By on May 26, 2014

20 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe third-gen Corolla was the car that made Toyota in the Unites States; you saw the occasional Corona or Celica and maybe a rare Crown once in a while before the mid-70s, but the 1974-79 Corolla was the first Toyota that sold in sufficient quantity to make the marque an everyday sight on American streets. These cars rusted fast east of the Rockies and— once they got to be 15 or so years old— weren’t worth fixing when they got ugly in the non-rusty parts of the country. That makes them fairly rare in junkyards today; in this series so far, we’ve seen this ’76 Corolla liftback and this ’74 Corolla two-door, and that’s about it prior to today’s find.
11 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost cars don’t rust much in single-digit-humidity Colorado, but these cars were very eager oxidizers.
23 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe High Plains sun is hard on paint.
13 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 75-horse 2T-C engine was a sturdy, if noisy, pushrod unit.
15 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAir-conditioning was a rare option on these cars, because frugal buyers of gas-sippers didn’t mind a little sweat. I’ll bet it felt like someone pulling the parking brake when you activated the cold air in this car.
05 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis looks like an aftermarket setup.
03 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRear defrost! Rear wiper! Even most Country Squire owners didn’t get that stuff!

This ad was hitting Chrysler below the belt.

Didn’t Lee Iacocca use the “if you can find a better car, buy it” line a few years later?

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29 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon...”

  • avatar

    My best friend in HS (still buddies today) had a ’78 coupe that was handed down from one of his sisters. It was that medium Toyota blue but he had it resprayed in a dark midnight blue, added RWL tires (staggered LOL), tinted the windows and added the requisite Kraco power booster/equalizer along with the finest deck that Audiovox had to offer. It was the kind of setup that would go zzzzzZzzzzZzzzZZZZzzzz with the throttle.

    Thanks for the memory; I’m forwarding the commercials to him. He has a 911 in the garage now but I could see him finding one of these just to relive that time.

  • avatar

    This car would sell for $3000 as is in Chicago.

  • avatar

    The compressor is certainly aftermarket…guessing a Borg Warner unit? And considering the age and propensity of these things to rust, I’d have to say it held up pretty well.

    Pushrod engine, rear drums,leaf springs…this was the same technology of Detroit in that era…had Detroit not beancouted the reliability and assembly quality out of their models, perhaps the story on Michigan housing a few articles ago would look a lot different today.

    • 0 avatar

      “this was the same technology of Detroit in that era”

      Key point. Japan Inc. didn’t land their invasion because of rocket science but because they gave their conventional products the same care as rocket assembly.

    • 0 avatar

      More truth here than in church…I had an ’82 wagon of this generation. For god sakes…leaf springs and RWD!

      When the water pump froze on me, I pulled over. Next day I came back the the car with my $14 pump in hand and replaced it on the spot. Only three bolts held it on.

      Even today–Advance Auto Parts lists the part at $22!! Rock Auto, $8!

      Is a Prius really that much more sustainable???
      I mean…all the fossil fuel we burn at R&D and then at manufacture…???
      Is anyone out there counting the beans on THIS ???

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a York compressor… Ford bought most of these units.

    • 0 avatar

      Most Japanese cars of that era had AC that was either dealer- or port-installed, not at the factory in Japan. That one looks most likely like a dealer-install; the port-installed stuff tended to be a LITTLE better integrated.

      The compressor is likely a typical York compressor, which was, in terms of capacity, major overkill on that car. And yeah, switching that thing on would be like throwing out an anchor.

      • 0 avatar

        I had an ’80 Subaru with dealer air. I used to switch the A/C off before merging onto the freeway, especially at the on-ramp closest to my house, which had a ridiculously short acceleration lane.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Had a 1975 wagon. Bought in 1980 with 100K (but only 80K on a replacement motor) Cost $2500 down from a new cost of $5000. 50% nominal depreciation in 5 years or actually a little less, usually, was par for the course for a Japanese car back then. (But remember, inflation was pretty high). Original cost would be about $22K in today’s dollars. No AC. Stick. Kinda fun to drive, but actually not particularly reliable. Got around 25 MPG highway on a 1600 cc engine doing a little over 60 mph. I liked its looks and I still do. The clutch gave out for the second time in the dealer’s lot when I was trying to buy a new Nissan pickup.

  • avatar

    It must be nostalgia that makes me appreciate the simple design of a car like this, or maybe I’m just old? If you look at our ’11 Forester 5spd in side profile and squint a little you can almost see the resemblance. Could be why driving such a basic cuv around town puts a smile on my face, the fact that the wife loves it too and wants to upgrade to the new 6spd version is a bonus! Now all I need is those cool hood vents:)

  • avatar

    Wow, talk about memories. When I was about 6 my mom had enough of her rusted out, beige 72 Dodge Coronet and we went down to Bill Dube Toyota in Dover NH and she picked up a 2 door 77 corolla that exact shade of gold. 4 speed, vinyl floors and seats and an AM radio. Of course it started rusting within a year on the salt encrusted New England roads but it was completely reliable. In the early 80’s she inherited a one year old Chevy Citation so the Corolla was sold. That horror show only graced our driveway for two or three years before it was replaced with…..voila, a brand new 86 Corolla!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    All this needs is a little bit of TLC and a rebuilt motor and it’s good as new, or maybe even better.

