Ace Race: The Toyota Space Cruiser Was No Oddity

Major Waffle 80s cars Toyota
A Toyota Space Cruiser is going under the hammer at the forthcoming Barons Autumn Classic sale. The pioneering people carrier is a PetrolBlog favourite.

It's been hiding in plain sight for the best part of four decades. I've only just noticed that Toyota used one letter ‘C’ to create the badge for the Space Cruiser.

That in itself isn't a reason to create a blog post on Toyota's van-based people carrier. However, the fact that there's one for sale most certainly is. A 1988 Space Cruiser is going under the hammer at the forthcoming Barons Autumn Classic sale at Sandown Park. That said, the auction could be a victim of the new lockdown measures announced on Saturday.

For now, let us revel in what is a rare opportunity to buy a Toyota Space Cruiser. Launched in 1983, this was Toyota's first people carrier. It arrived when the ‘minivan’ or MPV was in its infancy, hitting the market around the same time as the Mitsubishi Space Wagon and Nissan Prairie.

Join the Caravan

Toyota Space Cruiser

Meanwhile, in the US, Chrysler was forging its own path with the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan. On the other side of the Atlantic, Renault was readying the Espace. Families had never had it so good.

Until the mid-80s, parents in search of a seven-seater were restricted to van-based people carriers, minibuses or estate cars with flip-up rear seats. The Space Cruiser may have been a Hi-Ace van underneath, but to families accustomed to crowbarring teenagers into the third row of an Austin Montego estate, it must have been otherworldly.

It had a sliding rear door, so Dad could hang out of the side, cigar in mouth, mumbling something about loving it when a plan comes together. Mums loved the pair of sunroofs, so they could gaze into space thinking about what Russell Grant had predicted for them in that day's Daily Mail. The kids loved the fact that eight seats meant they could take their mates along to the Wimpy bar for a Bender in a Bun.

Take Me Down to Toyota City

1988 Toyota Space Cruiser for sale

If the Renault Espace had styling inspired by the French TGV, the Toyota Space Cruiser could pass as a four-wheeled Bullet Train. You could even fold the rear seats to create a huge double bed. Still want that overnight sleeper train to Toyota City?

The 1988 example being auctioned at the Barons Autumn Classic sale doesn't have an MOT. Indeed, it hasn't been on the road since 2017. “It starts and drives well, but will of course need some re-commissioning,” says the auction catalogue. All of which means the £2,000 to £3,000 guide price could be a tad optimistic.

On the plus side, it's powered by the later 2.0-litre engine, rather than the weedy 1.8-litre unit. Not that you'll be racing to Tammy Girl, FADS or Dewhurst before your neighbours in a CX, 507 or Montego. A 0-60mph time of 16.1 seconds makes a mockery of Barons' headline misprint. This certainly isn't a ‘Pace Cruiser’.

Cooler Than a Caravelle?

Toyota Space Cruiser interior

In 1990, the Space Cruiser made way for the Toyota Previa. By then, cars built from the ground up to serve as people carriers had cornered the market, before being forced to make way for the public's obsession with SUVs.

Whether you'd be happy to ferry your children to school in a Space Cruiser is up for debate. That it deserves its place in the people carrier hall of fame is in no doubt. Come for the retro styling, stay for the rear-wheel drive handling, practical interior and, in some cases, the flash four-spoke alloy wheels from a Supra. Just watch for rust, the terrible ride quality and absence of safety credentials.

Not a fan of the Barons auction Space Cruiser? There's another one for sale on eBay. Cooler than a Volkswagen Caravelle, right?

Otherworldly words