Because the Corolla had become such a hit in the United States during the early part of the Malaise Era, Toyota decided to confuse car buyers and parts-counter guys for eternity by adding the Corolla name to the first-gen Toyota Tercel. This would have been like Volkswagen selling a “Rabbit Fox” or Chrysler selling a “Dart Colt,” but it seemed to work fine for Toyota. Here’s a first-year-for-the-US Tercel I spotted in a Denver self-service yard last week.
These things were noisy and tinny and cheap, but they were more reliable than the other crappy little econoboxes of the Middle Malaise Era.
They were also quite slow, thanks to the 60-horsepower 1A engine driving the front wheels. Yes, it looks like a rear-wheel-drive setup, but it’s really an engine-over-transaxle assembly that made a lot more sense once Toyota started making four-wheel-drive Tercels.
5-speed manual transmissions were still somewhat prestigious in 1980.
I’ve long thought that the vaguely finny-looking taillight treatment on this car resembled the setup on some BMC AD016 models.
Cloth seats, gas-sipping engine, no frills. These cars sold like crazy, but they weren’t worth fixing once they got to be 15 years old and now most of them are gone.
When ventriloquist dummies need to urinate, they must ride in Tercels.
“Has a longitudinal engine… unlike any Honda!”
It does pretty well in a crash test, considering its insubstantial construction.