History of Corolla


The Crown may have kickstarted Toyota’s domestic car sales, the Corona may have pulled it back from the brink of failure, and the 2000GT may have proven it as a serious automaker, but the car that made Toyota what it is today is the humble little Corolla. Having sold 36 million in 52 countries, the Corolla is the best-selling car on the planet.

The raciest interpretation arrived in 1968 when Toyota added the ke15.

humble Corolla

Despite forays into high-end luxury sedans and grand tourers, it’s the success of the humble Corolla that made Toyota what it is today

The man behind the Corolla was once again Tatsuo Hasegawa. After giving life to the Publica, he saw that the rate of highway construction—and the public’s thirst for mobility—was growing faster than anyone could have anticipated. Toyota needed another sub-compact model to bridge the gap between the Publica and the Corona. The Corolla, Latin for “small crown,” was launched in November 1966. The E10 chassis was 1 foot longer than the spartan Publica’s and had an interior similar to the luxurious Corona. It was originally supposed to slot in the under-1,000-cc class to meet a reduced tax rate, but Hasegawa was good at pushing limits. Similar to the wager he made with the Publica, Hasegawa moved the Corolla into more expensive territory by equipping it with Toyota’s newly developed

The Corolla, Latin for “small crown,” was launched in November 1966. The E10 chassis was 1 foot longer than the spartan Publica’s and had an interior similar to the luxurious Corona. It was originally supposed to slot in the under-1,000-cc class to meet a reduced tax rate, but Hasegawa was good at pushing limits. Similar to the wager he made with the Publica, Hasegawa moved the Corolla into more expensive territory by equipping it with Toyota’s newly developed

Similar to the wager he made with the Publica, Hasegawa moved the Corolla into more expensive territory by equipping it with Toyota’s newly developed 1,100-cc K-series engine. In the process, he one-upped its competitors such as Nissan’s all-new B10 Sunny. The Corolla’s image was that of a fun, sporty car, and its advertisements took direct aim at the Sunny with slogans such as “Plus 100cc Margin” or “100cc Gives You the Edge!”

Hasegawa backed up those claims by imbuing the Corolla with an engine tilted 20 degrees for a lower center of gravity. The water-cooled OHV K-series produced a nice, round 60 ps to the Sunny’s 56. Toyota also gave it loads of standard equipment more advanced than its competitors’, such as a 4-speed floor-mounted transmission, while others fussed with column shifters. The rear axle was leaf sprung, but Corolla employed a MacPherson strut front suspension, which was better than more expensive cars above its class.

KE10 Corolla

Despite the KE10 Corolla’s diminutive size, enthusiasts such as Joji Luz still find ways to modify them into fun-to-drive cars

The initial body offering was a delightful, monocoque two-door sedan. Styling wasn’t as avant-garde as the T40 Corona’s, but Hasegawa made sure it remained sporty. In 1967 a four-door sedan and a handsome two-door van joined the Corolla family.

The raciest interpretation arrived in 1968 when Toyota added the KE15, a twodoor fastback coupe targeted at the youth market. Twin carbs pushed its output to 73 ps and Toyota claimed a top speed of 160 kph (100 mph), 5 above the standard Corolla’s. It was deemed such a step up that it was given a sub-name: Corolla Sprinter; thus beginning Toyota’s long tradition of sub-models that spun off into standalone models. To sell it, Toyota created a separate dealer network aimed at young drivers called the Toyota Auto Store (today known as the Toyota Netz store). The Corolla Sprinter became that brand’s flagship car.

This was also the first year Toyota imported the Corolla to the United States, with prices starting at just under $1,700. The two-door sedan, four-door sedan, and wagon body styles were simply called Corollas; the fastback KE15 was named the Sprinter Coupe. In September 1969, Toyota increased the K-series engine to 1,200 cc for both import and export versions. It was only eight months before the second-generation Corolla debuted in Japan, making the 1.2-liter Corollas, especially the Sprinters, the rarest and most desirable among the E10s. In the United States, the 1.2 lasted through the 1970 model year.

