Junkyard Find: 1981 Toyota Corona Wagon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1981 toyota corona wagon

Because my very first car was a 50-buck ’69 Corona sedan in dazzling beige, I always photograph Coronas when I see them in wrecking yards. Sadly, Toyota stopped selling the Corona in North America in 1982, which means that I might see one every couple of years these days. Here’s a luxurious, fully loaded 1981 Toyota Corona wagon in a Denver self-service yard.

The front-wheel-drive Camry replaced the rear-wheel-drive Corona in North America, while Corona production continued all the way through 2002 in Japan (where it was something of a status symbol).

This car doesn’t have a stratospheric odometer reading for a Toyota of its era, but it also doesn’t appear to have spent decades abandoned in a driveway. If it spent its 38 years in uninterrupted service, it drove an average of just under 4,500 miles per year during its life.

Power came from the same engine that powered Hiluxes and Land Cruisers in war zones around the world: the legendary 22R straight-four. The 22R was neither smooth nor powerful, but you couldn’t kill it. I shot this photograph with a 1913 Kodak Hawk-Eye camera, by the way.

Most U.S.-market Coronas came with manual transmissions (because Corona buyers cared about fuel economy), but this one boasts an overdrive-equipped automatic.

Air conditioning! The radio is an aftermarket unit, but I’ll bet the original one was the pricey AM/FM stereo.

The sun is hard on car upholstery in Colorado, so the owner of this Corona repaired the driver’s seat with duct tape.

From a distance, the paint appears to be gray primer. Up close, you can see that it’s just very weathered factory gray paint. Toyota left the frivolous paint colors to Mitsubishi and Subaru back then.

A 22R-powered rear-wheel-drive Toyota would be a good vehicle to have during a zombie apocalypse.

Toyota had just about given up on marketing the Corona in North America by the early 1980s, but Australians still loved their Coronas.

Here’s a U.S.-market ad for the previous-generation Corona wagon, powered by the 20R engine. Such jocularity!

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2 of 36 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Mar 19, 2019

    Zombie Apocalypse is real - take a cruise through a cubicle farm.

  • Pinkharlem Pinkharlem on Dec 06, 2021

    We have a beautiful 1981 Corona Hatchback that belonged to my father. My mother has been trying to sell it for over two yrs but sadly here in CT, USA not many people know about Coronas.

  • RICK Once had 78 TOWN COUPE and wish I had never let it go! Ultimate OTT excessive luxury! Have since had RWD FLEETWOODS, RWD Fifth Avenues ,as well as 89 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series and current 2007 TOWN CAR Signature Limited! All great cars, but 77 through 79 was KING 🤴 of the road! So sad to see what is now considered a luxury vehicle 😢. Who wants to drive a glorified truck 🚚?
  • Kwik_Shift There are better cars to drop $80G on.
  • 28-Cars-Later Opulence!
  • Kwik_Shift If there is no 2WD Access Cab with 6 speed manual, then I'm not interested.
  • RedDevil Radio Garden is my go to for long trips.Thousands of radio stations all over the worldfor free as long as you have internet. Sure beats hunting for the one or two decent stations in most areas.