Junkyard Find: 1974 Toyota Corona Station Wagon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
Since my first car was a very beige 1969 Toyota Corona sedan and I now own a heavily customized lowrider 1969 Toyota Corona coupe, I’m always on the lookout for Coronas in junkyards. Just prior to a California trip I took a week ago, I received a Row52 notification about a 1974 Corona at an East Bay self-service yard.Here’s what I found.
Obviously, some Bay Area fifth-generation Corona owner had been waiting for just such a parts bonanza to show up in a local U-Wrench yard, and this person yanked much of the good stuff from this RT118 wagon before I got there. I’ve done the same thing to a junkyard ’41 Plymouth, so I know the glory of such a discovery.
The engine and transmission no longer reside in this car, but it started life with an 18R-C 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 97 horsepower and a four- or five-speed manual gearbox. The 18R evolved into the legendary 20R and 22R of Toyota War fame.
The list price on this car was $3,129, or about $17,250 in 2019 dollars. The 1974 Ford Pinto wagon cost $2,771, but had just 86 horsepower and a more primitive interior than the semi-luxurious Corona wagon.
Corona sales in the United States started in the 1965 model year and continued through 1982, after which the all-new front-wheel-drive Camry shoved the rear-wheel-drive Corona aside in North America. I’ve photographed every Corona I have seen in wrecking yards over the past 12 years, including this ’66 sedan, this ’68 sedan, this ’70 sedan, this ’70 coupe, this ’79 sedan, this ’80 sedan, this ’81 wagon, this ’81 wagon, and this ’82 sedan. Since I hadn’t found a Corona from the middle 1970s until now, this is an especially satisfying Junkyard Find.
One of the final owners of this car plastered much of the interior with stickers (and, maybe, applied the rattle-can blue paint job over the car’s original yellow paint).
We can assume this car was not babied during its final years.
With a five-digit odometer, we can’t know how many miles this car ended up turning during its 45 years of life. The 18R engine and Coronas in general tended to hold together better than just about any car of the era (other than a diesel Mercedes-Benz), so this could be a 469,325-mile car.
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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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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Dec 09, 2019

    We had a 76 Corolla wagon when I was a kid in Florida. We also had a pool. My mother had the back full of chlorine for the pool that the pool store put in containers they reused (5 gallon IIRC). The bumps on the loaded rear suspension was too much for one and it burst, dumping 5 gallons of chlorine back there. On the plus side, the stains were no more and the car no longer smelled of funk. 2 years later when we traded it however we weren't certain the car wasn't going to break in half it was such a rusty mess back there. It did go over 200k which was downright incredible for a car back then, but the last 100k or so were pretty miserable as the AC had long croaked and Florida was hot.

    • Gayneu Gayneu on Dec 10, 2019

      Ah, I briefly had a turd brown 76 Corolla wagon as well in college. Great car - decent room for college junk and dependable. Paid less than $1,000 and unfortunately got hit and totaled. 4-speed, tan vinyl, AM-FM - good memories.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Dec 09, 2019

    I remember seeing new Coronas and Corollas in the late 60s and early 70s and marveling how quite and well built they were for a small car. During that time I was in high school driving my dad's 62 Roman Red 1962 Chevy II 300 sedan I6 with Powerglide and the American muscle cars were dominate vehicle in the parking lot. They were the only Japanese car I remember seeing--very inexpensive to buy new and a lot of car for the money. One of my classmates father owned a Toyota dealership which is now one of the largest Toyota dealerships in Houston.

  • Bd2 If they let me and the boyz roll around naked in their dealership I'll buy a Chinese car.
  • THX1136 I would not 'knowingly' purchase a Chinese built or brand. I am somewhat skeptical of actual build quality. What I've seen in other Chinese made products show them to be of low quality/poor longevity. They are quite good at 'copying' a design/product, but often they appear to take shortcuts by using less reliable materials and/or parts. And , yes, I know that is not exclusive to Chinese products. When I was younger 'made in Japan' was synonymous with poor quality (check John Entwistle's tune 'Made in Japan' out for a smile). This is not true today as much of Japan's output is considered very favorably and, in some product types, to be of superior quality. I tend to equate the same notion today for things 'made in China'.
  • Mike Beranek No, but I'm for a world where everyone, everywhere buys cars (and everything else) that are sourced and assembled regionally. Shipping big heavy things all over the planet is not a solution.
  • Jeffrey No not for me at this time
  • El scotto Hmm, my VPN and security options have 12-month subscriptions. Car dealers are not accountable to anyone except the owner. Of course, the dealer principles are running around going "state of the art security!", "We need dedicated IT people!" For the next 12 months. The hackers can wait.