CC Capsule: 1970s Toyota Survivors in Baghdad — Proof of Concept

3 Toyota

Toyota rose to a leading position in the automobile industry by emphasizing quality and value above all else.  From the early utilitarian Land Cruisers that conquered developing country and off-roading markets, to the Corollas that have provided entry-level transportation to millions around on the world, to their larger and more up-market cars and trucks, Toyota offered vehicles that were reliable and durable, although often with less performance, style or technical innovation than the competition.  The many 1970s Toyota sedans in regular use in Iraq are proof of Toyota’s success at building cars that fulfilled that promise.  After four decades of use and abuse in extreme conditions, literally in a war zone not once but several times, these cars continue to provide everyday service to thousands of people.

4 Toyota

Contrary to an understandable assumption based on recent war news that Hi-Lux pickup trucks would be common in Iraq, sedans are the 1970s Toyotas commonly encountered in Iraq.  The urban middle class and taxi operators were the people in Iraq able to purchase automobiles during that decade, prior to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and the many ensuing wars that ended normal life in the country, and sedans were the vehicles that they needed.  The full range of Toyota sedans — the compact Corolla, midsize Corona, and top of the line Crown — arrived during the 1970s, and large numbers have survived the past four decades.  Many are taxis with the orange and white color scheme traditionally used for taxis in Iraq, such as the 1979-83 Crown in the first photograph.  Many others are in private use providing family transportation, such as this 1973-79 Corona.

The Corona is parked in front of a wrecked building that resembles Pixar’s garbage-compacting robot WALL-E, but it is unlikely to end up in a crusher any time soon.  With its robust and easily repaired drivetrain, and in Iraq’s dry and rust-free climate, its lifespan should be limited only by possibly being wrecked in a crash or bombing.  These old Toyotas are likely to continue to have value in Iraq for many years to come, even with large numbers of new cars being imported, as the country has a young and growing population that will have a high demand for cars, new and old.

i177934, “Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers”

Toyotas from the 1970s with orange fenders (such as this 1974-75 Crown) and in ordinary colors have been fixtures in street scenes in Iraq since 2003, and they will continue to be seen in news coverage and documentary films for a long time.  Their absence is an inauthentic detail in Hollywood films such as “American Sniper,” shot in Morocco with locally available older cars that were predominantly Renaults.  Even with new cars from many countries and manufacturers being imported into Iraq in large numbers now, their primary replacements may end up being more recent old Toyotas, as Crowns from the 1980s and 1990s recently imported by Iraqi dealers from other Middle Eastern countries and from East Asia are popular as taxis and family sedans — and as the vehicle of choice for assassins and thugs needing a reliable but inexpensive car with interior space for henchmen and trunk space for bodies, according to one reporter.


Auto enthusiasm/car craziness being present in all nations and cultures, at least one 1970s Toyota in Iraq has become a “restomod” of sorts.  This 1971 Crown sedan was recently listed for sale in Iraq.  With the top of the range 2.5 liter straight six and automatic, it had an interesting white and red paint scheme (complete with crowns) that was definitely not the usual taxicab white and orange.  You can criticize its custom paint, rear wing, cheeky rear window slogan, and imperfect lower body, but I could see myself creating and driving something like this car if I were a young man with a 45 year old Toyota and a desire to go cruise after watching everything around me getting destroyed for most of my life.


The 1970s Toyotas of Iraq are now surrounded by large numbers of shiny and powerful new cars such as BMWs and Dodge Chargers, as seen in this photograph, but the owners of these Toyotas have good reason to proclaim their cars to be Number One, or to give another sort of one-fingered hand gesture to the drivers of newer cars (the resolution is insufficient to say for certain which gesture the driver is making in this photo).  They have survived the test of time in exceptionally harsh conditions.  Their ongoing survival is a testament to the things that Toyota did well during its rise in the 1960s and 1970s to earn the position that it occupies today.