By on December 20, 2011

By the time this Junkyard Find ’78 Corolla was built, the Corolla was an institution in North America (at least in the western parts of the country). Not so with this ’73, built when Toyota was still a slightly oddball import marque and the fuel-economy penalty for a Valiant or Nova didn’t mean much to small-car buyers (this all changed because of certain events in October ’73).
The “Deluxe” badging on this car is funny, because it’s a spartan little beast even by early-1970s standards.
No air conditioning, but it does have an AM radio and a lighter.
And a really cool gas-filler door disguised as a vent on the C pillar.
This example, which I found in a Denver self-serve wrecking yard, has been just about completely used up. The odometer only goes up to five digits, so there’s no telling how many miles are on this car.
Judging by the amount of rodent poop and dirt in the car, this Corolla appears to have spent a decade or so sitting in a field.
This was the sensible cheap car of choice for my peers during my college years (mid-to-late 1980s), and so I’ve spent a lot of time in early Corollas. There’s not much fun about them in stock form, unless you count getting to your destination for pennies in gas as fun. Buyers looking for fun in a tiny Japanese econobox in 1973 went for the slightly less reliable but much nimbler Civic.

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26 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1973 Toyota Corolla Deluxe...”

  • avatar

    Why is the oil cap safety-wired in place?

  • avatar

    Good spot – maybe it is not original and that was a way to keep it on? I doubt Pep Boys would stock that, let alone a dealer.

    Nice find – this Corolla would look nice as a rally car – a slow rally car though.

    I wonder what a collision with a 73 car, say an Electra would look like.

  • avatar

    There are some parts on that car you could easily sell. I wish I could see the front so I knew what kind of shape the grille is in. Its a big money item.

    You could also take the badges, lights, interior parts.

  • avatar

    California had been booming since WWII, and had gained a national prominence. It gave us many modern cultural phenomena via music and television, adding to it’s Hollywood sparkle and governor. With only three national television networks, California dominated what Americans saw in 1973. Many Americans went to bed with Johnny Carson whose move from East to West Coast never went unnoticed.

    Pop music was important in 1973. Radio played Californians. To the US during this era, California was it’s future whether it was in government, aerospace, electronics, entertainment and sheer style. During the early 20th Century, Americans looked to New York City, by 1973, Americans were ready to cut up their Brooks Brothers men’s wear and relax California style. Groovy man!

    So when the Japanese auto makers shoved their tin road traps onto diesel freighers and floated their wares to America, they ended up in California. At a time when Detroit was navel-diving for profits, the Japanese struck California gold.

    California weather is kind to tin cars. It’s twisty mountains and coastal roads were best driven with manual transmissions. Californians could choose between freeway cruisers idling in traffic jams under smog clouds, or break away in little four cylinder, manually rowed, cheap little Japanese cars. Always striving to be different, and tiring of the ancient Volkswagon Beetle’s commonplace shortcomings, Californians fell in love with Toyotas, Hondas, and Datsuns. What Californians did in 1973 was watched by every American from Bangor to Battle Creek.

    When the Arabs blitzkrieged Israel on that country’s most holy day of national prayer and rest, Yom Kippur, the US came to the defender’s aid. When Israel proved resilient to Egypt’s surprise attack, the Arab oil nations retaliated by shutting off oil shipments to the United States.

    With Detroit metal getting only a dozen miles to a gallon of gas, Americans found their daily lives curtailed. After watching Californians live what was seen as a progressive modern lifestyle, Americans wanted what they drove too. Cheap Japanese cars.

    Fortunately, each major Japanese make had sent proven car designs to the US. So when the Oil Crisis occurred, Toyota, Datsun and Honda had a vehicle to sell that didn’t fail en masse on their first date. While Detroit ended up peddling outdated and outclassed Vegas, Pintos and Gremlins, and Americans had tired of the tired old Beetle, Japan lucked out for a timely and highly profitable win.

    The Japanese cars, except for the FWD Civic, the Datsun Z and the Toyota Celica, were not exceptional cars. This Corolla was as dull as they come. But to America, these cars were new, different, cheap and dependable. Reclining bucket seats, a clock that worked, a five speed, 30 miles per gallon, and without a Detroit brand name. Suddenly folks in Des Moines tasted the auto equivalent of plain white rice and discovered it wasn’t poisonous.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Hey you know, Andy Rooney passed on and I was watching 60 min a few nights ago. The show is just crap without a slightly cranky commentary at the end…

      • 0 avatar


        And now – here’s VanillaDude…

        You know what I like about the Toyota Corolla? It kinda reminds me of my old Henry J. I hated that car. It had a driver’s seat that always pinched my back right where I have a birthmark shaped like a nipple…

        Or, maybe it is a nipple…

        Can you have a row of nipple on your back, about as high as what should be a lumbar on an old Henry J driver’s seat? That’s what I think about when I see this Corolla. That, and of course, how many of those Japanese pilots killed my friends during the war…

        I don’t know why my old veteran friends drive Japanese cars. Perhaps it is because they have found it in their hearts to forgive the people who never apologized for slaughtering millions. Or, perhaps it is because the car was on sale.

        You can never be sure.

        I bought a car on sale once. It was a Henry J. That was a great car! It doesn’t really remind me of a Corolla, but I have to do something for these 60 Minutes people. They pay me a lot of money for my opinions. So, you can say that I get paid enough to buy a Henry J every week. If they would only give me my pay check right away. And if they still made Henry Js.

