By on April 18, 2012

It’s strange how the passage of a few decades makes the mid-70s Corolla seem like a much better car than it actually was. Granted, it was quite a car for the time, with a combination of price, reliability, and fuel economy that Detroit and Europe couldn’t touch… but if we take ourselves out of the mindset of the Malaise Era and fast-forward our vehicular expectations maybe ten years, this generation of Corolla turns out to be a cramped, underpowered, noisy econobox that lasted maybe 150,000 miles (if you lived in the rust-free Southwest).
Of course, it’s all about perspective. If you were a Ford dealer trying to move Pintos in 1975, you probably woke up screaming with Corolla nightmares, every night.
You don’t see many Corollas of this era with automatic transmissions, for obvious reasons.
This car’s last owner was serious enough about his or her car to join the Toyota Owners and Restorers Club, but that wasn’t enough to keep the ol’ Corolla out of the jaws of The Crusher.

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68 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1975 Toyota Corolla...”


  • avatar
    tonyola

    I love the attitude in some blogs (like J******k) that just because some old econobox is RWD, then it must automatically be a joy to drive. I know these Corollas and Murilee is right – they’re just not much fun. The handling and roadholding are uninspired, the engines get noisy and thrashy when revved, and the whole car gives off a sensation that it doesn’t like to be pushed hard. Far less entertaining than the contemporary (and FWD) Honda Civic. Corollas of this era were cheap-to-run transportation appliances – nothing more.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Totally correct on the Honda Civics, I had an ’83 1500DX hatchback Civic with the 5spd manual (with working air no less!) and it was one hella fun car to drive and I drove it like I stole it a lot.

      It just begged to be driven and did quite well on I-5 heading to Medford Oregon from Tacoma Washington and back with no problems at all.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    “Corollas of this era were cheap-to-run transportation appliances – nothing more.”

    Sort of like now

  • avatar
    geo

    This was my first car. I remember the sound of the 1200cc engine screaming at anything near highway speeds. I thought there was something wrong with it, and a family friend had to explain that Japanese engines naturally revved high. It didn’t start easily, and I remember my sister screaming in the driveway as she was late for work because of it. She drove it for a few months, neglected to put oil on it, and by the time I got it back it exhaled large amounts of blue smoke. I remember the ease of driving it, the direct feel of the shifter and the heavy vibration as my hand was on it, and the time it took to accelerate. I

    • 0 avatar
      Lynchenstein

      My first car too – hand-me-down from my grandmother who bought it new. Ugliest shade of yellow ever and the only option: an AM Radio. It was a great car to learn to drive in: manual, no power, and the back seat was too small to have any other kind of fun either (though I did try…)

      I drove it for years (one year with studded tires year-round because I was too cheap to buy new summer tires – don’t judge me!). It was likely a crappy car but it was very reliable considering the abuse it suffered, and certainly no Miata like in the recent “wah, should I sell my miata? It was my first car” story, but I loved it!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “Corollas of this era were cheap-to-run transportation appliances – nothing more.”

    What’s changed?

    Thing is, “cramped, underpowered, noisy econobox that lasted maybe 150,000 miles” – that 150K miles was probably almost twice as good as any domestic car at the time, too.

    I hated to say that, by the way…

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Did you get my point about bloggers elsewhere holding cars like these up as secret sports machines? I was debunking that notion with my statement. What’s changed is that a modern Corolla is about a zillion times more refined, has sufficient go to be actually usable, won’t rust nearly as much, and will probably last 300,000 miles with maintenance. As for a 1975 domestic car, I’d wager that a Dart or Valiant with the Slant Six would last at least as long as the Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The Valiant and Dart were both bigger and more expensive than a Corolla. They didn’t compete directly with the Corolla.

        At any rate, they were hardly more fun to drive than a Corolla, and the term “Chrysler quality control” was an oxymoron even for the Valiant and Dart in 1975.

        Chrysler quality and reliability had been sliding downhill since about 1970. The 1975 Valiant and Dart look good today because we now know that what came next was even worse.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        Chrysler quality control could be very slapdash in the 1970s. I know that firsthand – I owned a 1975 Duster 360 for six years. However, the Dart and Valiant were extremely sturdy and long-lived mechanically with the only real weakness being rust (something the Toyota wasn’t immune to either). Though my Duster was in many ways crude, it was basically unbreakable even under abuse. My experience mirrors most Dart/Valiant owners, too. As for fun, the handling of the torsion-bar-equipped Mopar A-cars was a cut above other domestic compacts.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        My grandmother had a 1973 Dodge Dart sedan…it was very reliable and reasonably well-made. Chrysler Corporation quality was so variable in the 1970s, however, which seemed to get worse as the decade progressed.

