The typical picture of the classic car is that of something without a roof, or with acres of chrome or perhaps something so luxurious it would make a Business Class flight on Emirates look like a journey on the number 59 bus. The typical picture, then, doesn’t include cars like the one we have chosen as this week’s project profile. Namely a 1988 Toyota Space Cruiser.
But is that not a bit short-sighted, to ignore such vehicles? This Space Cruiser is, after all, thirty-two years old. It’s surely earned its position as a classic, even if it is a bit obscure? We think it deserves some attention, if only because it’s a brilliant vehicle that offers Swiss Army Knife-like versatility. You can’t go on an adventure with the whole family in an MGB. You can’t camp at a classic car weekender in a Healey. But you can do both with a car like this Space Cruiser.
Then of course, as the icing on the cake you have the sheer reliability of the thing. This is a Toyota, so if you look after it, it will look after you in return. It’s a car that has been built by one of the world leaders in vehicular reliability, and who doesn’t want a bit of that. This Space Cruiser may not be fast, it may not be sexy, but it is fun and it is infinitely usable.
What is it?
What we have here is a 1988 Toyota Space Cruiser, otherwise known as Japan’s solution for moving many people at once. Able to seat seven in comfort, it’s the perfect car for the classic car fan with a large family. This needs some work, of course, but doesn’t seem to have fallen victim to the typical rust that can often plague them.
It’s not been on the road for few years (2017), and it has been a Category C write off in the past due to a light knock on one corner (but don’t fret, older cars are often classed as Cat C for minor, aesthetic damage because new parts are expensive by comparison to vehicle value). It’s running, driving and seems to be in decent condition.
Fitted with a 2.0 petrol engine and five-speed manual transmission, it’s cheap to run and cheaper still to maintain. Though given Toyota’s track record for reliability, it’ll probably only need servicing. Speaking of which, this Space Cruiser comes with loads of service history, including fully stamped service book, old MOTs and invoices for work.
Why is it a project?
It’s going to need a mechanical inspection first, as well as a complete top to bottom service. It’s a runner, but it’s not been on the road for over three years, so it’s a sensible course of action. The vendor states that there is ample history with the car though, so hopefully it won’t be hiding any nasty mechanical secrets.
There is some bodywork to tend to, a couple of rust spots here and there, but it is an old vehicle. However, there is a shot of the underside included in the listing and it makes for a pleasing sight – there seems to be no rust or serious corrosion to speak of.
Other than that, it’ll need a thorough clean, a bit of a systems check and if you want it to be perfect, it wouldn’t hurt to get the wheels refurbished. But from what we can see in the listing, that’s about it. This could be a perfect, easy winter project in readiness for next year’s shows.
Five things to look for:
In the one shot of the underside in the listing, there seems to be very little rot. However, get down and have a proper look, as these cars loved to corrode.
If you want to keep the innards of this Space Cruise original, you’ll need that blue interior to be in good condition. Used parts are available from Japan, but they’re going to be costly.
3) Cooling system
Cooling could be an issue for these, owing to the cab over design. Check the header tank, the condition of the radiator and make sure it settles into a good temperature when left idling.
It’s a runner, so have a listen for any noises, look for leaks, check the transmission functions as it should. Parts are easy to find, but labour can be costly due to the positioning of the engine and transmission.
Again, it all looks good in the pictures. However, there is a lot of it, so if there are any scratches or failing rubbers, you need to know first. It could be hard trying to find replacements.
What should you do with it?
You could simply get this on the road and use it as a cool, retro family hauler. Or, you could build the ultimate vehicle for car shows. Just think, if you go to a normal car show, it’s twenty quid for a burger, five quid for a brew. You can never find anywhere to sit, nowhere to have a rest after walking around all day. If you’re making a weekend of it, it means a tent. Or, you could take the rear seats out of this cool, old Space Cruiser and build the ultimate show vehicle. Little fridge, cooker, some storage, a fold out bed. It could be a mobile palace. Dream big!