In November 1966 the Toyota Corolla went on sale in Japan. That makes 2016 the 50th anniversary of the humble little runabout that’s been everything from a family hauler to a balls-out drifter to a rally racer. To kick off a year-long celebration, Toyota threw a party at the New York Auto Show and invited a few classics along.
Imports to the US didn’t begin until 1968, but Toyota is going by the year it hit the road in Japan because the Corolla has always been a global car. It took only four years from launch to reach 1 million global sales.
The kick-off party took place in a private gallery space a few blocks from the Javits Convention Center. There wasn’t enough space to have one of each of the 11 generations — or the numerous body styles within each generation — represented, so Toyota had to pick just three.
Obviously there’d have to be a first-generation model, in this case one of the finest KE10 Corollas in the country. The 1969 model hails from Toyota’s own collection at the Toyota USA Museum. When it was new, a car similar to this would have cost about $1,700 and had 64 horsepower. For a car that sold a million copies, it’s heartbreakingly rare today.
Bookending the opposite side of the half-century, then, would have to be a current-gen Corolla. It was, in fact, a just-released 2017 50th Anniversary Edition. There’s not much to differentiate it from other new Corollas, except for an exclusive Black Cherry paint job and color-matched interior stitching. There’s also a little 50th Anniversary badge on the back and some option packages that are probably cheaper than buying each thing separately. 8,000 will be sold, so… not that limited.
So that left 50 years of cars in the middle to choose from. The winner: a 1986 Toyota Corolla GT-S. It was important to find an original and stock USDM car, but that’s no easy task. This particular hachiroku belongs to a friend of JNC who purchased it from a Kidney Anyone post last year. It’s probably one of the cleanest AE86s left in the country.
We were once again shamelessly stoked to have the JNC inkan represented on its window. Combined with the hakosuka and kenmeri GT-Rs at the Nissan booth, hat makes us two for two in automakers’ nostalgic car displays.
Throughout the event space, Toyota displayed vintage Corolla parts and memorabilia that absolutely no one but us looked at — vintage ads, parts, and artwork.
Having 50 years of a continuous model is no small feat. So to celebrate this milestone, Toyota is planning a year’s worth of celebrations around the country, including a 1970 Corolla running The Great Race and more. Stay tuned for further developments.