      • 0 avatar
        GoesLikeStink

        You can not argue that a slant six is not a durable engine. You just cant. I just sold my 65 Dart wagon. That thing is a cocroach. I fully expect to see it around after the apokolips.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      What gave American cars of that era such a bad reputation was the hit or miss (and way too many misses) nature of their quality. Last month I saw two beautiful, unrestored Dodges. A 74 Dart Swinger and a Feather Duster, 76 I think. Compare them to the Adventurer my dad bought in 74. Bubbles under the paint insured rust with a year and massive holes within three. Japanese cars weren’t great, but at least they were still in good shape when you paid them off.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    It would be fun to put modern tires on this crude little beast and challenge it’s 800lb heavier modern sibling to some tests.

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    “If you were a Ford dealer trying to move Pintos in 1975, you probably woke up screaming with Corolla nightmares, every night.”

    Not hardly. Sales of the Pinto in ’75 were brisk, with 223,763 units sold. That was far down from the ’73 peak of 544,209 units but by then demand for all small cars had pretty much collapsed. I’m pretty sure the Pinto beat out the Corolla in every year they were sold side by side. The Pinto was a better car that was vastly more rust-resistant than anything coming out of Japan at the time. The Cologne engine was just as efficient and reliable as whatever vacuum-carb nightmares Toyota was equipping their cars with in the 70′s.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      1975 Pintos were sold to those who bought American no matter what or who didn’t know anything about cars. Back then we did everything we could to talk people we knew out of buying a Pinto. Numbers don’t mean all that much except for the bottom line – after all, GM sold 800,000+ Chevy Citations for 1980.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        1975 Pintos were sold to those looking for reliable, basic, no-frills transportation that didn’t see the point in paying a premium for a foreign car of basically equal quality. There was nothing that made the contemporary Corolla a better value than the Pinto; they were both well-made by the standards of the time, both got roughly equal mileage from what I recall, and in the case of the Pinto used proven mechanicals that had already been manufactured for years. People at the time bought Corollas because they were novel, not because they were good cars. At least in the case of Ford, the “quality gap” in small cars didn’t really start to appear until the 1980′s, and even then it was thin at best.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Once Ford got the bugs worked out of the first-generation North American Escort, and debuted the improved 1985 1/2 model, it was more competitive with the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic than it had been in the mid- and late-1970s with the Pinto.

        Several family members had post-1985 Escorts. They weren’t very exciting (none of them had the GT model), but they were reliable and a very good value for the money. And it’s telling that the Escort nameplate lasted almost 20 years in the United States – or twice as long as the Pinto nameplate did.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        The base MSRP for the 1975 Corolla was $50 less than the cheapest Pinto so there was no built-in “premium”. The difference is that Ford had to heavily discount the Pinto to sell it, while Toyota was able to sell the Corolla at or near list. That shows which car was seen as being more desirable, doesn’t it? As for novelty, the Corolla had been sold in the US since 1969 and began achieving real volume starting in 1970. You’re going to have to do better than this if you want to convince people.

    • 0 avatar
      rustyra24

      Actually Toyota only suffered vacuum and emission nightmares after 75 along with the big bumpers.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Agreed on the sales point.

      I owned three Pintos (71, 76, and 80 Bobcat) – and I remain a ‘fan’ – but I wouldn’t say they were ‘vastly more rust-resistant’ than a Corolla. They were both terrible on that score.

      This Corolla is what Toyota built its reputation on. Cars like this offered better reliability, fuel economy, and more value than the likes of Pintos, Vegas, and Chevettes. The ‘buy American’ pushback had begun in earnest by 1975, but that’s all that kept the domestics as sales leaders. Consumers eventually figured out TTAC and warmed toward the imports.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        The Corolla was a better car than the Vega, but that isn’t saying much. What Toyota built its reputation on was novelty, and the self-destructive fascination with foreign cars that characterized much of the early 70′s. People who were of a practical mind and who understood the economic value in buying domestically produced “unfashionable” brands bought Pintos and were quite satisfied with their cars. Corollas were bought by people who were “bored” with domestic cars and loved the thrill of rebellion they got from being the first one with a Japanese car on the block. The Japanese were able to use a savvy combination of dumping, low cost-labor, union busting, and the occasional decent car to expand on this trend.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Sorry, but the Corolla was a better car than the Pinto. If you doubt that, read contemporary road tests of both cars. Or maybe they, too, are part of that vast, Japanese-car conspiracy.

