By on February 14, 2012

The Corona was the first Toyota car to appear in large numbers on American streets, starting in the mid-to-late 1960s. By the middle of the 1980s, just about all the boxy early Coronas were gone; they rusted quickly in non-bone-dry regions and weren’t enough loved elsewhere to be kept alive. My very first car was a ’69 Corona sedan, so I had a bit of a nostalgic twinge when I spotted this ’70 hardtop coupe in a California self-serve wrecking yard.
I started driving my Corona in 1982, at which time it was regarded by my peers as possibly the uncoolest motor vehicle on the planet. It wasn’t exactly a serious driver’s car, what with the 67-horsepower 3R engine, tippy suspension, and fade-prone four-wheel-drum brakes, but at least mine had a four-on-the-floor manual.
This sporty coupe came with the floor-shifted Toyoglide two-speed automatic, a Powerglide license-built by Toyota. Performance must have been sluggish, even by 1970 standards.
The fold-down rear seat was a nice cargo-hauling touch.
Because the paint is very faded and there was a 1982 bus map in the glovebox, I’m assuming that this car sat in a yard or driveway for decades before taking its final trip to The Crusher.
With a five-digit odometer, there’s no telling how many miles this car really racked up during its driving career. 113,242? 413,242? I’m betting on the former.

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31 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1970 Toyota Corona Coupe...”

  • avatar

    My dad, fed up with domestics after his ’66 Impala had the frame break and his ’71 Buick could no longer be turned off for a mid-trip stop without risk of being stranded, took the plunge into foreign cars by buying a ’75 Corona Wagon. Turd brown, automatic, no power steering. Extremely uncool car but the damn thing was as reliable as the sunrise, a big change from his previous vehicles. Tin worm got to it badly, though as we lived in RI and the winter salts ate it alive. He dumped it, finally, in ’89 when the rust reached the shock towers and it was no longer safe to drive. Cool little beast.

    • 0 avatar


      Are you sure your Dad had a ’66 Impala and not a ’65? They are virtually identical and the’65 did have a frame breakage problem on the early ones built between September of ’64 and about January of ’65. The frames would crack forward of the front seat foot well. Late ’65 frames were resolved of the problem and the design worked well through the ’70 model year.

      I had a ’66 for many years, with a big block engine no less, and didn’t encounter the problem.


  • avatar

    Me personally, I always thought that the overall design was aesthetically appealing. Too bad they didn’t hold up at all. It would have been a fun resto.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that is being a hardtop coupe that someone didn’t save it. Granted the automatic doesn’t help but neat little car. Probably sat in a driveway until the old guy died and his family sends it off to the crusher.

  • avatar

    There’s a sedan version of this in my neighborhood that still runs. It doesn’t run often but it does run. It does have a case of Minnesota Fender Rot but only along the lower extremities.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The principal virtue of these cars was their reliability . . . as good as the VW Beetle with a more “normal” engine and driving characteristics. The principal downside of this car its Nissan rival, the Datsun 510, was a very boomy exhaust which was pretty fatiguing at highway speeds.

    And, beginning with the gasoline panic of 1973, their relatively good fuel economy vs. the domestic competition. Certainly a much more refined car than the Chevy Vega or the Ford Pinto.

  • avatar

    My Grandpa on my mother’s side had driven GM for decades…until the ’69 Buick Special Deluxe in Emerald Green.

    You know, the green that discolored in six months if left out in the sun.

    Even worse, the paint began falling off the passenger’s side rear door within weeks of bringing it home. But the local Buick dealer had no answers.

    So Grandpa’s answer was a ’69 Corona. Built like a Singer sewing machine and trouble-free for years.

    My parents bought the Buick which turned out to also be mechanically solid and reliable…but butt-ugly thanks to the paint issues.

  • avatar

    1978 Corona bought in 1981. I had many trouble free trips from south central WI to northern WI and the UP. Great reliability in contrast to the 1980 Dodge van the my employer provided me. Major rust on the door sills and hitting a deer head on ended our relationship. It was fun while it lasted though.

