(first posted 11/10/2011) My mother famously hates the Toyota Corolla. You see our family owned a lightly used example back in 1984 when we moved to Houston, Texas for just six months. I believe it was a 1981 four door sedan model and brown. I’m not exactly sure what its crime was, but she has always exclaimed that it was “awful, just awful” without any real explanation as to why. To this day she dismisses Corollas without a second thought from any potential car-shopping list. The car we left back at home was a 1978 Datsun 510 station wagon, so I can hardly imagine there would be much difference in the driving dynamics, but at least the Datsun did have a five speed manual. Was she the only person on the globe who hated the Corolla so much?
Oddly enough for me the fourth generation Corolla (E70) reminds me a lot of the first generation Datsun 510, in the looks department anyway. Both are styled with the traditional compact three box design but have a certain rightness about them. I can’t tell you why they look right but the balance of all the elements just works somehow. They even have similar trim behind the rear door. The 1980-1981 models with the four round sealed beam headlights looked most Datsun 510 like. It looked more 510 like than the 1977-1981 Datsun Violet based 510 we got.
Mechanically they started off quite different of course. The Datsun had a lusty overhead cam four cylinder engine with independent rear suspension on the sedans. The Datsun wagon might have been saddled with a live rear axle and leaf springs but so was the Corolla wagon. All other Corolla body styles got a live rear axle but with a five link set up and coil springs.
Engine wise North American bound Corollas started off with a pushrod T-series engine of 1.8 liters. The push rod engine featured hemispherical combustion chambers and put out 75hp breathing through a carburetor. While the stock 3-TC engine isn’t a powerhouse, it is incredibly robust and has been modified to produce a reliable 300hp. Starting in 1983 a 1.6L overhead cam A-series engine was offered and featured an aluminum head … just like a Datsun 510. As a nice bonus the 4-AC cars had rack and pinion steering too. Still using a carburetor, the 4-AC engine offered up 90hp (net) which is a bit more than the Datsun L-series 96 gross hp . I do have to admit that I owned a later front wheel drive Corolla with the same 4-AC engine and I’d have to say those would have to be ninety of the smallest horses I’d ever seen.
While the Datsun might have been more fun to drive, the Toyota offered a dizzying array of body styles. The Datsun offered two door sedan, four door sedan and five door wagon. The Toyota offered:
Two door sedan
Four door sedan
Five door station wagon
Please note there is a difference between the coupe, liftback and fastback models. Madness! I truly hope that owners of these models never need to replace any of the rear glass on them as I’ll bet it would tough to find.
Perhaps not to the same degree as the 510 but this generation of Corolla is popular for customizing. Given the chassis near the end of the production run is very, very similar to the more famous AE-86 Corolla GTS one could swap in the DOHC 4AGE engine easily (but steering box gets in the way on the 3-TC cars). All the same suspension tweaks would work just the same too. This particular example has the early hemi-head 1.8L 3-TC engine saddled with an automatic gearbox but sports a de-bumpered look and the Celica/Supra rims.
The interior is run of the mill 80’s economy car with central arm rests optional.
The sporty SR5 and GTS versions remained rear drive right to the 1987 model year but this was the last generation of the “regular” rear wheel drive Corolla. The next front wheel drive generation did reduce the body style count (four door sedan and five door hatchback) for 1984. Didn’t look anything like a 510 either. Maybe Mom would have liked that better.
i had a buddy who had the liftback version of this car. He hated it as well. Claims every bulb on the car burned out in the first year, By 100k niles the automatic transmission was shot, Timely article, we were just talking about this the other day,
Yikes! I never really noticed the resemblance to the 510 before. It’s practically a carbon copy. You can still find these in decent shape around here fairly cheap, mostly in unfinished project purgatory though.
As much as I like these little RWD project cars in wait, they were less than exciting when new.
Sorry but I just don’t see where the clue picture comes from.This is a tall narrow vent, but these Corollas all seem to have a shallow wide vent.
I think NZSkyliner called it, the clue was from a wagon version of this car, but I can’t see it either.
It’s the vent aft of the rearmost left window on a station wagon. The picture below shows the 1980 2-door station wagon, the photo’s from the righthand side, but the vent’s a mirror image of the left one in the clue. The two screw heads are a strong hint. The scary thing is, I’ve never had a Corolla, but something about the clue just went ‘zing!’ in my head, so I posted my guess – and then confirmed it after an image search on google.