        And if Corollas were so bad, and Pintos were so great, why can I buy a 2012 Corolla, while I can’t buy a 2012 Pinto?

        And the only “rebellion” driving the sales of Toyotas, Hondas and Datsuns in the 1970s was a rebellion against too many shoddy small cars produced by the domestics.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Sales figures don’t tell the entire story. Ford had far more dealers than Toyota in 1975, and there was still a lingering suspicion of foreign cars in many parts of the country. Ford and Chevrolet were still the default choices of most buyers, particularly among those looking for an economy car.

      The Pinto was more rust resistant than the Japanese cars, but when it came to refinement and consistent quality control, the Japanese easily won. Too many Pintos were slammed together and shoved out the door, regardless of build quality, while Toyota and Honda were perfecting their production processes to improve quality. If you got a good Pinto, great, but if you didn’t…

      The scary part is that the Vega and Gremlin were even worse than the Pinto. The Pinto was the best domestic small car of the 1970s, but by 1975, that wasn’t enough.

      The REALLY scary part is that the domestics were on the way down by the mid-1970s, while the Japanese were clearly on the way up. If you were around at that time, there was no doubt as to which side had the momentum, and which side was coasting on laurels won long ago.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        If by “lingering suspicion” you mean “common sense,” then sure. Once the Japanese car-tel had been given free license to pimp their heavily subsidized wares in every city in America by the late 70′s, Toyota caught up to Ford and GM. But that was only after the Japanese government had basically re-focused the entire economy of the country towards beating American industry. Victor’s history has painted a rosy myth of superior Japanese quality winning the day, but the truth is much uglier and less politically convenient for the anti-domestic crowd.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Sorry, but it’s not “common sense” to buy an inferior product because it happens to be made here. Most people reject that “logic.”

        You can attempt to rewrite history all that you want, but the simple fact is that the Japanese were rapidly improving their products in the 1970s, while the domestics were steadily getting WORSE.

        And to suggest that only the Japanese automakers received subsidies from their home government is naive, at best.

        And so what if the Japanese had “refocused their entire economy” on beating the United States in key industries? Please show me where that is illegal. If that means that executives can’t take home big bonuses or union members have to start worrying about things like productivity and quality control…well, boo-hoo-hoo.

        It also ignores that the domestic automakers enjoyed several key advantages in the 1970s, including strong brand identities, a large body of owners and a strong dealer network.

        The simple fact is that they squandered those advantages with a combination of arrogance and complacency. That’s not Toyota’s fault.

        And, I hate to break it to you, but Japanese quality WAS superior to domestic quality by the late 1970s. They “won the day” in the small-car segment by building better vehicles, and all of the attempts to rewrite history by buy-American fanboys and UAW apologists won’t change that fact.

        I’ve driven both Japanese and American small cars from the 1970s. My first car was a used 1977 Honda Civic, while my father owned a 1973 Gremlin, an aunt owned a 1977 Pinto and friends owned various Vegas. There was no doubt as to which was better.

        Hint – it wasn’t the Vega, Pinto or Gremlin.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        Before the outsourcing madness of the 70′s and 80′s, you would have been laughed out of the room with your “logic.” Now that the mania of buying disposable foreign junk with no regards to consequences is embedded in the national psyche, it has become a great meme for the economically unaware. Add to that conveniently unverifiable myths about superlatives such as “quality” and “value” and you have an argument that is guaranteed to be won only by the most dedicated of sophists. What the Japanese have created is a self-perpetuating mythology that is impossible to combat on logical grounds because it is anchored in nothing. But at least I got to admit that you have no problem with a double standard in terms of “free” markets, as long as America comes out the loser.

        If the American government decided to create non-tariff barriers to entry in the auto market, to subsidize the materials necessary to build cars, to provide special tax rebates to auto companies to give them a competitive edge, to actively undermine free-trade agreements for their benefit, and to absorb much of their research and development costs as well as provide major social welfare benefits to their workers, I bet the shrieking from foreign-car apologists would be nonstop. Oh wait, it’s already nonstop now, with the American government having done practically none of these things. But in Japan, this happens because everyone knows what side their bread is buttered on. You won’t find self-defeating pseudo-libertarian jargon about “open markets” and “free trade” in that country. They smirk and know that is nothing but a cover for the interests who profit in the destruction of the middle class. Your defense of your ’77 Civic is utterly predictable.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        PintoFan,

        I was there too in the 1970s and the Japanese were embarrassing Detroit when it came to build quality. If you don’t believe me, go look up period auto magazine tests and even Consumer Reports. I will grant that Pintos were fairly sturdy cars, but when it came to fit and finish, any Toyota, Datsun, or Honda would see them off. It was even more of a contrast when it came to the driving experience. The Pinto felt rough, slow, and crude even next to a Corolla, much less a Civic.

