Cars Of My Family: Mustard Yellow Excrescences

Westport 72002

Dru and her 1971 Corolla.


(first posted 6/18/2013)    There has been some discussion on CC about the mustard yellow that was popular in the early ‘70s on imports, and some domestics such as Jeep. I was going to do a quickie post on the color, but there was more to the story, and that’s what I’m going to tell.

It was 1971. My older sister Dru had given me the job of helping her pick out her first new car, so I began making rounds to the dealerships in Westport, Wilton and Norwalk, Connecticut. I drove everything in her price range. Pintos-cheap interior, really bad dynamics under braking on bumpy roads (which were not hard to find in CT), plus I bent a shift rod on a mildly quick shift; Vegas-too expensive and tractor like; 510 Datsuns, interesting but out of budget; Renault R10-let me count the reasons; Gremlins-dealer wanted me to take a Gremlin home for the weekend for Dru to drive, but too crude; and then I stopped late one Friday night at a new dealership in Westport, the Toyota shop.

I walked in totally bored with the process, and looked at a new Corona sitting on the floor. I was the only customer in the shop and there was only one salesman. He was honest enough to ask me if I wanted the pitch. Since I was there, I said, OK, let me have it. I wasn’t really attracted to the dumpy little Corona, and it was beyond my sister’s budget, but I really liked what this guy was saying, and what I was seeing. The Corona was built with a level of quality I found lacking in the other cars I had test driven. I brought Dru by the dealership the next morning and we test drove a Corona. The steering was heavy, numb, and the understeer excessive, and it cost more that what Dru was willing to go into hock for. Then the salesman said he did have something in the $1900 price range that Dru was in, and it was a Corolla. In mustard yellow. Bingo!


Westport 72003

1971 Toyota Corolla, 1200 cc pushrod


The Corolla was smaller, less expensive, and came equipped with an AM radio, full carpeting, full wheel covers, and a very slick shifting 4-speed. The steering wasn’t as onerous as on the Corona. Sure, the tires were only 12-inches in diameter, but we weren’t shopping for a corner carver, just a decent daily driver. Plus the thing was put together like a watch. The underhood detailing was incredible. Dru bought the Corolla that morning. Only one choice-color. The dealer had two Corollas, one in battleship gray, and the mustard colored one you see here. Not a hard decision.


Westport 72001

Dru, the ham, and the family fleet


Dru is posing in front of three quarters of our family’s automotive stable in 1972. My dad’s ‘71 Opel 1900; my ‘72 Fiat 128 (also in mustard, Positano Yellow); and Dru’s Corolla in the back. My mother drove a new ‘72 Olds Cutlass Supreme with the heavy duty suspension which she leased for her real estate business. She was probably out on this bright Saturday morning showing houses.

My dad’s 1900 (CC here) was a great car. I probably fit in that car better than any other car that I have ever owned. Ergonomics isn’t a precise science. If human beings all came in the same size, there would be no need for ergonomics, or human factors. But Opel seemed to have used my morph as a template. Plus the thing had a thick steering wheel rim for its time which I loved, and long legs. Early one morning in rural New York (I was headed for Columbus, OH) I came upon a new Chevy Monte Carlo, probably running a 305. He decided that he didn’t want to be passed. We were on a four lane so I simply matted the Opel, and walked away from him. Granted, slowly, but my 105 mph was a couple of mph better than he could muster. Suck that Monte Carlo!


Westport 72004

In 1974 Brougham owners were willing to trade even-up for these cars


Dru’s Corolla lasted longer than my 128 (the Fiat was totaled by a Datsun 510 on an icy road) but wasn’t as much fun to drive. Plus non-double amputees could actually sit in the back seat of the Fiat without feeling undue persecution, something  not possible in the Corolla, or later, my wife’s Datsun B210 (what a load of excrement that was!)

So life in the early ‘70s was good, even with mustard yellow paint that the younger generation finds abhorrent, and the puny 1100, 1200 and 1900 cc engines that we had to drive. The engine in my Impreza is only two liters but it sure can rack up some impressively expensive speeding tickets. I just wish it were the tangerine orange pearl that the jacked up  XV Crosstrek is available in. Make it easier for the cops to see.