Vintage R&T Road Test: 1968 Toyota Corolla – “Exceedingly Well Finished…And Well Built”

The Corolla is an icon and a living legend, thanks to the impeccable reputation it has been cultivating since…1968. Here’s where it all started, in the US, and R&T put it to the test. Their sub-title “Of admittedly limited utility for U.S. driving” is a bit odd, as it had at least as much utility for US driving as the VW Beetle did, in terms of coping with the generally higher speeds commonly driven here. And it did that at a lower price; a mere $1650 ($13k adjusted to 2021 dollars).

The reality was that there simply wasn’t a better car for the money, which explains why the Corolla was a hit almost immediately, becoming the key coffin nail in the two best selling imports of the time, the VW and the Opel Kadett. And of course, this generation was just a starting point; from small acorns grow mighty oaks.

Well yes, 1077 cc and 60 hp was a nit modest for US standards, although that was seven more hp than the VW, which made it quicker from 0-60 (17 sec.). The Corolla’s five-bearing four was smooth, although it did develop a boom above 4200 rpm, which translated to 63 mph in top gear. That was a common issue with just about all small cars back then, although the Beetle’s balance boxer four avoided that issue, but its blower did get noisy too.


The gearbox and clutch came in for praise, which was good since they needed to be used often. Handling was termed “fun”; neutral under virtually all cornering conditions. The ride was pretty good too, considering its conventional suspension (struts at front; leaf springs and live axle at rear) and its very light weight of 1640 lbs.

The Corolla left a very strong impression by virtue of its quality of finish and build. The paint was flawless, interior trim was “businesslike” but of good quality. And the list of standard items, including a locking gas cap, whitewall tires, full wheel covers, cigarette lighter and even a two-speed heater blower was deemed “impressive”.  Times change…

R&T summarized the Corolla in these terms: “Straight-forward, well built and finished, fairly comfortable, very quiet, exceedingly goo-looking and great fun to drive hard…noisy above 63 mph.” Sounds like the makings of a winner.