        Your devotion to and defense of such a substandard car like the Pinto is both touching and sad, as well as being to no avail.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        PintoFan: Before the outsourcing madness of the 70′s and 80′s, you would have been laughed out of the room with your “logic.”

        A little education here – manuacturing output in the United States has CLIMBED by 30 percent since 2002. What has declined is manufacturing employment (by 30 percent over the same period).

        And that is being driven by improved production processes and automation, not outsourcing.

        Ford, for example can build more vehicles with fewer people than it could in the 1990s (or 1970s), and with higher quality, to boot.

        Your real beef is with computers and improved production processes, not cheap foreign labor.

        PintoFan: Now that the mania of buying disposable foreign junk with no regards to consequences is embedded in the national psyche, it has become a great meme for the economically unaware.

        If you really believe that Honda and Toyota were peddling “junk” in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and still do today, you need to get out more.

        They got where they are by building superior products.

        The fact that the domestics have overhauled their entire operations, from the design studio to the factory floor, to improve their products, confirms this. They have undergone a revolution, and their vehicles reflect Japanese attention to detail and quality control, along with European levels of handling and braking. Some (Ford) have responded more effectively than others (GM and Chrysler).

        If things were so great before, and they were producing such awesome vehicles, why did they have to change their operations and vehicles so drastically?

        PintoFan: Add to that conveniently unverifiable myths about superlatives such as “quality” and “value” and you have an argument that is guaranteed to be won only by the most dedicated of sophists. What the Japanese have created is a self-perpetuating mythology that is impossible to combat on logical grounds because it is anchored in nothing.

        No, what the Japanese have instituted – or, more accurately, what Toyota instituted, and Honda more or less copied – was a Lean Production System that improved product quality and lowered cost, benefiting customers, workers and shareholders.

        That is no “myth.” It is a fact, supported by independent surveys over the years.

        If you doubt that, I’d suggest reading back issues of Consumer Reports. For that matter, I can put you in touch with several independent mechanics, or the former service adviser who now works for a Pennsylvania law firm that specializes in automotive lemon laws. They all say the same thing – Toyota and Honda make the most reliable, trouble-free cars.

        PintoFan: But at least I got to admit that you have no problem with a double standard in terms of “free” markets, as long as America comes out the loser.

        What I “admitted” was that every country subsidizes the home team in various ways. Unfortunately, government subsidies, over the long run, won’t outweigh lousy vehicles greenlighted by boneheaded management and produced by a spoiled union. As GM and Chrysler, and, to a lesser extent, Ford, have proven over the past 40 years.

        PintoFan: If the American government decided to create non-tariff barriers to entry in the auto market, to subsidize the materials necessary to build cars, to provide special tax rebates to auto companies to give them a competitive edge, to actively undermine free-trade agreements for their benefit, and to absorb much of their research and development costs as well as provide major social welfare benefits to their workers, I bet the shrieking from foreign-car apologists would be nonstop. Oh wait, it’s already nonstop now, with the American government having done practically none of these things.

        Yes, that is because those “foreign car apologists” (in the real world, we call them “paying customers who have voted with their hard-earned dollars”) have an understanding of economics that seems to have eluded you.

        Let me help you.

        Tariffs and other informal barriers help special interests (in the auto industry, that would be fat-cat executives, shareholders and unions) while hurting CUSTOMERS.

        It’s not the responsibility of customers to buy an inferior vehicle in order to ensure that executives receive huge bonuses or UAW members never lose their jobs.

        The idea that the UAW is the backbone of the middle class, or that everyone suffers because UAW members have a higher co-payment for their prescriptions drugs, is a myth believed only by the gullible or the hopelessly stupid. Most of us have never made UAW wages, and higher new-car prices (the inevitable result of tariffs and informal barriers) do not create wealth, but only transfer a larger percentage of it from car buyers to shareholders and blue- and white-collar employees.

        PintoFan: But in Japan, this happens because everyone knows what side their bread is buttered on. You won’t find self-defeating pseudo-libertarian jargon about “open markets” and “free trade” in that country. They smirk and know that is nothing but a cover for the interests who profit in the destruction of the middle class.

