CC Capsule: 1968 Toyota Corona 1600S Hardtop Coupe – The ‘Cool’ Corona

Photos by Simón Varela.

I know what most of you are thinking, there’s no such thing as a ‘cool’ Corona. Particularly, when speaking of the somewhat frumpy third generation. But it all comes down to perspective. In nations without stylish Rivieras, Thunderbirds, or Monte Carlos, the hardtop coupe version of the Corona was a swanky and stylish statement. Look, even Falcons were eventually adopted by hipsters. So, why shouldn’t I think of a hardtop Corona as ‘cool’?

The owner of this one found in San Salvador certainly considers it so. He’s held on to it since new; a literal ‘car of a lifetime’ that belongs to a ‘Toyota family,’ and about which I have known for some time. Their collection includes two old Publica pickups, and this one Corona hardtop coupe. The vehicles stuff the house’s garage and are visible through heavy gates, but they’re impossible to shoot properly while locked.

Someday, I had hoped I would come across this one in the open.

I didn’t. Instead, one of my operatives (a good friend, actually), found it and captured it while talking to the owner who had just finished washing it. And considering the embellishments locals do with cars, this one has remained fairly intact throughout all these years.

That said, it’s got the usual bits of missing cosmetics replaced by dubious aftermarket products. But that’s forgivable; original trim is incredibly hard to find in this city once lost.

As noted at CC before, this generation of Corona marked the beginning of Toyota’s ascendance. While being accessible family cars, Toyota made an effort to offer an ‘upscale’ feel that customers sensed and gravitated to. In basic terms, shoppers felt they were getting a good deal when buying one. That the cars turned out to be reliable only cemented a loyalty that remained for years to come.

The 4-door sedans were the most common Coronas, with the hardtops being a bit more exotic. As the owner of this one mentioned, only 10 hardtop coupes a year came to El Salvador and they were thought of as rather exclusive. This one also happens to be a 1600 S, which carried Toyota’s 1.6L 9R engine. A mill that offered pretty good power for an economy car at the time. (In the US, the Corona coupe carried Toyota’s 1.9L engine, which suited American conditions better).

Indeed, in this early stage of Toyota’s international foray, some of their cars were considered reasonably lively. Not Alfa Romeo or Fiat-like, but if pushed, decent enough for the times. A pretty hot version of the hardtop coupe was available as well in Japan, known as the Toyota 1600GT. It carried a DOHC engine jointly developed with Yamaha and it’s a chapter already covered by Tatra87 some time ago.

Let’s now take a look at the interior of our 1600 S. There are obviously some homespun solutions in here, but overall not too shabby. Could have been a lot worse (believe me).

Am I being just provocative by calling this one ‘cool’? Would I stoop that low?

I remember seeing these Coronas fairly often during my childhood and thinking of them as frumpy and outdated. A feeling that remained unchanged for years. At some point, during my college days (hipster time!), I saw one in California and it suddenly struck me: “That car… is so uncool that… I want one!”

And a hardtop coupe would be just the kind of uncool that I think would be really cool to own.


Further reading:

Curbside Classic: 1969 Toyota Corona – It All Started Here

Vintage R&T Test: 1967 Toyota Corona Coupe 

Curbside Classic: 1968 Toyota 1600 GT-5 – Corona Con Tequila