When I walk the rows of a big Ewe Pullet-style self-service car graveyard, I always take a look inside every 2000s Toyota Camry I see. I do this because I wish to document one of the most elusive of all junkyard inmates: One of the final Camrys sold in the United States with a factory-installed manual transmission. Prior to today’s Junkyard Find, the newest discarded three-pedal Camry I’d found was a 2001 model in California. We’re pushing the record another five years forward today because I’ve found this five-on-the-floor-equipped 2006 Camry in the very same yard.
Although you can still buy four new car models with five-speed manual transmissions right now, three of the four are miserable little econo-commuters for penny-pinchers and the other exists because some single-digit percentage of Subaru buyers have fond memories of the ’91 Loyale. The last model year for a new Camry with a manual— and it was even a six-speed!— in the United States was 2011 (some online sources say it was 2012, but I don’t believe them). For you Camry trivia fans, the last year here for a Camry with a manual and a V6 engine was 2001.
The very first Camrys sold on our continent had a five-speed manual (with a really cool-looking accordion-bellows-style shift boot) as base equipment, and the cars so equipped were much cheaper and got significantly better fuel economy than their slushbox-equipped counterparts. Getting an automatic in a new ’83 Camry sedan added $709 to the price, which comes to $2,148 in inflation-adjusted 2022 dollars. For the 2006 Camry, a base sedan (so low-prestige that Toyota didn’t even give its trim level a name that year) with a stickshift saved the buyer 830 bucks versus the automatic. That’s only about $1,240 today, and the five-speed automatic offered one mile per gallon better highway fuel economy.
That tells us that the original buyer of this car probably just preferred driving a manual transmission (we can be fairly certain that this wasn’t a fleet car because fleet buyers don’t want cars that few drivers are capable of operating) yet wanted a Camry for the usual sensible reasons. Were other similarly priced three-pedal sedans (such as the Accord, Altima, Passat, Sonata, Optima, or Mazda6, all of which were available in 2006 with five- or six-on-the-floor rigs) just too frivolous for this Camry’s original purchaser? Feel free to speculate in the comments.
In any case, the plan to drive a bulletproof Toyota sedan (with no torque-converter-equipped Achilles’ heel in the drivetrain) for 900,000 miles fell apart when the crash happened. The damage isn’t so bad, but it doesn’t take much to total a base-grade non-truck that most people can’t drive.
And yet someone bought the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and the transmission! Sure, that probably happened because it’s easier to pull the two as a unit (and the transmission may have been separated and dumped elsewhere in the yard prior to bringing the engine to the cashier’s counter), but there’s a chance that a junkyard shopper wanted to do a manual swap into another mid-2000s Camry.
It’s going to be a challenge to find a newer manual-equipped Camry in a junkyard, because it’s difficult enough just finding any Toyotas under 15 years old in a U-Wrench-It. I’ll keep trying, of course.
US-market TV commercials for the ’06 Camry were on the soporific side.
They weren’t much more interesting in Japan.
The Camry replaced the Corona in North America for 1983, and that’s enough reason to post this tire-shredding, turbo-howling, Roger Moore-hooning ’82 Corona GT Turbo commercial from Japan.
For links to more than 2,300 additional Junkyard Finds, including many Toyotas, please visit The Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
[Images by the author]
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