        You might read up on your recent history of Japan. Then you would know that the country has been in a serious recession since the early 1990s. The Japanese can smirk all they want, but they can only wish that their country’s economy had performed as well as that of the economy of the United States since 1990. If they had more “pseudo-libertarian” thinkers, their economy might fully recover.

        PintoFan: Your defense of your ’77 Civic is utterly predictable.

        Yes, because it was a better car. I speak from personal experience.

        When you have driven one, along with the contemporary competition, let me know.

        Agruing that a Pinto was better than a contemporary Corolla (let alone a contemporary Civic) is a hopeless cause. You might as well argue that a Big Mac Extra Value Meal is better than the meal at a five-star restaurant.

      • 0 avatar
        Good ole dayz

        PintoFan:

        I worked for multi-franchise auto dealerships from 1971-1996, including some years as a service advisor and in parts. I hate to break it to you, but from the “boots on the ground” level of seeing who was naughty and who was nice, THROUGHOUT that period, on average the Japanese brands were head and shoulders above the domestics. Not only that, but the Europeans were far above the domestics on fit and finish, safety and driving dynamics (on reliability, well, not so much).

        From what I see in Consumer Reports, this is still the case, albeit the gap may have closed somewhat.

        Let’s face it, the Asian brands consider quality to be a matter for the engineering and manufacturing divisions, while the domestics consider it something for the marketing department. And then there’s the UAW, which adds costs while not adding value (quite the opposite).

        And when it comes to government subsidies, the U.S. government’s tens of billions of dollars bailout of the UAW (via the bailout of GM and Chrysler) — tens of billions of which will never be repaid (see, e.g., GM’s tax loss carryforward), simply dwarfs any alleged subsidy or trade favoritism that the Japanese could have concocted.

        Tens of billions of taxpayer funds, and all we’ve got to show for it is continued inferior quality (at least by comparison to the Japanese), a still-coddled UAW and flaming Volts.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    When we discuss 1975, let’s focus on how well we all seemed to have compromised that year, producing some of history’s most forgotten moments. No – it wasn’t the drugs being ingested. 1975 conspired to be forgotten.

    Let’s discuss politics, because, well, just because it brings in the blog traffic. Gerald Ford was president. There. Remember Jerry? He was the big bald guy that seemed like the kind of white man anyone could have had a beer with and not be embarrassed if we let out a fart around. Decent guy. He is sandwiched between Richard Malicious Nixon, the guy villified since 1948 by the people who believed they were better than us, and Jimmy Holier-Than-Thou Carter, the guy Timothy Leary claimed was the second coming of Jesus Christ. Dr. Acid was serious.

    Then let’s go to music. Led Zepplin fans destroyed Boston because Led Zepplin wasn’t banned there anymore. Reports at the time mentioned that the mobs screamed louder than Jimmy Page singing, “A Whole Lotta Love”. The band is idolized now, but in 1975 it was John Denver everyone idolized. Denver was America’s biggest solo artist in 1975. John Denver was so big, a midget version of him appeared as Cousin Oliver on “The Brady Bunch”, and when the Zepplin crowd wasn’t vomiting on Boston, you could hear them copy Denver’s catchphrase, “Far Out!” Take me home, country roads, to the year I forgot, 1975.

    After pushing large body on frame vehicles that got seven miles per gallon into gas stations in 1974, Americans woke up with a Mustang II or an AMC Pacer in their driveway. No one knows how that happened except Lee Iacocca, a giant rubber shark named Jaws, and a Swedish group singing, “Dancing Queen”. In order to give the Market vehicles that delivered better fuel economy, Detroit began shipping all their vehicles with empty engine compartments, which was an improvement compared to the four cylinders suddenly offered in 4000 pound vehicles that year. 0-60 times were so slow, major auto publications began using sun dials.

    Cars were required by Washington to have cow catchers on front and back, replacing the bumpers. Cars designed before this year looked like kids with 400 pound stainless steel braces on their teeth. So, that Mustang II looked pretty good in 1975 – didn’t it? The Muscle Car Era was murdered along with Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, so the GTO and the Road Runner were gaudy stripe options on pathetic compact cars. Alice Cooper, your ride got neutered.

    Now this car. Excuse me, but by the standards of 1975, this car was a Toyota. It wasn’t a Mustang II. It wasn’t a Pinto Flambe. It wasn’t a Vega/Monza/Assembly Required GM vehicle. It was the Olivia Newton John of the Car Shows in 1975. “Have you ever been mellow?”

