Junkyard Treasure: 1991 Toyota Previa All-Trac with 5-speed manual transmission

One of the rarest of all minivans: a Toyota Previa with all-wheel-drive and a manual transmission.

Access to the mid-mounted engine, a straight-four lying on its side, happens via a hatch beneath the front seats.

The All-Trac Previas were fairly popular in Colorado.

All-Trac was Toyota’s first true all-wheel-drive system.

Sold in Boulder, will be crushed 30 miles away in Denver.

The Previa All-Trac had a solid rear axle assembly.

There’s a bit of rust, but nothing too bad.

The 5-speed must have made this 300k-mile van a tough sell.

The supercharged engine didn’t go into the Previa until a few years later.

Since the Toyota Previa, the mid-engined (and, in later models, supercharged) supercar of minivans, tended to stay alive for at least several hundreds of thousands of miles, I still see plenty of them while I’m exploring the automotive graveyards on my junkyard beat. Because I live in Colorado, where oddball four-wheel-drive versions of cars tend to sell well, I’ve even managed to find some of the rare all-wheel-drive All-Trac Previas. But what I hadn’t been able to find, prior to now, was an All-Trac Previa with a manual transmission. I knew that a few were sold here in 1991 and 1992, in theory, but the reality was that even a Plymouth Voyager minivan with three pedals is easier to find than a similarly equipped All-Trac Previa. Junkyard persistence paid off, as it usually does, and here’s that 5-speed Previa we’ve all dreamed about, found in a Denver self-service yard.

The Previa was too small and too Japanese to be a huge sales success in North America, but they tend to be prized by those who still have them now.

It’s not too difficult to find examples of the Previa’s predecessor, the Toyota Van (known as the TownAce in its homeland), with manual transmissions, and even rear-wheel-drive Previas with 5-speeds can be unearthed if you’re patient. This, though, may be even more of a unicorn than the Mercury Topaz AWD we saw last week.

This mileage figure is no big deal for a Previa.

I found two more Previas with better than 300,000 miles showing on their odometers, not far from today’s Junkyard Treasure, but they were automatics. One of them did have the supercharger, though (located on a hard-to-reach accessory unit called, appropriately enough, the SAD), and I’m always tempted to get another Previa blower to control with a Mad Max-style Cole-Hersee switch mounted on the gearshift in my Kustom Korona.

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