QotW: What’s your best Toyota Corolla story?

On this day in 1972, the Volkswagen Beetle overtook the Ford Model T as the best-selling car in the world. However, the Toyota Corolla has long since obliterated both combined, with over 44 million sold. Unless you’re living in an Amazonian tribe untouched by modernity you’ve owned, known someone who has owned, or ridden in a Corolla. And while we are eager to talk about our AE86s, TE27s, or FX-16s, some of the best tales can come from your run-of-the-mill DX sedans, Geo Prizms, or NUMMI Novas, all of which we will count for this week’s question.

What’s your best Toyota Corolla story?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your most romantic JNC story?

The answers this week had a common theme: significant others enjoying their time with the commenter despite the JNC in their lives. Well, all except for that one suspiciously familar tale about street racing. The winner, though, was Max, whose search for a blue Honda Prelude ended in happiness, even if it didn’t end in him actually getting the car.

My first and second cars were Honda Preludes, and I have been looking for another one. I searched daily for the right one and came across a manual in great condition, reasonable kms with rare leather seats and in the blue that my second car was in. I contacted the owner and it was an old lady who lived out in the sticks, it was a fair way and it was top dollar but it was the best condition one I had seen.

So my girlfriend and I traveled approximately three hours to the Australian town of Busselton, the directions we were given directed us to a shed on a farm property, where the owner of the car had taken it to do errands. We drove into town and waited for a call back and some hours later we got a call and could go see the car.

Well it was the old situation where the pictures of the car were about 10 years old, the car was the biggest piece of shit I’ve ever seen. From memory I cannot remember a car I’ve seen on the road in worse condition. Every panel had the paint chipping away with rust underneath, and all panels were scratched or dented, no badges (but the over polish was still there of course), the dash was cracked all over, the leather seats were torn like a werewolf went on a rampage inside the car, both door handles were snapped off, the immobilizer and the locks didn’t work, the car reeked of oil and sort of sung a shrill metallic song at over 4,000rpm, the owner had previously told me the timing belt had been changed but she of course meant the alternator belt and couldn’t tell me the last time the timing belt was changed, had zero service history, and at this point I found out, like every other Prelude I’ve ever gone to buy, that the old lady didn’t actually own the car and was selling the car on behalf of a young man (her grandson).

And somehow I still loved every second of driving it. I knew then and there that I needed to have another Prelude. The lady was pretty certain after travelling all day and spending an entire day waiting around I was going to buy it then and there and was fairly smug about the sale. I told her I wasn’t interested and I told her why.

It was now night time and we were worn out, and found the only place with beds to stay the night, It ended up being a really quaint old fashioned place with huge old trees all over, and a spa bath in the room. We went out for dinner but nothing was open since it was a small town, so we bought a whole bunch of junk food and hung out in our spa watching bad country TV and had a really good time. Being in a backward place with nothing but time can do good things for your relationship sometimes. And I suppose spontaneity helps with that too.

The next day we had a look around the town, it was old and very nice, we had breakfast and got back on the road. On the way home the lady called and told me in a sort of smarmy way that if I haggled she would have given me the car for much, much less. I told her she couldn’t have paid me to take that piece of shit off her hands. A couple of weeks later I got a call from the Police Department over there. The car had been stolen, so I guess she found another way to get rid of it.

My girlfriend and I are planning to go back for a weekend. Might even take the Prelude I just bought down there for a road trip.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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17 Responses to QotW: What’s your best Toyota Corolla story?

  1. Lupus says:

    I’ve had one Corolla in my car-life-career. It was a EU-Spec E11 Wagon powered be 4E-FE mated to a 5 spd. MT. And the tranny was the case – it had a malfuctioning synchro of 3rd. gear. Going thru gears up was mostly fine, but making a reduction from 4th to 3rd was nearly impossible. So i bought the car for dirt cheap. Shortly after i’ve found a rotted E10 on junkyard. But it’s mechanics was fine, the engine was still firing up, the car was able to move around spot, but the body was literally cracking. So i made an appointment with junkyard owner that i’ll take the gearbox from that E10 and bring him back the damaged one from my E11. For him it was a piece junk on the weight. And so i fixed the car without spending a penny. Then i made some minon works on it, like removing a crappy-aftermarket alarm, installed some nice alloys polished the body and i gave the car to my mom. She used it for over a year without any issues. During winter i’ve got pneumonia and was unable to take care of it, and sadly, my mom hit something with undercarriege. The oilpan cracked and the oil slowly spilled out. She killed the engine. Since i wasn’t physically able to work on the car then and it wasn’t profitable to outsource it to a shop i decided to scrap the car. Now i’m convinced that it was a mistake…

  2. エーイダン says:

    Finding the Hot Wheels Toyota AE-86 Corolla when I was 14. Mum needed to come into the city for a cancer treatment and it involved an overnight stay at my grandma’s place. Grandma gave me some spending money so I went and bought at the Safeway store 2 Hot Wheels cars, which were placed at the customer service desk next to the batteries; ’64 Chevrolet Nova Station Wagon and the Toyota AE-86 Corolla. Still got the Corolla, probably still have the Nova Estate somewhere.

