Let me paint you a mental picture. The year is 2050, and while flying cars have finally become mainstream, you still yearn for simpler times, when cars had wheels that touched the ground. As you relax in your holodeck, the current Bring a Trailer (BaT) site listings scroll by on your brain-implanted internet chip. You wistfully reminisce about that time you and your buddy had a track-day Mazda Miata and that one time when you got pulled over in your Mom’s Volvo station wagon.
Suddenly you stop scrolling as you notice something unique, out of the ordinary, and unexpected. A Toyota Camry. How can this be, you ask, who would want to collect a Camry? But then as you look more closely at the listing, you realize it is a special model. One seldom seen due to its rarity.
Could this fantasy turn into reality some day? Could the Toyota Camry ever become a collectible car? And for that matter, what’s the deal with flying cars? They’ve been billed as being 10 years away for the last 100 years!
Flying cars are an issue for another day, but we can possibly predict the future collectibility of the Toyota Camry. There is one model that could wind up on BaT in 30 years.
What makes a car collectible?
Before we get to the Camry, let’s take a minute to talk about what makes a car collectible. In general there are three pillars of collectibility: rarity, age, and body style or flare. For old school collectors and people who view classic cars as an investment, that’s all there is to it. For the new school, there’s another criteria; nostalgia. If Radwood has taught us anything, it’s that memories, experiences, and personal history with a car can make it extremely collectible.
Rarity is pretty self-explanatory. A car that has 50 million examples, such as the Toyota Corolla, isn’t uncommon enough to be desirable. Age is another factor, in general, a car isn’t collectible until it’s older than 20 to 25 years. Body style and flare may be the most important aspect of collectibility. As a general rule, four doors are two too many. There are of course exceptions, such as the E28 BMW M5, Lotus Carlton, or the Lincoln Continental with the suicide doors.
Collectible cars don’t need to meet all three criteria, but it does help. The more boxes a car can tick off on the collectibility scorecard, the more desirable, and higher value it has.
The Toyota Camry and its effect on the world as a whole
From the start, the collectibility of the Toyota Camry is pretty poor. With over 12.5 million cars sold worldwide, it’s definitely not rare. The early cars do have age on their side, as the first Camry was sold here in the U.S. in 1983, 39 years ago.
In terms of body styles and flare, this is another knock against the Camry. Sold predominantly as a four-door sedan, it just isn’t the ideal body style for collectibility. Flare and Camry are two words that never get used together. Its entire life has been lived in conservative, non-exciting style, and there have been generations of the sedan in which it was utterly devoid of any type of styling. So plain and forgettable as to blend into the background of daily life. Perhaps a lack of styling is a style in its own right.
The Toyota Camry has been the best-selling sedan in the US for years, and that fact alone nearly eliminates it from future collectible status. But despite the overwhelming plainness and commonality of the Camry, we think there might be at least one, possibly two, interesting models.
Despite Toyota’s best efforts, a couple of interesting Camry’s did slip through the cracks
Now we come to the apex of our Toyota Camry query. Are any of them likely to be collectible?
The short answer is no. There are just too many, and none are imbued with the secret sauce of desirability.
But that’s not necessarily the end of the story. Many cars we looked down upon when new have since become collectible, so let’s give the Camry a second chance. Two trims or versions stand out as unique enough to be future collectibles or stars on BaT.
The first is the ancient V20 series Camry that was in production from 1986 to 1992. Within that portfolio of beige, a unicorn exists in the form of the Toyota Camry All-Trac with a manual transmission. One recently came up for sale on Craigslist.
The other is the current Camry TRD. So out of character is this car that it almost becomes interesting. It is sportier than a standard Camry, which doesn’t take much. Things that are sportier than a Camry include falling tree branches, your dishwasher, and non-alcoholic beer.
Toyota is only producing 6000 of them per year, so in context with the regular Camry, that is exceedingly rare. The four-door layout is not ideal for collectibility, but tell that to the BMW M5. Lastly, the Camry TRD does score some points with the boy-racer rear wing and body kit on the flare side of things.
Of all the Toyota Camrys, it is probably the only one that stands a chance at becoming a future collectible. It is an answer to a question that no one asked, and despite being the very last car you think about when discussing sports sedans, it is not that bad. We like it, just because Toyota dared to make the Camry as un-Camry-like as it could.