Junkyard Find: 1977 Toyota Corolla Two-door Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
The third-generation Toyota Corolla, still on a rear-wheel-drive chassis, was a tremendous sales success in California. The cheapest model was the two-door post sedan, and these reliable commuters were seen everywhere in the Golden State well into the 1990s.Nearly all are gone, but this ’77 stayed on its own four tires until age 40, finally wrapping up its long career in this San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard.
1975-1979 Corollas still show up in California wrecking yards now and then, though not as often as their Honda Civic contemporaries. So far in this series, we have seen just this ’75 and this ’78 prior to today’s ’77.
During the 1980s, I had a couple of girlfriends who drove 1975-79 Corolla two-doors (along with the Dodge Colt, Ford Pinto, and Chevy Vega, this generation of Corolla was an incredibly popular parental hand-me-down car in the ’80s). One got tired of her car’s boring gray color and took it to Earl Scheib for The Very Cheapest™ paint job. This involved coating the body, tires, seat belts, door handles, and muffler with a thick, orange-peely coat of “Sun Yellow” paint, but at least the glass remained (mostly) paint-free.
An optional five-speed was available, but those mostly went to the high rollers and their spendthrift Corolla hardtops and wagons. This car has the very affordable four-speed.
The 1,588cc 2T-C pushrod straight-four engine didn’t make much power — 75 horsepower — but it was efficient and nearly impossible to kill.
Toyota went to six-digit odometers soon after this. Is this 151,584… or 651,584? The worn-out interior suggests many years of hard use.
What kind of car can four starving interns afford? This one!
In Japan, the Sprinter version of this car got semi-cloying ads.
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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  • S_a_p S_a_p on Sep 03, 2017

    A car of my youth. My dad had a black on black example of this car. I remember it revving super high to get to "freeway speed" which my dad would go 70 in this height of the malaise era compact death trap. I was often scared by how fast my dad drove and his aggressive shifting of the 4 speed manual. This was back when my dad was a drinker so he would often be blaring Pat Benatar at unreasonably loud levels through the 8 track tape deck that he installed from CMC car stereo. This unit was his second one as he happened to let the smoke out of the first one whist "bench testing" it. My last memory of this vehicle is a private sale through the Houston Chronicle classified ads section. A group of people came and test drove the vehicle and promptly said the car was worth 500 dollars. I think my parents agreed and took this as a down payment on their brand new for '84 Plymouth Voyager minivan.

  • SavageATL SavageATL on Sep 11, 2017

    Ugh. We had the Datsun 210s as Driver's Ed cars in 1992ish. Yes, competent and reliable, but designed without a whit of style, luxury, fashion, or desireability. Ugly toad shaped proletariat tin cans filled with cheap plastic. Designed to be supremely functional, like an orthopedic shoe, and not one tiny bit better. By the way, we also had a coeval Malibu of the same generation as a driver's ed car and it was an infinitely better driving car, smooth and velvety, with some verve and style. I can understand why GM thought the Japanese didn't pose a real threat; sure the Vega was awful, but for not much more you could get a Malibu/Impala which was infinitely better than anything the Japanese were making.

  • 28-Cars-Later Can we end debt slavery next? Its getting to the point where its no longer voluntary.
  • Carson D Honda and Toyota still make the best American cars.
  • Slavuta I just though, with this rate we could make Cinco De Mayo a national holiday as well. Since we have tens of millions of American Mexicans, and probably more than African Americans
  • Wjtinfwb Well, it LOOKS pretty great for 36 years old and 356k miles! I've seen plenty of 2 decade newer trucks that looked like a shrapnel bomb went off inside and and exterior that looked worse. This owner got everything out of that truck it had. Time to let it retire to the farm.
  • Wjtinfwb Stellantis. They've gone from Hero to Zero in 24 months with some really stupid decisions and allowing politicians to influence their business. They also hung onto old products way too long and relied on RAM and Jeep to pull them through. RAM plays in the most competitive market of all, full-size trucks and competition is brutal with Ford and GM keeping their foot to the floor on development and improvement. Chrysler now has one model, a 5 year old van. Dodge made a living off old cars with stupendous power, that's gone with the mothballing of the Hemi. The Hornet is an overpriced joke. Now they have new Durango Pursuit's self-destruction because of a plastic oil cooler that self destructs and dumps oil into the coolant lunching the engine. Grand Cherokee, a staple of Jeep has not been well received and has limited power options due to canning the Hemi. Now they've got to build interest around the Hurricane turbo in-line 6 in trucks, Charger's and Jeeps. If that engine turns out to be problematic its likely lights out in Sterling Heights.