By on February 11, 2020

Today’s Rare Ride hails from the first two decades of Toyota’s North American tenure. The Corona line was midsize, luxurious, and the pinnacle of the company’s offerings on this continent.

Come along and experience Corona.

The Corona was an all-new car for Toyota in 1957. It was created as successor to the Toyopet Master, which was a taxi and fleet vehicle sold alongside the similar Crown sedan. Once Toyota saw the market for the more luxurious Crown, it cancelled the Toyopet Master and replaced it with the less expensive Corona to create some distance from its flagship. The Corona then took the mantle as a smaller and less luxurious sedan.

A short first generation from 1957 to 1960 (T10), was succeeded by a second generation that existed from 1960 to 1964 (T20/30). Today’s Corona is part of the third generation, which spanned the long seven years from 1964 through 1970. Introduced just prior to the start of the ’64 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Toyota’s new model trailed the introduction of a new Nissan Bluebird (its main competition) by a full year. So the new car could be a bit larger and more expensive than prior versions, Toyota introduced a new car to serve the lower end of the market starting in 1966: the Corolla.

The Corona was available in a shocking six body styles. Customers chose from two-doors in pickup and hardtop variation, a three-door van, four-door sedan, and a five-door wagon and hatchback. All were front-engine and rear-drive, utilizing inline-four engines of 1.2- to 1.9-liters of displacement. Transmissions had two, three, or four speeds, with the two-speed as the automatic offering. Keen to show the longevity of its new mainstream car, Toyota tested the Corona on a Japanese expressway for 100,000 miles. Able to sustain very high speeds of 87 miles per hour, it reached 60 in just over 15 seconds.

In 1968 a new larger Corona debuted, the Mark II. An increase in size and equipment brought the model upmarket, and the new car even shared some features with the pinnacle Crown. The Mark II in this guise was built through 1972, and was the next-largest vehicle to Crown. It was still sold at Toyopet Stores, however, which meant it wasn’t as illustrious as vehicles sold at Toyota Store locations. The introduction of the Mark II signified that the end was near for the Corona as a luxury model.

In 1972 the Corona Mark II received its own platform; it was larger, more powerful, and more luxurious than the Corona which spawned it. For the rest of its life (d. 2001), Corona would be an economy-focused vehicle that occasionally ventured into sporty territory. It passed away after merging with the Corolla-like Carina and Caldina models.

Today’s Rare Ride is beautifully restored in baby blue. With the largest 1.9-liter engine and a four-speed manual, this very rare Toyota did not sell recently when listed for $30,000.

[Images: seller]

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19 Comments on “Rare Rides: 1968 Toyota Corona Coupe – an End of Luxury...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Again, comparing what was considered ‘luxury’ in most foreign markets to North America is a fools errand.

    A Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant provided more/greater creature comforts, interior space and power than this Toyota.

    • 0 avatar

      Amen. And how times have changed. In the ’60s power steering and a folding center arm-rest on vinyl seats was upscale. Add power windows, A/C and AM/FM/8-track tape and Oh My G0d have you arrived! The neighbors gathered ’round to gawk in rapturous envy.

    • 0 avatar

      You are technically correct. My first car was a 72 Corona Mk2 and my brother had a 74 Valiant at the time. I have fond memories of both, but the Corona was by far my favorite of the two. Better seats, better handling, better performance, much more fun… If I hadn’t fallen asleep and rolled it in 96 I imagine it would’ve ran well into the 2000’s.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Growing up in San Francisco in the early 70’s, I remember seeing lots of these, almost all in the same blue paint,–many were the very boxy appearing 4-door versions. While I remember seeing lots of them, my GM family, all 6ft or taller, would no more consider one of these small cars than fly to the moon. In 1973, we purchased a new Impala 4-door…the first, and only, brand new car my family ever purchased. The Impala was chosen specifically because the back seat had the most legroom–to accommodate my rapidly growing 13 year old brother.

  • avatar

    Look at that approach angle, the ground clearance of the front bumper is what magic looks like, no modern automaker has the balls to do something that fantastic.

    The Rims look positively large, yet you know a complete set of new tires will only set you back $200.

  • avatar

    “In 1972 the Corona Mark II received its own platform; it was larger, more powerful, and more luxurious than the Corona which spawned it.”

    Like how the Camry spawned the Avalon.

  • avatar

    “It passed away after merging with the Corolla-like Carina and Caldina models.”

    In the US, we got the Carina two-door, for a short time. The Celica shared its platform.

  • avatar

    My dad bought a brand new ‘69 2-door coupe, dark blue with a white landau roof. 1.9L engine, 2-speed Toyoglide and a spin on cartridge oil filter. Biggest pile of junk ever built.

  • avatar

    Rare now, but very common in California (as R Henry notes) when new. From the introduction of the Mark II in 1968, they were everywhere in Southern California.

  • avatar

    When I was in high school, we piled about 7 or 8 guys in a 4 door 69 Corona. It was just for a short distance to a Zippys for lunch.

  • avatar

    Be still my racing heart ! .

    I remember these new, a few short years later they were daily beaters for high schoolers and poor folks, very delicate, especially the under license “Toyoglide” slush box that was merely a shrunken GM powerglide….

    The 3R & 3RB engines were apparently made of balsa wood yet if you didn’t thrash them, these were very good little econo boxes .

    A few two doors remained as one owner little old lady cars in my town until fairly recently and I’ve spotted a few in Pick-A-Part, sadly after they’d been put in the rows where one couldn’t buy them….


  • avatar

    This was one of the first Toyota cars sold in Europe. I remember seeing one of these in the new Toyota Museum in Cologne. It was not very successful despite offering excellent value.

  • avatar

    A friend had one of these with the 1.9. Compared to the Beetles, Pintos, Vegas, Volkswagen station wagon that other friends had, The Corona immediately struck me as a refined and serious effort at a more premium ride on par with another friend’s Saab 99.

  • avatar

    I remember a TV commercial in the U.S. from about 1969 or 1970 that featured a handsome young man driving a Toyota Corona Hardtop Coupe and with a beautiful woman wearing an evening gown sitting in the passenger seat.

    They were having a conversation and saying witty clever things with posh upper-class accents when somehow the man revealed how little he spent on his Toyota Corona Hardtop Coupe. The woman responded with, “Why, my (I can’t remember what) cost more than that!”

    Then, as the car approached a group of boats docked in a harbor, the man replied, “So did my yacht.”

    I wish I could have found a link to the commercial on YouTube, but it doesn’t seem to be there.

  • avatar

    I suspect that few under age 50 will know that in the USA, at the time of this Toyota, Japanese products were considered cheap, low quality, and (quickly) expendable.
    As others have mentioned, these were around in large numbers in the mid 1960s-70s. I recall some thinking that Japanese cars were a flash in the pan. I thought, certainly considering the then success of Honda motorcycles, that if they kept at it they would be a “force to be reckoned with”.
    That’s how things turned out, but you probably would not have known that if you only looked at a Subaru 360 Star.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    That reminds me of my dad mentioning after a trip to China in the early 90s mentioning how they would be a force to reckon with if they got ther sh** together.

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