  3. Ian N says:

    Back in the mid 1970s, I entertained ideas of becoming a successful rally driver and began my not-so-meteoric rise by competing in local club rallies in my almost stock Datsun 180B (610) and participating as control official on various events. This was me in my early twenties and I thought I was pretty quick.

    One mid to late summer evening around my local township, I saw a chap returning from the newsagents to his car, a rather hot-looking TE-27 Corolla, sporting an obviously motorsport-oriented paintjob, which I recalled having seen on a number of recent rallies. I wasted no time in letting him know that I was “also a rally driver” and we got chatting. Eventually (probably to get rid of me) he offered to take me for a spin in the Corolla, as he was “testing some new brake pads”.

    We took off fairly unhurriedly, but then began to leave the town environs and the speed increased exponentially as the bush got denser, the bitumen transformed to gravel and the ambient light diminished. The Corolla motor started to wail, gravel spat at the body panels and I started to experience the “G-forces” associated with FAST rally cornering. I started to grit the teeth slightly, white knuckles found themselves grabbing for the “Holy Cow” handle and the stomach muscles began to tense somewhat.

    After a numbing fifteen to twenty minutes of this, he suddenly pulled over to the hard shoulder, hopped quicky out and said “come and have a look” – pointing towards the front wheel, which I did. The brake discs were glowing cherry red. First time I’d ever seen that – and a realisation dawned upon me that I had a looong way yet to go before I attained anything like this level of driving skill and speed.

    This was Western Australian rally driver Clive Slater, whom I ended up assisting as a service crew member on a couple of rallies in later years.

    One of the fast drivers, few and far between. Whenever I think Corolla, I recall that chance meeting.

    (Piccy of his Corolla in action at: http://forestracer.users4.50megs.com/cgi-bin/i/WA_Rally/Slater_Corolla_TE27_RCN1979.jpg)

  4. Nigel says:

    My four door 81′ DX with the square headlights, the most fun daily driver I had.
    Sold it in 99′, it was getting to rusty and you could see the ground from inside the trunk.

  5. Lee L says:

    I don’t have much experience with Corollas, but I do remember seeing a panda AE86 in my hometown when I was 16. I talked to the guy and he let me check it out.

    I remember it was gutted and he had several drift spares in the back and it was on some sort of knock off watanabe-ish wheels. This would have been around 2005 so Initial D was pretty big in the US.

    About a year later I saw an identical AE86 for sale about 15 miles away on Craigslist. It was 1500 bucks and was a bit beat up but appeared to be the same panda ae86. I wish I could go back and tell myself to scoop that thing up, even if I had to borrow money. AE86s in similar condition sell for at 4-6k in my area now.

    This would have probably fit better in the “biggest JNC regrets” QOTW, but it’s the only corolla story I have.

  6. F31Roger says:

    I never owned a corolla. I almost owned one in 2001.. but I had my EG and EK civic hatches, my fc3s, my cressida, my 240sx and 280z and 280zx (all CL projects gotten betwen $300 to $500 each). There was an 1985 SR5 for $500 in the next neighborhood over. I felt at that time I had too many blown head gaskets and apex seals to get done before I could get another project.

    Of course how that chassis became super in demand, I regret not getting it. I was starting to get into it because of club4ag.

  7. Scotty G says:

    I’ve only owned one Corolla, my first car back in, gulp… 1980. It’s hard to believe now, but I only paid $400 for it! My favorite car of all time.


    After noticing a knocking sound, my dad and I rebuilt the bottom end of the 1.2L engine in our tiny, unheated garage and it was back in business. I loved that car and I used to take it onto the ice racing track on the frozen bay of Lake Superior in Duluth, MN. One time on the track, there were two similarly-aged (young) guys in a non-similar car, a big, mid-60s Lincoln. They had a 3-wheel ATV with them that they somehow lifted into the Lincoln’s trunk and brought it down there to rip around on the ice track.

    They got their Lincoln stuck in a snowbank off of the ice track as they were leaving so I offered to help them push that giant car out of the snowbank. They were giving that big Lincoln so much gas that one of their back tires blew and flew back out of the wheel well and dented my RF fender! #$%!! It probably would have killed one of us if we would have been behind that tire when it blew up.

