Twenty twenty, even without hindsight, will be remembered as the Year of the Pandemic. That was pretty evident since the spring, let alone now, as the first vaccines are being rolled out. The word “Corona” will long be associated with the year we just lived through. But of course, it was not always thus.
Until this year, “Corona” brought up a different set of mental images to the average person. Mexican light beer was an obvious one. Some of the more cosmically-minded will know that the word is Latin for “crown” and was used, for most of the 20th Century, in relation to the plasma around the sun. But then Toyota, who started using the name “Crown” for one of their products, started looking at synonyms, ancestors and translations thereof and bumped into “Corona,” so they took that for their smaller car line, launched in 1957.
The Corona nameplate lived a very long time, lasting ten generations until 2001. (Let’s see how long the virus lasts…) I recently found this late fourth generation car and figured I just had to make a post to mark the occasion and attempt to reclaim the Corona name for the automotive world. Quixotic? Quite.
Although we’ve seen this generation before on CC, it’s not had all that much exposure. I guess, looking at the one we have here, that the dreaded tin worm is probably the main culprit, because these were certainly sold far and wide and in high numbers. This was the Corona’s heyday (well, prior to the 2020 plague, anyway).
Being a JDM car, this one is badged as a Toyopet because it was sold by that arm of Toyota. Silly name, but one that stuck to the rear end of Japanese market Coronas until the end of the ‘70s. The Disneyland sticker harks back to the early ‘80s, probably – Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983.
This generation of Corona ushered in a new family of OHC engines first seen on the Corona Mark IIs, though certain lower-spec cars kept the smaller OHV engine options going. The Corona Mark II was a fancier version of the 3rd gen Corona, but although the name (confusingly) stayed as was, Toyota made the 4th generation Corona on a new platform distinct from the Corona Mark II, which evolved into its own thing and dropped the “Corona” part soon after.
Our feature car has the Japanese-spec 1.7 litre engine, churning out 107hp – not too shabby, considering that the biggest “global” Coronas, i.e. compliant with the Californian anti-smog regulations, usually had a 2-litre that only mustered 97hp.
The window was pretty dirty, even after I tried to wipe a couple of square inches clean… Gives it a very ‘70s romantic atmosphere, doesn’t it? The interior seems to have survived the assault of time better than the bodywork.
Still, it wouldn’t take too much effort to turn this tired old ‘Rona into a contagiously admirable piece of mobile automotive history. Who knows, someone might see it one day and get bit by the bug (of classic car ownership and restoration, obviously).
I’m pretty sure it’s for sale. I found it on a used car garage forecourt, surrounded by a varied lot of quite younger cars, most notably a bunch of Smart 2-seaters and an old Crown, which I may write up someday. But I thought one should close 2020 on a Corona. Hope 2021 will make up for this crazy year we just had.
Cohort Capsule: 1973 Toyota Corona – Rare Survivor, by PN
Vintage Reviews: The 1971 Toyota Corona, Corolla And Celica – Toyota Moves The Target, by GN
Autobiography: 1972 Toyota Corona Coupe – Fortieth High School Reunion, by PN
That interior is in excellent condition, and the outside looks like it has some wear but no damage.
That looks to be some kind of Euro-centric used car lot. That Post-It Note Yellow Volvo 850R is a fairly rare beast these days as well and certainly worthy of a write-up if encountered in the wild. Or at least towards the top of the T87 Singles charts…
Oy. In the late ’80s Corona St in Denver couldn’t keep its signs; they kept getting stolen by people who probably at the time thought stealing “CORONA ST” signs was a clever, funny thing to do.
I imagine the signs tend not to get stolen much, of late.
That corona script is very Cadillac. That’s so 70s. Oldsmobile used cursive script as well through the mid 70s some time.
I’m happy to see this car preserved although personally if I were going to take the trouble and expense of maintaining an old and moody car, I would pick something. . . Anything. . . More interesting.
The script Oldsmobile badge was dropped abruptly after 1976, although oddly a script logo continued to be used in advertising for years later. Odd how cursive lettering has fallen out of fashion since then, and not just on cars.
Scripts as used by the car makers would be an interesting, and untouched topic for Curbside Classics.
Those amazing 50s scripts, wonderful.
