By on September 4, 2013

13 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI know it probably made perfect marketing sense for Toyota to piggyback their new subcompact’s image atop that of the fantastically successful Malaise Era Corolla, in spite of the fact that the two cars were unrelated other than having the same their parent company, but the confusion caused by the “Corolla Tercel” name persists to this day. For that reason, these cars always attract my attention when I see them in wrecking yards; in this series, we’ve seen this ’80 and this ’81 so far.

Because of the Corolla/Tercel confusion that Toyota set into motion back in the early 1980s, many 24 Hours of LeMons fans still think that I gave the coveted Index of Effluency award to an undeserving factory-hot-rod Corolla a couple years back, in spite of my protestations that the Tercel EZ is one of the most terrible cars ever to be inflicted on us by the Japanese. The EZ came two generations after the Tercel we’re admiring today.
10 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe first-gen Tercel, however, wasn’t a bad car at all. Fuel economy was phenomenal and it was incredibly reliable by the standards of the era.
06 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt looks like a rear-wheel-drive car…
07 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin…but it’s really front-wheel-drive, with the engine mounted above the transmission and sending power to a cute little differential.
03 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinClimate-control systems were simpler in those days. Holy mackerel, is that an air conditioning button? Such luxury!
Ign_Switch_OnI used one of these Toyota AC buttons as the main power switch on my homemade Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox project.
15 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin5-speed manual transmissions were boast-worthy.
04 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy dirt-cheap Late Malaise Era Toyota econobox standards, these stripes were the height of frivolity.
01 - 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior still looks pretty good at age 31 and 150,141 miles on the clock.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Toyota Corolla Tercel...”

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My niece bought a new 1981 Tercel when she was a Junior in high school in Springfield, OH. She worked at McDonalds part-time. It was a light yellow 4 door with a 5 speed manual with no air. Great little car and relatively trouble free. Those early Tercels ran and ran and were very affordable.

  • avatar

    Wow, I once again forgot these things ever existed. Nobody ever bothered to restore one, and now they’re pretty much all gone.

  • avatar

    What surprises me is the lack of rust! And the high volume of badge on the back. With the interior in such condition, someone really cared for this car over the years. I bet 85mph was a little optimistic though.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Yeah, wonder why someone decided to junk this car. It appears to have been very well cared for, for a number of years. Maybe grandma died, idiot grandkid got it, fried the clutch and that was that…I’m sure CrabSpirits will come up with a logical explanation as to how this (almost) creampuff ended up in the yard.

  • avatar

    I always thought the it was the Corolla Tercel because in Japan it was sold in the Corolla stores. Later revisions depending on dealership were also called Corsa and Corolla II.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX (formerly gslippy)

    There is a Tercel in my neighborhood that appears clean, but seems to be relegated to driveway queen now. If it runs, it’s probably still worth something as a used car.

  • avatar

    Pretty fancy compared to the 1982 Starlet I owned.


  • avatar

    If I remember correctly, the Nissan Altima began life as the Stanza Altima, and then after a year the Stanza name was retired. Also, the Solara began life as a 2-door Camry badged as the Camry Solara…but thats kind of different because the Solara never replaced the Camry.

    Attaching both names to a vehicle in the first model year may just be an effective way to warm the public to a model replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      Still see this from time to time. The latest example I can think of is the ’04 “Pathfinder Armada.” I can’t think of a domestic example since all of Dodge’s Rams.

  • avatar

    Is it my imagination or is the “CORO” font larger than the “LLA”?
    Does anyone know if it means something?

  • avatar

    Looks like a nice little commuter / grocery getter car….


  • avatar

    Thank you for posting this. I had one of these when they were already beaters and I thought it was one of the bet cars I ever had. A simple car with exposed metal sills, basic controls, a nice tranny, no power anything (maybe steering).It also had a great engine – hummed at 80 – 90mph and you could really toss it around.

    The hatch was really the one to have but I didn’t have it.

