Aren’t Corollas of this vintage getting awfully thin on the ground? The 2nd generation Corolla, from upstart Toyota, slowly and unexpectedly ascended to worldwide dominance. Who could have seen it coming? Had we taken bets, most would have lost their shirt in the process. In the US the Beetle’s days as #1 import were numbered. Obviously some European brand with lots of tradition was ready to take the mantle. Or not.
This model has been covered on CC a few times already, and Paul’s post belabors the point of Toyota’s newcomer taking over the import game. This particular Corolla seems to be of similar vintage than the one in Paul’s post; the softer grille 1970 model has yet to properly make it to these pages. Some are in town. Maybe I’ll get lucky next time?
I had forgotten how small and low these were. As I shot the vehicle from my height, the car looked in pretty straight condition; the yellow paint looking fairly shiny, with no major dents on the body. Then again, appearances can be deceiving; when at home, on my computer monitor all the tin worm at the car’s bottom became evident. On closer inspection, rust damage is noticeable on every panel. How come I didn’t notice? I did take the photos in a rush -that security guard didn’t seem too friendly as I shot away. Regrettably our Corolla seems to be on borrowed time.
Toyota’s styling at the time was still eclectic, to say the least. While not an unattractive vehicle, it gathers ideas from different schools of design: coke bottle styling on the profile with the tidy proportions of a BMC product, sprinkled with some American inspired plastic trim. The front grille is probably the most Japanese element, as if a menacing kabuki/samurai mask had served as inspiration. Japan’s small vehicles of this period had a fondness for these rather fierce facials. Placed on small cars like these, the vehicles seem to resemble little bulldogs ready to bite at stablished Europeans.
The world should have paid more attention to those tiny fierce faces, as they conveyed their warrior will in plain sight. This analogy is not gratuitous; it has been documented as such during the rise of Japanese industry after the debacle of WWII. Japan’s professionals were bent on rebuilding their nation, and with armistice in place, took to industry with the same zeal they once had towards martial endeavors. As example, at Mazda, the team behind the rotary Cosmo vehicle went by “47 Ronins.” Through iron will, research, and willingness to receive feedback, the small fighters took over the automotive world.
Back to our present example. Such rust damage is very rare on this tropical nation. Also, what’s the story behind the shiny repaint over such rusted mechanicals? Did an overzealous owner get the car resprayed, with the local paint shop not knowing how to do a proper job? Or was said owner not able to afford to do it properly, with the paint shop performing anyway at client’s request? Hard to tell. Last, the car has US spec bumpers. Is it a grey import? Would that explain the rust?
Unlike later Toyotas these early Corollas had some zip to them. While no sport car, its small size and decent -though not groundbreaking- mechanicals could be pushed to provide some satisfying driving. Better not tell that to this example’s current owner, for I worry the car could split in half during hard breaking; with the upper half flying away in cartoon like manner. Then again, that would be quite a sight.
In any case, the Corolla seems to be in loving -if ill-advised- hands. The car may be in terminal condition, rotten in its foundations. But looks like this fruit will stay on the counter, proudly in display, for some time to come.
More on the Corolla:
1971 Corolla – Small Car Comparison #3
There seems to be a misconception that cars don’t rust in tropical countries. This is simply not true, they rust out too, just in different ways. Sunlight and high UV rays dry rot rubber seals, weaken paint, and rainstorms pool water where ever they can seep into. Mud, debris and dirt clog drain channels, and moisture instead of draining away, stays trapped in between sandwiched metal panels.
Yeah have a friend with a Thunderbird Supercoupe he bought as a “rust free Florida car” but in reality as we freshened up the suspension and looked under the carpets it didn’t look that much better than a car that was driven through a few Chicago winters, it had emerging rust and paint bubbles in all the usual trouble spots. And that’s a more modern car with better paint and steel protection.
That could have been a coastal car, although proximity to salt water tends to produce a distinctive top down rust patterns. Arid climates without road salt are where it’s at, cars in central and eastern Oregon rarely have significant structural rust because the roads aren’t salted and humidity is low. Granted i saw a 78 Suburban from Mitchell that had rust holes in the tailgate but it had been parked in a thicket for a decade and still had less rust than a 76 Blazer in 84 in New York.