Just had alook at a 84 wagon on TM $1 reserve that little vent is there.
I learned to drive in one of these. A ’82 model, absolutely basic in spec, no power windows, no power steering, not even a passenger-side mirror. Good car for a teenage driver, I suppose, due to its total lack of power. My version has 1.3l pushrod engine, making maybe 60hp, connected to a 4 speed manual tranny. I remember that I can’t chirp the skinny 155SR13 tires even with revving the engine and dumping the clutch. The engine just bogs. Last a long time too, a dozen years, survived two pretty big wreck, one was mine, the other was my mother’s. The car equivalent of an energizer bunny, it just kept going and going… Toyota gets its bulletproof reputation with products such as these.
Had a 77 Corolla 2 door as a winter beater for a few years, a 79 Corolla 4 door as a winter beater for a couple winters, an 81 Corolla Wagon for wife’s car followed by an 84 Cressida wagon and 2 decades of Nissans. They were all fine but the 79 was really the most fun. It was a 5 speed manual with smooth as silk hydraulic clutch. Outside it was a never waxed yellow color with a smashed in right fender and dents all over the car- even several big ones on the roof. I paid $400 from a Chevy dealer’s back lot and nobody ever got too close to me. The first three weeks I had to leave all the windows down to air out the strong tobacco odor, I don’t think it had air conditioning nor did the 77. The 79 was hands down the peppiest Corolla I ever had but I have no idea what engine was in it. Never cost a penny but tires, gas, and oil. Owned it some time in the mid-eighties.
It was around this time that a good friend and I had the lightbulb go on about Toyota build-quality. I was in college, and my friend and I would occasionally check out the car lots on Sundays when they are closed. I forget how we ended up on a Toyota lot, it may have been dualled with another brand.
Anyhow, my buddy was a body and paint man at the time and suddenly stopped in his tracks and just gazed at the paint job on a strippo Corolla. I stood there next to him. We had seen a lot of crappy paint jobs in the late 70s on brand new cars, and this was something different. The panels fit, the trim all lined up, the flat surfaces were smooth, and the paint jobs were just beautiful.
We decided right there that if Toyota was putting that much care into even the cheap stuff, the US makers were right to be worried. Perhaps this revelation hit us a bit later than for those on the coasts, but we were in the heart of the US auto industry and had not paid much attention to the stuff from Japan up to that point.
I cannot tell you when we saw one of these last. As nice as the assembly and paint were, Toyota still had some learing to do on the corrosion-protection front.
Because they’ve all moved to Eugene! I could walk out my front door and see half a dozen within a few blocks. These are the Volvo 240’s cheaper little brother; same basic construction and build quality, easy to swap parts, super easy to work on, the closest thing there is to a true “long-life” car, outside of the Rust belt, anyway.
I know one old Swiss gentleman who’s driven his red Corolla of this vintage for over almost thirty years. He picked it up cheap (used), and has put extremely little in it for all these decades.
I’ve been recommending these for cheap wheels ever since they came out, and although they’re getting a bit old now, I see numerous of them very well kept up, serving the role of the “long life car”. These are truly the most classic Corollas ever.
100% agree Paul on these “last of the rear-drive” cars, purely for the reason they don’t have CV joints to wear out like the cars that replaced them.
A 1980 Corolla was my first new car, purchased for $4500 and a complete stripper…not even a radio. (how did we own a cars without A/C?)
Kept for 4 trouble free years and sold for $4200 and replaced with an ’84 Celica GTS liftback and thus began a lifetime of Toyota’s, VW’s, Nissans and 1 Volvo.
I came back to Detroit in July of this year with a purchase of a new CTS. It lasted 3 months…too many little annoyances, but Cadillac is REAL close.
Traded it for an ’07 Infiniti M35 with 1800 miles on the clock.
While in new condition, it is not much to look at but near my ideal driving characteristics. I couldn’t be happier and hope to keep this one for a long time.
AE88 all the way! That’s the one I had back in 1985.
“I truly hope that owners of these models never need to replace any of the rear glass on them as I’ll bet it would tough to find.”
