I know it probably made perfect marketing sense for Toyota to piggyback their new subcompact’s image atop that of the fantastically successful Malaise Era Corolla, in spite of the fact that the two cars were unrelated other than having the same their parent company, but the confusion caused by the “Corolla Tercel” name persists to this day. For that reason, these cars always attract my attention when I see them in wrecking yards; in this series, we’ve seen this ’80 and this ’81 so far.
Because of the Corolla/Tercel confusion that Toyota set into motion back in the early 1980s, many 24 Hours of LeMons fans still think that I gave the coveted Index of Effluency award to an undeserving factory-hot-rod Corolla a couple years back, in spite of my protestations that the Tercel EZ is one of the most terrible cars ever to be inflicted on us by the Japanese. The EZ came two generations after the Tercel we’re admiring today.
The first-gen Tercel, however, wasn’t a bad car at all. Fuel economy was phenomenal and it was incredibly reliable by the standards of the era.
It looks like a rear-wheel-drive car…
…but it’s really front-wheel-drive, with the engine mounted above the transmission and sending power to a cute little differential.
Climate-control systems were simpler in those days. Holy mackerel, is that an air conditioning button? Such luxury!
I used one of these Toyota AC buttons as the main power switch on my homemade Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox project.
5-speed manual transmissions were boast-worthy.
By dirt-cheap Late Malaise Era Toyota econobox standards, these stripes were the height of frivolity.
The interior still looks pretty good at age 31 and 150,141 miles on the clock.