First-generation Corolla

First-generation Corollas are extremely rare today, the two-door wagon even more so, and this red example from the Toyota USA Museum is the only one to have made a show appearance

TE21 Corolla

This TE21 Corolla two-door sedan sits on trademark black RS-Watanabe racing wheels. Buyers of a Corolla in 1971 could choose an optional 4-speed automatic, a rarity in those days

 US-spec TE27 Corolla S-5

This rare, US-spec TE27 Corolla S-5 is easily identifiable by its unique stripe decal and 5-speed transmission

The Corolla’s reputation as an old-school sports coupe didn’t materialize until 1970 and the debut of the second-generation E20. The word “Corolla” was dropped to distinguish the Sprinter as its own model, but the cars were largely identical. Only removable items such as grilles, emblems, side-marker lamps, and taillights varied between the two. Each model line now carried all four body styles: two-door sedan, four-door sedan, wagon, and two-door coupe.

Toyota dutifully performed the typical incremental improvements: longer wheelbase, roomier cabin, and standard front disc brakes. The suspension was more or less carried over from its predecessor, but a new 1.4-liter four-cylinder on the options list boosted power to 95 ps, 27 more than the standard 1.2. Larger overall dimensions and revised styling infused the car with a more grown-up aura.

Though a 1.6-liter engine was introduced mid cycle, US customers were treated to the 88-horsepower 2T-C right from the get-go. The venerable Toyota hemi-head did wonders for Toyota’s reputation in the United States, and sales soon reflected that. In 1973, Toyota introduced the Corolla S-5 trim level using the 1600 sport coupe as a basis. As the name implies, “5” was the number of forward gears in the transmission, one more than the regular Corolla. The rest of the car was given a sport makeover that included a faux wood-grain shift knob and matching steering wheel, a tachometer and separate fuel and water-temperature gauges, and racing stripes skimming the side of each fender.

Toyota followed the S-5 with the SR-5 in 1974, which differentiated itself with stiffer springs and shocks, thicker sway bars, and a brawny 10-bolt rear end. Most notably, it wore a set of steel bolt-on fender flares, making it the only model to ever get a taste of JDM street style straight from the factory. Similar to “Z-28” for Camaros, SR-5 became Toyota USA’s much-recognized shorthand for performance options and is still in use in the Toyota line today.

The Corolla that makes Toyota enthusiasts go absolutely ga-ga, however, is the legendary TE27. Introduced in March 1972, it was so potent that it spawned two additional sub-models, the Corolla Levin, which took its name from an archaic English word for “lightning,” and the Sprinter Trueno, which appropriated the Spanish word for “thunder.”

TE27 Corolla Levin

In Japan, bolt-on fender flares are a popular modification, as it is illegal for tires to extend beyond the bodywork of the car. The TE27 Corolla Levin came with stock flares from the factory

Outwardly, the Levin looked similar to the SR-5, but pop its hood and you see Toyota’s legendary 2T-G. As most Toyota fiends know, the all-important “G” in the engine code denotes a twin-cam head. DOHC architectures were still the domain of high-end performance cars, but like the 1600GT’s 9R before it, the 2T-G was the product of a collaboration with Yamaha using an existing Toyota bottom end as its foundation. This time, that base was the SOHC 2T-C, to which engineers added high-compression 9.8:1 cylinders and twin 40-mm side-draft carbs, pushing power to 115 ps (110 ps in unleaded tune) at 6,400 rpm.

With a curb weight of just 1,885 pounds, the TE27 was a formidable little street fighter. Toyota even made standard items such as the radio and clock optional in case buyers wanted the pure race car experience. Though lighter and cheaper than the Celica, Toyota didn’t artificially detune the engine for fear of cannibalizing Celica sales. And thanks to its big brother, aftermarket performance parts for the 2T-G were already plentiful by the time the TE27 came around. The inexpensive performance angle proved to be irresistible to a new generation of Japanese youths thirsty for speed.

That enthusiasm only escalated when Toyota began campaigning the TE27 in racing leagues such as the Fuji Grand Champion series and the Japan Alpine Rally. Toyota was more than happy to supply hop-up goodies developed in competition to the general public, shaping the ninana (Japanese for “two-seven”) into one of Japan’s premier street machines.

