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Thread: My 1974 Corolla SR5

  1. #1
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    My 1974 Corolla SR5

    After a couple of weeks of neglect, I have finally decided to take some pictures of my recently acquired SR5. The story of how I became the owner of this car is pretty incredible, so I will give a condensed version of it followed by some poorly taken money shots.

    I will admit, though I have been a fan of classic J-tin for some time now (especially Toyotas and anything with a rotary under the hood), I was not in the market for one at the time of my finding the SR5. Several years back a friend of mine had a 74 Triumph Spitfire, and I loved it. Though not particularly fast, the riding experience was sublime. In that vein, I decided to try my luck at finding a decent Fiat 124 Spider, as their spec list is really pretty impressive (especially for the day) and their prices have always been way behind comparable Alfas and Brits (also, I collect Italian motorcycles, so it seemed a perfect fit). In fact, I came very close a couple of times to pulling the trigger and working out a trade for my 1990 Buick Reatta. Nice ones are hard to find around here, but old Japanese stuff simply does not exist.

    In the meantime, I vacationed with some friends to Miami (which, from my hometown, is a 16 hour drive one way). After a week there and another 16 hour drive back, I rested for a day and trolled around on Craigslist for a while. There wasn't really anything out there in the Fiat department, so I started searching for 1970s Toyotas. Nothing within 200 miles. I almost ended the search there, but just for fun I decided to search a little further out. Then, to my surprise, I found a listing for a 1974 Toyota Corolla SR5 in Gadsden, Alabama (nearly 6 hours away: mind you, this is the day after I drove back from Miami). I clicked on it, and I could not believe how good the pictures looked. By the way, the listed price was $1350. I immediately called the number in the listing, and I was referred to the seller from there. The seller did not make the listing himself due to his not owning a computer. He was a 76 year old retired VW mechanic, and probably the most honest man on Craigslist. I asked if I could come see it the next day, and he agreed. However, when that time came, something came up and I was unable to go. Calling him again, he told me that he had received several inquiries since mine. However, he said that if I came Monday, the car would still be waiting for me (he actually held it!). There was a guy from Alabama, a member of this board in fact, who ultimately did not buy the car. However, my real competitor came from a guy in Miami. I won't go into great detail here, but I do know that he was planning on flying in that night to buy the car. He was then going to rent something to trailer it back in. In fact, I was offered a good deal of money not to come get the car and to just stay home! I declined, but he was also an extremely nice person (unbelievable luck to run into so many good people on Craigslist!). When Monday rolls around, I cannot find a truck and trailer to use. However, I had to buy the car that day or it would not be held for me any longer. So I made the trip in a 2008 Yaris with no trailer and a friend. After six hours, I got there, saw the car, was blown away, and sealed the deal. The man did not think the car would make it back, and neither did we, but it was worth a shot.

    Of course, after only a few miles, it began overheating. We limped along stopping and going for a while and ended up at a used tire shop in the middle of nowhere. The man there was just closing up, but allowed us to stay in the lot and showed us where the water hose was located. After examining the car for a while, we found that the water pump impeller was very loose. Hope was fading fast as we knew that there was no fixing that short of replacement, but we went a little further ahead nonetheless. After going up a huge hill (read: mountain), we knew that we could not push the little Corolla any further for fear of damaging it. At the top, we coasted into a used car lot. From here we opened the hood and just sort of looked at the thing, hoping we could divine some miracle to get us out of this situation. Suddenly, who should walk up but the man from the tire shop. He allowed us to keep the car in the gated lot for two days while we arranged for a truck and trailer to bring it back. So we drove the six hours back, and then I turned around and made the twelve hour round trip a second time. It was an unbelievable amount of driving in just a few days, but it was well worth it to have this car in my driveway.

    Anyway, as always there is more to the story but I have bored you enough already. Enjoy the pictures.


    This is actually (approximately) the car's original color. It has had a crappy respray at some point in time that is a bit off, but you can see the original color in the interior.




    Here you can see where some idiot past owner decided to use some wood screws to reattach the trunk lid badges. At this point, I can't decide whether I want to look for replacements or if I want to just replace them with a small duck tail spoiler.








    I love how good the interior is on this car. The door panels are great, and the fake wood dash still looks good as well. It still has all the carpets (in good shape, though the front driver's side is removed ATM due to the heater dumping water on it the other day). The dash pad is very cracked, and the wind shield also has a small crack, but for the money it is incredible. Oh, and the upholstery on the front seats is in very bad shape, but the seat covers are decent and the seats themselves still work well.




    All the gauges work except for the tach, which pegs at eight grand as soon as you turn the key. I'm sure it is an electrical problem, but I haven't really looked into it all that much yet. (The manuals I have don't have any info on the tach, so if any of you can tell me where to check, I would be very appreciative). The AM/FM radio still works well, too!


    The back seat is MINT. No rips, and I love the factory red SR5 piping. I wish the front seats looked like this...if anyone knows where I can find the material to reupholster them with, I would be very grateful.


