By on March 19, 2012

Keeping track of American-market versions of the Corolla got difficult in the early 1980s, because you had the rear-drive E70 Corolla, and then you had the unrelated front-wheel-drive Corolla Tercel. Here’s an example of a “real” Corolla that I spotted at a Denver self-service yard last week.
Powered by the 3T-C engine, these cars were fairly quick (for the time) when equipped with a manual transmission.
Speaking of confusing Toyota badging of the 1980s, what exactly does “SR5” stand for? 5-speed transmission? Toyota’s advertising didn’t do anything to clear up the mystery.

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35 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Toyota Corolla SR5...”

  • avatar

    The “visibility” enthusiasts will be thrilled. Three windows on each side (2 rolling down, 1 fixed).
    A tidy car and one which made the Japanese reputation for good working autos. It looks in very good shape. I wonder what caused its demise?
    (SR-5 stands for “street racer 5 (speed)” ? )

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    I had always heard SR5 = “Super Responsive 5 (speed)”. Maybe “sport rally 5”?

    No time to look it up, but I think “SR5” first showed up in the early 70s on Corollas….

    Sadly, Toyota muddled what they applied it to over the years….looking at you 4Runner & Tacoma!

  • avatar

    Looks to have been in decent shape for its age, but sadly, looks like someone smacked the bejeezers out of the driver’s side though, or did the car hit something instead? Either way, the entire driver’s side is crunched.

    I had an instructor who had a nice gold liftback version of this car with the matching rally wheels that still looked like new back in the late 80’s.

    Back when this car was brand new, a family friend and her companion came to visit us in 1981 and they had a bright yellow liftback rental that they drove.

    I’ve always liked this car’s clean styling and it still looks reasonably fresh even today.

  • avatar

    Our first family Toyota as a 1981 standard coupe Corolla. It gave us 10 years of faithful service. The Corolla line up was pretty generous…a standard coupe and four door, the SR5, the liftback and the wagon. They weren’t anything fancy, but they sure got the job done.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Someone get out there and rescue that thing, it’s really an easy fix and it will give years of reliable, thrifty transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Nostalgia aside, nobody around here wants to spend time and money on an antique 30-year old little car.

      Who knows what else is wrong with it?

      People nowadays want to buy and drive now. And make payments. And that’s OK.

  • avatar

    Toyota Corollas of this generation had a huge variety of body styles:

    four door sedan
    two door sedan
    two door hard top
    two door hatchback

    • 0 avatar

      Very close, but there were actually two different RWD three-door hatches in this generation!

      The Liftback had forward-canted B-pillar and longer roofline, and the Sport Coupe had a vertical B-pillar and faster rear glass.

      Liftback: (

      Sport Coupe: (

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    What a freakin’ waste. These RWD Corollas are highly sought after in Puerto Rico, and even with that kind of body damage (which is a fairly easy fix, really) there would have been plenty of buyers for it. Oh, well…

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    My wife had one , the same model and I believe the same year , bought when it was a couple of years old. Nice dependable car, odd custom velour interior in colors to coordinate with exterior paint stripes. Always thought these shifted very well with the 5speed.Unfortunately it broke down at 8 years old while visiting her parents out of town, might have been the clutch and she traded it in on a Camry while there. At the time I thought she should have fixed it but I wasn’t there.Don’t remember any other problems. A cousin and a friend owned liftback models of the same era and I once drove to Tennessee with a friend in a rental liftback, which is the model I would have preferred . I was impressed with all these .Certainly more solid feel to these than the seventies Corollas , and much better than the contemporary domestic competition , Escorts and J-cars and such.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised the engine is still there, that would be gone in a minute in some areas.

  • avatar

    The body of that car looks immaculate still. These cars are long gone here in northwestern ontario, the land of too-much-salt. I remember seeing many of these booting around as a child.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a new 1980 Corolla SR5 Liftback in January, 1980…and sold it in 1994 with 180k+ miles. Great car, even survived being t-boned by a 35mph Ford Fairmont on the driver’s side, though the repair shop’s bodywork was not the greatest and the car “never was the same” for the 5-6 ensuing years. Never did “use” oil, just normal wear/tear items beyond a) a radiator [I hadn’t formed the habit of flush/fill, so I blame myself), b) two water pumps (likely affected by the same neglect), and c) a fuel tank that rusted through in year 12 or so. Still had shiny paint, and the cloth sport-stripe interior had held up also. It had this cantilevered, sprung carpet-material cargo cover that was a hoot to reinstall for the inattentive. Driveway oil changes were a cinch, you could reach the oil filter easily from the top and the drain plug at the front corner of the pan, no ramps required. Some a$$hat stole two of my special SR5-look-like-aluminum-rims wheel covers, they were expensive to replace for a new dad with two little kids, so it got AutoZone universals after that, a shame.

  • avatar

    That’s the kind of car that just is not available anymore – a small, simple, economical, upright, front engine, rear drive coupe or sedan. If Subaru can sell the all wheel drive Impreza for under $20k, surely someone could make a rear drive sedan (not a low slung sports coupe) for similar money, like if Kia built a BMW 1-series.