    Besides the ability of ordering a Bicentennial version of a Dodge Dart, the ability of hearing “Bohemian Rapsody” on an AM radio, and seeing Diana Ross in the movie, “Mahogany”, Ameican men also had the ability to corset themselves in the tightest pants ever forced upon them by fashion. Many discovered that testicles can return into the body cavity when wearing 100% nylon thong undies. Cocaine was often abused at that time, but I’m sure that was merely a coincidence.

    As with an episode of Kojak promising that Manhattan crime could be beaten, the Toyota Corolla promised the world that Detroit crimes against autodom could be beaten in the year – uh – what was that year again?

    I keep forgetting it… Ah, the joys of compromising. Let’s remember that when we hear folks complaining about how no one gets along anymore. That, and also the fact that when you take a gallon of milk and compromise it with urine, you don’t get a milkshake.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      It sounds like you didn’t have much fun in 1975. While that year was not exactly landmark, I don’t remember it as being quite so gruesome. There was also plenty of good music around if you were willing to get past Top 40 and dig a bit.

      You have to be a little careful with false nostalgia. 1966 is held up as a banner year in rock music and deservedly so. However, the #1 song for the year was “Ballad of the Green Berets”. John Denver wasn’t even on my radar in 1975 much less commanding my attention.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        So, you are saying that you were pretty much stoned in 1975?

        And the rock banner year was 1979.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        1975. Great year for me. I met the sweet gal who is my wifey.

        Song of the year for 1966? “Ballad of the Green Berets”? Nope. Song of the year was “The Ballad Of Irving”!

        Yeah, yeah, I’m kidding.

        Nixon was great, and I’m not kidding, although I don’t involve myself in politics anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        I said “a” banner year, not “the” banner year. Pot hurts your reading comprehension. Plus 1979 sure was not “the” banner year for rock!

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy B

      Only one quibble: Robert Plant would be singing, not Jimmy Page

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Sorry – I don’t listen to the oldies stations to know that. Who’s Jimmy Page then? Is he that Jamaican singer?

        I’m embarrassing myself, aren’t I? OK – I’ll stop.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Insult it all you want, but I have warm fuzzy memories of the 70s. This may have more to do with the chemicals I ingested in the 80s, than any goodness that actually came out of the polyester/van love/disco era. Now excuse me, there is a Mr. Landshark at my door with a flower delivery.

  • avatar

    Hmmm, seems too harsh to me. I have pretty good memories of these cars.

    A 1973 Corolla SR-5, in particular. High school graduation present to a girlfriend from her grandma. The build quality was a revelation, for the time. Panel gaps consistent, and small. Sealed doorframes. Slick-shifting 5-speed, a little 1.6 hemi (2T-C) that loved to rev, smooth idle, comfortable enough seats in front, teen-aged friends could fit in the back if need be. Very reliable, and so easy to service. Lotsa trips to/from campus, decent mpg. Designed / built by people who seemed to care how it turned out; that wasn’t a given in this era, IMHO. Yes, very simple engineering, just enough. Which was okay, for its role.

    One thing: ewww, I do remember all that vacuum hosing for emissions controls in cars of this era. That junkyard shot shows a fenderwell-mounted box with a few dozen hoses terminating . Murilee had a post awhile back with a Civic’s vacuum schematic: frightening!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Still better and more affordable than the domestic or European competition.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      You wouldn’t have been able to obtain the privilege of Toyota badge ownership for anywhere near what a comparable domestic car would have cost you in 1975. I’m sure you’ll say that’s because whatever Toyota had to sell was vastly better, but millions of Pinto owners didn’t fall for that shell game.

  • avatar
    geo

    I know this question does not reflect conventional logic, as everyone knows the Pinto exploded when you touched it, but . . .

    Was the Corolla really that much better than the Pinto, aside from the handling? My understanding is that the Pinto was quite reliable relative to the standards of the day. It had more power than the Corolla, and didn’t rust as badly. Or is this just another example of domestic vs. import perception. I know the anecdotes . . . and again, for the record, my 1977 Corolla was rusty, underpowered crap.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Yes. It was really much better. The interior was actually usable and didn’t require that you crawl into a back seat designed by a yoga instructor with a Mengele complex.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      No. And the Pinto was not any more dangerous than other contemporary small cars. The Gremlin was actually more prone to rear impacts with fire, and the small Datsuns had the highest fatality rate of any subcompact car that was not the Beetle (which is in its own special category as far as danger was concerned). Both the Corolla and the Pinto were mechanically reliable for the time, and the Pinto had much better corrosion protection than any Japanese car then available.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I believe you are referring to the September 1981 Rutgers Law Review article on the Pinto controversy, so some points need to be clarified.

