Curbside Classic: 1993 Toyota Corona (T190) 1.8 Select Saloon – Ending The ‘Rona

Another year, another Corona variant. He he he… That really never gets old, unlike the virus, which has now really overstayed its welcome. Toyota gave up the nameplate ages ago, well before things literally went viral, but not before they had produced 11 generations of that staple of reasonably-sized, conservatively-styled and competently-engineered cars called the Corona.

In the US, the Corona disappeared from view in the early ‘80s, if I’m not mistaken. And in Europe, the name was retired in favour of its Carina twin roundabout the same time. So let’s take a look at one of the later Coronas, as we take a gander at this survivor 10th gen Select Saloon, which is close to 30 years old by now.

The Corona line started way back in 1957. It was the first Toyota to feature unit body construction and, back in those days, featured a wheezy 33hp 1-litre sidevalve 4-cyl. driving the rear wheels via an unsynchronized three-speed manual. By the third generation (T40), the range was centred around a 1.6 litre OHV and introduced an automatic transmission option, conquering American and global markets and asserting its dominance on the domestic front.

In the late ‘60s, the advent of the Corolla pushed the Corona to a higher niche, while the “Corona Mark II,” soon shortened to just plain Mark II, boxed the Corona in from the top and put a ceiling on its ambitions – 2 litres max and no 6-cyl. engine for you, Corona-san! The nameplate kept its popularity both domestically and in certain foreign markets, such as Australia/NZ and Southeast Asia, through to the ‘80s, even as it mutated to FWD with the T150 in 1983. That was the Corona’s eighth incarnation, and save for the creation of the ExIV strain (which we will get to as soon as possible – a good specimen has been located and documented already), few notable developments would ensue until the Corona name was retired (eradicated?) for good in 2001.

When our feature car was launched, in early 1992, the Corona range had been pared down to its bare essentials, i.e. a saloon, and the name had disappeared from many markets already. The coupé, which had been a staple of the breed since the ‘60s, was now gone for good and the van/wagon, though it still existed in practice, was now named Caldina and branched out on its own. Yes, by generation ten, the Corona was starting to become quite the relic. How apt, therefore, that this particular one was optioned to have those goofy, old-fashioned chromed fender mirrors? They look quite out of place on such a rounded, ‘90s-looking car, but some Japanese folks just couldn’t do without.

It’s just like the doilies. When I spot a four-door domestic car of a certain age, the interior décor is almost guaranteed to include those, both front and back. Oh, and with some horrible seat cushion covers too, please.

And yes, they’re here too. How could they not be? The “Select Saloon” terminology apparently describes a higher trimmed version, though this is not the highest one. Still, this well-weathered vehicle’s interior seems to be ready to finish its third decade of use in remarkable nick.

This Corona certainly lacks the fizz of its brewed namesake and the infectious nature of its viral variant, which is why it has now disappeared from the Toyota range. The Corolla essentially replaced it, along with the Celica and the Carina, the latter two being hewn from the same platform anyway. The Corona held the same place in Toyota’s range as Oldsmobile did on GM’s, or DeSoto in Mopar’s: the all-important but fickle mid-range bread-and-butter money maker. There is no greater peril than being in the middle, it’s like having a target on your back. When it works, it works, but then other brands / nameplates want a piece of your turf. And then it doesn’t work that well any longer, and pretty soon you’re toast.

It took the car version of the Corona 44 years to run its course. The Mexican cerveza, for its part, has been served ice-cold since 1907 and is still going strong. Let’s see how long the third kind will last – hopefully just a fraction of the previous two. Meantime, allow me to cut a piece of lemon and wish you the best salud imaginable. Cheers!