    It also reminds me of the renaults and some of the british cars of the 70s – the styling was deceptively sophisticated.
    Heck – while I was researching Renaults I came up with this – it kind of reminds you of how much more fun any sh*t box of the 60s vintage was than most modern cocoons. It ain’t Godard but that’s a good thing:


  • avatar

    I seem to recall the new Renault Fuego I was looking at buying had the same engine/driveline setup…

  • avatar

    I once had a car exactly like this, except in YELLOW. I affectionately called it The Piss Yellow Shitbucket. Mine was a 5-speed too, and the 5th gear syncro let go one day, so I drove it for almost a year with just 4 gears.

    When I moved to California, the DMV wanted $350 to register it (back in the days before Schwarzenegger lowered the fee). I’d only paid $300 for the car, so I kept driving it on expired Arizona plates until the city of San Diego took it away. I let ’em keep it.

  • avatar

    Marge was of the type born every minute.

    “Mom…look…you just can’t be driving around in that old Toyota. It’s gonna break down, and then you’ll be stranded.” Marge looked the picture in the kitchen while tethered there by the phone cord. It was one of her favorites. Her, and her late husband Bob stood in the front yard with Eddie in his customary graduation ensemble. In the background was the sun-kissed Tercel, sitting in the driveway next to the Econoline. The Armor-all from the dealership was still fresh on it’s pizzacutter tires. It was “Mom’s new ride”. That was a very long time ago. “There’s nothing wrong with Barney. He’s a good little car.”

    Marge looked at the picture with Bob grinning, almost prodding the photo for advice. Making decisions on her own was never one of her virtues. Bob made that grin when he approved of something. He would also grimace in agony, which could easily be confused for that grin. She sighed, and relented to her son’s pressuring. He knew what was best for her after all. “Okay. But only if we find something I really like. And I want a good trade in for Barney.” Eddie paused, and didn’t exactly agree to those terms with “I’ll stop by tomorrow, and we’ll go check out some dealers.”, before saying goodbye and hanging up.

    She woke early the next day to pop a couple of pills for her arthritis. She was determined to accomplish something physical every day. A favorite task reserved for bad days was to dust where there was none. Sometimes, she would patrol for cobwebs in areas of the property nobody would ever go, or care about the presence of an odd spider. It was how she fought. Every day spent in front of the television seemed like another step towards becoming an invalid. Today was special though. There was a special task to perform. Marge pressed the garage door button. The loose chain de-slackened, and dragged the one piece door open with an almost steampunk nuance. She slid her hunchback, frail physique into Barney. The smooth running Toyota backed out of it’s stall. Marge shut the Tercel down in the drive, then winced as she extricated herself from the seat. “Now let’s get you spic ‘n span.” She returned fifteen minutes later with the tools necessary to give Barney a bath. The squirt of dish washing liquid was added to the bucket of water, and she set to work. She slowly toiled for hours, even erasing light road film from the voids with an old toothbrush. Marge circled with a rag. Her gait resembled that of a Scooby Doo villain, set in slow motion. She scrubbed the dealer badge affixed to the rear of the car, and became concerned. The wood trim on it had faded. “I hope they don’t ding me for that.” She was also worried about the temp control knob that had vanished long ago.

    “Wow mom, you really cleaned it up nice.”, Eddie said, stepping down from his Infiniti. They both got into Barney, and set off to the Ford dealer. “Ohhh Lincolns.”, Marge beamed at the sign out front. Perhaps she would treat herself. She had plenty of money, after all. “Bob loved Lincolns”, she recalled. The first car to great them as they entered the showroom was an MKT. “Oh my…”, she confided to Eddie, “…it looks like a hearse.” Eddie laughed. After a full tour, she found nothing that reminded her of Bob’s old Town Car that was eventually handed down to Eddie. The salesman showed them into a new Taurus on the floor. “Nooo. Not with these old hips. I just feel so crowded.” To her, there was even less room than her little tercel. “It looks like I’m seeing out of a mailbox slot.” She fit well into an Escape. “I don’t know if I want a truck.”, she commented before staring aghast at the sticker. “I didn’t know new cars were so expensive.” Eddie reassured her. “You can lease it, Mom.” They crunched the numbers. The salesman went outside to look at her trade in. He stopped at the left fender, and that’s where his comprehensive inspection ended. He walked back inside. Barney was worth $700. “Well, that’s the end of that.”

