Here’s a face that didn’t make it Stateside; the round-eyed 1978-80 Starlet. And while the square-headlight ’81-’84 model had a pleasant enough face, wasn’t this just friendlier looking?
What a few facial details can do (Image from animeoutline.com). Details do matter to humans however tiny they may be, particularly in regards of faces. We’re indeed genetically attuned to those; a slightly raised eyebrow, a vaguely slanted smirk, eyelids in open or squinting form, each a detail that reveals whether we’re about to be praised or smacked. In fact, our own survival can depend on such fine points.
Not that life-threatening matters are at play with the 1978 Starlet, regardless of round or square-eyed face. And on this guise, the model’s visage brings a family resemblance to the rather swanky Corolla TE52 Liftback.
To briefly recap; launched in 1973, the Starlet was an optioned-out variant of the subcompact Publica P30, quickly finding better acceptance in Japan’s marketplace. With numbers in its favor, the 1978 P60 Starlet took over the Publica nameplate, delivering options the segment had been asking for: a liftback gate in either 3 or 5 doors, with an extended 5 door wagon version; among other accessories aimed to an active lifestyle.
While mechanically retaining much of the RWD Publica P30, the Starlet did much better internationally than its predecessor ever did, even against the rising FWD hatchback-tide. In square-eyed form it would reach the States in 1981, a chapter already covered at CC.
If kept away from rust, Starlets are truly long lasting. The model is far from rare in El Salvador, with many ’81-’84 US gray-imports easily found (if you haven’t seen one in a while, now you know where they’re). Regarding that ’81-’84 face, the late ’70s square vs. round headlight transition has given automotive-fans much to ponder ever since: Double-stacked headlight Monte Carlo or plain round-lens face?
In the case of the Starlet, the little subcompact works well enough with either set of eyes. Squares looking a bit more modern and purposeful, while round ones add some character. That said, the ’78-’80 round-eye Starlet has become rather scarce in recent times. It wasn’t until this tired one appeared that I was finally able to capture that fondly remembered visage.
Hope springs eternal in this land. While looking worn out, someone has gone through the trouble of partially covering this little Starlet, undoubtedly to keep rain from seeping in during winter. That someone hasn’t given up on the idea to someday – somehow – bring this little one back to running condition.
Unlike some of my previous finds, no one approached me as I shot this forlorn vehicle, even though sitting in a busy block surrounded by laborers going to and fro during lunch hour. It was a welcomed novelty.
Talking about said block, City Hall won’t be happy with me sharing shots of this rather soiled street; but we don’t have the luxury to choose our curbside’s settings, do we?
Those who have followed the Publica’s saga know that for Toyota, the model was a slow lesson in marketing throughout the years. By the time the P60 Starlet came around, Toyota’s subcompact had gone from basic transport, to pseudo-upscale sedan, to optioned-out practical-lifestyle hauler. The last did the trick, and the Starlet would secure a steady role in Toyota’s lineup for some time to come.
So, what do I see behind this round-eyed little Starlet? A bright-eyed future, with plenty of ambition, ready to take over the world. I know hindsight helps my assessment, but tell me if you see anything else. Don’t be deceived by its current derelict condition; those wide-eye lenses tell the whole story if you look hard enough.
Curbside Classic: 1981 Toyota Starlet – Last Of The Littlest RWD Toyotas
Curbside Classic: ’72-’78 Toyota 1000 (Publica) – Going In Circles
Not just the original Starlet but the later Starlet and Yaris models carried on the Publica’s “P” chassis code.
Some of the most cleanly-designed small car noses of the mid-to-late ’70s, had round headlights. ie: VW Rabbit, Ford Fiesta. It was the Japanese auto industry’s regular use of overstyled headlamp bezels, that made their small cars often look so strange. Or bug-eyed. Probably, another example where they mimicked ’70s North American larger car design too closely. Chromed, and/or extruded bezels worked on larger American cars, because they integrated better. Even small cars, like the Mustang II could wear them, because they looked essentially like smaller luxury cars. Overdone bezels on otherwise simply-styled, subcompact economy cars, never worked. Accentuated further on the earlier Starlet, by the overstyled hood.
The Ford Fiesta had square headlights in the domestic european market. The round headlights were for the american market.
What helped make the Fiesta such a revelation in the North American market, was its clean design and attractive looks. Looked great with round lights, added to the image of simplicity in design. Certainly, when compared to the over-styled Pinto and Mustang II.
Indeed, Ford of Europe reused the round-light setup on the sporty Fiestas that started to appear in their home market around the time US imports ended.
I think I like the square-eyed one more, it just seems better integrated. And perhaps a little more familiar but how often does one see any Starlet, especially parked on the sidewalk.
Still, good to see it still in more or less one piece, far better condition cars get junked up here (or sent elsewhere, I suppose).
Here’s the last Starlet I saw, in a car graveyard in Tuscarora, NV on the overland trip a couple years back…
Whether you are aware or not, you have created the automotive equivalent to The Who’s iconic ‘Who’s Next’ album cover from 1971.
Likely for a large sum, you perhaps could have sold your image to General Motors, for use in their 1982 Annual Report. 🙂
That’s awesome. Although it perhaps should have been the Annual Report of the year of their bankruptcy with the cause displayed on the front cover…failure to adapt and all that… 🙂
P.S. I hereby claim all rights to the photo, both for past and present usage, however can be persuaded to license it for surprisingly low quantities of cash or beer.
Kidding aside, a number of your car images, do have a strong artistic quality.
I went with 1982, because of the strong anti-import fervor throughout US media, politics, and pop culture, at the time. If anyone, GM would capitalize on it. Out of necessity, like Chrysler and AMC? Later re-enforced of course, with the Chevrolet USA#1 Taking Charge campaign.
Perfect populist song from that era…
Well, thank you. The sun was going the wrong way in that shot, UNLESS you look at it as Toyota casting a long shadow on the domestics. Yeah, that’s what I was going for and then it definitely works for ’82!
Here in cdn we only saw it with square headlights which made it look more upscale since it looked like the new ’80 Tercel from the front . Tercel in canada was simply a Tercel not a Corolla Tercel . With the exception of this Starlet that was a strange American habit of sticking a Corolla prefix to everything below a Corona. Later Corolla Matrix did not exist in cdn : just Matrix.
From 1990, and CBC’s car review program Driver’s Seat, a look at the 1980 Toyota Tercel. A popular used car then. They mention, they were more popular in Canada.
I bought the same , a blue HB ’80 in 1987 and yes a lot of bondo to do ( Montréal salt ) as well as the shifter bushings easy to do thanks to the longitudinal engine.
on this guise, the model’s visage brings a family resemblance to the rather swanky
Corolla TE52 LiftbackE40/60 series Sprinter coupe and liftback :
The ultimate cockroach of the road. The one an acquaintance drove here for decades is finally gone. It was the last one in town, at least as far as I know. Maybe it went to El Salvador too?
Here’s hoping it may get returned to the road but it looks pretty far gone .
I too like Jim’s photos .
I have zero skill with a camera, the beauty I see never seems to make it to the picture .
I generally like the round versus square headlights and this one is no exception. It is a little friendlier and perhaps a bit surprised looking as well.
The only old RWD Starlets Ive seen lately seem to have a rotary implant stock examples are very rare indeed.