Internationally, the TE27 garnered just as much acclaim when it appeared in events from the SCCA Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge to the 1000 Lakes Rally, which it won in 1975. It was so beloved in the Philippines that fans bestowed it with its own local nickname, “mango,” taken from the sport coupe’s body shape. Similar to the corresponding “peanut” moniker for two-door sedans, the term has found its way across the Pacific to English-speaking Toyota aficionados.

Toyota 2T-G twin-cam engines

Yamaha estimates that only 30,000 of the legendary Toyota 2T-G twin-cam engines were built, and none were sold officially in the United States

Attend any vintage car show in Japan today and the TE27 is sure to outnumber any other Corolla. In the United States, S-5s and SR-5s are rare and desirable, despite lacking the 2T-G. For hardcore American collectors, the SR-5 is one of the most desirable early Toyotas, having only been sold for the 1974 model year.

In Japan, the third-generation Corolla and Sprinter debuted as the world reeled from oil shortages. Standard Corollas (branching out into a dizzying array of shapes and styles) seemed perfectly suited to this new order, and sales were better than ever. The starting lineup included seven body styles, starting with basic two-door and four-door sedans, a two-door van, a four-door wagon, and a twodoor hardtop coupe. Toyota then added a two-door sport coupe and a three-door, shooting-brake-style liftback to the mix. All of these were stamped with some variation of the E30 chassis code, but the corresponding Sprinters were split off into their own chassis code, E40.

TE37 Corolla

TE37 is the chassis code for a US-spec Corolla SR-5 two-door hardtop coupe, complete with factory molded fender flares. This example sports JDM fender mirrors and Levin badging

1979 Corolla SR-5

The 1979 Corolla SR-5 three-door liftback was one of seven body styles and had a longer roof than the sport coupe

To make things even more confusing, the Corolla Levin was now based on the TE37, or the Corolla two-door hardtop coupe. The Sprinter Trueno, though given the corresponding TE47 chassis code, was based on the two-door sport coupe. In America, the third generation went on sale for the 1975 model year with the entire horde of body styles save the two-door wagon. Each one was slightly larger than its previous-generation counterpart, but the mechanicals (MacPherson-strut front and leaf-spring rear suspension, 1.2-liter 3K-C, and 1.6-liter 2T-C engine choices) were carried over from the E20. Toyota discontinued the S-5, but a new SR-5 based on the TE37 maintained quasi-sporting credentials with a 2T-C, 5-speed transmission and flared fenders (this time integrated into the body rather than attached with exposed bolts). The sport coupe and liftback joined the US lineup in 1977.

In America, the third generation went on sale for the 1975 model year with the entire horde of body styles save the two-door wagon. Each one was slightly larger than its previous-generation counterpart, but the mechanicals (MacPherson-strut front and leaf-spring rear suspension, 1.2-liter 3K-C, and 1.6-liter 2T-C engine choices) were carried over from the E20. Toyota discontinued the S-5, but a new SR-5 based on the TE37 maintained quasi-sporting credentials with a 2T-C, 5-speed transmission and flared fenders (this time integrated into the body rather than attached with exposed bolts). The sport coupe and liftback joined the US lineup in 1977.

TE51 Corolla

The TE51 helped bridge the Corolla Levin/Sprinter Trueno gap between the legendary TE27 and AE86. Japanese-spec cars came equipped with a DOHC 2T-G engine.