I had one of these, a 1973 Corolla Levin coupe with a pair of twin carbs. I should have kept it, it was quite a cool little sporty car and I’ll never have another.
Toyota had a better plan, a few years later Volkswagen needed to be saved from bankrupcy because they had had a very bad plan.
FIAT and Simca’s downfall in Europe started because the Japanese imports were offering more value for money and better reliability compared to any other auto maker.
British Leyland were in the process of killing itself, that appeared also to be a matter of time.
And now Japan is suffering from Korean competition and next on the block will be the Chinese waiting to conquer the automotive world.
But perhaps the best thing of Japanese cars was that if they broke, everything broke at the same time, you’d park your Japanes car on a moist chilly november evening under a lamp post and the next morning there would be a hughe rust patch on the middle of the roof, on one side the suspension was sagging, the engine would burn oil and run hot and your exhaust was dragging over the street. On a European car everything broke right after each other, you were always fixing something.
So true. Our first Mitsubishi Magna lasted eleven years and 220,000km before everything seemed to let go at once – radiator, rings, CV joints, just off the top of my head. The body was still great, but I’m in no-snow country. Our second one lasted to 330,000 before the transmission became a box full of neutrals. Only problem up till then had been a power window motor.
The big advantages the Japanese cars had were build quality, engineering reliability, and a willingness to change their designs to suit the demands of export markets. Maybe that last should be first.
The Magna was Australian built, a widened Japanese Sigma with the old Astron 4, Ironically the only major failure my Citroen has had was the starter motor made by Mitsubishi and they are the heavy duty version too my previous Citroen diesel did the same and same manufacturer.
I haven’t seen one of this generation in a while now. It’s got a special place in my heart as I drove a friend’s quite a bit, which gave me an appreciation for their qualities. Yes, it was significantly more comfortable inside than my VW, and drove better too. The gearbox, like all Toyotas, was very slick-shifting.
Nice to see this one still soldiering along. Hope it lasts.
I was in university when these came out. One of my friends had a fairly new beetle and my brother and I were with him in Toronto. We were driving on a curvy suburban road in a light rain when a Dodge sedan skidded across the road and hit us head on. Even at that low speed the VW was totaled, but fortunately none of us were seriously injured. What is interesting is that he replaced it with a Corolla like this. His was a 1600 and the colour was “persimmon”. It really was a great little car. Comfortable and a reasonable price. Another friend also bought one, but he got the 1200. He was studying to be an actuary and was very analytical. As I remember the 1600 was not a lot more than the 1200, but he said he didn’t need the extra power.
I had one of these for about a week back in the day, it was quite sprightly in driving when pushed. I remember feeling reluctant to take it on the highway due to its size, so I kept it on the city streets and tooled around in it. The one I had was blue I believe. I found the dashboard components a bit flimsy to the touch, but the steering rather firm, being non power assist. The seating was rather hard but not totally uncomfortable. I was glad when the week was up.
Haven’t seen one of these in decades. My uncle had one, just like this but dark brown. One year he came camping with our family, and I rode up with him. He brought along our grandfather’s home built rowboat/sailboat on roof racks. It was quite a sight, the boat was the same length as the car and painted AMC Big Bad Green (leftover paint from my other uncle’s 1948 Mercury project).
If we could have rolled it onto the roof I’m sure it would have floated that way.
Rust like that one has are why they are so rare here that would fail the 6 monthly Warrant of Fitness inspection pre 2000 cars are still subject to and after you get it repaired and a repair cert issued rust will bloom somewhere else. Just the cert is $260 it rapidly becomes uneconomcal to own such cars.
Japanese cars didn’t were a bit quirky looking back in the 60s to early 70s for sure. Probably one reason why so many dismissed them simply based on looks. However, the Datsun Roadster, Z and 510 should have opened a few eyes as to what the future held. Of course Toyota was just a tad slow on the uptake.