By on March 31, 2012

Just a few years after Toyota confused American car shoppers by badging the early Tercel as the “Corolla Tercel,” they offered two very different vehicles as the 1987 “Corolla GT-S.” One was the AE86 coupe, based on the older rear-drive Corolla platform and much beloved by present-day drifters, and the other was the front-drive FX16 hatchback, built in California and equipped with the same 16-valve 4AGE engine as the AE86. The FX16 was sort of goofy-looking, with sharp angles and cheezy-looking plastic panels, but it was a screamin’ fast competitor to the VW GTI and held together much, much longer than its Wolfsburg rival.
I found this example in a California self-service yard just a few freeway exits away from its NUMMI birthplace.
Related to the Sprinter-based Chevrolet Nova and the later Geo Prizm, the FX16 was quite a hit in California. You still see them around, though the rear-drive Corollas are much more popular among racers and restorers.
I’ve seen a few of these cars compete in 24 Hours of LeMons races, and they’re definitely top-level competitors in the hands of a good driver, certainly much quicker around a road course than the rear-drive Corollas. The GTIs can be about as quick, but tend to be much more fragile.
There’s no telling why a not-particularly-thrashed sub-200,000-mile Corolla got junked; my money is on vast quantities of parking tickets and indifference from buyers at the subsequent towed-cars auction.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S...”


  • avatar
    joeveto3

    These really were cool cars. I wonder how the current Yaris Sport compares. I bet they are close. But for some reason, this older car feels like it was a far more earnest attempt at creating a “sporty” car. Maybe my brain just favors a lot of stuff from the 80′s, in the same way I feel the music from then was a far more earnest attempt than today’s garbage.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I loved these cars along with the MR2, Supra and the rare turbo pickups when I got haul ass in them when I worked at a Toyota dealer back in ’87. This Corolla FX16 is an automatic which was probably why it ended up here.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Held together longer than the Wolfsburg rival? I don’t think so, at least anywhere that road salt is a factor. I still see ’80s Golfs on the road every day, I have not seen one of these in at least 15 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      Many older Japanese cars get shipped to the developing world; Latin America is crawling with them.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        In southern california, a pre-immobilizer Toyota and Honda is usually stolen. The crooks usually run it down to Mexico where it will live forever. I would not call this “shipped”, but “stolen”. The problem is so bad that some insurance companies balk at writing policies in SoCal on Toyota and Honda vehicles without an immobilizer. In San Diego, it is impossible to hang on to a pre-immobilizer 4 runner. You would be lucky to keep it for 2 weeks.

        In New York City, every pre-immobilizer Toyota and Honda parked on the streets ( manhattan ), has “the club” on it. I make sure every one of my New York City and Southern California vehicles has an immobilizer.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Nobody uses the club anymore, and while theft in NYC is bad its not that bad. I doubt things are that bad in Cali either

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    This one looks like it may not have had the best care to it in recent years. Other than the mild body damage in the center body panel on the passenger side, the car looks straight otherwise.

    At 177K= miles, it would have had a few more years left in it, unless something major went wrong or the driver simply left it sit for too long and simply didn’t care enough to do anything with it and if it got towed, so what?

    Sad really.

    I see these rarely even up here in Seattle, but occasionally, I DO see them though.

    I have to agree, I love the 80′s for many things, the early 80′s New Wave, the wedge shaped look of the cars and the general designs popular then.

    Nice find there MM!

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I enjoy how 80′s cars have so much room compared to most 90′s offerings.

      Just look at the K-Car, it could seat 6 but later variants could hardly seat 4.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    I have fond memories of this car, it’s the first car I ever owned. Bought it new fom dealer during my senior year of college with my IBM job confirmation letter as the only credit documentation. Loved that car, a real sleeper that could still get 40 mpg on road trips, of which I took many because my gf lived three hours away. Sold it after five years and 115k miles to a guy who exported it to Costa Rica. I sometimes wonder how long it lasted down there. The car I replaced it with, a 93 Sentra SE, made me miss it, except the Sentra had better headroom.

  • avatar

    The scene: Seattle suburb of Believe, the summer of 1986. Yours truly has graduated from college and is a few months into his first real job. My college car, a 6 year old VW Diesel Rabbit, is approaching 150,000 miles, and is starting to show the wear. I shop around a bunch of hot hatches, jonesing for a GTI. Not wanting to miss something interesting I decide to cross-shop the other brands – Honda, Toyota, etc. The CRX seriously tempted me, but the Honda salespeople would not let me test-drive one (WTF – I’ve never even considered buying a Honda since that day.) I wander onto a Toyota dealer on Bellevue’s “auto row” for a look at the FX16.

    I recall the interior was spare, and minimal, even by my el-cheapo Rabbit experience. The car drove nice, but just didn’t feel as tight and well-balanced at the GTI. The most cringe worthy moment was when the salesguy claimed it had sixteen cylinders!

    I bought the GTI.

  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    Cylinders, valves… whatever!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Not ALL of them last forever, it’s all about driving and maintaining them with a little TLC, mine has twice as many miles, but I don’t ever recall flooring the thing.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    After stomping on a cruising buddy whose borrowed MR2 was treated to the ugly reality of the turbocharged Omni’s power superiority, I was approached a couple of months after the encounter by the same friend with a request for advice on what new car he should buy. I didn’t hesitate to recommend one of the then-new FX-16 GTS models, and quickly steered him away from my normal turbocharged Chrysler product recommendation by emphasizing how solidly built that generation of Toyota was. “You might still be slower, but you’re going to be much happier. Trust me on this one.” Considering he parted with his FX only after 16 years amid a steadily growing family, I think my “do as I say, not as I do” advice was right on target that time.

