Junkyard Find: 1966 Toyota Corona Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

As 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.

When 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.

Yes, 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.

The 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.

There’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.

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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  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Mar 19, 2014

    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.

  • AllThumbs AllThumbs on Mar 19, 2014

    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.

  • FreedMike I like the looks of the Z, but I'd take the Mustang. V8s are a disappearing breed.
  • Picard234 I can just smell the clove cigarettes and the "oregano" from the interior. Absolutely no dice at any price.
  • Dartdude The Europeans don't understand the American market. That is why they are small players here. Chrysler Group is going to die pretty soon under their control. Europeans have a sense of superiority over Americans that is why the Mercedes merger didn't work out and almost killed Chrysler. Bringing European managers aren't going to help. Just like F1 they want our money. We need Elon Musk to buy out Chrysler, Dodge and Ram from Stellantis.
  • Michael S6 I would take the Mustang for the soundtrack. However, practically a BMW M340ix or M240ix would be my choice.
  • Michael S6 Took my car for oil change on Friday and dealership was working on paper. Recently one of the major health care system in our area was hacked and they had to use paper backup for three weeks. What a nightmare.