    Soon, the little Tercel was humming down to the far end of dealer’s row. In the passenger seat, Eddie worked his mobile screen with a fingertip, looking for a solution. Marge smiled. “Remember when you used to play with the Speak ‘N Spell in the back seat of this car for hours? We had to snatch that thing from ya, so we wouldn’t go crazy.” Eddie replied with a vapid “Yesss.” Daylight was fading fast, and so was Marge’s energy level. At a used car lot, they found an older Escape. The salesman focused on the Tercel first. His assessed value of $1000 was seen as almost offensive. “Okay okay, $1800’s as high as I can go on this.”, he said as he mentally tacked on $3000 above fair market pricing for the Escape.

    Somewhere, a yellow tie strap was carelessly tossed over the hood of the auction-bound Tercel. It’s heavy buckle swung into the thin fender like a wrecking ball. The perpetrator was hardly affected by the little accident. “Dam. Oh well.”

    Marge put away the photograph in the kitchen, swapping it out for an image of herself and Bob, wearing numbers from a dancing competition long ago.
    “I bet some kid is out racing around in it.”

  • avatar

    That pinstripe is pure aftermarket. The dealer would charge you $50 extra for it if they put it on, or you could get a roll of Trimbrite striping tape for $2.79 at Pep Boys and do it yourself. It even came with the fancy pre-cut pointed ends.

    ALL my cars in the ’80s had that very same wide/narrow stripe, personally installed by yours truly!

  • avatar

    My mom had one of these. It’s her favorite car. Cheap to buy, excellent gas mileage, extremely reliable, lasted 15 years and something over 200K miles with nothing but scheduled maintenance and replacement mufflers, fairly high clearance so she could drive over forest service roads to geology sites. The muffler connections rusted due to the engine not warming up all the way on her daily drive from home to work; once she figured that out she drove a little out of her way and no more muffler problem.

  • avatar

    I have been given an ’81 that I will restore beginning this winter if my garage completed AND heated in time. Very similar to this one : 4 doors, but automatic. I will learn a lot from this. They have no value, but they are so rare, I like it.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    The yellow X on the windshields on that row of cars probably means they have an appointment with the crusher very soon.

  • avatar

    We had a 1981 Corolla in that same burnt orange metallic. While not a Tercel, that car ran…and ran…and ran. It started a 30 year loyalty to Toyota for my parents (1981 Corolla, 1993 Camry, 2003 Corolla that was just sold last year). Fast forward, my son drives a 1997 Tercel with over 200k on it. Sure, being a newly-commissioned 2LT in the Air Force, I’m sure he gets some strange looks when he pulls up. But that thing is completely indestructible (kinda like an MRAP…but there I go again, lionizing the military). There has been zero unscheduled maitenance repair and he plans on literally driving it until it falls to pieces. Which, given the quality of the interior and lack of rust, might be another five or six years. Sure, they are basic…and basic just doesn’t sell in the US anymore. But that’s a real shame. 5 speed, crank windows and approximately 40 MPG in a reliable, easy to drive car. Now that is a lost concept…

  • avatar

    I wonder if the 5 speeds from these would work for a mid-engine car? Most likely they have a low torque rating.

  • avatar

    2 door 5sp hatchbacks were fun in their day, one of the few I considered up there with the king of these early FWD sub-compacts: 78-80 Fiesta’s. The Tercel hatchbacks reminded me of the iconoclastic Fiat 128s.

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