    Being the nice guy and/or gullible moron that I was/still am, I offered to give them a ride home, even though they didn’t even thank me for trying to help get their car out of a snowbank and didn’t offer up a “sorry about that” when their blown wheel dented my Corolla. We put the front wheel of their ATV into the open hatch of the Corolla wagon, with the two back wheels on the ground, and one of them got into the back of my little wagon and held onto the ATV while we drove to their house, up one of the steepest streets in Duluth. Again, not even a half-hearted “thanks” was offered up as I delivered both of them and their ATV to their house. Nice guys. That ranks as one of the dumbest things that I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s one of my favorite memories.

    I’ve been looking for another E20 Corolla wagon but I have only seen two for sale in the last decade. I missed one and the other one was a fully-restored automatic version for $12,000. I sold my Corolla wagon for $750 to buy some band equipment and I regret selling it, even at a “profit”. I’m a serious buyer if anyone knows of a nice E20 2-door wagon for sale!

  8. DallasD says:

    I have a significant Corolla story, but my comments don’t appear after I click ‘Post Comment’. I’m a registered user, currently logged in. Help, please?

  9. Taterhead says:

    I’ve never owned a Corolla. But my stand out memory of one is when I was 16 or so. My youngest uncle (who was 20 and still living with my grandmother) and I “borrowed” her Corolla to go meet his girlfriend and another girl two towns away. Since it was late, about 1:00 am, and we didn’t want to wake/worry my grandmother we cautiously pushed the car about a quarter of a mile away before starting it so it wouldn’t be heard. We probably logged 75 to 100 miles on it that night, having a good time rowing gears in that little’79 hatchback. Around 4:00 am or so we headed back home to beat the sunrise and promptly found a place to sleep. Hours later when we awoke my grandmother was wondering how a full-ish tank of gas had suddenly diminished to about a quarter of a tank. My uncle and I were silent but my young cousin (aunt’s son) who rode with us to the grocery store earlier the day before said it must’ve been from when we were doing donuts and driving recklessly on a dirt road we had found on the way back home. We never got caught for borrowing the car, but we sure they get busted for the donuts and crazy driving earlier in the day. I couldn’t tell you where that car is now, but I damn sure remember good times in that little white car with the blue interior.

  10. Angelo says:

    Getting introduced to Initial D when I was a toddler probably was my best Corolla story. I always see my Mom rent VHS tapes of the anime whenever she drops by the rental store.

    This was the reason why we share the same love for cars, and why she pushes me to buy that “stupid’ panda car, even tho she finds the pop-ups cute as well.

  11. nlpnt says:

    Of the three ‘yotas I’ve owned only one was a Corolla, an ’80 base two-door sedan. Or, more accurately, what was left of one after 14 Vermont winters. I couldn’t put more than a few gallons of gas in it at a time or it would leak out, the back bumper was a wooden plank attached to the outer sheetmetal because nothing underneath was solid enough. I filled my empty 2L soda bottles with water for weight in the rear to get traction. It had been blue but the previous owner painted it red to match another so he could swap plates between them, I rattlecanned racing stripes on it so I had a red car with white stripes on the hood and trunk and a blue interior. One time I went off the road and landed on a snowbank, there was a tow truck already nearby to pull someone out – I had lost control slowing for that – and he pulled me out. The car wasn’t damaged (any further). The starter gave out and for the last 3 months of the year I had it I parked facing downhill as much as possible (Vermont ain’t flat) and when a state inspection finally loomed like a death sentence I drove it to the junkyard. I would not be surprised if that 3T-C was still powering someone’s sugaring operation. If road salt wasn’t a thing that car would probably still be on the road.

  12. DallasD says:

    The Corolla has a special place in our family. A white (with blue interior) 1986 DX 2-door manual hatchback was the first car that my wife and I bought together, from the original owner, a local woman who loved it (and replaced it with a new Corolla). My wife and I both favored small hatchbacks, and we enjoyed how light and nimble the Corolla was.

    We had all sorts of absurd adventures in the car, and I had several driving ‘firsts’ in it, including my first uncontrolled slide in snow (saved it), first fishtail experience (saved it), first time I had to put heavy objects in the back for traction. The only time I ever tried to race anyone in the Corolla, I picked another small older hatchback, a Dodge Omni. It was dark, and only as I floored the gas pedal did I notice the “GLH” on the side!

    With the birth of our first child, the Corolla became our first official family car. We took our son home from the hospital in it, stopping for a few baby supplies along the way. My wife went into the store alone, and I was left in charge of this tiny new life. It was nice and toasty warm in the car, and our child started crying. I couldn’t figure out why, but then I realized it must be too hot for him, so I unzipped his thick fleece outer layer, and the crying stopped. Whew!