    • 0 avatar

      “That’s the kind of car that just is not available anymore – a small, simple, economical, upright, front engine, rear drive coupe or sedan.”

      It is.

      BMW 1 series.

      Available as a coupe, 3-door and 5-door hatch. In Europe we get the option of ordering them with no features. Even a radio has to be ordered. So if you like to drive, drift etc., an entry level stripper BMW 1 series is a possibility.

      • 0 avatar

        We cant do that in the US, but even if we could, a base model 1-series, with a 4-cyl would be pretty much the same as the old E30 BMW back in the day. It would be the right car but still out of reach to the everage buyer.

        So I am curious… in Europe is the base stripped 1-series close to the price of a Kia or Honda?

      • 0 avatar

        I live in Switzerland and the base model 1er here is the 116i 5-door. Base price for a stripped 116i is 36,900 CHF (Swiss Franc) with 8% VAT.

        Kia doesn’t offer any RWD cars in Europe. The direct competitor to the 1 series is the Kia C’eed. The Kia will be more roomy inside due to its FWD layout, but in terms of driving dynamics it isn’t competitive with the BMW 1 series.

        The Kia C’eed to compete with the BMW 116i would be the “Kia C’eed Classic 1.6 CVVT 6-speed manual”. Base price is 24,890 CHF and that is with 8% VAT.

        However, the C’eed is available in different trims. Adding a “Style” trim to your C’eed 1.6 increases the price to 30,990 CHF. Likewise, BMW also offers trim levels for their 1 series.

        By the way, here’s the price list for all BMW 1ers sold in Switzerland.

        Kia C’eed price list.

        I am unsure of which Honda competes with the BMW 1 series, the Jazz or the Civic. The Jazz is an MPV-like car and it is completely unsporty whereas the Civic is sporty. The prices for the new Jazz have not been released yet, so here is the Civic pricing.


        But at the end of the day BMW is a premium brand while Kia and Honda are not. Kia and Honda also do not offer any RWD cars here whereas the BMW lineup is composed of only RWD cars. To the purist enthusiast that RWD aspect means everything.

        I’m not sure if we will be getting that new RWD Toyota/Subaru sports car. Japanese sports cars have never sold particularly well in my country.

      • 0 avatar

        I think thats the point… bring back a RWD car that isnt a premium brand and that regular people can afford. One chassis, 3 (or 4) body styles… a slight price increase over an equivilent FWD car of the same basic size. Perhaps Toyota and Subaru will do that with the FT86 chassis, thats as good a start as any. GM could have done it with the Solstice chassis, Hyundai could do it with the Genesis chassis, etc.

        Nissan would be the perfect company to do it, bring back a modern Datsun 510. No one likes the poor Sentra anyway, but its guts arent bad. Turn that powertrain around and make it a RWD 2.0 liter 4cyl sports sedan/coupe/wagon with a decent suspension, and people will buy it.

        Everyone wants to compete with the Camry because thats where the big numbers are. So they churn out boring FWD sedans hoping to steal buyers from Toyota. Thats not going to happen, not in big numbers and not for a long time. So rather than try to compete on the same product, bring out something different, that will attract the enthusiasts. When you capture that market, the mainstream buyers will follow. THEN hit them with your “Camry killer”.

        I have all these great ideas and none of the car manufacturers will give me a job! LOL

      • 0 avatar

        @ mnm4ever

        I don’t think we will be seeing the return of RWD in smaller cars. It doesn’t make sense because RWD would rob the car of interior space. The BMW 1 series is the only RWD car in its class and that’s often used as a selling point, but the reality is that most buyers don’t care if the 1 series is RWD. Most don’t even know. A survey conducted a few months ago showed that 80% of 1 series drivers thought their car was FWD.

        I’ve been mostly driving FWD for my entire life beginning with my Citroen 2CV and the various company car Renaults I had in the ’70s and ’80s and later the Opel Ascona C.

        The only RWD cars I’ve ever owned were a Peugeot 505 Break XD2S (diesel) and a Mercedes 230E W123. Space wasn’t an issue here since these were relatively large cars from a European perspective, especially the Peugeot.

        Currently I drive a FWD VW Jetta 2.0 TDI. I am not a sporty driver. I drive to get from A to B so I really don’t need RWD (or AWD) as it means a higher fuel consumption.

        I think the Toyota FT-86 and its Subaru version and the Mazda Miata will appeal to those who want an affordable RWD car. Those are dedicated sports cars with little practical interior space to begin with, so it doesn’t matter here. In anything else like a Kia C’eed or Honda Civic, FWD is best suited and it’s also expected by most customers because of the interior spacial advantages it creates.

      • 0 avatar

        @sven, I know WHY they don’t make any RWD cars, and I know they don’t make fiscal sense when looked at from that angle. But here is my arguement:

        1. Most people are stupid about cars. They buy the 1-series for the badge, not the driving pleasure. So I dont even count thier opinion. All that survey tells me is that 80% of the people who buy BMWs are idiots, and I knew that already.

