“Introducing the family Camry”
The Toyota Camry debuted in the middle of the 1983 model year, in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models. Instead of being designed to compete with European manufacturers, the Camry was designed to compete with American cars—in fact, Car and Driver famously wrote that “the Camry drives as if Buick engineers had moonlighted on its development.” The Camry’s measurements ended up splitting the difference in size between the GM J-body (Buick Skyhawk, Cadillac Cimarron, Chevrolet Cavalier, Oldsmobile Firenza, and Pontiac 2000) and the GM X-body (Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix).
Power for the first-year Camry was provided by a 92 bhp 2.0 liter/122 ci inline four with fuel injection, which was available with either a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. With the manual, 0-60 mph came in a little under 13 seconds in the 2,236-pound car. Mileage was good—32 city/44 highway by the standards of the day (25/31 by modern standards). With a 14.5-gallon gas tank, a Camry owner could expect a 365 to 495 mile range with a 10% fuel reserve.
Standard equipment on the $7,988 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars—a 2018 Camry starts at $23,500) DLX sedan included front wheel drive, a four-wheel independent suspension, and 185/70R13 tires (a size still available from Kumho and Vredestein) on 13-inch wheels. Upgrading to the $9,698 LE made the four-speed automatic standard and added variable-effort power steering, rear window defogger, dual remote side mirrors, full instrumentation, reclining cloth bucket seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio with five speakers.
Individual options were relatively few and included air conditioning, sunroof, and a cruise control/power locks/power windows package.
The first-generation Camry was well received and got good reviews—the tagline in Car and Driver‘s test was “At home in America.” 52,651 were sold in that first model year, with sales increasing steadily throughout the decade.
Unlike other Toyotas that are deemed more collectible from the eighties (Land Cruisers, pickup trucks, Celicas, Supras, MR2s), first-generation Camrys rarely come up for sale for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.