        One, the OVERALL death rate from all types of accidents for the Pinto was average for contemporary small cars.

        Two, the death rate for fire-related accidents in the Pinto was slightly higher than normal for other small cars of that time.

        Three, the above figure needs to take into account that the Pinto wagon never had a problem with its fuel tank or fuel filler tube. The wagon was extremely popular and accounted for a very high percentage of Pinto sales.

        Competitive small wagons weren’t nearly as popular, nor did they constitute such a high percentage of their respective model’s total sales. This large number of wagons could skew the final fire-related fatalities figure in the Pinto’s favor.

        The author noted that the Mother Jones article wildly exaggerated the number of fire-related Pinto deaths, and completely misconstrued the infamous “Pinto” memo. He concluded, however, that the sedans and hatchbacks built from 1971 through 1976 did have an unsafe fuel tank and fuel filler tube design.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case by Gary Schwartz was published in 1991, not 1981. And it is not the only work that has tackled the Pinto controversy. Douglas Birsch and John H. Fielder wrote an excellent book, “The Ford Pinto Case,” which covers many aspects of the controversy, and there have been many others. The wagon theory was not part of Schwartz’ paper and it sounds rather dubious to me overall. Even though he concludes that there was some unacceptable risk to the Pinto in terms of rear impacts with fire, I say that the overall number of these incidents is too tiny to really be statistically significant.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        You are correct, the article was published in 1991, not 1981.

        At any rate, one has to consider the number of Pinto wagons that were on the road, and their safer fuel tank and fuel-filler tube design, when looking at the Pinto’s fire-related death rate as a result of rear collisions. If the wagons are included in the most of the calculations (and nothing I’ve read leads me to conclude that they weren’t), but this body style never had a problem with fuel tank or fuel-filler design, then that must be taken into consideration.

        It’s worth noting that the wagons were specifically excluded from the government-mandated recall of 1971-76 Pintos.

        If you look footnote 76 on page 1032 of the Rutgers Law Review article, the fire-related death rate for 1973 Pintos in operations was well over twice that of other 1973 subcompacts. What’s significant is that this figure specifically excluded the Pinto wagons for that year. Almost 1/3 of Pintos sold that model year were wagons – hardly an insubstantial percentage.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        There was no back seat in a Gremlin or a Beetle, just a padded bench that looked like a seat usable only for passengers without legs. The Pinto had two butt cups you plopped into backwards, like you are going to take a dump in a phone booth. The transmission hump between the two butt cups prevented a fun evening more effectively than an 82 year old Amish chapparone with a bull whip.

        Once ensconced in said Pinto butt cup, your forward view was of the back of the front seats covered in Essence-of-Polychloride Faux Naugahyde straight from a chemical vat in a Czech lab where all the male workers had developed breasts from the hormones used to make the Pinto interior feel cheaper than a discount aisle at an abandoned KMart – but saved Ford fifty cents per yard.

        A Corolla was better because cardboard pine tree air freshners didn’t burst into flames when hung from their rear view mirror, as they did in the Pintos, especially after they were rear ended by a blown shopping cart in an oil and transmission fluid stained Goldblatts parking lot in Calumet City, Illinois.

        That’s why the Pinto has gone the way of Lawn Jarts, Kent Micronite filters, and aluminum condoms.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Cheap, RWD, noisy, underpowered…reading this and Faisal’s review, the Tata Nano would seem to be a bit of a spiritual successor to the E30 Corolla – “it does not offer what one would expect from a modern day vehicle.”

  • avatar
    PlentyofCars

    I must have lived on a different planet. In 1975, the hot economy car that revolutionized the automobile industry was the transverse mounted engine, front wheel drive VW Rabbit/Golf.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      OK, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who remembered that, too. In my neck of the woods, it was the VW Rabbit. Or the BMW 320i, but you had to be a trust-fund baby to afford one of those. The Corollas and Datsun B210′s were truckish, underpowered cramped little versions of bigger cars.

      The Rabbit along with the Civic were almost radically different (at least in my part of the midwest), but the VW had the advantage of having a larger dealer network and good name recognition.

      My oldest brother graduated from university in 1975. His former roommate had a Rabbit, and my brother really liked the car. But post-college jobs being what they are and no credit history yet, he didn’t qualify for the loan, so he ended up with a used car instead…

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I love these philosophical discussions. Blame W.E.Deming. Oh, and the built in subsidy known as single-payer the rest of the civilized world enjoys.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Then how are the Germans, Japanese and South Koreans able to built plants in the United States and provide health insurance for employees without any problems?

      If the advantage a nation incurs by having a single-payer health insurance system is so great, then why build plants here?