        2. In Europe you have many more choices of fun to drive FWD cars. In the US, we pretty much have a bunch of variations on the same theme, especially with small and mid-size cars. There is Toyota and Honda, and then everyone else trying to make the same thing that Toyota and Honda make.

        3. In the US, the average buyer will buy whatever Toyota or Honda sells… Camry, Coroloa, Civic, Accord. Sure some of them make it a point to shop American, or they want to beat the price of Toyonda so they shop something else, but in general, everyone tries to make a better Toyota or Honda.

        4. As a general rule, no one can compete with that because given the choice, the average buyer will just get a Honda or Toyota. Then they know it will be reliable, efficient, and long lasting. No risk.

        5. Instead of trying to attract buyers with the same kind of car that Toyota or Honda already sells, and sells well… offer something different. One thing those 2 do not sell is a genuine affordable car that appeals to the enthusiast. Those dedicated sports cars you mentioned will appeal to those buyers, yes, but many will not be able to buy them because they have no practicality and they are too expensive as a second car. If Mazda or Nissan or whoever would sell the same car but with a practical body, all the enthusiasts would flock to them. And as word gets around that the car, aside from performance, is pretty darn good, then word gets around about the other cars they sell as well.

        Is it risky? Yes. Worth it? I think so…

  • avatar

    Too good of shape to be a “Denver” car from new. Sadly came to Denver to die. These were the great Corollas.

    I always thought SR5 stood for some sport package with a 5-speed. Learned something new today. Doesn’t Toyota use the SR5 badge on the current Tundra?

    • 0 avatar

      They still use it on the Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner.

      SR5 was a higher, deluxe trim level on the Corolla, but more famously, for the trucks. The SR5 would have a better interior, more options, fancier chrome trim, and the iconic sport stripes. Beginning in the ’80s, you could get the trucks with an automatic but they were still distinguishiable has the highest trim level. That practice continued on the Hilux and then Tacoma until around ’99 or so when the Limited showed up.

      Now a days, the SR5 is just a midlevel trim and there’s nothing special about it. It’s been unfortunately diluted, but it’s good to see that Toyota still uses it at least. I’d still like to see current Toyota be badged an SR5 and have it mean something.

  • avatar

    It was even tougher to explain to shoppers why Toyota had a line of rear drive Corollas and front driver Corollas than looked nothing alike.

    Toyota often hedged their bets with this marketing technique.

    It worked, didn’t it?

    I’m just glad Toyota didn’t name everything a Corolla.

  • avatar

    Well, the ‘malaise’ era ended in 1983, when the FWD ’84 Corolla came out. This term is so overused now, it’s not funny anymore. Even some kids think 1989 was ‘malaise’. Come on…

    And, not every single old car can be ‘saved’. Who has the time, $$$, patience, and storage?

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    My first new car was one of these when they first came out in the Spring of ’81. I looked at the Accord (impossible to get) and Scirocco (too $$); I loved that car, vinyl seats, roll-up windows and all. Odd feature – the radio component (oddly missing from just north of the shifter) had three swivel positions.

    Great car!

  • avatar

    which yard was this? I could use some parts! Thanks.

  • avatar
    Old Skool Toyotas

    Wow…how I wish I could have this sort of vehicle available. You have no idea how difficult it is to obtain parts for those type of vehicles in my area (Florida). I have an 80 Toyota Corolla and an 81 Hard Top, just like this one, and I am always searching for parts. I could had used some very hard to find parts from this one, such as tail lights, side view mirrors, instrument cluster (if SR5, it came with an RFP clock – very hard to find), etcetera.

    You are lucky you have such access….these cars are great, if care they will last forever. In my opinion some of the best overall toyota corollas were built in the 80s. :-)

  • avatar

    I bought one of these new in 82′ It was the Toyota Corolla SR5 Sports Coupe. It wasn’t a hatchback as it had a separate trunk.

    This was on the dealers showroom floor. White on the roof & upper fenders and chocolate below the belt trim on the sides. The seats were strange. They were a woven type of vinyl. The part you sit on was tan and the sides were Chocolate Brown. And it had small gold pinstripes along the top of the fenders. It was a pretty nifty little car. Oh, and the radio was in a console that came down to the floor and then reached back between the front two seats. I never saw that on any other Corolla.

    It had the 3T-C engine in it along with a 5 speed. I paid $11,500 for it. It was fairly reliable, but I always had problems with the a/c in this car. If it was in the garage on a hot day it would keep you cool, but if it was outside in a parking lot on a hot day forget it. It’ll take about 30 minutes to get the interior tolerable. I think the problem was that there weren’t enough air outlets in the dash. And the ones that were there were really small. It had been to the dealer many times and an independent a/c shop and they said that the supplied unit just can’t put out a lot of cold air. Other than this it was a reliable car.

    The car handled pretty good, but on the highways a truck could toss you around when passing. I think I got about 24mpg with it. It didn’t rust or anything. When I had 118K miles on it a Suburban rear ended me and the Toyota turned into an accordion, with me inside. I wasn’t too banged up but the drivers seat back ended up on the other side of the road.

    Has anyone ever seen a Corolla like I described?

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