Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tiny little Toyota in Bay Ridge

Wipe the lens of your phone camera before snapping pics folks; that's my lesson from today. Regardless here's a quirky little crumpet from the days when Japanese cars looked truly foreign:
This is a 1981 Toyota Corolla Tercel SR-5 in Silver Metallic. The Tercel was introduced the year before but wasn't allowed to use its own name. As a result it masqueraded as one of many Corollas that populated the Toyota showrooms in '81. In fact this "Corolla" didn't have much in common except that they shared the same manufacturer. For example this is the first front wheel drive Toyota while every other Corolla continued to be rear wheel drive!
The antenna placement is a frugal solution to being carwash-proof without the cost of a retractable or hiding it in the glass of the windshield. I'd forgotten about the antenna being mounted on the windshield pillar until now, but I remember this on old Datsuns as well.
SR-5 was a trim level/option package for the Corolla Tercel. Reports vary but some sources insist that the 5 speed manual came with the SR-5. I always thought it referred to the 3 door hatchback models. Regardless it's somewhat charming to half decals so huge that it looks like this car is wearing its parents clothes.
What up city veteran?
You used to see a lot of this in NYC. People would come out to find their door or trunk lock destroyed as a result of a break in and would replace the lock with this armored bit of overkill. This is a particularly quick and dirty job as the back plate encroaches into the indentation meant for your hand! Combine that with 3 different styles of rivet and you know this thing has seen some action.
Well there's no mistaking what this car is since the owner elected to put an 81COROLLA SR5 decal in the windshield.
Black rubber bumpers and black trim around the windows make for a clean, chrome-less look. Too bad about that one dead eye.
The range of Corollas in this year was staggering: 2 and 4 door sedans, a station wagon, sporty 2 door hardtop coupe, and a 3 door liftback. The Corolla was so popular that it became the best selling car the world over. This is the reason they piggybacked the Tercel onto the Corolla for the first 3 years it was around.
The front of this ride is the same as all other body styles for '81.
I like how awkward this frumpy little body style is. The handling is adequate as the wheels are pretty far out towards the corners of the car. The current Mini Cooper isn't too different.
Military stickers plaster the windows on this car so I didn't lean in for an interior pic. You rarely see U.S. military stickers on a foreign car which was mildly intriguing.
These odd taillights are 1980-1982 Tercel liftback specific which makes them annoyingly difficult to replace. The same can be said for that rear window with its quirky shape.
Poor car had an identity crisis from the beginning!
The Tercel will become a stand alone model in 1983 with a modernizing facelift.
The front wheel drive setup keeps this from being a cult car as the drifting crowd has no use for them. The 1.5 liter inline 4 cylinder engine sat above the transmission, connected by a differential. Gas mileage was excellent, especially with the 5 speed manual.
Well there we have it; a truly gawky car in its awkward phase roosting on a Brooklyn street at age 36. Given half the chance these cars will dissolve into rust like a sugar cube dropped in boiling water so it is remarkable that this exists.
Spending my teenage summers up in Northern California this was the sort of car that my friends would have as their first. I've been in these old Toyotas on dirt mountain roads, up and down the coast, and even into the desert, and they never failed to keep on trucking. The last car I owned was an '83 Corolla wagon so you know I have a soft spot for this little punk.

1 comment:

  1. love all the security extras, nothing is safe I guess (