Toyota offered North American car buyers the opportunity to buy a new Camry with a manual transmission from the time of the car’s introduction here in 1983 all the way through the 2012 model year. As I’ve found during my junkyard explorations, many Camrys sold here during the 1980s had five-on-the-floor rigs, and this setup remained reasonably popular into the early 1990s. After about 1993, however, automatics rule the American Camry universe, and I’ve been on a years-long quest to find the newest possible manual-equipped junkyard Camry. After peering into thousands of discarded cars, I managed to find a 1997 Camry CE with three pedals, and now I have surpassed that discovery with this 2000 Camry CE in Colorado.
Camrys have always been screwed together very well, and their reputation for reliability boosts resale values enough that older ones tend to get fixed rather than scrapped when something breaks (and that ugly ones get re-sold rather than scrapped when traded in). This means that I have a tough time finding junkyard Camrys built after about 2005… but even so, the rarity of 21st-century manual Camrys is striking.
If you search Craigslist for manual Camrys, 99 percent of the results will be automatic cars mistakenly listed as manuals because so many car sellers believe that “manual” means “gearshift lever not on the steering column.” The newest genuine stick-shift Camry I was able to find in a few minutes of searching was this ’09 in Southern California.
By the middle 1990s, American Camry buyers who opted for anything above the very cheapest trim level got an automatic at no extra cost. For 2000, the bargain-basement Camry was the CE, which stood for Cheap Edition (OK, fine, it stood for Classic Edition), and you got a five-speed manual as standard equipment. I’m not sure how much more the optional automatic cost on the ’00 Camry CE, but it added 800 bucks to the list price of the ’97 version. You may recall the ’02 Corolla CE as the very last new car available in North America with a three-speed automatic, so the Cheap Edition was very cheap indeed.
The Cheap Edition came with the four-cylinder engine making some uninteresting number of very dependable horses. If you wanted the V6, you had to move up to a higher trim level and pay extra on top of that.
I think most Camry CEs with automatics became fleet cars, while civilian CE buyers who got the five-speed either loved the stingy $17,418 price tag (about $27,140 in 2021 clams) or simply preferred driving a manual and felt willing to endure the car’s zero-luxury confines in order to do so.
This car endured some hard knocks during its final years. In addition to layer upon layer of body damage and badly-applied body filler, it features a front passenger door glass made of a taped-on trash bag.
A leaky rear-door window got the packaging-tape “weatherstripping” treatment.
For decades after the Covid-19 pandemic recedes from the front-page news, we’ll be finding state-flag face masks in junkyard cars, just as I still find AOL FREE TRIAL disks in discarded cars to this day.
The right side of the car sports Hyundai alloy wheels, thanks to the 5×4.5″ wheel bolt pattern used on the Camry to the present day and shared with many other easy-to-find makes and models. The left side has cheapo steelies, so we can assume that the final owner of this car put the nice wheels on the side visible from the house, rather than the side visible from the street.
The final chapter in this car’s street career ended when it broke down and its owner wrote a heartfelt note in Sharpie on the decklid. As we know, such notes seldom work.
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