Not necessarily ye heathenish scoundrels. Try a large dismantler that saves sundry parts and ye may be surprised at the goodies within.
Back glass tends to not sell nearly as quickly as windshields.
Also, glass can be saved separately or, with a lift or hatch back the glass may be available via a stores entire lid or hatch or separately as the glass only.
Ask for both if needed since it is a low-profit sale and a busy sales critter may poke at the inventory computer and seek only the “bwn” and not bother looking for a “lid” or other huge possible number of acronyms or fail to spell out the entire component name.
Heck, one yard I dwelt within had a huge array of goodies such as window regulators, hatch struts, hood and door hinges hinges, etc. or entire assemblies that, over time and lessening demand, we were willing to cannibalize from such as door glass and other components fro door assemblies.
Newer large components such as doors were more valuable as complete entire assemblies and salesfolks often declared no part available if the assembly had been in stock for a couple years or less.
If the electronic brain indicated the assembly has been in stock for 3, 4, 5 or more years it was more apt to be cannibalized to at least get a few bucks out of it.
Depending upon the number in stock of the same critter; such as 4 or 5 left front doors of the same door-type and all interchangeable the one in the worst condition would be cannibalized frr a part or parts then tossed tossed… after…maybe…retrieving goodies such as a door looky backwards mirror, window regulator, window motor or whatever then placed in stock on the small part rack and entered into the computer as such.
Then there the “Well, looky yonder out by the third, or is it the fourth tree to the right and look out fer’ that hornets nest and see if’, that part is on that car. Burp.” type of wrecking yard.
Have fun ye heathens.
I bought a 1982 Corola sedan from a friend in Hobart with blown 1800 engine the bought a 79 wagon with 3k in it from the neighbour pushed them both under a tree and swapped the power trains the drove the results home. This became my 180km per day commuter car to replace the case of beer Mazda.
We later moved to within 5kms of my job which allowed me to commute in my classic EH Holden so the Corolla went on the front lawn with a sign and was gone in two days and pressed back into a long commute once again very good little cars. There are several of these here that still run in standard condition but most are now boyracer cars with all the rice implants.
Correction: The 2T-C and 3T-C did have aluminum heads.
A friend of a friend recently bought a 1984 Corolla in near showroom condition for $500, looking at it makes me want the car even though I don’t want/need it, if you know what I mean!
We did not see the 2 door sedan or coupe versions of these and I’m not sure about the fastback, but I do remember a higher roof version of the wagon, perhaps 2 door? The liftback version, sold as the T-18, was a very flimsy body.
The sedan I bought had the T18 engine ironicly illegal in Tasmania but the change back to 3k legalised it again. About all that goes wtrong with this model is rear wheel bearings need changing every 200k kms.
Bought a new 1980 Carolla SR5. White outside, blue interior. Nice looking and driving car. Biggest piece of crap I ever bought except for the Vega that preceded it. Rear wheel bearings and diff carrier bearings replaced under warranty. Transmission tailshaft bearings after warranty ran out. A/C quit shortly after that. The rubber around the glass deteriorated so fast it would leave black streaks on the paint. The body metal, (steel?) was poorly recycled beer cans and bottle caps. Very soft and dented easily. Clutch was failing when I traded it in on a Ford. It was the last Japanese car I ever bought. Until I bought my 20 year old Miata.
Wait a minute, is that a hardtop hatchback? I think my brain just imploded…
And that brown four door seems to have the much coveted Hover Mode!
Actually if you look underneath, you’ll find this is equipped with the rare ‘monorail’ system, installed for the 1983 Detroit Auto Show and trialled on the People Mover track.
My ’81 SR-5 coupe was my first new Japanese car – it was serviceable enough and made 200k before it was retired. For some reason it ate RR axle bearings, but otherwise it was a great little car.
Anyone remember the “swivel” radio mount/front console? Cute gimmick….you could tilt towards you, in the middle or towards the passenger…..
