By on March 18, 2014

03 - 1969 Toyota Corona Sedan Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinAs I always mention when writing about the the Toyota Corona, my first car was a beige ’69 four-door. Examples of the first generation of the Corona sold in the United States remain defiantly uncollectible for the most part (though a few do get restored and/or customized here and there), which means that beat-up ones wash ashore at self-service wrecking yards when they no longer serve as cheap transportation. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’68 sedan, this ’70 sedan, this ’70 coupe, and this bonus Corona ad from the February 1969 issue of Playboy. Today’s find is the result of an archeological expedition into an old backup hard drive dating from early 2007, so this California Corona was shredded and put on a container ship in the Port of Oakland about seven years back.
01 - 1969 Toyota Corona Sedan Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen I saw this car at the now-defunct Hayward Pick-Your-Part, I had a crazy idea that I was looking at my very first car (which I hadn’t seen since 1984). The color was right and the body damage looked familiar… but my car had a four-on-the-floor manual transmission, and this one had a three- or four-on-the-tree column shifter. Plus, closer examination showed that this car has no rear side marker lights (required on US-market cars starting in 1968) and a different grille.
02 - 1969 Toyota Corona Sedan Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, column-shift manual-transmission Toyotas as late as 1966. The Corona, with its leaf-spring rear and coil-on-top-of-upper-control-arm front suspension, was mechanically pretty similar to the 1961 Ford Fairlane (though the Powerglide-based Toyoglide automatic transmission gave some Coronas more of a GM feel). The whole package seemed like sort of a 3/4-scale early-60s American sedan.
06 - 1969 Toyota Corona Sedan Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe first Coronas were imported into the US for the 1965 model year, so this ’66 is one of the first to reach these shores. I’m sure The Crusher ate some parts on this car that are now much-sought-after by the world’s handful of T40 Corona fanatics.
04 - 1969 Toyota Corona Sedan Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s not much demand for the pushrod 3R engine, though. This ancestor of the SOHC 20R and 22R engines was just as reliable as the later Hilux and Celica motors, but was even noisier and less happy being spun past 3,000 RPM.

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27 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1966 Toyota Corona Sedan...”

  • avatar

    “The whole package seemed like sort of a 3/4-scale early-60s American sedan.”

    I would agree with that assessment. These are are incredibly cramped…

  • avatar

    I like how stodgy they are, but yes it looks pretty cramped in there. And the brake lamps were -seemingly- used later on Ladas.

    I maintain the Crown Custom Wagon with this rear end was very cool though.×540.jpg

  • avatar

    I very well remember these and the 3R engine was a fragile POC , no need to over rev it , it just died often , rods thrown m, piston rings failed etc.

    Nevertheless , I still like these cute little automobilettes .

    When they were 6 year old used cars , most of my friends with young families bought them at one time or another and I was the one saddled with keeping them alive .

    Snug inside but not actually cramped and I’m 6′ tall .

    Sad to see this clean looking one gone to the crusher .


  • avatar

    I liked these too, Nate. I test drove a new one, an RT52 coupe, in the spring of ’69. With three of us in the car, and I’m 6’4″, it was very close, but not cramped in the same way a Renault 8 was cramped. Still, it was no sale. But that autumn I tested the new Corona Mk 2 hardtop coupe, and was amazed at how swiftly Toyota had adapted to American requirements.

    • 0 avatar

      I may have been too harsh with my initial comments , in retrospect all the young folks I knew , mercilessly over speeded the poor little engines trying to make it go faster than it was designed to go .

      65 MPH four up was easily achieved but buzzy over 55 .
      In any case , the subsequent 3R-b & 3R-c engines were stronger .

      The AC when fitted , replaced the _entire_ glove box =8-^ .

      The two speed ” Toyoglide ” slushbox tranny was a GM Powerglide built under license , the reverse band is *very* weak and easily snaps if you sloppily shift into reverse whilst creeping forward.. (another ignorant American driving habit that made me wealthy) .

      The ’66 & ’67 models used the horn 1/2 ring to actuate the turn signals , a very clever idea that Americans killed off being too (insert pejorative here) ever figure it out and constantly complained about ” those damn cheap Japs didn’t equip this junk with turn signals ! ” .

      The reverse slanting of the upper body remains a favorite style of mine , I prefer the coupes and in my town until very recently there were two of these chugging around still doing yeoman duty for 50 + year old Women .

      I see one or two in the local Pick-A-Part yards every year , always in VGC , sometimes even with the unobtanium hub caps .

      I’d prolly buy one for under $1,000 but once they’re in the rows that’s that , no saving them no matter what , I have tried many times .


  • avatar

    0-60 in… 25 seconds?

    Top speed of? 55? 45??

    Was it faster than the Isetta?

    Oh, Toyota- such humble beginnings.

    • 0 avatar

      The ’69 I had was pretty slow, but no worse than, say, a Dart with a 170ci Slant-6. I got it to 85 MPH a couple times, and it probably had a little more in reserve. Also like an old Dart, it had tippy handling and terrible four-wheel-drum brakes.

  • avatar

    The leading edge of the front fender had some style.

