Junkyard Find: 1981 Toyota Corolla Liftback Coupe

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1981 toyota corolla liftback coupe

After 15 years of sales in the United States, the Corolla had become as familiar to Americans as the Nova or Dart. By 1981, Toyota had confused matters by badging the unrelated Tercel as the “Corolla Tercel,” but the actual Corolla was still selling well. With the gas lines of the 1979 energy crisis— by some measures more painful that its 1973 precursor— still fresh in car shoppers’ memories, the stingy Corolla made a lot of sense. The Corolla was getting sportier-looking as the 1980s dawned, too; compare this car to the smaller and frumpier Corollas of just five years earlier. Here’s a nice example of the Celica-influenced fourth-gen Corolla liftback, spotted last month in a California self-service yard.

Yes, Rust Belt residents, these cars are still fairly easy to find in California; they were better-built than earlier Corollas (which were only reliable when compared to the abysmal quality of most other cars of the era) and they retained their value long enough— say, well into the mid-1990s— to be worth fixing when something did break.

It’s always interesting to see factory AM/FM radios in cars of this period, because any kind of radio was an expensive option back then.

This car was pretty well used up by the time it got junked; other than a catastrophic mechanical failure, a hooptie-fied interior is the main thing that buys a Malaise Corolla that fatal ride to the junkyard.

The good old 3T-C engine, made for the California market back when there were “California” and “49-state” versions of many cars. Smog-friendly low compression kept this engine’s output down at 70 horses. It wouldn’t be many years after this car that California Corollas came with a 112-horsepower 4AGE engine, though.

I couldn’t find a Liftback-specific ’81 Corolla ad, so let’s watch this Australian Corolla-lineup ad instead.

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  • Svenzor Svenzor on Jun 09, 2015

    Hello I have a junkyard find 1978 Corolla automatic.has motor and trans. Some missing parts nothing major. Just door handle pass window and drive. I was thinking of parting it out or asking whole. Does anybody have an idea what it might be worth?

  • Mayday Mayday on Jul 28, 2015

    I want to buy the fender on the passenger side or anyone know where I can find at the junk yard my car is Toyota Corolla 1983 2 door everything look very good just been hit I would like to be is look good again I live in LA

  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )