I started to notice that certain cars were particularly plentiful, and fell into groups of models or "generations" of a model (by which I mean the range of years in which a specific design of a particular model was produced). Today I'm going to talk about one of these, the third-generation (1992-96) Toyota Camry.
There's a very simple reason that so many of these cars are still in daily use: they were absurdly over-engineered, vault-solid, and put together very well (many in the gigantic Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, which I have toured). Some of these cars were probably passed from parents to children, and some were likely purchased from craigslist ads and are being used as commuter cars.
In fact, such serious engineering proved to be a major expense for Toyota, and when they were designing the next generation of the Camry they deliberately looked for ways to reduce costs, which unfortunately resulted in a product that was lower in quality in noticeable ways.
The condition of the cars near me varies; the green one (with a gold badge package that was pretty popular for a while in the '90s) lives directly across the street from us, but has been parked in its driveway, unmoving and without license plates, for at least six months, strongly implying engine issues.