Car Show Classics: Toyota Australia – Marking The End Of An Era, Part 3

Welcome to the third part of the tour through the Toyota Club show, and Toyota Australia’s history – things are about to get boxy, as this Corolla wagon illustrates!

As always the new generation Corolla debuted in Japan earlier, but the KE70 was first sold in Australia in October 1981.  They presented quite the contrast from the previous generation.  Note I don’t think the quad round headlight grille was sold here, note that reader nlpnt stated the rectangular headlights featured on the final 1981 year were not used in Japan, and it is hard to see such a backwards move.  Incidentally the sedan at the right of shot has a rotary engine, and a hole in the bonnet for the unnecessarily-tall air cleaner!

As one of the last rear-drive small cars, this generation has been embraced by enthusiasts.  Celica wheels and JDM mirrors (as well as the original mounting holes on the door) weren’t standard on Corolla wagons, which were not typically bought by enthusiasts when new!  This one was quite unusual though, because it hadn’t been slammed on the deck, rather the reverse.


An unusual Corolla is this high-roof wagon, which in Japan would have been sold as a van.  Need I say this isn’t how it came from the factory?

As a contrast this 1984 Corolla sedan appears to be exactly how it came from the factory!  Well perhaps if it had the alloy wheel option box ticked.  The front of the October 1983 facelift can be seen in the final photo of the first installment of this series.

Despite the 86 number on the registration plate which is from the AE86 chassis code, this seems to be a 1983 model Sprinter coupe.  These were imported and sold in Australia from July 1983 through to 1985.  It would have seemed like they were just as often seen on the race track as the road, as a staple of the new Group A 1600 cc class.

The sleek styling, hatchback and conventional mechanicals made for a surprisingly practical package, and one that has always been desirable.

While regulations allowed, Japanese market versions such as this Levin were imported privately.  Or perhaps it is ‘just’ another grille and headlight swap?  The import requirements have changed over the years, and it used to be easier.

Some of these versions featured the famous 4A-GE engine, the twin-cam 16-valve engine that also powered the Formula Atlantic open wheel racing cars.  It had a comparatively wide angle of 50° between the intake and exhaust valves for optimum air flow and the highest power output; much wider than later ‘mainstream’ twin-cam Toyota fours.

This Trueno coupe, which has pop-up headlights instead of the fixed lights of the Levin/Sprinter, is definitely a private or grey-market import.  Only the liftback Sprinter was imported by Toyota, but apparently you could get either front end with either rear end (notch like this or liftback).

The last rear-wheel drive Corolla I’ll show is this modified one.  The Australian Simmons-brand wheels are I’m guessing 17″, but neither those nor the rear spoiler are the big item here.

A turbocharged inline Toyota six has been crammed under the bonnet!  Note the radiator support panel has been changed to make room for the extra length (in front of the axle line…).  There has been plenty of work done here.

The sole 1980’s T140 Corona present was this 1985 or 86 sedan; as with the Corolla, these had a longer life in Australia than Japan and North America.  The first Camry was sold here from 1983 as a hatchback only, but in limited numbers only until the following generation went into local production to replace the Corona in 1987.

The same era A60 Celica also had some pretty sharp edges on its styling.  There are some similarities with the Sprinter coupe.

There were some pretty nice A60 Celicas at the show, but only the fastback version.  Note the 1990-ish T180 generation Celica in the photo too.

The interior of these was a nice simple 1980’s design.  Note the effects of, and defences from, the Australian sun; it has survived extremely well!

Here is the first of a pair of A60 Supras, which were a Celica with an extended nose to fit a straight six engine.  All of the Australian cars had the wheel arch flares, rear spoiler and digital instrument cluster.

Both look pretty standard, and why not – they were a pretty decent device as standard.  I’d have to say they have always been one of my favourite Toyotas too.

The 1982-84 MX63 Cressida on the left is an Australian market car but the headlights on what looks like a MX73 don’t look familiar with the quad setup behind single lenses.

To round off the early 80s it is probably fitting to feature this 4Runner, which was one of the early recreational Japanese 4×4’s.  It has a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder, 5-speed transmission, dual-range transfer case and live front axle – some pretty decent off-road hardware.

It is pretty rare to see one of these first generation examples, especially taking advantage of the ability to remove rear section of roof!  I’m not quite sure about the design of the roll bar, which seems to have a built-in fold point at the join of the rear brace.

Here is the interior which features about 15 shades of blue as the plastics fade at different rates – it must have seen more sun than the Celica above.  It also has a binnacle with an altimeter, and tilt/ gauges that were essential in any proper 1980’s 4×4 although we seem to have survived ok without them since then!

Now let’s take a deep breath and delve into the front wheel drive era, starting with these AE82 Corollas.  Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, considering the small percentage originally sold, all of the ones present were the twin-cam 16-valve version; that 4A-GE engine again!

