By on February 12, 2016

08 - 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The fourth-generation Corolla was a gigantic sales success in California, but you won’t see many of these TE72 wagons even in rust-free regions these days; nearly all of them were driven into the ground and replaced by RAV4s or Priuses a decade or two back.

Since we had wagon Junkyard Finds on Monday and Wednesday, let’s make this a Junkyard Wagon Week with this third one!
05 - 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The 3T engine was a 1,770cc pushrod unit that made just 70 horses in California-emissions-spec 3T-C form. On the plus side, the 3T sipped gas and was nearly impossible for even oil-change-deferring Americans to kill.

02 - 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The drift kids like these cars, because they’re cheaper than the AE86 Corollas but are still rear-wheel-drive and can take a variety of stupid engine swaps (or stupid boost on the 3T-C).

17 - 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

This one is a longtime San Francisco Bay Area resident, with a 2001 Cal State Hayward (the name was changed to Cal State East Bay a few years ago, which was a real diss to the people of Hayward) sticker next to a bunch of $200-ticket-if-you-don’t-have-one City of Berkeley residential parking permits.

12 - 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Yamaha, Kawasaki, and the San Francisco Opera all get bumper-sticker shout-outs, right next to the bought-from-a-street-vendor-on-Telegraph-Avenue-in-1983 QUESTION AUTHORITY sticker.

21 - 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

A 24 Hours of LeMons team is assembling a TE72 for the Arizona race next month, so I grabbed this car’s allegedly-hard-to-find distributor for them.

Even in Australia, the TE72 wagon was special.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon...”

  • avatar

    Mileage? Or, since it’s a Toyota; is it a given the mileage is over 300,000?

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    They were hardly unkillable, nor were they all that economical. This was my first car, a liftback SR-5, and it was by far the least reliable car I ever owned. The upside is that Toyota parts were cheap at the time, so it was a death by a thousand cuts. Make sure your tetanus boosters are up-to-date!

    My car averaged 23 mpg over the three years I owned it, nothing to brag about, even then. My old Saab does way better with over 3 times the horsepower and twice the accumulated miles.

    • 0 avatar

      That was my first car also. A silver SR-5 liftback coupe. It was a hand me down from my parents. I never put a dime in that car for the years I owned it and trust me, I drove it like it was my first car. Which was good of course, because I had no money at the time :)

    • 0 avatar

      Still driving my 1982 SR5 coupe! 16mpg in the city, which is where I mostly drive it now.

  • avatar

    Why are there 200 old gewgaws and some K-body center caps in the front seat?!

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Don’t know about the gewgaws but I’d bet the Caddy center caps were put there by someone who didn’t have the money right then and there to buy them, but hid them away from the Cadillac where they used to be, so no one would buy them until he returned.

  • avatar

    A Corolla wagon owner who also likes Yamaha XS650s? My kind of guy!

    Back in the mid 90s, my family had a rusty as heck former sunny CA dwelling ’77 4spd coupe in mustard yellow. My dad bought a can of rustoleum to paint over the splotches of rust, but he just grabbed the first can of yellow he could find. We ended up with a bizarre mustard with bright yellow splotches Corolla. He had bought the car from a work friend (the guy moved from San Diego to Ithaca NY) for $1, we drove it for a few years before the rust got so bad the mechanic didn’t want to put it on the lift. Sold it to him for $1. Stupidly simple and robust car, reminded me a lot of a RWD Lada but better screwed together. I remember us carrying a wooden ladder on the roof by simply strapping it down, looping the rope through the open windows. No roof rack or anything fancy like that. Ah the joys of beater-dom.

    • 0 avatar

      Were your parents just very frugal when you were young? I recall you saying they’re both PhD engineers or some such!

      • 0 avatar

        Yes both parents have PhDs (physics, genetics). We came to the US with quite literally $50 and our luggage (my dad’s old hiking pack, we didn’t even have suitcases), and an okay-ish paying research job offer for my dad (a physicist). Classic ex-Soviet brain drain story. Our first few years in the States were indeed quite ‘lean,’ but even more so because my folks just lived through perestroika and were used to scrounging around and living on just the basics. My mom still reuses zip lock bags and aluminum foil, and they keep the original 1980s appliances in their current house chugging along. Growing up, we ate at a restaurant maybe twice a year, my mom cooked 24/7, in addition to holding down a lab job. In their empty nester phase they’ve finally splurged a bit: bought a used RX350 a few years ago, and now have bought some rural acreage that they’re hobby-farming.

        I should add, the Corolla was owned concurrently with our ’90 Civic, which was bought with fairly low miles. We had recently moved to our house as well. Heady times for Soviet ex-pats: their own house with a yard, and 2 cars in the garage!

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Gablehouser: I’m sorry, that’s incorrect. AA, if you can answer correctly, the match is yours.

        Howard: He doesn’t have it. He’s got squat.

        (Sheldon looks more and more uncomfortable, so much he is involuntarily twitching.)

        Gablehouser: AA, I need your answer. (Buzz)

        Third Floor Janitor: The answer is minus eight by alpha.

        Sheldon: Hang on, hang on a second, that’s not our answer. What are you doing?

        Third Floor Janitor: Answering question. Winning physics bowl.

        Sheldon: How do you know anything about physics?

        Third Floor Janitor: Here I am janitor, in former Soviet Union I am physicist. Leningrad Politechnica. Go Polar Bears.

