Car Show Classics: Toyota Australia – Marking The End Of An Era, Part 1

Back in August the Toyota Car Club had their annual display, with a special twist.  With the closure of the Altona North factory coming up (which occurred last Tuesday October 3), Toyota gave permission for the club to hold the show in one of the factory car parks for the first time.  There was a surprising variety of Toyotas on display, starting before even getting into the display area with this old-school cruiser style MS40 Crown, so come with me for a look around.

There has been a history of Japanese cars using Australia as a test market starting in with the Tiara, the first Toyota to be built outside Japan.  It was assembled by Australian Motor Industries in Port Melbourne in 1963, alongside Standard Vanguards and Triumph Heralds.  This made sense because Australia was not only right-hand drive, it was an established market that was relatively small and therefore a bit more manageable.

Starting with the Tiara’s replacement (only 1,685 of those were built here so I expect they are a bit thin on the ground), there were a couple of shovel-nose T40 Coronas at the show, albeit rare varieties!  The alloy wheels here aren’t original, but look like they are from an early 80s Corona.

The coupe had a twin cam engine, which was available from 1967 in the RT55 1600GT version, and it looks like this is the original 9R engine which had a cylinder head inspired by the Yamaha-sourced 2000GT engine.

The other Corona was this 1968 ute – it is Australia after all!  Actually these are very rare, having sold when Toyota was in its infancy in this country.  They had a 500kg (1100lb) load capacity – and there was another alternative that we will see later.

The other cars of the era were the first generation KE10 Corollas (1966-70), built in Australia from 1968, with 4 present.  They all had some minor modifications, including replacing the original mirrors with JDM-style fender mounted mirrors and what I assume are some pretty rare period alloys.

This one is more stock, although I am not sure how many Corollas would have had white walls originally.  The mirror isn’t stock either – the original mounting holes are evident.

There was also a Sprinter coupe version (KE15), which would have to be fairly collectible at this point.  Originally they cost $500 more than the base AUD$1,698 Corolla so I don’t think many would have been sold.  The third body style sold here was a 2-door wagon.

There were two second-gen (KE20) Corollas, which were still only built locally with 2 doors, one this rally car…

… and the other this very nice highly-modified version – which is fairly sacrilegious because it has a Nissan turbo engine!

There were a trio of third-generation S50 Crowns from the late 60s, starting with this ute version.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the version that was originally a small percentage of sales is almost as common nowadays as the sedans.

This generation Crown was the only one with a ute variant, and the first S50 Crown had a very distinctive appearance with the head lights extending higher than the grille.

A coupe also debuted with this generation, with the rectangular headlights here indicating a 1967 or 68 model.  The styling was pretty sleek with the new roofline.

Based on the registration number this one is be a late 1971 model, the last of the S50 generation.

The Crowns had SOHC straight-six engines until the 1980s, starting at 2 litres and gradually being increased to 2.3 and 2.6-litres.

To finish up with a couple of the less common 1960s Toyotas, one that I haven’t seen for years was this first generation 1968 RN10 Hilux pickup, that Toyota inherited when they took over Hino.  This is typical of Japanese pickups of the era; despite having only a 1.5L four (1.9L in North America), it had the gearing and overall strength for a 1-ton payload rating.  Obviously it is much more utilitarian than the Corona ute shown earlier.

You weren’t going places fast, but it was a reliable and economical workhorse, and that was probably more important for most people who bought them.  My uncle had a Stout in north Queensland for years.  One interesting point is I spoke to a guy who ran mini tractor-pullers years ago, which run automotive drivetrains with a 750kg total weight limit; he told me that Toyota Stout diffs were very popular, and actually harder to break than a Ford 9”. (Edit: I originally mistook this for an earlier Stout rather than a Hilux)

The other rarity was an 800 Sports; one of the most unique Toyotas produced as it has an air-cooled flat twin engine, and rear wheel drive.

The styling is compromised slightly because it is hard to translate into such a small car – compare it to the 2000GT – but it is certainly interesting.  Note that the car has an aluminium lift-out targa roof panel; shades of Fast & the Furious?

Here is the engine, which has twin carburettors – note the distributor with only 3 leads attached!

I’ll break for now with this shot of the first Corolla and the last model rear-wheel drive wagon, from 1984.  Next time, the later 1970s and 1980s cars.