The Toyota Camry has long been one of the top choices for people looking for a nice, relatively big saloon car. Over the years, Toyota's midsize sedan has established a reputation for being, quiet, comfortable, and refined. However, it wasn't always the car we're all familiar with these days. 40 years ago, it was a different story.
While many of us grew up with the Corona was Toyota's mid-size sedan, the Camry has been around since 1980. The thing is, it wasn't supposed to be an executive saloon. Instead, Toyota marketed it as a sporty four-door. Dubbed the Celica Camry, and it's the polar opposite of the latest model.
The 1980 Celica Camry was rear-wheel drive and had a variety of engines available. Base models had a 1.6-liter, carbureted mill. Those who wanted more power could get a 1.8-liter with dual carburetors. A fuel-injected 1.8-liter soon followed, along with a new 2.0-liter engine. Then there was the GT 2000, which had twin-cams and electronic fuel injection. The GT 2000 had 135 PS at the front and it sent all of it to the rear, making it a proper sport sedan at the time.
Sadly, the Celica Camry had a very short production cycle as Toyota ended it in 1982. That year, Toyota had made the car front-wheel drive and changed its intended audience. Instead of being a sporty four-door, it became a plush, comfortable sedan.
However, changing the Camry's target market did wonders for Toyota. The second-generation Camry became a smash hit in the U.S. The third and fourth-generation models would push the car further upmarket. By the fifth-generation, it had established itself as an executive saloon worldwide.
The Camry of today is nothing like the first model. If Toyota kept the original formula, the modern version would, essentially, be a four-door GT86. On the other hand, if Toyota didn't turn it into a luxury car, the name Camry might not be around anymore.
Toyota has sold over 13 million units of the Camry worldwide, making it the best-selling mid-size sedan of all time. Knowing that, we think it's an awesome way to kick off the Camry's 40th birthday.