By on October 9, 2012

You’re not going to find a rear-wheel-drive AE86-platform Corolla GT-S in a low-priced self-service wrecking yard, not these days. The later front-wheel-drive Corolla GT-S FX16 shows up in such yards every now and then, but the AE92 version of the GT-S that followed isn’t seen quite as often. Here’s one that I found in the San Francisco Bay Area last month.
The 4A-GE engine was up to 115 horsepower by this time. These cars were quick for their time.
The Geo Storm GSi had 15 more horsepower and weighed about the same as the Corolla, but there’s the whole Isuzu-versus-Toyota build-quality thing to consider there.


In Japan, where this car was known as the Sprinter Trueno, the marketing seems to have been focused on, what, ballroom dancing?

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Toyota Corolla GT-S...”


  • avatar
    kinsha

    Actually the 1990-1991 GTS had the 3rd gen. 4AGE motor ( redtop Hi- compression ) motor. These were 130 HP and redlined @ 7600 rpm. The 1990-1992 Prizm GSI also had this gen. 4AGE. I have a 1991 GSI and they are great motors. They also make the best sound when revved. This GTS does not look to be in to bad of shape body wise. Rust was the real killer on these. Not sure how many miles this one has but after 200000 time for a rebuild and somebody probably did not want to mess with it.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    The thing that really gets lost about these FWD Corolla GTS models is how well they handled compared to the competition. I remember driving one and thinking to myself it felt equal to or slightly better than a similar year Prelude Si.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Pity. Body on this one is damn solid, and it doesn’t look like the interior was in bad shape before someone started gutting it. In Puerto Rico these are revered; someone would have found a way to get it back running.

  • avatar
    Bangernomist

    I have a dim recollection that the “Red Top” high compression 4A-GE from these later AE92′s will fit the RWD AE86 with some drilling and tapping the block for motor mounts. Surprised this one hasn’t been scavenged.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The AE86 gets all the dorifto love, but I think the AE92 was a better car. I see two of them still running around here, the paint completely faded away and I’m sure they’re well over 200k by now. This was probably the most fun you could have in a subcompact until the SE-R showed up.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Can’t drift it. That car sucks.

    I kind of want to agree. These felt like an appliance compared to the old rear driver.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    We crossed shopped this & and the celica all-trac turbo with the Eclipse GSX in the fall of 1989. [looked at several others too...the VW Corrado & Geo Storm GSi come to mind]. I remember the outside mirrors had little “holes” in them. To my 9 year old mind they were the coolest thing ever!

    Bought the GSX. best bang for the buck of all of those we looked at. We just sold it last year at 92K miles. Wonderful car when properly maintained and adult-driven.

  • avatar
    kinsha

    Sure you can drift them put a good quality cookie sheet under each rear tire. Set the emergency brake, and go for it! Seen them do this on AFV with a camry. Looks like a blast to me although I have not tried it yet. :-)

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    I remember really liking these back in the day. Even by today’s standards they are still a good looking little car. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I’ve often wondered why I didn’t buy one of these.

    Now I know why. Toyota build quality be damned, the Turbo Shadow I owned at the time would run the butt off of this thing. It’s a pity really, with a few more ponies this little Corolla could have been a contender.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    With the Celica in showrooms I’m not sure why someone would take an FWD Corolla.

    I can say that the switch to FWD made it a bit quicker though.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I always thought these were a better value than the late 80′s, 90′s Celica, Just as roomy, good ergonomics, just as much HP and good or better handling. Nicer looking too.

      Remember when the Corolla came in many styles and trim levels. A shame we don’t get at least a new coupe version.

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    The 2013 Toyota Corolla GTS…..stands for Go To Sleep.

    That’s how beige Toyota has gotten and Honda isn’t too far behind.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Wasn’t this the fore runner to the not much lamented Paseo?

    • 0 avatar
      Styles79

      Kind of in the US, but the Paseo was based on the Starlet platform. In Japan the Sprinter Trueno and Corolla Levin lived on for two more generations, still Corolla-based. The AE100 series got a 20-valve version of the 4A-GE, and the AE110 series was the last of the Levin/Trueno twins.

  • avatar
    Styles79

    We got a lot of these here in NZ as used Japanes imports. We also got the Corolla Levin, which was basically the same, but had fixed headlamps instead of pop-ups. We also got a number of the supercharged 4A-GZE powered ones, a friend of mine had one, and it wasn’t a bad little performer.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “but there’s the whole Isuzu-versus-Toyota build-quality thing to consider there”

    As an ex-owner of 2 similar vintage Isuzu Impulse, basically the same car as the Storm, I differ from that. I actually found the Isuzu to be better built than the Toyota.

    The Impulse was as bulletproof as any Corolla, and the interior was nicer too.

    And then revving the bloody thing to 7800 rpm… I loved that little engine.

    I miss that car. Would have been a nice AutoX/Rally machine.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      was selling Toyotas in the early 90′s, only the Supra and MR2 really did anything for me. In exurban Georgia, we mostly sold trucks and 4Runners.

      My favorite cars to test drive (as used or auction units) were the Diamond-Star triplets and the Geo Storm GSi/Isuzu Impulse turbos (US models). The D-S cars just plain hauled, but the Storm was more fun to drive. Those were my favorites against the Celica and Corolla variations. The Paseo wasn’t even in the hunt. I thought of it as a Toyota EXP (North American variation of a FWD Ford Escort).

      When a friend of mine and I raced in SCCA Parking Lots (in the late 80′s), our Dodge Omni was classed in with Suzuki Swift GTIs, Mitsubishi Mirage Turbos and Geo Storms. If the one guy who had the Mitsu showed up, he would win everything. If he didn’t, then at least we had a fair chance at beating the Swift. The Geo Storm was always a good competitor, and with the fact that I could have gotten one with supplier discounts, we came close to switching over.

      By then, he’d fallen in love and she thought racing (any kind) was far too dangerous. And my first child was on the way, so I sold my half of the car back to him, and he sold our perfectly-good, totally sorted-out Omni to one of our former competitors rather inexpensively.

      Bummer.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    In 1990 toyota coupes weren’t being taken seriously as performance cars. For all the current AE86 love, the compact stars were FWD then, especially in places it snows. I was in the market in the late 80s for a car such as this and didn’t even consider it; it came down to a Scirocco GTI or an Acura Integra. I got the Integra. Never regretted that decision. It replaced a BMW 2002tii with 286,000 miles and I piled 230,000 on the Integra before it wore out.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    This is worth rescuing, where are the auto enthusiasts in S.F.? come on these are super expensive to buy, if you can even find a decent one.

  • avatar
    genetxs

    I have a 1990 gts “red top”. I picked it up for $500, put a new clutch in, installed timing belt, and put new brakes on it.I have been driving it every day for 2 years now. It will do 100mph in third gear, not bad for a 32 mpg car. Mine also red lines around 8500.

  • avatar
    Power6

    I was a big fan of the AE92 GT-S. I even tried to locate one years ago and even then they were rare to find used, good luck finding the later 130HP version. I ended up with an MX-6 GT Turbo.

    This car, like another of my favorites, the late 2.0L Sunbird or Skyhawk Turbo, were slow sellers when new, impossible to find now because they were never worth preserving.


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