Life lessons from a 1995 Toyota Camry

A lesson in growth, humility, and dependability — brought to you by this absolutely pristine third-gen Camry
A lesson in growth, humility, and dependability — brought to you by this absolutely pristine third-gen Camry

by Ben So and Nathan Leipsig | May 3, 2024


Nostalgia is a helluva drug. We have all heard this saying before, but for my dear friend Chris, taking a trip down memory lane with this pristine 1995 Toyota Camry was one helluva dose. To my surprise, this trip turned out not only be a tribute — she grew up with a similar Camry, having spent over two decades with one since her early childhood — but also an opportunity to see how something as simple as a car helped her become the person she is today.

The idea came about through a casual conversation, when Chris told me her family always had a Camry. This was hardly a surprise, not just because these cars are staples in Asian culture, but also because her upbringing seems to fit what Toyota as a brand represents. She grew up in a faithful and humble family in Scarborough, Ontario, mastering the art of “repair, reuse, recycle, and not replace” through her father, who always led by example.

Then she mentioned she grew up with a 1995 Toyota Camry. She regretted not saying goodbye to it when it was finally time to retire it after 25 years of faithful service, so I did what I had to: I borrowed this pristine, nearly identical example — the biggest difference being the colour — so that I could take my friend on a special adventure to close off that chapter in her life.

Four days before this journey, I revealed my plans. She was instantly emotional, and told me she was glad to get a heads up to prepare for this trip. And boy, was Chris ever prepared, meeting the Camry and I on her driveway dressed in prime 1990s fashion — at least I think she did, unless olive-and-beige are cool again; I do not actually know. She looked around the Camry, pointed out that her family’s Camry did not have a spoiler like this one, but the rest of it was exactly how she remembered.

Chris kept her emotions surprisingly in check as we settled into the Camry. She chose to ride shotgun because her fondest memories are the days she spent riding beside her father. She told me how everything inside felt so familiar, from the door lever to the window switches and door locks; from the shift lever to the air vents; from the way she would find her father’s paperwork all over to how the fonts on the radio buttons all but faded away. We connected Chris’ phone using a cassette-to-AUX adapter and queued up a Spotify playlist she specifically curated for this ride. With 98 Degrees telling me over the speakers about the hardest thing they ever had to do, we set off to hit up some of her favourite spots around her old neighbourhood.

To me, there is really not much to talk about behind the Camry’s steering wheel. Yes, the V6 is strong and creamy-smooth even today, the steering is not completely devoid of feel like modern cars, and the ride is as compliant as ever, but there is simply nothing inspiring about this Camry’s driving dynamics, not that it was ever meant to be. One thing did stick out to me was the absence of rattles or clunks, which is remarkable for a near-30-year-old car that has seen over 175,000 kilometres. This speaks volume to Toyota’s build quality, as well as how immaculate the previous owners have kept this car.

Chris was enchanted by all of this. As we cruised through her hometown of Scarborough, just outside of Toronto, she described every landmark we passed and how they related to her childhood. She pointed out the church, restaurants, and piano lessons her parents would take her to in their Camry. She remembered the rides she took with her childhood friends to the mall. She even told me about that one time she got into a different family’s Camry at the pick-up line at school, because these cars used to be everywhere. Throughout our drive, we relived these memories, shared parts of our lives that were somehow intertwined and led us to eventually crossing paths, and above all, understood how something simple as an old Toyota Camry could feel so special.

Our ride was simultaneously a farewell to an old car Chris never saw again, a flashback from a bygone era, and a self-guided tour of all the things that shaped her. It was a reflection of the guiding principles that influenced Chris in how she conducts herself today through various facets of life, like staying humble, being dependable, keeping things around past an artificially set expiration date, and resisting the temptations of instant gratification. Chris’ parting words perfectly summed up our drive in this 1995 Toyota Camry: “I was able to keep it together because I remember not a single bad thing. Everything that ran through my mind was beautiful, perfect, and complete, which is probably how I see most things in life through the rear-view mirror.”


Vehicle Specs
Midsize sedan
Engine Size
3.0L V6
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
The Podcast

About Ben So


Ben has been living and breathing car magazines, spec sheets, and touring auto shows for his entire life. As proud member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada, he keeps a close eye on the latest-and-greatest in the auto industry. When he isn't geeking out about the coolest new cars, he's probably heading to the next hidden-gem ice cream shop with his three quickly growing kids.

Current Toys: '97 Integra Type R, '07 LS 460 RWD, '08 Corvette Z06, '13 JX35 Tech