Americans were denied the twin-cam 2T-G once again, but by 1975 it was unable to keep up with increasingly strict emissions standards anyway, forcing Toyota to kill the Levin and Trueno altogether. Engineers went back to the lab and emerged 18 months later with a new EFI system, creating the 2T-GEU (E for EFI, U for catalytic converter and Japan-spec emissions equipment). Power was down 5 ps to 110, but the existence of a twin-cam engine allowed Toyota to rekindle the Levin and Trueno lines again. The chassis code alphabet soup got even more

The chassis code alphabet soup got even more maddening, with the 1977 Levin and Sprinter now known as the TE51 and TE61, respectively. Finally, in 1978 the 2T-GEU was reworked to put out 115 ps again, spawning the TE55 and TE65. All used the third-generation Corolla/Sprinter sport coupe body as a foundation. Sadly, despite the hard work, Levins and Truenos of this generation were largely

Sadly, despite the hard work, Levins and Truenos of this generation were largely shunned by enthusiasts. Their increased size added about 110 pounds over the TE27, detracting from the lightweight ethos that had drawn fans to the ninana in the first place. In 1975, a Corolla earned an overall victory at Finland’s 1000 Lakes Rally. However, most street racers clung to their TE27s and waited for the next generation to arrive. Toyota was probably worried that it would run out of numbers soon because for the next generation everything was united under the same chassis code again. Introduced in 1979 the E70 was a thoroughly boxy design that resembled the missing evolutionary link between a Datsun 510 and the 1983 BMW 3-series. The plethora of body styles still existed, but whether it was a two-door sedan, four-door sedan, wagon, two-door hardtop, two-door coupe, or three-door liftback, it all fell under the E70 umbrella. A slew of engine options from Toyota’s K, T, and A engine families were available in Japan. Levin and Trueno sub-models were based on the sport coupe, sharing the TE71 chassis code and soldiering on with the 115 ps 2T-GEU.

Toyota was probably worried that it would run out of numbers soon because for the next generation everything was united under the same chassis code again. Introduced in 1979 the E70 was a thoroughly boxy design that resembled the missing evolutionary link between a Datsun 510 and the 1983 BMW 3-series. The plethora of body styles still existed, but whether it was a two-door sedan, four-door sedan, wagon, two-door hardtop, two-door coupe, or three-door liftback, it all fell under the E70 umbrella. A slew of engine options from Toyota’s K, T, and A engine families were available in Japan. Levin and Trueno sub-models were based on the sport coupe, sharing the TE71 chassis code and soldiering on with the 115 ps 2T-GEU.

A slew of engine options from Toyota’s K, T, and A engine families were available in Japan. Levin and Trueno sub-models were based on the sport coupe, sharing the TE71 chassis code and soldiering on with the 115 ps 2T-GEU.

E70 Corolla sedan

Ben Fernandez’s kouki E70 Corolla sedan has won many awards in the SoCal car show scene

The biggest change came underneath, with the crude but formidable leaf-spring rear axle that had underpinned Corollas since 1966 finally brought up to date with a four-link and lateral rod. The new suspension reinvigorated the chassis, transforming the Corolla into a sharp-handling little runabout, even while its selection of aging engines prevented it from reaching its full potential. Americans were again treated to the entire

Americans were again treated to the entire smorgasbord of body styles except for the two-door van. On the other hand, the United States received only one engine choice, the 1.6-liter 3T-C. SR-5 models could be had with sport coupe or liftback body styles, but the EFI twin-cam was still deemed too noxious for US emissions regulations. In 1983, the E70’s final year of production, the engine was upgraded to a 1.8-liter 4A-C, a sought-after configuration for E70 fans. Today, vintage Japanese gatherings in the United States are filled with E70s. Part of the reason is that it was a hugely popular car when new, and Toyota had simply sold more of them than any other Corolla. The fact that the chassis is nearly

Today, vintage Japanese gatherings in the United States are filled with E70s. Part of the reason is that it was a hugely popular car when new, and Toyota had simply sold more of them than any other Corolla. The fact that the chassis is nearly identical to the famed Corolla GT-S (more later) means it can easily accommodate more-powerful, modern engines and shares all of that model’s legendary handling prowess. Mostly, however, the 2T-C and 3T-C Corollas have become hugely popular in the Puerto Rico drag racing scene. Amazingly, top competitors have been able to squeeze, with a little help from forced induction, 500 to 700 horsepower out of these tiny SOHC four-cylinders. Sub-10-second quarter-mile times are possible, and as the Corolla with the longest wheelbase, the E70 is a popular choice. Southern California’s Corolla scene may lean toward the JDM tuning aesthetic, but up and down the East Coast you’re far more likely to see tubbed E70s running traction bars, oversized slicks, and a 9-inch rear end.