My mom and dad bought a new 1981 Corolla (square headlights) while we were in Germany and owned it for almost 12 years before buying a 1993 Camry. The car was absolutely, completely, utterly reliable. Slow? You bet…saddled with the AT it never had much desire to move quickly. But everything worked on it…always. It was that cool copper metallic and as my mom’s family ran a store that sold custom seat covers, it was soon decked out with real animal skins (in a rich dark blue that actually sat really well and came off as being quite coordinated with the exterior) and fur! Now, here it is..2011…and my mother owns a 2003 Corolla. Thirty years…three cars…all Toyota. And it started with that little ’81…
I love these corollas. I have a 2door with All ae86 running gear and suspension running on R1 motorcycle carbs.
They also came in two more body styles that didn’t make it to the US.
The 2 door wagon.
And the 2 door panel van/wagon
Just like the 2 door sedan, never made it to Australia or New Zealand.
Does anyone out there know where I can find some body parts for my 1983 TOYOTA COROLLA
When I visited Singapore in the late ’90s, it seemed like 99% of the taxis were this-gen Corolla sedans, painted blue, with doilies all over the interior. I imagine they’ve upgraded since then.
I owned a 1982 Corolla 2 door coupe, tinted windows, painted bright yellow with gold mesh rims and raised white Goodyear rubber. I LOVED that car! Wish I still had it. I kept the black plastic shiny and the paint was immaculate. Best part was learning to drift (before the AE86). I also think the view from the front and rear was great. The rear tail lights just looked cool. I also had fog lights mounted below the front bumper. Only problem was rust in rear quarter panels…but it was great high schooler car.
Who ever decided to take a picture of my car and license plate and then post it on the internet better take it off before they get sued. At least blur out the plate you asshole!!
Get sued for what?? It’s on the street, a public right of way. Photographers have been shooting cars on the streets since they were invented.
If you don’t want you car photographed, better not park it on the public street. Or stop driving. And why do you care? Everybody can see your license plate on the street.
What if I took a picture of your house? Would you threaten to sue me too? Maybe you better have a word with google.
Why do i care? Cause its my car and my license plate i would apretiate if you covered up the license plate before posting the pic on here. Plus its not like it was at a car show! I did not ask for my license plate number on the internet!
Hi guys just passing threw here to see if anyone might no where to find rear body parts for a 1982 or 1983 if anyone nos i really thanks those whos looks at yhis posting thanks again
HI There! Can I believe my eyes! THE Finnish youth car of nineties:) If there ever is cult following to these cars (still going strong) it´s in rural areas of Finland. These cars are pimped (in outlandish finnish style) and cherised like no other car. Rico; what parts you need? Plenty of them here:D This car is totally different affair with manual gearbox. Best car ever to drift in snow. No autoboxes in Toyotas over here.
is it just me or does the notchback coupe design look similar to the Datsun 200SX of the same era? Also was this version of the Corolla’s with the rounded headlights available only on the 1980 models or did they make them available on all the Corolla’s?
I Have A 1979 & A 1/2 looks like an ’80 Lift back with A ’89 13B S4 N/A engine, some asshole smashed out three of my windows driver side door windshield & driver side rear 1/4 panel glass…. the rear panel glass is $1,300 custom cut….. impossible to find!!
Hi I have a te72 1983 sr5 liftback and have switched the suspensions to be lowered and with camber and dampers .I’ve gutted out the interiors but still have original parts seats etc. What do you guys think so far
Hey body your looks amazing I have the same car and I’m looking to find where do you purchase those fender flares I need those for my car please if you have any info please let me know thanks my name is Gerardo I live in Canada Vancouver this is my cell phone 7787072830 or you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a 1981 Toyota Corolla sr5 hatchback please tell me how can I get the same fender flares for my car
The fender flares came off a celica I just cant rememeber the exact year but the front fender needs to be worked on but looks legit lol I let pick and pull take it already in Sacramento in 2016.
the 1980 Lift back SR5 was my first new car. I paid something like $5500 for it. Cooper colored, No a/c, Two piece sun roof, 1.8L, 5 speed. I loved style. Added a front spoiler SR5 marked window shade and complete Alpine Stereo. Drove it for two years and blow the motor changing the oil. I brought a 1983 fastback. 1.6l. 5 months in the car was totaled.
A great first car.
I’m currently looking for one. A 80 to 83 liftback SR5.