    • 0 avatar

      I too have enjoyed the “deer collision experience” in central WI. Though at the time I was fortunate enough to be driving my 1980 Corolla Tercel into a strong headwind. Even with the accelerator floored, the wind kept my speed below 50 mph, limiting the damage–to both my car and the deer. Rust ate that car alive by 1995.

  • avatar

    Other than some crazy kid screaming around in his green Datsun pickup on a dark, rainy night in front of the Marysville, CA Greyhound station on November 18th, 1969, the evening I arrived at my air force base, The Toyota was my first up-close-and-personal experience with Japanese cars. A buddy bought a Corolla 2 dr. station wagon and his family had one of those Coronas – in blue.

    I had to grudgingly admit I was impressed with how nice it ran and the fuel economy, especially compared to my 1964 Impala SS I owned.

    One thing I could not get over, though, was how the interior plastics stunk – even on new Toyotas – and just how chintzy they were. I think the sun visors were mere vinyl envelopes filled with some cotton with a hanger wire stuck through them! Cheap junk.

    Seeing this old iron, all my emotions come flooding back as to how I felt about various cars at the time, and even though I kept an eye on Toyota and Datsun, my heart was still with American cars. I had quite a bit of disdain for anything Japanese, but something inside me kept me from thinking “never”! Can you say “ominous”?

  • avatar

    The transit schedule could also indicate that the owner/driver of this vehicle was smart enough to keep alternative modes of transport close at hand.

    These forensic examinations of old iron are fascinating fun.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    This is the Camry’s predecessor, the 83 Camry was quite an improvement over this, funny 2 speed auto then they graduated to the 4 speed with the Camry. This car must have been a slug with only 2 gears.

  • avatar

    My wife’s first car was a red ’68 Corona hardtop, mostly identical to your ’69 find. Definitely hit the target demographic. The photos don’t show the whole dash, so I don’t know if your find had factory A/C — believe me when I say that doesn’t help the performance! The A/C was also not aided by the black vinyl seats, but they at least had some texture to relieve the inevitable slickness stemming from the Houston climate we were in at the time. The cooling was as anemic as the bhp number. The 3RC engine also ate a head gasket as time went by, but we avoided a full engine replacement with a new gasket and milling-off of the head warpage.

    • 0 avatar

      My girlfriend at the time had a white 1969 four door with Toyoglide.
      It wasn’t that slow and would easily out accelerate my vw bug. She ran it completely out of coolant one time(she got to my house and the engine was smoking,pinging and dripping oil and coolant from the head gasket). I let it cool down for a few hours, added coolant
      and oil. It started up and ran fine for the two years she had it.
      Iron block and head, fantastic! By the way, it was rated at 90hp.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Love to read all these carcheologist stories you guy put out.

  • avatar

    I think the name “Toyoglide” is so cool that it compensates (somewhat) for the miserable performance of 67 horsepower driving a two-speed slushbox.

  • avatar

    I noticed that this Corona had a trip odometer, which was very rare for cars of this price range and era. Probably was a hint that small cars didn’t need to be Spartan in terms of equipment.

  • avatar

    We had one of these, a 1966 4-door, in the family for years- daughter’s car. She now says that it was her favorite car of all time. It had front bench seat with 3-speed column shift, all forward gears synchro. It also had Alfin front brakes & the 3R-B engine was rated @ 90 hp. It was quite a good car for 10+ years.

  • avatar

    My first Toyota experience was renting the 1967 sedan version of this when my car was in the body shop. It got along the road well enough to make me think that VW might be in trouble in a year or three. I definitely did notice the inadequate brakes, but in general it seemed to be a tight, solid little car.

    That hardtop in the wrecking yard is in primer – no surprise as even in western Washington the red paint on these faded to a whitish pink. In California it probably eroded right off the car at least on the top surfaces. Interesting variety of seats and door panels on it too. The drivetrain must have held up better than the original seats did.

