If you’ve ever read any of my ramblings, you know that I love to write about rare, interesting cars. So, I stalk http://www.bringatrailer.com on a daily basis and call it work. I could write about all kinds of things up for auction right now, like a very nice ’70 Boss 302 Mustang, ’96 NSX, various BMW’s and old Skyline’s, but all of those cars are less interesting than a mini-van that showed up for auction. A legal, 16K miles, right hand drive, JDM, 1990 Toyota Estima-better known in the USA as the Toyota Previa.
I remember seeing these egg-shaped creatures all over the place in the roaring ’90s and thinking “Oh, that’s why my eyes hurt, Toyota made an egg with windows and put wheels on it,” and that was the most attention I ever gave to any Toyota minivan. But recently, a friend of mine – that I enjoy driving across the country with – told me he was thinking about buying a ’90s era Previa minivan with 400K miles instead of renting a brand new vehicle from his local Enterprise rent-a-car counter for yet another walkabout of America. My immediate reaction was obvious and I told him, “Evacuate the house immediately, because there must be a gas leak that is making you say crazy things!” Then he informed me that Toyota had indeed produced the most durable vehicle since the Sherman tank and it was called Previa. I began to search the internet in order to prove him wrong and it turns out, I was the one who was more than wrong. There are still plenty of these things for sale all over the country and there are even dealers who specialize in the Previa. Most of the cars online have between 150K miles and 500K miles and the all seem to have the same story. The ads say things like “Most reliable vehicle you will ever own,” “You can’t kill this thing” and “Only selling because I can’t stand looking at its egg shape durability anymore.” There’s clearly a reason that a minivan sporting the same amount of miles it takes to drive to the moon still sells for $4,000.
It has a very different design than most other mini-vans. First, it’s mid-engined which gives it a great weight balance, and it was easy to work on, if it ever had problems, which most of them never really did. There were still some issues though, like the abysmal gas mileage from the underpowered 2.4L 4-cylinder. The gas version got 17mpg and the diesel got about 22mpg. Some of the later models came with a factory roots-style supercharger that boosted the egg’s power from 135hp-158hp, which is still barely enough to get out of your own way. But, if you lived in the snowy mountains, it came with a 4×4 option and could even be had with a 5-speed stick! Sure, the crash rating was terrible. So bad, in fact, that it was almost a certainty that if you ever you got in to anything other than a fender-bender with a bicycle, you were likely going to be killed immediately, but that’s not the point. The point is, Toyota was making virtually indestructible cars back in the ’90s and none were as durable as the Previa which makes me actually want one as a daily driver/cross-country road trip workhorse.
Because of what the one up for auction is AND the fact that its right hand drive with almost no miles, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that this deathtrap will sell for something between $3,500 and $100,000. Safety Third.
Erica Habedank | CW44/CBS Tampa Bay