Junkyard Find: 1987 Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

I found this example in a California self-service yard just a few freeway exits away from its NUMMI birthplace.

Related to the Sprinter-based Chevrolet Nova and the later Geo Prizm, the FX16 was quite a hit in California. You still see them around, though the rear-drive Corollas are much more popular among racers and restorers.

I’ve seen a few of these cars compete in 24 Hours of LeMons races, and they’re definitely top-level competitors in the hands of a good driver, certainly much quicker around a road course than the rear-drive Corollas. The GTIs can be about as quick, but tend to be much more fragile.

There’s no telling why a not-particularly-thrashed sub-200,000-mile Corolla got junked; my money is on vast quantities of parking tickets and indifference from buyers at the subsequent towed-cars auction.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Otto3x Otto3x on May 30, 2012

    Murilee Martin, please tell me where the Corolla is ....I need parts.

  • Djkenny Djkenny on Jun 07, 2013

    I wouldn't call an A2 VW GTI fragile. I've got the last of em, the 2 liter 16v. I doubt I will ever replace it. However, I did also love the FX-16 back in the day. This was the time to buy a hot hatch. Light. Quick. Communicative. Not full of weight increasing and complacated power everything inside. Good seats, a SR. What else do you really NEED or want??? The new VWs are so over bloated with crap. I'll just repair mine as needed.

  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys i was only here for torchinsky
  • Tane94 Workhorse probably will be added to the heap of failed EV companies.
  • Freddie Instead of taking the day off, how about an article on the connection between Black Americans and the auto industry and car culture? Having done zero research, two topics pop into my head: Chrysler designer/executive Ralph Gilles, and the famous (infamous?) "Green Book".
  • Tane94 Either Elio Motors or Aptera Motors.
  • Billccm I think we will see history repeat itself. The French acquired AMC in the 1980s, discovered they couldn't make easy money, sold AMC off to Chrysler. Jeep is all that remained. This time the French acquired FCA, and they are discovering no easy profits. Assume an Asian manufacturer will acquire what remains of Chrysler, but this time Jeep and RAM are the only survivors.