  • avatar

    Were these common enough in scrapyards in 2007 that they weren’t worth saving back then?
    How about now, surely this would worth putting some time into now?

  • avatar

    “Yes, column-shift manual-transmission Toyotas as late as 1966.”

    Pfft. Ford was selling Mavericks with column-shifted manuals until 1977.

    • 0 avatar

      I think GM was selling S-10 pickups with column-shift-manuals well into the 80s.

      BTW, not all column-shifted-manuals were 3 speeds, I’ve seen four speed manuals shifted from the column as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Down here in Chile, and I am sure Argentina too, you could buy a 1990 Peugeot 504 Pickup with a column mounted 5 speed.

      I learned to drive in a 1976 504 Wagon with a 1.6 XN1 engine with a column mounted 4 speed. It even had a fully sincromesh first gear! (earlier ones did not :)

    • 0 avatar

      The last Ford 3-on-the-tree was on the 1987 F-150 (first of the new bodystyle) and E-150 vans, 300 I6 only. (Four-on-the-floor was available on Econolines until the ’92 redesign.)

      The last GM 3-on-the-tree was 1987, last year of the more-common-than-dirt squarebodys, 4.3 V6 only.

      The last Dodge 3-on-the-tree was probably ’88, the last year of the 225 Slant-Six (although I don’t know for sure.)

      Sensing a theme?

    • 0 avatar

      I could get Toyota and Nissan column shift well into the 1990’s and Hong Kong Toyota Crown Comforts had a 4-spd column shift manual until 2000.

  • avatar

    What a great series of cars. I realize it was a vastly newer T170 series, but I owned a ’90 Corona while I was stationed in Japan. High mileage, lots of dents and dings, but it was insanely reliable, never let me down, and even passed a stringent safety and emissions inspection. A few months after buying it (and having no service records), I figured an oil change and tune up were a good idea. The plugs, oil and air filter were all a similar jet-black shade, and the latter was so caked you’d think it would have stopped a bullet. Yet it started every single time and ran like a charm.

    The best part? Bought it for $350, drove it daily when not deployed, and sold it two years later for exactly $350. Still love that car!

  • avatar

    I’ve never driven a column-mounted manual, but rode in several as a kid–a Mercedes 190, Opel Rekord, and lastly a ’75 Valiant. My perception is that the domestic column shifters were not as smooth-shifting and precise as foreign makes. Can anyone comment?

    It would be consistent with Detroit’s prevailing mentality of selling lots of options, with automatic first and foremost.

    As far as the Corona, as a kid in the early 70s, I think a Corona taxi it is the first Japanese car I ever rode in. While I, like many people, was biased against Japanese cars, riding home (mercifully not taking the bus) from the base clinic, I was impressed with how “smooth” the car sounded–I thought, “wow, it’s ugly, but it’s as quiet as an American car!”

    That would seem to be at odds with your comment about thrashy pushrods, but I was only 8 or 9, you are probably correct. Still, for a Greek taxi, it was very quiet….

    Thanks for the memory:)

    • 0 avatar

      The column gear shift came about as as way of getting a third person in the middle of a front bench seat, something that is not all that easy to do if there is a floor shifter sticking up in the middle.

  • avatar

    The first one I noticed was my uncle’s old ’64 Biscayne. Aunt Wanda would drive the crap out of it. Those old cars still have a nicely sculpted dash, even if it is all metal. Our most durable and best at not getting stuck in winter barn slop was a ’65 Chevy p’up with a 283, column shift and rear mud grips. I bought a couple of old abandoned vehicles as a teenager. Both Chevy’s with column shifters. It is sort of like watching a sub-titled movie. After it’s over, it seems like it was in English thinking back about it. I drove those, but it took me a moment to remember shifting those things. Seems awkward now. Where was first, to you and down?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yep, sounds right. My only experience with a column manual was a ’70s Ford truck with controls, handling, and power that could only be charitably described as “vague”. As I recall, towards you was reverse (left) and 1st (right), then away was 2nd (left) and 3rd (right). This is extra fun when you also have to use hand signals.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    This version of the Corona was the first Japanese sedan I recall seeing in big numbers. It was one of the rare cars where , to me , the four door sedan’s styling , with its swept back lines , came off better than the coupe. I knew a number of people driving these in the seventies . Never saw one with a column shift , I only recall them with a floor shift manual , though for a while , IIRC the floor shift was also initially a three speed . Personally owned 2 cars with 3-speed on the column, sixties Falcon and Malibu . Once years ago drove a sixties Mercedes with a 4 speed column shift and I do recall it seemed better shifting than the domestic ones . In the nineties here in Houston there was an odd rent- a -wreck place that would rent late eighties Econolines with a 3-speed and no A.C. the price was quite cheap ,so I rented them a few times . Pieces of junk but entertaining as a novelty.

  • avatar

    I spent much of my childhood in the Philippines, and in those days almost all the taxis were this exact car. I remember going to the US and being astonished at how enormous the taxis were. Why? I actually still wonder that, given how most taxis are not taking families of four with luggage to the airport on most of their trips.

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