    Despite its brief time in the market, I enjoyed the styling exercises coming out of Japan’s origami school of folded steel and the FX was one of the better examples of same, especially when properly kitted out with the factory spoiler, air dam and side sills.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Were these available in a limited number of colors , like possibly only this white/ red color scheme or possibly this and a silver color scheme ?

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      All I remember from the FX-16 GTS color pallettes were white, black, red and silver; the red w/white lettering and white w/red lettering had the greatest visual appeal to me.

  • avatar
    arbnpx

    If I’m to believe the nerds on Wikipedia’s car-related sections, the AE86 wasn’t really based off an “older” platform; it’s just that the AE85 and AE86 variants were the only rear-wheel-drive cars in the E80 Corolla generation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Corolla_(E80)

    For North America, they list these platforms:
    AE82: FWD (sedan, hatchback, FX / FX16) (also the basis of the 1986-1988 Chevrolet Nova)
    AE83: 4WD (5-door wagon)
    AE85: RWD (4A-C engine)
    AE86: RWD (4A-GE engine)

    From the E90 platform onward, the Corolla was all front-wheel-drive.

    The platform that did have a “schism” was the A platform, which was the Celica platform for the first 3 generations, which also included the first two generations of the “Celica Supra”. But for the 4th generation, the Celica shifted to the “T” platform, which was front-wheel-drive, and the “GT-Four” or “All-trac” AWD version (which was a great series of cars; with the 3S-GTE turbocharged engine, it was a rally legend; unfortunately, the All-Track was not offered in the 6th-generation “ST205″ release.

    The Supra, on the other hand, maintained the “A platform” designation, and continued on with its 3rd generation (A70) and the legendary 4th generation (A80).

    Toyota chassis / platform codes are interesting; you can tell the body type, the engine family being used, and the trim line, all in the space of four or five characters. From AE86 (Corolla GT-S, 4A-GE) to ST205 (6th generation Celica GT-Four, 3S-GTE) to ZZT231 (7th generation Celica GT-S, 2ZZ-GE) to JCE10 (Lexus IS300, 2JZ-GE) to ANT10 (1st generation Scion tC, 2AZ-FE). There’s not a single comprehensive document on translating the codes into the various bodies and engines, but I have a text file off to the side with a “legend” of chassis codes, and the engine codes are rather well documented.

    I’m still awaiting to see what Toyota will designate the Toyota 86 / Scion FR-S. We do know that they will be calling the Subaru FA20 engine by the engine code “4U-GSE”. This is strange, since the last usage of the “U engine” code was the 2U-B, an 800cc flat-twin engine used in the tiny Japan-only Toyota Sports 800.

    • 0 avatar
      righteousball

      Meanwhile Japanese Wikipedia (the Sprinter Trueno article) explains that AE85/86 platform was indeed a minor update based on last-gen TE71. The reason given is a scheduling issue re: changes to the manufacture process.

      I don’t think it’s correct to assume each subsequent “generation” letter/number combo necessarily imply separate platforms. Example: The E80 and E90 sedans are really one platform with smaller updates that don’t require high-effort engineering changes to the structure. You can see it in the cars’ similar proportion amd wheel-to-body relationship. 100/110 form another pair.

      For FWD, EE80 through 110 are in a broader sense all on the same platform, the clean break new platform didn’t arrive until EE120/130.

  • avatar

    I drove a new FX16 for about three years. It was my first car. The engine was great fun at high RPMs. Even as an automatic it was a thrill. I remember if you punched the gas peddle really hard you could get the Automatic trany to downshift to 6000 RPM! And then it would work its way up to 7500rpm before upshifting. I can’t believe this car has a more lively engine than my new MAZDA3. They just don’t make engines like this anymore for that market segment. New engines are about low end torque and you are lucking if the redline is much higher than 6000rpm…

    The car handled great the first year but then I think the shocks loosened up. The 4AGE engine tends not too last well above 140k miles. Usually something like a blown head gasket. Happened to my FX16 and my 1st gen MR2.

    • 0 avatar
      gmrn

      Tru dat on the headgasket. Mine went @ around 180k. I replaced it and later spun a bearing at a bit over 200k. Crazy-fun little car though, particularly when the butterflies of the second set of intake runners opened around 4700 rpm. So many runs up to that 7k+ redline…

    • 0 avatar
      gmrn

      + on the headgasket. Mine went @ around 180k. I replaced it and later spun a bearing at a bit over 200k. Crazy-fun little car though, particularly when the butterflies of the second set of intake runners opened around 4700 rpm. So many runs up to that 7k+ redline…

  • avatar
    BrasilianRican

    Whats the name of this junk yard this Fx 16 gts is in ? Alsowhat city is it in ?

  • avatar
    otto3x

    Murilee Martin, please tell me where the Corolla is ….I need parts.

  • avatar
    djkenny

    I wouldn’t call an A2 VW GTI fragile. I’ve got the last of em, the 2 liter 16v. I doubt I will ever replace it. However, I did also love the FX-16 back in the day. This was the time to buy a hot hatch. Light. Quick. Communicative. Not full of weight increasing and complacated power everything inside. Good seats, a SR. What else do you really NEED or want??? The new VWs are so over bloated with crap. I’ll just repair mine as needed.


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