Please contact me at email@example.com
My ex had at 80 SR5 hatchback, ran like a watch for 5 years of daily driving and was fund to drive.
i just scored an 82 fastback, or sport coupe, it has 120k, and hasnt driven since 2003, i got a battery for it and it cranked it over, (after i actually turned the crank pulley by hand, so i knew it wasn’t seized). then hit the carb twice with starting fluid and it fired right up, this is my first Toyota, and i love it already…!! next week it will get tires and a full tune and lube job, cant wait to get this back on the road…
what is it a fastback or coupe? I cant figure the trim out on mine, I have a 1980 sr5, can you help me? vin is te720452267, id appreciate any info, some say its a liftback, but I think its a coupe, I don’t have a wiper on the hatch in back. thanks for any help.
I have two of these RWD 1980-83 Corollas… An 81 TE72 2 door Deluxe sedan and an 83 AE72 2 door Deluxe sedan.
Just put a 2T-C SR5 motor swap with only
33,000 original miles on it, into my 83 AE72 Corolla.
It originally had a 4A-C 1.6 ltr, which crapped out at 390,000 miles.
how do you know the trim you have? i have a 1980 corolla sr5. the firewall plaque sayscolor/trim 541 . yr45, that still not clear to me. is it sport coupe,fastback,liftback??? i need to order some stuff but im afraid it wont fit.any help is greatly appreciated.
I thought these, with the crossflow hemi TC engines, were the best of the RWD Corollas.
The TC engine was the closest thing to bullet-proof you could get in a car, while the SOHC engine that replaced it was a step backwards, loosing the crossflow, hemi design and gaining a timing belt that needed changing regularly.
I also recall how greedy the dealers were when these were new. When my best friend’s parents were looking for a car to replace their rust-dissolved ’74 Subaru, I suggested a new ’81 Corolla. They reported being told by the salesman that AC wasn’t available on the base model and they would have to first spend an extra $1000 on an upmarket trim package before they could get it!
Happy Motoring, Mark
I tried to find one of these a couple of years ago. They seemed to be either boy racer specials with dubious “upgrades” for way to much money. Or old lady cars driven to church on Sunday survivors with an auto. I could find some nice examples of they next gen but wanted the rwd and lack of CV joints that were on this generation. Instead I picked up a 98 Altima which is fwd but fun to drive and has lots of space. It isn’t a superstar at the fuel pump but I guess that’s the trade off for power ( at least coming from aircooled VW’s) and space.
I always thought the 2 and 4 door sedans of this generation of Corolla looked quite a bit like the BMW 3 series of the same time period. When the engine of the 3 series was “downsized” from 2 to 1.8 liters, that kind of sealed the deal.
In a previous write-up that included the Corolla I said that there were so many models/body styles available that Toyota could have offered Corollas as a sub brand, sort of like Scion. But now, we are left (at least in the U.S.) with just 1 body style. And a car that some consider a near classic (the RWD Corolla) is now reduced to being THE definition of a boring car.
These are the pretty Corollas, a lovely crisp look that helped their popularity among the young, mostly Latino street-runners here in SoCal ten or twenty years ago. That last generation of RWD Corollas also offered decent power and very pleasant handling, and the cars were plentiful and fairly cheap. A former GF had an earlier ’70s one, with the final version of the rounded chipmunk-like bodies, which we drove to New Orleans from Nashville one night and home again a few days later. It was pleasant enough on the road, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I drove it solo on the winding one-lane road through a local park and was amazed at how happy it was being thrown around at speeds that would have cost me dearly if a ranger had seen me. Okay, maybe 35, but that was over twice the limit …
Of the FWD versions I have nothing good to say. My mom bought the Chevy version a year before she died, following which I was designated driver for my siblings and a cousin taking care of business around southern rural Missouri. Slow as it was, it was too fast for comfort with that chassis; it had numb but overreactive brakes, steering that was likewise, and a scary willingness to wander in response to the road’s camber changes. As the Toyota-branded cars came from the same plant I cannot imagine their being much better.
I had an ’80 model in the early ’90s. It was one of those drive-it-to-the-junkyard cars, Body was rusted to nothing, gas tank so rusty I could only put three gallons at a time in (any more would leak out), starter gave up the ghost so it had to be pushed (or more often rolled since I lived in the mountains) but it caught and started every time. The engine probably ran someone’s milking machine for another ten years after that.
