The wagons featured yesterday were a little rough for wear. As packhorses for young travelers, they were likely bought cheap and rode hard, and one of them was even loaded with junk. Compare and contrast with this: a 1979-83 Toyota Corona wagon that is so pristine, it could have just rolled off a showroom floor.
What kind of person keeps the cargo area of a wagon in such concours condition? I’m no slob, but even my car has a couple of water bottles strewn in the cabin, and maybe a receipt or gym towel rolling around in the trunk. This Corona owner either just had their car detailed or they simply never made a mess.
Toyota Australia manufactured sedan and wagon Coronas of this T130 generation from 1979 until 1983. They also imported some highly-specified sedan and liftback models. Buyers would have been wise to pony up the extra dough for the imported models, as they featured a Japanese 2.0 four-cylinder.
What did Australian-built Coronas receive? An Australian-engineered 1.9 four-cylinder engine borrowed from Holden to help keep local content levels up. This engine, dubbed the Starfire, was Holden’s quick-fix at offering a four-cylinder engine and was effectively their 173 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine less two of said cylinders. Offered in early Holden Commodores, the low-tech, pushrod four was a dud as its lousy performance negated any of the fuel economy benefits of buying a four-cylinder Commodore. Consequently, it was dumped after a few years of slow sales.
In the Corona, the Starfire engine mustered 77 hp and 100 ft-lbs. The Toyota’s chief rivals in Australia were the Chrysler (later Mitsubishi) Sigma and Datsun/Nissan Bluebird, similarly conservative, rear-wheel-drive sedans and wagons, available with similarly-sized engines. And they wiped the floor with the Corona, performance-wise: Modern Motor’s 1982 comparison test of the three (and the new Holden Camira) saw the Corona noisily reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 17.65 seconds, 2-4 seconds slower than its rivals.
One could argue that high performance thrills were the last thing on a Corona owner’s mind, and you would be right. However, Mitsubishi and Nissan offered similar levels of reliability, fuel economy quality and size at equivalent prices. The Toyota may have been quieter (when not at full throttle) and with a softer ride, but it didn’t offer many other benefits. As for that Modern Motor comparison test, the Camira trounced all three by a significant margin, although in all fairness the Corona was one year away from being replaced.
Even by the end of the T130’s run, the Corona was still a solid top 10 seller in Australia. But the Sigma and Bluebird were proving to be tough competition: in 1982, the Sigma sold 42,210 units, the Bluebird 34,048 and the Corona 19,000. That sales order reflected their respective positions in 1979. It didn’t make the T130 Corona a sales dud, but it must have riled Toyota, especially considering they lumped Celica sales figures in with the Corona. Still, there would be another generation of dull, rear-wheel-drive Corona sold in Australia.
Five years ago, I would not have bothered photographing a Corona. Ten years before that, I would have laughed at the mere thought of photographing one. Even today, there are still quite a few of these dotted around the countryside in great condition, driven by elderly folk who have taken great care of them, while the more popular Sigma seems to have disappeared. Frankly, these Coronas are some of the dullest cars ever made, but when you see one in such amazing condition (again, look at that cargo area!) you simply must take notice.