Mostly, however, the 2T-C and 3T-C Corollas have become hugely popular in the Puerto Rico drag racing scene. Amazingly, top competitors have been able to squeeze, with a little help from forced induction, 500 to 700 horsepower out of these tiny SOHC four-cylinders. Sub-10-second quarter-mile times are possible, and as the Corolla with the longest wheelbase, the E70 is a popular choice. Southern California’s Corolla scene may lean toward the JDM tuning aesthetic, but up and down the East Coast you’re far more likely to see tubbed E70s running traction bars, oversized slicks, and a 9-inch rear end.

E70 Corolla SR-5 liftback

The E70 Corolla SR-5 liftback is a nicely proportioned shooting-brake body style

The new suspension reinvigorated the chassis, transforming the Corolla into a sharp-handling little runabout.

E70 Corolla sports

Aside from the 4A-GE engine, the E70 Corolla sports coupe is a mechanically identical precursor to the legendary AE86

1981 Corolla SR-5 hardtop

The Corolla SR-5 hardtop was a two-door body style with extended wheelbase. This is a 1981 example

These straight-line land rockets may be the polar opposite of a slammed Japanese canyon carver, but that diversity is the beauty of the Corolla platform. Unfortunately, the fun came to a screeching halt as new technologies moved Toyota to convert its passenger car platforms onto front-wheel-drive layouts. In 1983, the Corona was succeeded by the FF Camry and it looked as if the Corolla would be next. Before it was all over, though, Toyota sent it off with one last hurrah.

In 1984, most of the headlines regarding Toyota surrounded New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc (NUMMI). It was Toyota’s new factory, a joint-venture with General Motors based in Fremont, California. The deal was put together to shield Toyota from currency fluctuations and stem the tide of America’s growing resentment about foreign-built cars. Simultaneously, it allowed General Motors, which had been struggling to compete with the Corolla, to sell a rebadged Chevy Nova that was actually a Corolla.

Soon, a steady flow of E80 Corollas (and Novas) began emerging from the new factory on an all-new front-wheel-drive platform meant for the masses. The FF platform, however, underpinned only volume-seller four-door sedans and five-door hatchbacks. Incredibly, Toyota decided to split the Corolla line right down the middle, leaving the two-door coupe and three-door liftback on a rear-wheel-drive chassis built in Japan. The two platforms shared nothing in common except the standard carbureted SOHC 1.6-liter 4A-C.

Toyota Racing Development

Dennis David’s zenki hachiroku is one of the nicest examples in SoCal. Here it sits on vintage Toyota Racing Development (TRD) wheels

The FR Corollas were graced with a new, aerodynamic shape employing that staple of 1980s sports cars, the flip-up headlight. Though sold as SR-5s, many of them were equipped with an automatic transmission instead of a manual gearbox. And because these were basically built atop the E70 chassis, they garnered little attention upon debut. It probably would have stayed that way too, if not for the new 4A-GE engine, a burst of cosmic energy likened to a 2T-G for a new generation. The 4A-GE was another

It probably would have stayed that way too, if not for the new 4A-GE engine, a burst of cosmic energy likened to a 2T-G for a new generation. The 4A-GE was another concoction from Toyota’s long-standing association with Yamaha. Using the block from a 4A-C, Yamaha added a twin-cam head, this time with four valves per cylinder and EFI. Power was boosted to 112 horsepower, a 60-percent increase over the 4A-C. But the icing on the cake was its sky-high 7,500-rpm redline, which allowed drivers to keep their right foot planted for an eternity before grabbing the next gear. The 4A-GE completely transformed the chassis into a new performance coupe not seen since the days of the TE27. For once, Americans were privy to this top-spec incarnation called the Corolla GT-S. To give the Corolla a bite that matched its new bark, GT-S suspensions gained stiffness and rear disc brakes instead of the SR-5’s drums. The new platform also had rack-and-pinion steering, an optional limited-slip differential, and a snugly bolstered driver’s seat. Toyota brewed the perfect storm for the second time in the Corolla’s life, creating the rare, magical car that’s fun to drive right out of the box. In Japan, these FR Corollas were a continuation of the revered Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno bloodlines. The Corolla GT-S with its flip-up headlights was actually a closer match to the latter, as the Corolla Levin used fixed, exposed headlights. None of this really mattered though, because these cars became collectively known by their chassis code, AE86, or hachiroku (Japanese for “eight six”). For Japanese enthusiasts, the AE86 was seen as the second coming of the legendary TE27. After more than a decade of oil rationing and choking emissions standards, the combination of gutsy engine and honest, lightweight chassis soon garnered it a massive following.