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    1975 Vega, Pinto, Datsun, Toyota were all crap mobiles compared to the under appreciated 1975 Opel Manta. It won hands down in all categories – body, paint, suspension, engine. While the aforementioned cars suffered the drivability horrors of primitive, power robbing emission controls, the Opel was equipped with Bosch L Jet Tronic, multiport fuel injection that met 1975 EPA regs without a catalytic converter. It never had warm up issues nor needed to be retuned for altitude. It was dead reliable too. I had the car for seven, rust free and trouble free years.
    About a decade later, Detroit and Japan woke up and started using modern fuel injection.
    And best of all, you bought it from a Buick dealer and not some thinly reformed, white collar criminal posing as a Toyota dealer.
    Hope this helped with the discussion.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      The Manta was in a different class and far more expensive than the other subcompacts you mentioned. The Manta was indeed a nice car, but it wasn’t a Pinto competitor – it was up against costlier and sportier cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        While true that the list price was higher, I only paid $3800 for the 75 Manta. I believe that Buick was offering an incentive as it was advertised at this price in a local paper. I remember that the Japanese dealers were charging above sticker for their less dsirable cars resulting in very little price difference. When adjusted for content and technology, I decided that the Manta was actually cheaper even though it was a class above the Corolla and one below the BMW that cost a lot more.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        $3,800 was still over a grand above a base Corolla, which had an MSRP of a little over $2,700 in 1975. Also, since 1975 was the last year that the German-built Opels were imported into the US and sales had collapsed due to the rising DM vs. dollar exchange rate, you probably got a clearance price from your dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Yes it was bit more upscale after all it was sold at Buick dealers. My dad had the Opel 1900 4 dr think of it as a poor mans 2002.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    We need a 1st gen Celica!

    and the 1st gen corolla looked better.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    Just logging in to say that this Pintofan guy is such a troll. He has to be to feel that way about a Pinto.

    • 0 avatar
      geo

      Trolls deliberately try to piss people off. He formulates arguments at states them. The fact that you disagree with him doesn’t make him a troll.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I want to know if PintoFan and TempoFan[?] are brothers…. They are both utterly out of thier minds regardless, but as the saying goes, there is an @ss for every seat!

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I got a cherry in 1975 – that’s ALL that I cared about. And in a 1975 Pontiac Ventura at that. Car was ugly as a fart in church and couldn’t pull a greasy string out a cats butt. But, it did have soft cloth seats, ha, bet those “stains” are still there in a junk yard somewhere!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    My sister owned a 77 Corolla base model 1200cc 4 spd 2dr in grey. No carpet only rubber matting. The only option was an AM/FM radio. It had of all things a manual choke. Just pull it out when you started it and as the the engine idled it pushed itself back in. The car was quite reliable she got over 150k out of it.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Pinto Fan, you are a tool.

    Your arguments are beginning to sound like a broken record and that’s not good.

    I grew up on large sized domestic sedans and my parents bought a ’76 Honda Accord, and ended up with 2 more and Mom had one more after Dad died, and I had 2 used Hondas, they all served us well and without issues, other than the timing belt in the ’85 Accord breaking, fortunately, not on the upstroke as it was an interference motor so nothing other than a fresh belt/water pump was needed. Both of my Hondas got over 180K miles on them, and they would’ve gone much more than that if neither of them had been rear ended. I grew up mostly with Mopar products and one of them was a ’64 Dodge station wagon with the 225 slant six, torqueflite auto and it lasted us until 1977 with over 140K miles on it, and that was a RARE thing back when it was made, and in the 70′s, most cars could get over 100K miles with no problem, 150K was considered the theoretical limit by the mid to late 70′s, now, 200K+ is common, with the Japanese being some of the first to go that much without a major rebuild – that was in the 80′s as we’ve seen many of these Japanese cars doing just that, with many beginning as early as the mid to late 70′s where rust isn’t an issue onwards.

    My parents and I got lucky as ALL of our cars were reasonably reliable but the Hondas were so much better put together than anything by Detroit up until more recent years.

    While I like the basic design of the Pinto, I know enough to know that it was nothing remotely as nice as what was coming out of Europe or Japan. Mom had a 76 Chevy Vega and it ended up being a decent car for the times, but it was SLOW, slower than that ’75 Corolla in fact and not nearly as fuel efficient I don’t think and they were of similar size.

    It’s become terribly sad that you have become so blind as to the truth about what had/has happened in the automotive industry that you feel compelled to defend to the death the poor Pinto despite it’s major faults.


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