June 16, 2024
SUVs & Crossovers

Hidden Treasure: 1996 Toyota RAV4 Uncovered in Junkyard

The Toyota RAV4 was first introduced in Japan in the spring of 1994, but it wasn’t until early 1996 that the United States got its first taste of this popular SUV. Since then, the RAV4 has consistently been a top seller in the U.S., with over 7 million units sold to American car buyers over the past 28 years. Today, we’re taking a closer look at one of the very first RAV4s to arrive on American shores.

During my explorations of car graveyard history, I’ve come across several automotive milestones, including one of the first Toyota Camrys in the U.S. and now, this early RAV4. In Colorado boneyards, I’ve also found rare gems like one of the first Mitsubishi-badged pickups and Honda Civic del Sols.

By the mid-1990s, the American market was shifting towards SUVs like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer. Toyota’s answer was the RAV4, a small unibody SUV that offered a comfortable ride and car-like fuel economy, appealing to a wide range of American buyers.

The original RAV4 was developed on a chassis borrowed from the Corolla and the Carina, offering versatility with two or four doors and front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive options.

The RAV4 acronym stands for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel-drive, emphasizing its versatility and adaptability for various driving conditions. This particular model features front-wheel-drive and four doors, making it more suitable for daily commuting than off-road adventures.

Manufactured in Aichi Prefecture in May 1996, this RAV4 was designated as a “49-state” car, not approved for new sale in California.

Under the hood, this RAV4 is equipped with a 2.0-liter DOHC 3S-FE straight-four engine, delivering 120 horsepower.

The base transmission for the early RAV4 models was a five-speed manual, emphasizing a more engaging driving experience. Later iterations switched to automatic transmissions, catering to a broader audience of drivers seeking convenience.

Despite its compact size, the 1996 RAV4 four-door model weighed in at 2,778 pounds, offering a nimble and agile driving experience.

This particular RAV4 has clocked over 175,000 miles during its lifetime, a respectable figure but not quite as impressive as some other high-mileage Toyota models I’ve come across in junkyards.

One of the RAV4’s unique features is its history as one of the first production EVs in the U.S. The RAV4 EV was sold alongside the GM EV1 from 1997 to 2003, showcasing Toyota’s commitment to electric vehicle technology.

Looking for a unique SUV that stands out from the crowd? Consider the early model Toyota RAV4 for a blend of versatility, reliability, and historical significance.

Toyota’s dedication to quality engineering is evident in vehicles like the RAV4, showcasing a commitment to longevity and dependability.

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