        • 0 avatar

          Just saw that episode like 2 weeks ago haha.

        • 0 avatar

          Heh, this rings a bell. My father went to Leningrad Polytechnic. He worked as an acoustics engineer for one of the leading defense factories in St. Petersburg. He has been an electrician in the Boston area for over 20 years.

          Interestingly enough, even though he owned several Ladas back in the old country he was never big on cars here treating them only as tools for the job (but it does explain why I want to own a Lada very badly). His last 3 vehicles were large cargo vans required for all the electrical tools. I guess my love of cars (an infection I had since about birth) stems from his father who according to my relatives was a major gearhead and owned several cars including a ZAZ (966 iirc) which was his last car.

  • avatar

    I hated these cars in the 80’s and 90’s but the older they get,the more they’ve grown on me. I guess the same can be said for Omni/Horizons, 510’s, Chevettes, and early J-cars. Their former dorkiness is their charm today.

  • avatar

    I almost took one of these in trade for an 89 Olds Cutlass. Sadly, it was in good shape for such an old car, but it was on it’s last legs. It woulda been a fun couple of months, though.

  • avatar

    I never did realize why these little guys were so popular. RWD and easy engine swaps make a lot of sense, then in that case.

    Seems like I have seen no shortage of early built ‘Yota Coupes with slicks on them. IIRC, I just came across one the other day with a dammed rotary swap.

    I learned something today. But sorry, gang. You still have to buy your own breakfast.

  • avatar

    My parents bought a brand-spanking new 1981 Toyota Corolla two-door in this exact-same color. Dad had an after-market pop-up sunroof installed and genuine (dark blue) wool/sheepskin seat covers placed over the seats. Not much in the way of HP, but that thing was way more reliable than my uncle’s 1984 BMW 318i that I lusted after every time I saw it. Parents drove it for ten years before returning to Germany with it and finally selling it to some soldier on the Lemon Lot. That Corolla was the reason my parents stayed with Toyota for roughly thirty years(1981-Corolla, 1993-Camry, 2003-Corolla).

  • avatar

    I always liked this shape Corolla wagon, especially in panel van form.
    Unfortunately the 3T engine never made it to Australia in Corolla sedans or wagons, we were stuck with 65hp 4K-C and later, 78hp 4A-C engines. The 3T was reserved for the T18 Coupe.

  • avatar

    I owned the previous generation which was mechanically alost identical to this generation. I can attest to the simplicity and reliability of these cars…I loved the lines of this generation, so “un-Japanese” especially when compared to the bizarre Datsuns and Subarus of the same era. They looked very BMW like with their quad headlights, simple lines and lack of chrome….

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    These will die when rear ended by a cattle truck as happened to my mother and I sometime early on in the Reagan administration. She had just scolded me to get out of the “way back” into the back seat as we came to a stop. literally seconds later the way back was filled up by the front of said cattle truck. We walked away though.

  • avatar

    I actually own one of these, it’s my daily driver. A lot of replacement parts and performance modifications have been thrown at it, but as an amateur mechanic doing my own work, it’s been a very affordable and entertaining car. I’ve done cross-country road trips, delivered pizzas, and scooted to and from college classes for almost three years and counting. These get big ups in the import car scene, and seem to be popular with pretty much every crowd. That quad round set up (one-year-only mind you) is worth about $400 alone to people looking to swap out the later square lights, hell most everything on that is worth decent money (more than you’d expect for a 36 year old economy car).

    Here’s a pic of my wagon at Formula Drift Dallas last fall. It won best in show for the Classic/Muscle category, which is hilarious to me because Offset Kings/Fatlace (the sponsors) are pretty much all about slammed cars with hugely aggressive wheels and body kits. Here I took home the gold with a 2″/2.5″ drop and some 13×5.5 slot mags! haha

  • avatar

    I owned a bunch of Toyotas throughout the 90’s including a Corona, two Celicas, and a couple of these – one just like the one in the photos (!), and one two-door SR-5 Liftback in that burnt orange color that they sold so many of them in: I will always love that SR-5. Despite being a rag bag, it is to this day my favorite car that I’ve ever owned. It had excellent weight distribution, a 5-speed and you could tach it until the valves floated. I would tear down twisty dirt roads in the boonies at ridiculous speeds, and let the tail hang out at every opportunity. The rust cancer finally got it – it went to the junkyard still running. By the way, being the favorite car I’ve ever owned is no joke. I’ve had cars from every automaker and decade from 1970 to the present. This includes many years of BMW’s including a couple of E30s (one a swap car) and an E36, a heavily modified AMG Mercedes-Benz, and a host of American muscle. I still wish I had that SR-5. Only not as a tired rust heap.

    • 0 avatar

      I always liked those liftbacks, sort of a poor man’s Volvo 1800E. Glad yours was so much fun, I remember seeing them in bright yellow back in the day.

    • 0 avatar

      Pastor at a former church some twenty years had one in the screaming yellow color, which he later Earl Scheib-ed to black. Drove the piss out of it, fit his 6’7″ frame to a tee, and ran like a top, almost dead silent at idle.

      He drove it proudly until the day the driver’s door handle literally fell out in his hands in front of his father-in-law, who insisted on helping with a car purchase–a 1986-ish Camry in the classic reddish-brown-over-beige two-tone of the day. He may have cracked 400k on the Corolla before it rusted away.

  • avatar

    Hope you got some shots of that first-gen Integra next to the Corolla. I have great memories of mine.

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