  • avatar

    I was wondering why this car looked really familiar to me…

    I found its liftback brother on nearby Craigslist!

    • 0 avatar

      I hope that thing stayed off the mean Lehigh Valley streets this past winter. I forget if it`s Bennett or Muller that bill themselves as the oldest operating Toyota dealer in the US. I bet it came from one of them.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    My sister owned a 77 Corolla base model 1200cc 4 spd 2dr in grey with a black interior that she bought used in the early 80’s. No carpet only rubber matting. The only option was an AM/FM radio. It even had of all things a manual choke, something that was pretty much obsolete in most cars by the late 70’s. Just pull it out when you started it and as the the engine idled it pushed itself back in. Very efficient. The car was quite reliable with normal maintenance, no pesky timing belt issue since it had a chain and got 35+ MPG highway. She got over 150k out of it till a slipping clutch and rocker panel rust started setting in and sold it to a happy customer for $500.

  • avatar

    Toyota actually paid royalties to Ford for it’s patented rust proofing process. Ford hadn’t bothered to convert all of it’s factories until 1982, when higher quality steel and galvanizing were adopted. It’s still not enough for those chemicals used in New England. My sister’s ’78 Honda Civic (same sickly yellow) didn’t hold up in Rhode Island salt winters either.

  • avatar

    The engine noise in these always turned me off to them. Hondas were ok, but I could not see why anyone would actively want thiS v intaglio of Toyota. Then a friend bought a JDM crate twin cam 1600 to put in his fiberglass lightened Corolla. It made music.

  • avatar

    Took my driving test in one of these, the sedan. My parents had a Pontiac Grand Prix with a 400, but long nose plus opera windows made parallel parking a bitch. The Toyota had a 5 speed, but as a biker there was no issue. Passed first time.

    This car was better built than the other cars in my area, mostly malaise rides, with the occasional “good condition” muscle car owned by someone’s older brother or cousin…I recall seeing how well built the Toyota was…almost Mercedes like….for a CHEAP car !!!!

    Had I been older, or from a family with money, I’d have bought a franchise right there.

    Oh, and exposure to real GTO, 442, Mavericks, ‘Cuda, etc, at a young age, has screwed me up for life…even if they were ratty beaters at the time, not perfect examples rolled across the auction block. Driving LT-1 Vette, Nissan GT-R, and a few others has shown time has marched on, but the boost of torque to the lower back has remained the same !!!

  • avatar

    My very first car was a 1977-1/2 Corolla wagon…they did their facelift mid year. I inherited it from my Dad…It was brown with a 5 speed stick. I replaced the AM radio with a pioneer stereo and put two craig co=ax speakers in the back. The empty bezel for the clock was the perfect location for a VDO tachometer. I kept the car until 1981 when I traded it in on a brand new VW Scirocco.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    The vast majority of the Japanese cars sold in the US in the seventies that were equipped with air conditioning , even if bought new , actually was equipped with an aftermarket unit . A lot of these were a brand actually called , and labelled as such , Factory Air , that was used in a number of different Japanese brands of the era . As for this edition of the Corolla wagon , I recall being very impressed with them .

  • avatar

    I alway thought it was the late 1960’s Corona that made people first notice the toyota brand. That car got them a lot of dealership.

    But remember that in the early 1970 there was a total of 7 model chassis of corolla! TE21 2 door or 4 door sedan, KE20 2 door sedan, ke26 and te28 wagons, ke25 and te27 (SR5/levin) coupe!

  • avatar

    To me the first photo is one step away from fine art.

  • avatar

    Even if all that was left of this car was paint chip, you could tell it hailed from 1970-75. Yesterday, I happened to see a ’70 LTD convertible–in brown. I guess it was supposed to be a sophisticate’s kind of convertible, not being in one of those more obvious racy colors like red. I was around back then, but I still find it remarkable that these earth tones predominated, as if people wanted their cars to match their kitchen appliances.

    Well, at least in those days cars came in colors. Nowadays, it appears that 90% of cars are white, black, or some shade of grey/silver. Does anyone know the actual figures, eg, from sales or registrations?

    Re the a/c, I remember for my 86 crx it was a dealer-installed option (the car shook and the engine squealed when the a/c was turned on), but the control was integrated with the standard HV controls. The one is the Corolla with the knob stuck under the dashboard is truly aftermarket, it seems, though at least it doesn’t have the vents and mechanicals screwed under the dash, like those old timey units.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep..until quite recently, Jap A/C units were dealer-installed in lower-trim Civics and ‘Rollas, and even Accords and Camrys.

      (Friend of mine almost got taken by a smarmy used-car salesman after he bought a Mazda 323 which he thought had A/C — until I took a look at the control panel and INSISTED it was missing!)

  • avatar

    It still looks pretty good , that lift gate appears to have been re painted .

    When new I panned these cars , I was dead wrong .


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