  • avatar

    When I was a rugrat the neighbors owned one of these. It was in a goldenrod color, typical for the era on cars, carpet, walls, appliances…

    It had a wicked case of cancer from the road salt of New England. I remember as a kidlet wondering why a newer car would be all rusted out like that.

  • avatar

    I remember this well. I was about 10 when I first saw one, and it messed with my little head. I knew about cars from “over there,” as the old folks put it, as I had seen Beetles and Dauphines–tiny, spartan, with a stick shift in the floor.

    Real cars were big and had automatics and other equipment and (particularly coupes) hardtop glass.

    The Corona blew me away. I knew it was foreign, and it was certainly little, but it had an automatic (I remember it as being on the column), air (!), hardtop glass, AND a vinyl top!! I thought I had seen something incomprehensible but amazing. I guess I had.

  • avatar
    Brian V.

    How time has taken the edge of the HUGE number of faults these cars had, and make us only remember “nice times”. My corona 4 door was a complete turd! Anything that wasn’t plastic seriously rusted – you could see it grow month to month! The electrical problems were legion – the owner of the coupe was quite wise to keep a bus schedule on him at all times. You never knew if the thing would start or catch fire ( mine did the later.) 70 MPH was winding it out 11/10ths. The Toyoglide was obsolete 10 years before before it came out, but at least was smooth. Door panels, dash trim etc., had gaps like you would find on kids toys. You could fold the back seat down and recline the fronts to form a bed. Again handy should your car quite running. When it did run it waddled like a duck on it’s tiny tires. Road manners? We’ll just politely move along……….let’s just state the truth here……it wasn’t that our folks were “dreamers of great thoughts” when they bought this or the Corona or the Corolla – it’s that these cars were sold for $50 less the the contemporary VW Beetle, and $50 bought a lot of beer and weed in those days. Just sayin’……………….

  • avatar

    My dad had a 1968 Corona with the 1900cc engine, probably one of the first in Connecticut. I was a teenager then, and learned to drive stickshift on it. Nice fit and finish, but the Toyota reliability wasn’t there yet – many things started going bad right after the warrantee ended: wheel bearing, clutch cylinder, shock absorber, etc. from what I can remember, although nothing really serious. The New England salt on the winter roads didn’t help. It developed rust quite easily, including rusting through the top of the front fenders! We used to call it the “Toyota Coroda”. Still, it was a decent car, and quite unique at the time.

    In 1975 my dad bought the first Volkswagen Rabbit. What a disaster! But it was light-years better than the rear-wheel drive Corona on ice and snow.  My dad was really the early adopter.

    – John Atwood

  • avatar

    THIS had a PowerGlide? Wow. Must have weighed as much as the rest of the car.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    The first Toyota I ever rode in or drove was one of these. I was hitchiking to who knows where in the early seventies somewhere on I-10, Del Rio I think and a woman picked me up in a Corona hardtop just like this but with a stick. She was going to El Paso and we traded off driving. I remember thinking how closely coupled the roofline was- kind of nice actually. Within a year or two Toyotas were everywhere. Later on I worked with a woman who bought an older Toyota- I think a Corolla- with the Toyoglide. It went out almost immediately . At the time I remember it was considered a crappy knockoff of the Powerglide trans.

  • avatar

    I remember the ’67’s horn ring was also the turn signal switch ~ many customers came into the shop wondering why it had ‘NO DANG TURN SIGNALS ‘ ! .

    The Toyoglide tranny was O.K. but lost GM’s legendary Powerglide toughness in the shrinking ~ if this car was rolling forward when you slipped it into reverse , *SNAP* went the reverse band…..

    Luckily they were light and easy to push backwards =8-) .

    There are two or three of these in VGC tooling ’round Pasadena still ~ I see nice , clean Coupes in the various Pick-A-Part yards two or three times a year , would like to save one but am trying to get rid of old cars , not marry any more orphans .


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