That I do agree with other’s criticism of the fact that the Toyota Corolla has become too appliance-like over the past decade, has me looking back on earlier iterations of the model with increasing fondness. While there were indeed some memorably fun-to-drive FWD versions—the FX-16 for one (and some may include the NUMMI Nova Twin-Cam, although it wore a “Bowtie”)—there was, and is just no comparison to the “FTD Factor” intrinsic in the earlier RWD models. That “factor” was very present even in the little 1972 1200 Coupe I owned (and “boy-racered” to the degree that my budget and skill set allowed) back in the late ‘70’s. (In my “Dealer Days” during the same time period, a very large Japanese-Hawaiian coworker had a wagon version of the same car. He had done some fairly extensive performance work on the little one-point-two, but visually it was bone-stock—right down to the wheel covers—and was wearing machine-gray paint that worthily complemented its “sleeper” image. It was quite a sight seeing him jammed into the confines of that tiny interior, racing towards or away from the employee parking lot, exhaust cackling a “mini-me” performance tune, as he heeled-and-toed or speed-shifted the little drivetrain into submission!) The first experience I had with driving one of these earlier RWD Corollas was when I first started working at that Toyota dealership. We had a small rental fleet of 1977 Coupes, equipped with the legendary 2-TC 1600 engines, three-speed automatic transmissions, and precious little else in the way of upgrade options (I remember they were equipped with vinyl flooring—no carpet!) They were really the all-time perfect rental cars: stripped of any unnecessary equipment, and virtually indestructible! I know this because our crew of lot attendants and trainees—with our potentially hazardous combination of youthful exuberance AND inexperience—certainly couldn’t destroy them! That bit of ancient history leads us into our present subject: what appears to be the 1981 construct of the same vehicle. The condition of this one illustrates my point on the Corollas of this time period—in a truly exaggerated fashion! Physically beaten—and rusted where not beaten—but still on the road. The owner has probably been considering sending it to the wrecker for some time—no doubt just waiting for the catastrophic mechanical failure that will finally lead to its being euthanized. My experience with the mechanical integrity of these units says these types of failures can be a long time in coming. While their simplicity and rugged design are the main contributing factors to this, the FTD feature tends to be endearing enough so as to influence the owner in ways otherwise contradicting objective reasoning. “Yeah, she’s a little tired looking, but what a RUNNER!” About the only thing in the mechanical realm that gets to be a consistent problem with these ‘rollas, at this point, is the A.I.R. injection componentry within the emissions control system. I mean, the stuff was all built to last; but we’re looking at a thirty-year-old vehicle here, and these components can’t be expected to last forever. Functional replacement parts—whether new or used—can be scarce, and expensive. I have found that a little “Yankee Ingenuity” can go a long way when replacement parts can’t readily be had, though. Hopefully, the owner of this example continues to be “unreasonable”, letting his or her road-going derelict “freak flag fly”.
Phil has written features and columns for a number of automotive periodicals and web-based information companies. He has run a successful Auto Repair Business in the past for many years (See “Memoirs of an Independent Repair Shop Owner” on this ttac site). He can be contacted through this very site, or http://www.linkedin.com/