That weird, squared-off ’50s script font has always baffled me. Nobody ever wrote like that. At least ’70s script looks like real handwriting.
This Corona looks mighty out of place on a car lot surrounded by newer Audis, Mercedes and the like. And with the Disneyland sticker and the Japan Automobile Federation badge on the front, this has the look of a grizzled survivor. Very fitting way to close out 2020 here at CC — thanks!
These cars did not have memorable styling. Their badges had more character than the rest of the car. This doesn’t make them bad cars, but it does make them very invisible. Another challenge was caring enough to differentiate between a Corolla, a Corona or a Carina. Their reputation was based on their brand – Toyota, not their model. During these years other brands chased after the gimmick of Beetle popularity with catchy model names. Toyota and Datsun didn’t do that. What attracted buyers were these cars gas mileage, affordability and durability. Americans like the smart engineering and design, not the styling. I don’t recall anyone gushing over their new Toyota because it was so adorable.
I admire these cars, but they are rare to find. Rust. They rusted away and they were used up. Their resale was excellent and people handed them down, traded them and used them up. In the Midwest, it seems that they rotted away as fast as a non-galvanized trash can. My biggest challenge was keeping my little Toyota truck from dissolving on the Dan Ryan. There was little left of any floor in the cab except pizza pans, pop rivets, Bondo, and a wooden plank to keep the bench seat from tilting when I drove it. Rough. Great engine and transmission, but not much else.
So, I wish I could get excited about these vehicles. They are important. However, one could sink thousands into restoring one of them and it would still be about as exciting as an old Plymouth Cricket.
Not a model name I think Toyota will bring back.
Nobody would try selling a car called the “Corona” in 2021. It would be like trying to sell a car called the “Dictator” in 1937. Oh, wait… 🙂
In addition to Crown and Corona, there’s also the Camry, which is Japanese for “crown” (with slightly Anglicized pronunciation). Corolla, besides being part of a flower, is Latin for a type of small crown too. I’m not sure what’s behind Toyota’s obsession with crowns.
Not to mention, when the Corona was first brought to the US under the Toyopet brand, it bore the name Tiara: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/uncategorized/vintage-review-1960-toyopet-tiara-from-small-things-big-things-one-day-come-draft/
Somewhat curiously, I found that this generation Corona seemed to disappear faster than its predecessor. I’m not sure what to make of that, but I suspect it’s a combination of factors. It undoubtedly didn’t sell as well as it predecessor, due to the Corolla quickly becoming Toyota’s best selling car in the US. But I also wonder if the older generation was better built and more durable, which seems a bit surprising from Toyota. But that’s the actual impression I got from being around them. The gen3 Corona (1966-1970) felt exceptionally solid and rugged, and its well-proven pushrod four was bulletproof.
But maybe it’s just my subjective impressions. In any case, given the choice between them, I’d take the older one as it has more character. This one is decidedly bland.
My first Japanese car was a 1969 Toyota Corona 2-door hardtop in baby blue. I loved the styling and the interior was very nice for the time, with black vinyl bucket seats, automatic transmission and air conditioning. Too bad it rotted away in a couple of years in the Chicago climate. I replaced the Corona with a 1973 Datsun B210 which I immediately took to Ziebart!
Nice find – I haven’t seen one of these in years. I agree with Jim – if that’s a real Volvo 850R Wagon in back, that would be worth a couple of pics…
Akimashite Omedetto Gozaimasu…Kotoshi-mo Yuroshiku…
Oh, a plague on your mouse, sir!
I don’t want the name reclaimed for the automotive world, and like a windmill, I tilt it right back at you for the attempt (and thereby mix my metaphors and physics).
The nameplate was already a plague itself, as it was affixed to a too-long succession of re-clothed dullness, with this particular gaspy incarnation arguably the worst (if most easily eradicated, as comments above tend to support). A real case of drear upon year upon year, ten generations of inbred crown hopefuls amounting to just so much rust.
Yes, yes, I know, they were respectable and reliable and abstemious choices for like folk – who are usually not folk to be liked – but their plague numbers on the road died out from the automotive vaccine of boredom, and the new plague of 2020 is welcome to the name.
Like them, you see, it’s everywhere but not wanted, and will eventually be gone.
I would rather have a virus named Corona than a Toyota named Camry.