Junkyard Find: 1991 Toyota Corolla Wagon With 315,406 Miles

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
I always look for two kinds of Toyotas when I’m walking the rows of a Ewe Pullet-type yard: Newish Camrys with manual transmissions and odometers showing better than 300,000 miles. Generally, Corolla wagons in junkyards are either mercilessly thrashed hoopties, assaulted-with-glue-gun art cars, or fastidiously-maintained trade-ins, few of which reach the magical 300k-mile mark. When I saw a fairly straight late-production AE92 Corolla in lurid, backyard-applied purple house paint and snowboard-culture decals, I expected to see Grandma’s hand-me-down church-on-Sundays-only wagon that had 120,000 miles when its keys were pressed into the grandbaby’s eager hands… and 127,000 miles when it took that final tow-truck ride to Pick Your Part.
Such was not the case here! This car averaged more than 10,000 miles for each of its 31 years on the road, which means it got proper maintenance for all (or nearly all) of its long and productive life.
The handcrafted Sculpey mirror-hangers show an artistic sensibility that differs from the colored-duct-tape-and-manga-stickers and chug-a-beer-while-dabbing decor so prevalent on Denver-area junkyard station wagons. Sculpey is amazing stuff; I know someone who made a reasonably convincing new Sculpey tooth when her British bridgework fell out.
It’s noteworthy that there are no stickers from breweries or cannabis dispensaries on this car. Skateboard-wear stickers, sure, but no wastoid stuff.
A closer look at the homemade purple paint job offered more clues. Note the lack of overspray on the weatherstripping and plastic cladding, the lights, and door handles that were carefully masked off.
The interior is faded but not abused. The last owner of this car wanted it to be personalized but still wanted to drive it for a good long time. This is in stark contrast to what happens to cars whose owners know they’ll be the very last.
Under the hood, we see the venerable A engine, in this case, a 4A-FE rated at 102 horsepower.
The transmission is a five-speed manual, a transmission still (barely) available in new U.S.-market cars right now. This rig certainly helped with longevity, though I’ll bet it needed at least one clutch job during its career.
I happened to have an East German 35mm film camera on hand, because who doesn’t carry Warsaw Pact photographic equipment to the junkyard these days?[Images courtesy the author]For links to 2,200+ additional Junkyard Finds, please visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
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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  • Datanerd Datanerd on Feb 22, 2022

    I had a 1990 Corolla in red, my little red wagon. I drove it through grad school, then sold it when me and my wife moved to DC, with a minimal 100K on it. Having said that, the 3 speed automatic meant that you were flogging it pretty hard on the Beltway driving to work.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Feb 27, 2022

    Build quality is a very intentional thing. I'm currently taking apart a 1995 SC400 for lemons use. I am floored with the quality of every single part, even though the car has enough hooptie going that it's no longer a restorable for normal people street car. I can see why normal-person usable ones are still going for 10K with 200k miles. I've had Fords disintegrate, kept VW and BMW running, even a Caddy, and it all comes down to the parts bin....some are horrid (GM), I'm used to the middle class Bosch parts (VW, SAAB), and so far, Benz has been good although M276 is a mature engine. Taking apart this lexus, admittedly peak Japanese, and related to the famous million mile LS400, shows that cars don't have to be built like crap. We might even find a nice SC400 for DD use when this is done. There is a reason Toyota holds resale but Cadillac drops like a stone.

  • Jkross22 Nope. Too expensive, too little wear. Besides, there are so many great all seasons that are great to use that last longer, the use case for summer tires has gotten smaller.
  • Redapple2 I love my geolander by yokohama. Wild Peak are almost as good.
  • Redapple2 Why is a mexico BYD china car BAD -End of the World! But > gm < Buick Envision good (build more !) ?
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Supporting EVs is supporting Chi-nah.
  • Eliyahu Oh, a nicer looking 2025 Camry!