CC Outtake: 1979 Toyota Corolla – Still Haulin’ The Groceries Too

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Joseph Dennis’ evocative shot of an early Chevette in front of a Wal Mart reminded me of a similar vintage economy car I shot in front of another WallyMart recently. Two differences: this one is in the daytime, and seeing a 70s Corolla still haulin’ the groceries is a lot more common—in these parts at least—than seeing a Chevette. Yes, there’s still a couple of Chevettes around, but these Corollas are still around in some numbers. And contrary to the rep the newer ones have now, these were one of the more fun to drive economy cars you could buy at the time.

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This one is a five speed at that, even though it’s a totally base Corolla sedan. Want to tell me how many other economy cars sported a slick-shifting five-speed? American ones? Toyota pioneered the concept.

Contrary to their common image nowadays, these 1600cc Corollas were reasonably brisk. The 1588cc 2T-C hemi-head engine was quite powerful for the times, with 75 net hp, roughly equal to the Rabbit’s.

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I had a lot of seat time in one almost exactly the same, and on a highly memorable trip to Death Valley, I topped 100 across the Mojave Desert. And you wonder why I get a bit touchy when folks lump all Corollas and their drivers into the equivalent of automotive pariahs?

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No, it wasn’t exactly a BMW 2002, suspension-wise. A solid driven rear axle, suspended on leaf springs; just like a Cadillac Seville of the same era (oops; now I asked for it). But it worked, and with nary an issue. Yes, the Corolla’s rep as being exceptionally dependable was already well established. I wonder what it would feel like taking this one a road trip across the deserts of Eastern Oregon?

Related reading:

Autobiography: 1975 Toyota Corolla – Driving Nirvana

Automotive History: The Toyota Five Speed Transmission Takes On The World