By on March 19, 2018

1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S in California wrecking yard, RH view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Corolla was the first Toyota car to be a smash sales hit in the United States (I’d like to say it was the Corona, for obvious reasons, but that car’s sales figures were merely respectable for a then-obscure brand), but we didn’t think of the sensible little econoboxes as fast until the legendary AE86 Corolla GT-S in 1983. Then came the front-wheel-drive FX16 GT-S, a worthy competitor to European hot hatches.

The AE92 GT-S never gained the cult following of the earlier GT-S cars, and so you won’t see many on the street today. Here’s an ’89, spotted in an Oakland, California, self-service wrecking yard.

1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S in California wrecking yard, door emblem - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI see a few of these cars each year in wrecking yards, but the last time one made this series was all the way back in 2012.

1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S in California wrecking yard, speedometer - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt came close to 200,000 miles during its 29-year career, but couldn’t quite get over the top.

1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S in California wrecking yard, engine compartment - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe engine, which was yanked before I arrived, would have been a 4A-GE 1.6-liter four-cylinder, rated at 115 horsepower. MR2s, Geo Prizms, and earlier Corollas had 4A-GE power; the Prizm GSi was the GM-badged counterpart to the Corolla GT-S, though the Corolla coupe had the Sprinter Trueno body while the Prizm was based on the Sprinter sedan.

1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S in California wrecking yard, sports team stickers - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAppropriately enough for a car found in a wrecking yard within sight of the Oakland Coliseum, stickers for the Oakland Athletics, Oakland Raiders, and San Jose Sharks adorn its rear side glass.


The Japanese-market version didn’t get the popup headlights, but it was available with a 165-horse supercharged engine.

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11 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S...”


  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    My grandfather was generous guy – and also liked his cars. He could name every car he had from the time he came to America – back in the late teens.
    So, in the late 80s when he wanted a new car he took me and my mother with him to go car shopping. He had heard good things about the Pontiac 6000 and went to look.I wandered over to the Toyota dealership next door and sat in Corolla GT-S. He saw me, came over and told me he would buy it for me. Well – I couldn’t take such a big purchase from him – and politely said no. Back in the Pontiac dealership he was ready to pay cash and sticker for a new 6000 sitting on the showroom floor – but my mother talked him out of it.
    Later he got a used 69 Caddy Sedan de Ville from my Uncle’s father. He had never had a Caddy in his life and was thrilled with it.
    He would even wipe down the engine once a week.
    Good memories.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    These were 130 hp, not 115.

    I loved these, they were bad-ass Corollas.

    They were light, had 130 hp, and 7,500 rpm redline.

    I liked these better than the Civic Si of the day

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The AE92 GT-S started at 115 hp and got a bump to 130 for 1990. And that Sprinter Trueno in the ad does have flip-up lights. The Sprinter Levin had fixed lamps.

    The AE86 gets all the drift cred, but I actually like the 92 better. Helps that the styling was directly ported from the 2nd-gen Soarer.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    The first brand new car I ever purchased was a ‘92 Geo Prizm. Reliable appliance, changed the oil regularly and no surprises until I sold it at 115,000 miles.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Hard to remember a time when Corollas could be sporty, instead of being the most frustrating roadblocks in traffic.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    This should be rescued. I realize you probably took these pics many moons in the past, but I forwarded the piece to a neighborhood guy with at least four of these parked everywhere around his house. He has a formula where he installs some JDM engine and suspension and seems to school everyone in his competitive circle. When done right, I have to admit I like the looks, too.

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      Agreed, my brother had an FX16 (not the FX16 GTS) which was a total sleeper. At the time of purchase we also test drove one of these, which is what he really wanted but it was out of his price range . I worked at Chevy store at this time (HS in 90s) and really enjoyed the Storm GSIs, as well.
      The 1.6 liter was eons ahead of my 84 GTI I had at time in refinement and revved smoothly to its 7500 rpm. Even a better powerplant than the much rougher Celica GT 2.0 16v motor.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I always thought these were nicer looking than the 89 Celica. If you cross shopped them they were also a
    better value.

    • 0 avatar
      22_RE_Speedwagon

      you may be right but having cross shopped them (used, in about 1991) Celica had so much more brand equity than corolla. Drove the 16 valve GTS — didn’t register for me.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Junkyard find: That red Honda Insight in the background !

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