        What is a Corolla anyway? Were they referring to the wounds they would inflict on our boys in the Philippines? When I’m driving a Corolla, am I justifying their atrocities in Shanghai? And why did they change the spelling of Shanghai? Wasn’t English good enough for the Chinese? I had a Chinese girlfriend once. She had a nice lumbar, but oddly, no nipples.

        With a Henry J, or a Corolla, you can’t be sure, can you?

        Thanks VanillaDude, and that’s 60 Minutes for tonight!

      • 0 avatar

        I never agreed with Andy Rooney much but he was a highlight of the show for as long as I can remember. When Kurt Cobain died he held up the full page obit for him and then read a small obit on a WW2 vet who had several children, started his own business, stayed married for 40 years, and left quite a legacy. He simply asked if we were honoring the right person that day.
        A class act neverless to the end.

    • 0 avatar

      To be fair to the Japanese, they did catch a lucky break, but they worked damn hard to get to the point where they *could* catch that lucky break.

      I can understand why this thing stayed on the road so long – to my inexpert eyes it looks like a early 80s Toyota.

    • 0 avatar


      Well-written and accurate, in my 1957-1993 California-based opinion.

      I noticed in the pics the plug placement perhaps proudly proclaiming that yep, y’all, she’s gotta’ hemi in thar’.

      In Frisco among the cohort you were either a KFRCer (majority) while those tending to read a bit more turned the dial a little further for KYA (both AM stations.

    • 0 avatar


      That was outstanding. I put it on the front page over at CID. Hope you don’t mind.

  • avatar

    I would not have guessed the gas filler door was behind the C pillar trim, would be funny to walk around looking for the pipe on it.

  • avatar

    I remember these. At the time I was a young married vet working college student, living in SanDiego.
    These were popular because they were different and CHEAP. The Yen was still over 300:1 and young couples could afford them. Plus they were good enough, but not as good as my 71 Nova at the time.
    5 years later my friend was making a living replacing worn out heads with readily available rebuilt head assemblies from Japan at about 80 to 90k. The thing is they got them in the hands of young buying couples, and the cars only got better, while the domestics products got worse. We all know what happened.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    These along with Civic and Sentra helped kill the Beetle. plus the Fed regulations.

  • avatar

    Maybe “Deluxe” is Japanese for “Custom”?

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think that at the time it would have been unusual to equate “Deluxe” with “strip-o.” I know in the mid-60s the Ford Galaxie Deluxe was a special trim line at a cut price whose sole raison d’etre seemed to be making the car uglier so more people paid the upgrade to the mainline trims.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “And a really cool gas-filler door disguised as a vent on the C pillar”

    The Chevette in Venezuela had a similar one… with the fuel tank behind the rear seat. It may be also the case here.

    I don’t remember if the R-18 also had a similar feature.

    • 0 avatar
      A is A

      No, IMHO.

      My dad´s Spanish Renault 18 had the filler in the C pillar, under a metal cover, not disguised as a vent.

      Nice little piece of history that litle Corolla… what a pity it is going to be crushed.

      “Junkyard find” is my favorite section at TTAC: Very interesting cars and very interesting comments.

  • avatar

    My Grand mother bought one new in 1972 had it until 2002 or about there. Hers was a similar to this one with a black vinyl top and yellow gold paint (same radio and controls as pictured) Hers was a 2 speed auto. I borrowed it a few times in high school. No power but it always got you where you needed to go. I got it up to 70 once on the highway. Hers actually had very little rot considering it spent its life in a carport here in CT. My dad went with her to buy the car in 72 and it was a toss up between a fiat and the Toy. She picked the toy in the end as it was the only one in stock with an auto. In fact she bought the demo. She would have guys from Hartford swing buy every few months asking to buy it and one day she decided to let it go.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    This model was the Deluxe meaning that it has additional trim and the larger 1600cc motor. My sister had a 77 Corolla 2 dr base model with the 1200cc 4 spd and a manual choke which worked great. Unreliable Mitubushi carbs eat your heart out. Great running super reliable car that she got several years and 170k out of, tin worn and all.

  • avatar

    VanillaDude, why are you not getting paid for your tirades? Or maybe you are and you’re not telling us where you work?

  • avatar

    Wow, what a coincidence! I just saw one in the Supermarket parking lot today! Looks like in good shape too, with no obvious rust. These used to be ubiquitous around here in the 1970s. It’s rare to see one on the street today, though.

  • avatar

    In my experience, “Deluxe” is the bottom rung of the hyperbole ladder. When I check into a room at, say, a casino, it usually goes Deluxe, Premium, Executive, then Luxury before you start getting into the suites.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    As i recall the Corolla came in a basic version even lower than the DeLuxe , at least slightly later in the seventies . Maybe it was after the Jimmy Carter era gas crisis but I remember a couple of co-workers buying really stripper late seventies Corolla two-door sedans and it may have been that this was only true of the two-door sedans but they had really glossy cheap looking plastic floors and no armrests. Meanwhile my sister’s 1976 Corolla two-door DeLuxe hardtop at least had armrests and carpet-the latter noteworthy for being a tan/brown color that in every Corolla I ever saw so equipped turned into a funky muddy green within a year or two.

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