Junkyard Find: 1980 Toyota Corolla Tercel

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1980 toyota corolla tercel

Because the Corolla had become such a hit in the United States during the early part of the Malaise Era, Toyota decided to confuse car buyers and parts-counter guys for eternity by adding the Corolla name to the first-gen Toyota Tercel. This would have been like Volkswagen selling a “Rabbit Fox” or Chrysler selling a “Dart Colt,” but it seemed to work fine for Toyota. Here’s a first-year-for-the-US Tercel I spotted in a Denver self-service yard last week.

These things were noisy and tinny and cheap, but they were more reliable than the other crappy little econoboxes of the Middle Malaise Era.

They were also quite slow, thanks to the 60-horsepower 1A engine driving the front wheels. Yes, it looks like a rear-wheel-drive setup, but it’s really an engine-over-transaxle assembly that made a lot more sense once Toyota started making four-wheel-drive Tercels.

5-speed manual transmissions were still somewhat prestigious in 1980.

I’ve long thought that the vaguely finny-looking taillight treatment on this car resembled the setup on some BMC AD016 models.

Cloth seats, gas-sipping engine, no frills. These cars sold like crazy, but they weren’t worth fixing once they got to be 15 years old and now most of them are gone.

When ventriloquist dummies need to urinate, they must ride in Tercels.

“Has a longitudinal engine… unlike any Honda!”

It does pretty well in a crash test, considering its insubstantial construction.

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  • Tercel_henrik Tercel_henrik on Dec 22, 2013

    Hi there. My name is Henrik lArsen and from Denmark/Euro. Back in the 80's a grove up on the back seat of a car allmost like this. In Denmark we did not have this hatchback version, but only the 2 and 4 doors. My dad loved this car and we still talk about it once in a while. After years of reschearch I have now Founda a car like this 3 doors hatchback. It need some restauration, but thats Alright. I need some parts for the car, and as the car is rare in Denmark, is it Them by any chance possible that some one could help with parts from this White tercel ? I need to get the car back on the Road for my old dad! Thanks Henrik

  • OldsFan1981 OldsFan1981 on May 29, 2014

    "This would have been like Volkswagen selling a 'Rabbit Fox' or Chrysler selling a 'Dart Colt.'" And South Korea's Hyundai almost called their first U.S. product offering the "Pony Excel." ~Ben

  • 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 ! )