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1997 Toyota Sprinter Carib Z Touring Aero Sport Package RV Package

Two things:

1, yes the title is the entire given name of the car, I haven’t purposely made it long. It’s Japan, expect no less.

2, Yes I have a problem, I tried again to not buy a Toyota but it didn’t work and I’m now in that position again where I own a car on the other side of the planet.


It’s the 1.8, 4 speed auto, full time 4wd, as this will now be predominantly sharing the daily duties with the Blade but mostly during winter. Nothing drastically exciting here.

I’ll not write any more now because this is about all I know, the mystery is part of the excitement.

And yeah I definitely have a problem.


I fully support your habit. This is cool.


Boyz II Men approve this


Indeed, they did a couple of them before the 1997 facelift. This one is identical to the one in the later adverts and brochures.


Car is now sitting at the port waiting it’s turn for a boat ride. It’s looking well enough, expected worse from the inspection sheet so pleasantly surprised.


And hey, on the inspection sheet the first mark down was “Undercarriage rust,” but I took my chances anyway being 24 years old, and it was in a more southern part of Japan. Where’s the rust?!



That looks really clean and a really rare find, how much did it cost you?

The car itself was just the good side of 1400 quid. Not really a bargain in the grand scheme of it, that’s about what these go for. People who know will know what that’s gonna cost me to have on the road here, people that don’t will think I have a bargain. :sweat_smile:

Now, a bit of bollocks about the car for you all to read. Apologies if it makes no sense, it’s almost midnight. That said, welcome to my TED talk.

This was the last generation of the Sprinter Carib, the Corolla 4wd carried on with more basic AWD systems after this. The Carib started with what most places knew as the Tercel 4x4 and then Corolla 4x4/Corolla 4wd. The systems used in each changed over the years, I’ll do a quick list below:

Tercel 4x4: Part time selectable four wheel drive, old school style, no centre diff.
Corolla 4x4: Full time AWD with manual locking centre diff on manuals, or a hydraulic multi plate clutch locking centre diff on autos.
Sprinter Carib 1.8: Same as above, with a viscous coupling used to lock the centre diff on models with ABS.

Later Corollas did away with the centre diff, instead just using a fixed spinning shaft to the rear with a viscous coupling. That meant the cars were predominantly FWD, the slip in the front wheels would then heat the coupler up to send power to the back. Works well and is cheap, but has it’s own issues. Will cover later for those of you still reading.

For this here we will focus on the automatic 1.8 Carib, the last version of the auto system mentioned above. It was proper full-time AWD with a centre diff, with the power distribution varied/controlled by a hydraulically controlled multi plate clutch, up to a complete 50:50 lock depending on certain conditions. This launched in 1988, on an ecobox! I’ve nicked some diagrams to help the wall of text.


There were two versions of it, this one for the sub 2.0 cars, and one for the bigger stuff. Mostly similar but with a little bit more electronic control to make it smoother, that came out in the same year on the Camry and would go on to be fitted to things like the Mk1 RAV4.

For the last Carib here in it’s top spec with 1.8, the system fitted got a little bit more of these electronics to help it work with ABS. That’s the biggest reason I went for the auto, ABS. I like ABS, I feel like it’s the best electronic driver aid and it’s always there for when you don’t know you’ll need it.

The manual gearbox version with the fully manual locking centre diff was unavailable with ABS, and instead had a viscous coupling to lock the centre diff similar to the Celica GT4. While that’s a better system than just having a viscous coupler, I didn’t want to risk the coupling having aged and gone weak, meaning the centre diff would always be open.

The auto had some modifications so the ABS system could fire signals to the clutch solenoids, preventing it locking if the ABS needed to do it’s thing. Also from what I can tell some other modifcations were made to allow it to work with the then new electronic gearbox control, Toyota’s ECT-S. S is for Sport, which makes me laugh - means this thing has switchable Economy, manual and Power modes. You’re also able to disable the clutch entirely, for things like brake testing on rollers at MOT, towing etc.

The clutch pressure depends on a few measurements - current speed, gear, throttle opening, pressure generated from a difference in speed between axles etc. and has a few situations where it changes. For example, putting the shifter in L or R lock it up to get you out of the bad stuff, and over 100kph it unlocks completely.

It’s quite a compact nicely designed unit as you’d expect from Toyota, with the centre diffs and locking clutches all being built into the same unit up at the front.


So yeah, that’s a vaguely abridged version of what must have taken Toyota thousands of hours of development time, and why I went for what might seem like an old fashioned 4 speed auto. I’ve had bad experiences with older viscous coupling systems without the centre diff in the past (looking at you, Land Rover Freelander) and this seemed like something that’d still be pretty capable now, and if I was going AWD anyway I figured I might as well pick the fanciest one.

It’s main weakness is it would still fail a diagonal test, with one wheel at each end up and spinning, as it’s got no VSC or LSDs to help it out there. A popular mod in Russia to help with that though is to fit the rear LSD from a Celica GT4 - that might be on the list at some point but as I won’t be doing any serious offroad work, that likely won’t be needed.

The fact this thing was so ahead of it’s time in the late 80s probably explains why it went on to 2002, until costs took over and viscous coupling only systems with VSC started to take over, or the electrical clutch based stuff seen more recently. They all have advantages and the system in this Carib won’t win any awards for cost or efficiency, but it’s nice knowing it’s always there and ready. People still brag now about being able to vary the torque between the front and rear, albeit this is much simpler than modern systems.

Anyway, it’s now 1am here and if you’ve read with me this far about an obsolete Corolla AWD system - thanks, but what’s wrong with you? :grin:


Retrofitting the Celica GT4’s rear LSD might also be a good idea for track driving… Not that the Sprinter is likely to head out on a circuit, but I think this mod would work well with power upgrades, since the diff will more easily cope with the extra power it would receive.

This is a 110 model, right? I always have a hard time to tell the 100 and 110 model apart since not all 110 Corollas/Sprinters had the round headlight european front and since the production was overlapping for years depending on market. :flushed:

Yeah it’s the 110 series, this is the 115. They did do the euro version in Japan just to be more confusing, where they put a G6 front on the Sprinter estate, called it the Rosso but it was only available as a sort of mid spec deal.


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This has all rather ground to a halt because of a couple of things at this point.

Short version: Car is still sitting at the port in Japan.

Long version: Ships are rammed with delayed stuff from further up the chain, i.e China. Just as they were recovering from Covid delays, that whole thing with the Suez happened and things still ain’t back to normal, so the Sprinter keeps getting bumped. Can’t really be helped and it’s just the way it is, it’ll arrive when it arrives - it’s the exporter companies I feel bad for.

This means I’m expecting a combo of three things, it’s gonna be absolutely filthy (it already was), the battery is gonna be as much use as a chocolate fireguard, and the brakes are going to be totally, totally shagged.

It’s a bugger but not the end of the world, on the bright side gives me more to do when it does get here. That first blast with the pressure washer is going to provide maximum satisfaction, I know that much.


You know, saying things like this, combined with your avatar, makes it impossible to hear it in anything other than mr. Clarkson’s voice… :joy:

Don’t say that, people will be telling me to get a Youtube channel again.

I mean to be fair I did just buy a GoPro but it’s old and spares or repair so not really an intentional start. :sweat_smile:


Another month goes by and the car is still stuck in Japan for the same reasons as above, and I’ve not heard when it’s gonna be on a boat. Again, can’t be helped, just gonna have to wait this one out - poor bloody thing will think it’s been abandoned.

On a lighter note, I spend too long late at night browsing Yahoo auctions and I am now the proud owner of a promo, not for public sale Boyz II Men Carib promo release of Thank You.

Seriously man, this is the peak or tat car merchandise for me, and I once bought a CD with Duran Duran’s Rio on that came with the Rover Metro Rio.


Some updates:

Car achieved boat shortly after my last post, and is now not far away, just off the coast of Portugal right now with one more stop at Belgium before it hits the UK.

Pros: Car is nearly here
Cons: Paperwork time has begun

Oh, the Boyz II Men CD arrived too, along with some other bits I’ll stick in another post. (Spoiler: the accessories available for this car were nuts)

On a semi-related note, I was just having a quick browse of AskReddit, and came across these two threads:

I worry this car is the answer to both of those for me.

I also managed to acquire some proper, new old stock late 90s Toyota brake pads to fit this, as I’m expecting fronts to be completely knackered now after sitting. Discs are proving to be more difficult but it looks like I can use those from a Levin/Trueno instead, which are much more easily available.

Somewhat worried what is gonna turn up at my house in the next couple of weeks to be honest, as I still only have the pictures in the earlier post to see what this thing is going to turn up like, and they’re 5 months old and it was already going green back then!


It’s arrived.

I’m not going into mega details now because I’m half asleep, however:

    • It is pure 1990s distilled into a car.
    • The delivery driver broke the parking pole. Gutted. Repairs will come with time.
    • It was extremely dirty outside. I have done a decent wash and there’s still a lot of ground in dirt, but it is much improved.
    • The previous owner had one leg, or an issue with use of their right leg.
    • It looks like something happened that caused this to just go straight to auction with no prep. It contained odd things like CDs, some Lawson receipts, that sort of thing.
    • The bodywork has it’s marks, but it seems really well maintained mechanically. I don’t have a ton of history but can see it’s had Toyota servicing recently and was last done 2000 miles ago. Oil filter looks brand new, oil is clean, even the air filter is proper Denso and still totally white.
    • It’s got the strangest list of gadgets from the accessories brochure I didn’t expect. It has a single parking sensor (apparently that was a thing), automatic side and headlights, sat nav/TV, CD and cassette and automatic footwell lights that are in the same green as the dash and gauges. Seriously, when you get in at night with that green glow everywhere it is just pure 1990s Japanese car ambiance.
    • Someone has stolen the horns.

Immediate things to do are further cleaning outside, the interior is pretty immaculate other than the driver’s floor mat, which came up pretty decent with the Vax.

The engine mounts have seen better days as there’s some pretty decent idle vibration and they’re obviously a little cracked when you look at them, the stereo screen needs an attempted repair or replacement, front brakes are not brilliant and it needs rear foglights fitted for MOT. It will also need a cambelt sometime soon as even though it was only done about 6500 miles ago - that was in 2012. The petrol in it also smells extremely terrible, but I think that’s from 2017 so no surprises there.

Otherwise, all seems sound enough for a 24 year old car bought nearly blind. Only time will tell there I guess once it’s on the road and in use.


Glad to see it’s finally arrived. Hope you have a lot of fun with it and can’t wait to see what you intend to do with it, whether that be taking it to car meets, or modifying it.


I had a productive dinner break.

Can confirm these do in fact sound superior. I should have hidden the ground wires underneath but pff, they’ll do for MOT.


MOT pass achieved, no advisories which I was really impressed with considering the age and what little work I did to it to prepare.

Now the DVLA paperwork waiting game begins.


See you next year, then