    Our little Corolla accompanied us throughout our introduction to parenthood. We have beautiful memories of simply being a new family, in that car. My wife calming our son in the back seat while I drove. Changing diapers in the back seat or open hatch. Trying to fit what we bought into the car, realizing just how large the carseat was! The Corolla was part of our family.

    Unfortunately, I had another ‘driving first’ in the Corolla: Being rear-ended. I was at a stop sign, the road was completely covered in snow, and the driver of a full courier van thought he could brake from 35 MPH in about 60 feet. I saw it coming, no injury, but the Corolla’s trunk would no longer open. Shortly after that, it failed to start. I didn’t know much about engines at that point, but I suspected a fuel supply issue. Local mechanics alleviated the problem for a while, but the problem returned, and nobody could solve it.

    Instead of junking the Corolla, we gave it to a dear retired family member who knew a thing or two about engines. He loved cars, and he loved a challenging project! He rolled the Corolla into his garage and tore the engine down, removing all of the carbon build-up he could find… Two months later, the Corolla was running again! He drove it daily for two more years, and every time we saw him, he would tell us how much he enjoyed bringing it back to life and having it in his daily routine.

    Finally, the Corolla’s problems accumulated beyond the point of no return, and off to the junk yard it went. The family member who had restored it passed away not long afterward. He was fascinated by cars and machinery, and bringing the Corolla back to life was his last project before his passing.

    That’s the story of our Corolla. We still miss it. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share.

  13. Christopher Huffine says:

    I’ve owned several Toyotas over the past 45 years, as well as many other marques as well. The one Corolla that I’ve owned was a fourth gen ’80 SR5 Liftback with the 3TC 1800, that I bought in ’89 with 176,000 miles. It went to my ex-wife the following year when we divorced, but this story isn’t about that.
    This story is about one of my best friend’s younger sister. Ed’s about ten years older than myself, (he’s 67 now) and his sister, Gloria, is five years younger than he is. She bought her first new car in ’76, when she was 19, a TE38 Corolla 5 door wagon with the 2TC and an automatic. She had just started her first real job, as a sales rep for a local company, and needed an economical car with room for her sample cases and product deliveries. She drove the car about two years racking up the mileage, as her territory covered a large area of the eastern part of our state. In ’78. Ed received a tearful call from his sister, she was on the side of a main highway in the south side of our city. She had to walk about a mile to a 7-11 to call him from a pay phone. He asked her what had happened, and she described that the car had suddenly started slowing down, and was making a clattering noise, so she pulled onto the shoulder, and then there was a loud clank, and it died. She said she tried to start it, but only got a click, the engine didn’t crank over. Ed told her to wait there, he would leave work, and come to help her.
    Ed picked up Gloria at the 7-11, and drove her up the highway to her car. He tried to start the car, but as she said it would just click, it would not turn over. He popped the hood, and immediately smelled burnt oil. Pulling the dipstick, he noticed there was no oil showing on it. Ed asked her, “Gloria, when was the last time you checked the oil?” Her reply was, “I’m supposed to check it?” Turns out, she had never, in two years of ownership, had the hood open, she didn’t even know HOW to open it!. Nor had the car EVER had an oil change, or maintenance of ANY kind! This poor Corolla had seen over 80,000 miles of constant travel through the Appalacian mountains, 100+ degree summer days in the valley, numerous winter snows over the course of a little over two years, with ZERO maintenance! Turned out, number three rod was poking out the side of the block, which explains why it wouldn’t crank over! Believe it or not, the dealer replaced the engine, at a deeply discounted rate. Needless to say, Gloria got an intensive course on automotive maintenance from Ed once her Corolla was repaired!

  14. Glenn Rumburg says:

    Had an 88 Nova purchased for $1200 and drove 100,000 miles, only sold to buy a 96 Prizm for $2500 and drove it 120,000 miles. Sold to buy an 2006 Corolla with 180,000 milesand my wife was involved in a 50 MPH head on collision and the car saved her life.

  15. Ryan Lee says:

    When my parents first got married, before I was born, they were driving a E80 Corolla, but it was sold shortly before I was born as they need the money to raise me. Not long after we got an Opel Astra F sedan, then a B14 Nissan Sunny sedan (Sentra for all you Americans) in 1999, brand new. When our Sunny’s engine starts to crap out around 2011, me and my dad went to the used car dealership and picked out a CPO champagne gold 2003 E120 Corolla sedan as our next family car, and it holds up incredibly well after all these years and miles.

    I should mention that this all takes place in Hong Kong, a place that despite the government is actively discouraging car ownership with heavy taxes and titles, still have a thriving JDM culture.

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