It was the summer of 1990, and my mom was getting tired of her old Sentra. With barely 70 horsepower, it was lethargic on any grade. To be fair, we live in Ohio, so steep hills are not frequently encountered, but the car was not meeting her needs. I encouraged her to start shopping, and we ended up at a Toyota dealer.
While I drooled over the Celica and Corolla GT-S, mom found a light blue Corolla sedan that she fell in love with. Save for an AM/FM-cassette, it was stripped — we even had to buy an aftermarket clock! — but it had more power and room than the old Nissan. Good thing, too, as that was the summer I went from five-foot-five to six-foot-two-inches tall.
She’s on Corolla number five or six now. It may not inspire enthusiasts, but the Corolla inspires loyalty.
Every summer, I go to Wisconsin to stay in a cabin on Lake Michigan owned by my wife’s family. Mostly I’m rendered too immobile by excessive cheese curd and cured-meat consumption to do much junkyard exploring, but this trip I managed to hit Green Bay to check out a self-service yard full of very rusty and/or late-model Detroit inventory. Among all the 9-year-old Malibus and endless stretches of Buicks in the GM section, I spotted this NUMMI-built Nova. (Read More…)
For reasons that trolly shouters on both extremes of the American politico-socio-automotive spectrum know to be the truth, the exact same workers at the Fremont Assembly plant who couldn’t hammer together a decent-quality Buick Regal or GMC C/K— no matter how many Mickey’s Big Mouths they guzzled in some South Hayward parking lot before their shifts— suddenly became capable of building rebadged Corollas that were every bit as good as the ones made by their Japanese counterparts, once the plant became NUMMI (nowadays they build Teslas there). Of course, each of you knows that this is due to (insert damning indictment of those dupes who believe Wrong Things here) with a touch of (insert bilious tirade that sounds the alarm about Some Evil Conspiracy here), and to provide ammunition for your arguments I present this 1988 Chevrolet-badged AE82 Toyota Sprinter aka Corolla. (Read More…)
Workers at Tesla’s Fremont plant celebrate the 1,000th Model S body built, 2012.
United Auto Workers president Bob King has said that the labor union is interested in organizing Tesla’s assembly plant in Fremont, California and that a group of workers at the site have set up an organizing committee for the UAW. That factory is where Tesla assembles the battery powered Model S. Tesla has prided itself in being different from Detroit and its headquarters’ location, the Silicon Valley, is not exactly a labor hotbed. (Read More…)
Because the factory-hot-rod FX-16 version of the AE82 Corolla held its value better than the non-GT-S version, you tend to see more of the FX-16s in junkyards these days. In fact, this is the first one of these I’ve seen with an 8-valve engine for several years. (Read More…)
The fifth-gen Chevy Nova was built at California’s NUMMI plant for the 1985 through 1988 model years, prior to becoming the Geo and then the Chevrolet Prizm. The Nova was really a rebadged AE82 Corolla, and so most of them managed to survive into the turn of the 21st century. By now, however, a NUMMI Nova is a rare sight; we saw a trustifarian ’87 hatchback in California last winter, and now this well-preserved sedan has appeared in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)
Rear-wheel-drive AE86 Corolla GT-Ss are worth bucks these days, and you won’t see them in low-priced self-serve wrecking yards. The AE82 front-wheel-drive Corolla GT-S hasn’t held its value so well, and so examples do show up on The Crusher’s doorstep. We saw this white ’87 in California last year, and now I’ve found this silver ’87 in Colorado. (Read More…)
We’ve seen a few NUMMI-built Junkyard Finds in recent weeks, including this ’87 Nova and this ’87 Corolla FX16 GT-S. However, the car that really comes to mind when you think of NUMMI is the Geo Prizm. Here’s an example of GM’s rebadged Corolla that I found at a self-service junkyard about 20 miles from the car’s birthplace. It’s the circle of automotive life! (Read More…)
Just a few years after Toyota confused American car shoppers by badging the early Tercel as the “Corolla Tercel,” they offered two very different vehicles as the 1987 “Corolla GT-S.” One was the AE86 coupe, based on the older rear-drive Corolla platform and much beloved by present-day drifters, and the other was the front-drive FX16 hatchback, built in California and equipped with the same 16-valve 4AGE engine as the AE86. The FX16 was sort of goofy-looking, with sharp angles and cheezy-looking plastic panels, but it was a screamin’ fast competitor to the VW GTI and held together much, much longer than its Wolfsburg rival. (Read More…)
When the GM Fremont Assembly plant took on Toyota managers and became NUMMI in 1984, the same supposedly inept lineworkers who hammered together sub-par Buick Apollos suddenly started building Corollas that were at least as well-made as the ones made by their Japanese counterparts (you are free to draw your own conclusions about GM management in the 1980s). The initial round of GM-badged Corollas were given the Chevrolet Nova name, prior to becoming the Geo Prizm; you still see Prizms around, but the 80s Nova has become a rare sight on the streets and in the junkyards. Here’s a Nova I spotted in an Oakland, California, self-serve yard earlier in the month. (Read More…)
[Editor’s note: videos are from Youtube, and were not taken by the author]
“THE BETAS ARE COMING!” The mid-August e-mail from Tesla Motors breathlessly touted “the most exciting automotive event of the year:” an exclusive owners-only unveiling of the Model S. All 6,000 of us who’d put down $5K deposits on the electric sedan would be invited out to Tesla’s sprawling new plant in Fremont, Calif. to see, touch, and ride in the Beta version of the car, described as “over 90 percent production intent.”
A few weeks later came the e-mail invitation itself. I RSVPed the same day. Tesla had expected attendance in the hundreds, and had made initial plans for 1,000 just to be safe. But when 300 RSVPs came back in the first 23 minutes, they realized they had a tsunami of customer enthusiasm on their hands. In the end, about 2,000 owners showed up, including one guy from Kazakhstan.
Driving my rented Prius up I-880 toward Fremont on the big day, I passed a factory with huge letters on the side: SOLYNDRA. Not a good omen. The start-up Silicon Valley manufacturer of high-tech cutting-edge solar panels, the recipient of half a billion dollars in government loans, had lost hundreds of millions of dollars and just gone bankrupt amid cries of political favoritism and financial fraud.
A mile or so up the road, another sprawling factory festooned with giant letters: TESLA. A start-up Silicon Valley manufacturer of high-tech cutting edge automobiles, recipient of half a billion dollars in government loans, currently reporting annual losses of hundreds of millions of dollars….oh, never mind.
Toyota closed the last chapters of the book on NUMMI, wrote a check for $6 million, and put the book to where it will collect the dust of history. According to Reuters, Toyota reached a $6 million settlement with former NUMMI workers.
The suit was brought by workers on medical leave when NUMMI was shut down in March 2010. It’s not that they had gone empty-handed. After GM had pulled out of NUMMI in June 2009 and left Toyota holding the bag, Toyota announced plans to pull out by March 2010. Toyota had negotiated a $281 million settlement-agreement with the UAW-represented workers, while GM was whistling Dixie.
At the time it was clear that some union brothers were more equal than others. (Read More…)