Toyota threw its hat in the increasingly popular minivan ring in 1984. Oddly, the their first minivan didn't have an official name, but was often referred to as the "Toyota Cargo Van." It was developed around the Toyota SR-5 pickup truck engine and chassis. Toyota continued to make the Cargo Van through 1989, when it was replaced by the Toyota Previa for 1990.
A Unique Adaptation
As Chrysler, Ford and GM were having great commercial success in the U.S. with their minivans, the fastest and perhaps most cost-effective way to compete for a piece of this growing market was to adapt their highly successful and well-proven SR5 pickup truck platform. While the 1988 Toyota Van is a mid-engined van, it's not intentional. It's a clever adaptation. The Van's box-body was wrapped around the SR5, putting the driver's and passenger's seat directly on top of the engine bay. This adaptation creates a number of unique features, such as flipping the driver's seat up to check the oil.
Because the engine and chassis of the 1988 Toyota Cargo Van come from an SR5 Toyota pickup truck, all the fundamental specifications are the same. The base model 2.0-liter, 22R engine is an inline-four, four-cylinder, water-cooled four-stroke. With a bore of 92 mm, a stroke of 89 mm and a compression ratio of 9.3:1, it made a modest 96 horsepower at 4,800 rpm.
In 1988, the Toyota "Cargo Van" came in three models: DLX, LE and LE 4x4. Each model was available with additional factory upgrades. Upgrades included electronic door-locks, power windows, power seats, sunroof, air conditioning and automatic transmission. A coveted model is the LE 4x4, as it was one of very few lightweight, 4x4 vans ever manufactured.
With its boxy design and wedge-nose, the Toyota Cargo Van was received as being unusual and has since developed a modest cult following. The engine and chassis are among the most dependable engines made -- by any motor company. The additional drag of the Van's poor aerodynamics pushed the limits of its modest power-plant, but it was adequate with the five-speed transmission. However, it was underpowered for an automatic. Few vans have offered the fuel economy, longevity and utility of Toyota's first-generation minivans, including the 1988 model.
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