    And the 2TC. I have been working on it, so the air cleaner is off ATM. The gas tank on this car is trash, so I am waiting for the replacement to arrive before I can really do any major work. I am afraid the carb may be trash, but hopefully I can make it limp along until I can afford some side drafts for it. I intend to keep the engine largely stock, though I do intend to free up the intake and exhaust. I will also update the ignition with a pointsless system and a better coil. Oh, and that smog garbage will not be under there for long, either.


    I am thrilled with this car. I never thought I would find one, especially this good for this price. It and the RX3 are my favorites of the era, so I wasn't exactly looking for very common cars. The circle of friends I have in this small Southern, jacked-up truck town is pretty funny. One has a 510, another a B210, and yet another a 280Z. Hilarious company for this place.

    In the future, I am going to lower the car a couple of inches and find some smaller bumpers for it. I actually really like the factory wheels, but I may replace them at some point with some that support wider rubber. New paint will also be in the works. Though I originally could not decide what color to go for, the factory color has actually grown on me quite a lot. With black accents (on the flares, trim, wheels, etc.), I think it would have a really sweet look fitting to the car's character. Most of all, I just look forward to driving the thing.

  2. #2
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    Such an awesome find, and a great story to go with it! :tu:

  3. #3
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    SWEET FIND! Those stock rims with the beauty ring look quite good for the car. I might have to paint mine up and find some said beauty rings :mrgreen: That looks like an Asian carb. They arn't that hard to rebuild if you have the patience for them, and can follow directions. How is the under side of the car? any bad rust areas? Looking forward to seeing what you do to this beaut. Keep the pics and progress rolling :tu:

  4. #4
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    Nice find and its in good shape!!! ALOHA & MAHALO

  5. #5
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    Such a great find :tu: Best of luck!

  6. #6
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    Thanks all!

    For the most part, the car is rust free. I guess I can thank that crappy respray for that. One of the flares looks like it had some bondo work in the past, and there is some general surface rust in places underneath the car. Nothing major at all, especially around here. The one bad place is under the spare tire. There is a fist-sized hole there which was covered up poorly by a square of sheet metal and some wood screws (so many people around here fix old cars with wood screws...baffling). It will definitely need a new piece welded in place. Hopefully, the bodywork will be smooth sailing once I finally get to that point.

    I am at a crossroads with the wheels, but I won't have to make any decisions any time soon. Wider tires would be nice, and I love the way these look with 14s (or maybe even 15s), but the stock wheels are also so good in their own right. Decisions, decisions...

    In other news, I will be ordering a scale model soon in order to do a mock up of what sort of paint scheme I want to end up with!

  7. #7
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    I have the same stock wheels as you. I am considering getting some donor 13's to widen mine to 8 inch. I think the stock pattern would look good sitting behind a nice powder coated dish. -just an idea

  8. #8
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    Time for the first update in a while. This project is being wholly supported by my work for Bring a Trailer, so progress is dependent on how many cars I can find to write about! Thankfully, this is a good time of the year for listings.

    The gas tank, as was mentioned, was crap. The replacement should come in any day now, last I checked on the tracking it was very near. Unfortunately, the old one pulled in a ton of crud into the carb, which is why it hasn't moved in a while. I was going to clean it out and get it limping along until I could find a replacement, but then these Weber 40s came along at a price I couldn't refuse! I just ordered a rebuild kit (though they are in great shape, it offers some peace of mind), and I will order a manifold with linkages in the next couple of days.

    Do they look a little odd? Have a look.



    The bottom may be more revealing.



    These are DCOM carburetors, the last Italian-made series of Webers. They use all the same jets, etc. of the DCOE, but they have a vastly improved diaphragm accelerator pump. This in theory makes the carbs as streetable as a Solex/Mikuni or Dellorto, but with the added bonus of Weber support (the parts are still being made!). In fact, the DCOM is seen as an improvement on the Dellorto design. Interesting series of copies/improvements across the history of Italian carburetor design.

    Also, in preparation for the installation of said carbs, I have removed all the emissions junk from the engine.




    My sights are now set on a new exhaust system. I cannot believe anyone thought that having a massive hole in the manifold would ever be a good idea, but there it is. It will definitely need replacing with the new Webers!

  9. #9
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    Quote Originally Posted by Skellington
    I have the same stock wheels as you. I am considering getting some donor 13's to widen mine to 8 inch. I think the stock pattern would look good sitting behind a nice powder coated dish. -just an idea
    That is a tempting idea on the wheels. I will paint them black first and just see if I like them as much as I think I do. If so, a good stretch/powder coating would be awesome! Wheels will probably be one of the last things I do to this car, though, so plenty of time to mull it over.

  10. #10
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    Re: My 1974 Corolla SR5

    Great pickup and loved the story. Sure it was no fun at the time, but you will be telling that one for years.

    My 69 Corolla also suffered the ignominy of woodscrews holding on the badges..... Must be a generational thing.

    Port & polish, a little compression, and a moderate cam, and this thing will scream. Those bumpers are truly horrific and have to go!

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