Some take things a bit further, like this track-ready example with roll cage and the other required safety equipment.   Not a bad option, as you could readily explore the limits of grip in comparative safety compared to a ‘fast’ car.

The fwd transition didn’t see the end of the Corolla’s racing career, although Group A touring car racing had the FX GT 2-door hatch homologated.  Because Group A was an international category they weren’t required to be sold in Australia (neither were the Ford Mustang or Sierra that also raced in Group A, for example).  Apart from the Sprinter, all Corollas sold here in the 80’s had four doors.

There were actually a pair of FX GT’s present, and both had taken a ride on the boat over from Tasmania.  The island state has a population of about 520,000, so what do you think the chances are that the owners know each other?

Another application of the 4A-GE was in the MR-2 sports car.  This was a pretty interesting car, featuring running gear from the Corolla in a mid-engined layout; ostensibly MR-2 stands for Midship Runabout 2-seater.

We didn’t get the very first MR-2’s here, as they only went on sale in October 1987.  Only 930 were sold originally, as hardtop or targa roof, but I expect they have been supplemented by grey imports.  There were 3 of these at the show.

Staying with sports cars, this was the only ST162 Celica at the show, the first of the front-wheel drive models.  At the time this was seen as a significant improvement on the previous car, with much better handling than what was by then a fairly outdated Corona-based platform.

That change also affected the MA70 generation Supra which was released in Australia in March 1986.  The switch from the Celica base to a unique platform was surely a significant factor in the price going from AUD$28,500 up to $50k!  Then the Turbo was nearly $60k.

This car perhaps wasn’t as well-received as it might have been, as it was fairly heavy, but I’m sure you will be surprised to learn that it was actually slightly smaller than the previous model!  It looks like it is larger, to me at least.

Again there were many more versions sold in Japan, many of which have found their way here as grey imports.  This was much more common 10-20 years ago when the regulations allowed a lot more competition from importers, and you could get such a car much more cheaply than a local alternative; now there are more hoops to jump through that have seen many get out of the business.

The MX83 model of 1988-1993 was of course the final Cressida, and shared much with the Supra.  This 1989 Cressida probably shares a bit more again, as looks to be nicely improved, if your idea of improvement is to make it more of a driver’s car.

This 1991 Grande was the final, top of the line version – that has also been ‘upgraded’.  Still, given the nature of the car there will no doubt be quite a few lightly-used versions to come out of the woodwork.

As noted earlier, the first generation V10 Camry sold in tiny numbers thanks to costing 30% more than a comparable Corona, so it was no surprise that the next V20 generation which debuted in 1987 was the earliest representative.  I second-guessed including this car, not necessarily because it is damaged, but more because it is in a car show and needs a wash; if the organisers let it in, why shouldn’t I?  I assume not much needs to be said about this car, and I don’t think there was any significant difference in Australia apart the “oh what a feeling” marketing campaign of the era that was very effective.

To finish again with Corollas, the AE90 generation which sneaks into the 1980’s having been released in March 1989.  This was a decent evolution of the car, but with the rounded styling seemed smaller even though this wasn’t the case generally.  Toyota Australia was now in partnership with GM-Holden as the United Australian Automobile Industries (UAAI), which existed to facilitate model sharing that would rationalise the number of vehicles manufactured in Australia and thus improve volumes, so this Corolla was also sold as the Holden Nova.  As with the previous generation, only the hot 4A-GE-powered Corollas (which incidentally were not shared with Holden) were represented at the show, starting with this hatchback version.

There were a pair of almost identical white Seca liftback models, which shared the sheetmetal with the wagon, apart from the (returning for this generation) wagon’s bonnet being raised in the centre to accommodate the taller grille.  The hatch and sedan also shared front styling.  All variants had the same 2430mm wheelbase, so the hatch vs liftback gave you the option to prioritise ease of parking versus luggage space.  Holden didn’t get the Seca liftback or wagon bodystyles either.

I will finish for now with the tail end of this 1993 SX model, which shows the rear styling of the Seca liftback.  This was shared with the Geo Prizm, and has different wheels from the earlier cars.  25 years ago one of my friends wanted to buy a Seca SX like this, but was quoted a wait of so many months that he settled for a CS-X which was the top of the line version with the ‘narrow angle’ (22.5°) 4A-FE engine that had only 75kW/100hp instead of the SX’s 100kW/134hp.  Note the tow bar, not an uncommon sight on Australian cars that live in country areas or even the suburbs where you might need to haul a load of garden waste or similar to the rubbish tip at a minimum.

Next week I will cover the more recent cars at the show, where the Australian market specific cars involve more than just being released and built later than in Japan!


Further Reading:

Toyota Australia – Marking The End Of An Era, Part 1

Toyota Australia – Marking The End Of An Era, Part 2