I see these come up on craigslist once in a while, often converted to drag cars.
After being burned by one of GM’s ‘deadly sins’ AKA the appropriately named X-Car, I bought a new 4-door, 5-speed sedan in ’83 and it exhibited none of maladies or dislikes registered by some here and instead provided consistently reliable, cost effective transportation. I’d would have happily driven it for decade or more but the ex insisted on trading it for a Camry, which turned out to be yet another solid ride.
I preferred the late 70’s body integrity. Used these for messenger work in NYC, would buy them at auctions for a couple hundred and run them until they got towed. At one point I sold an 80 liftback and went back to a 79 wagon, it was less rattly.
The 79 wagon could carry precisely 9 IBM Selectric typewriters still in the well-padded shipping box. One small insect might have squeezed in somewhere after they were loaded.
Those were going to a nuke plant, which had no one at the gate when I arrived and no one on premises as I drove around looking for a volunteer to accept delivery, which eventually was accomplished by pounding on the door of a random loading dock.
Imagine the reaction today if a little foreign wagon completely filled with boxes was found wandering around like that.
I completely understand the Corolla hatred. I had an ’86 that was the most miserable excuse of a car ever built. I will forever hate them because of that damned car. Hell, my ’89 Topaz was world’s better in almost* every way than the damn Corolla.
* the Topaz broke down once, the Corolla never broke down. Trust me, dependability isn’t everything in a car.
Hatred for a Corolla?! That’s blasphemy! My first brand new car was a 1986 Corolla sedan. It was extremely comfortable, rode and handled well and had lots of headroom. I drove my dear Corolla for 11 happy years tallying up over 200,000 miles with just routine maintanence performed. Sadly rust began to take its toll on the undercarriage. It was time to say goodbye to my best friend. I did shed many a tear when my Corolla was taken away by auto salvage. That was a hard one to endure. I graduated up to a brand new, sparkling new gem, a 1997 Toyota Camry. Even though my new Camry was nicer than my old Corolla, I still missed it. I drove my Camry for 15 years and 311,000 miles! The only issue was the AC compressor that failed at 180,000 miles. I gave the Camry to my newphew who drove it for 3 more years then he crashed it. UGG! I should’ve kept the Camry as a second car. My current car is a 2012 Lexus LS460. The definition of a perfect car. I still drool every time I step into my garage and look at my sparkling blue precious gem waiting to hit the interstate at triple digit speeds! By the way, my wife drives a 2011 Prius that celebrated its 100,000 mile mark with zero problems to date!
My ’86 was the most miserable excuse for a car I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned a lot of cars. Worst seats ever, pinged like a bucket of BB’s on 93 octane gas (and not one dealer could figure out why), got crappy mileage (couldn’t break 30 mpg downhill with a tailwind), couldn’t get out of its own way, and rode like a towmotor on solid rubber tires. Glad you liked yours but mine was a nightmare.
The 2011- contemporary Corollas are on my list of cars that I will turn down if the rental company wants to hand me the keys to it.
They are simply wretched. Plastic, gutless, and absolutely joyless. The Nissan Versa is almost as bad.
In contrast, the KIA/Hyundai twins are really not bad although I would never own one.
Had a rental KIA Soul for two weeks – actually considered buying one.
But the Corolla? Cynical, terrible garbage that Toyota seemed to pawn off on customers expecting (and not getting) Toyota quality. The Japanese equivalent to the 1st-Gen FWD Chevy Malibu/Classic which was also garbage.
If anyone can help me out I’d appreciate it, I have a 1980 Toyota corolla SR5, The only problem is I don’t know which friend it is, I think it’s a coupe, but not 100% sure. Te720452267 is the vin, mine doesn’t have a wiper on hatch, engine says 3t on it, not 3t-c like most people say they have. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
The C is 3TC just means it has emission controls (egr mostly) All US engines are 3T-C
Specifically, the -C meant U.S./Canadian emissions, which by 1980 meant a catalytic converter as well as EGR and evaporative emissions controls. JDM emissions-controlled engines had a -U suffix (e.g., 3T-U or 3T-EU for injected engines).
Looking for a wind shield for a 81 Toyota corolla 1.8 4 door sedan.
Can anyone help me?