To give the Corolla a bite that matched its new bark, GT-S suspensions gained stiffness and rear disc brakes instead of the SR-5’s drums. The new platform also had rack-and-pinion steering, an optional limited-slip differential, and a snugly bolstered driver’s seat. Toyota brewed the perfect storm for the second time in the Corolla’s life, creating the rare, magical car that’s fun to drive right out of the box. In Japan, these FR Corollas were a continuation of the revered Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno bloodlines. The Corolla GT-S with its flip-up headlights was actually a closer match to the latter, as the Corolla Levin used fixed, exposed headlights. None of this really mattered though, because these cars became collectively known by their chassis code, AE86, or hachiroku (Japanese for “eight six”). For Japanese enthusiasts, the AE86 was seen as the second coming of the legendary TE27. After more than a decade of oil rationing and choking emissions standards, the combination of gutsy engine and honest, lightweight chassis soon garnered it a massive following.

In Japan, these FR Corollas were a continuation of the revered Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno bloodlines. The Corolla GT-S with its flip-up headlights was actually a closer match to the latter, as the Corolla Levin used fixed, exposed headlights. None of this really mattered though, because these cars became collectively known by their chassis code, AE86, or hachiroku (Japanese for “eight six”). For Japanese enthusiasts, the AE86 was seen as the second coming of the legendary TE27. After more than a decade of oil rationing and choking emissions standards, the combination of gutsy engine and honest, lightweight chassis soon garnered it a massive following.

Toyota’s 4A-GE engine

Toyota’s 4A-GE engine continued the automaker’s long association with Yamaha for its twin-cam engines. The high-revving four-cylinder is at the heart of what sets AE86s apart from other Corollas

Around the time of the AE86’s introduction, Japan adopted the FIA’s new international rules for Group A and showroom-stock Group N racing. Toyota threw its full backing into the series and the AE86 tallied a heap of 1,600-cc class wins throughout Japan, Australia, and Europe. The hachiroku was such a good platform, in fact, that it remained a force until the series’ conclusion in 1993.

However, what happened away from the bright lights of professional racing was just as pivotal, if not more so, to the AE86’s stake in history. By the mid 1980s, Japan’s road network had spread into a concrete web connecting every mountain village, no matter how remote. It was on these winding ribbons of asphalt that the AE86 truly came alive.

To give the corolla a bite that matched its new bark, Gt-S suspensions gained stiffness and rear disc brakes.

The illegal street race of choice in these parts was called touge, which means “pass” (as in mountain) in Japanese. Drivers chased each other at insane speeds over two-lane roads with a sheer rock face on one side and a plummeting ravine on the other. Agility, not horsepower, determined the victor (and sometimes who survived). Eventually, breaking the wheels loose to slide the car around hairpins became a widely used and effective touge strategy, and by the late 1980s, this “drifting” had evolved into an art form. Executing the perfect drift became just as important as winning, something that could only be done with a chassis of flawless balance. And as luck would have it, the hachiroku’s near supernatural poise made it the drifter’s weapon of choice.

Toyota AE86 coupes

AE86 coupes are stiffer and lighter, liftbacks are more popular among collectors thanks to its sleek shape and starring role in Initial D

Drifting remained largely underground until drivers such as Keiichi Tsuchiya and Option magazine’s Daijiro Inada started covering the phenomenon in the mid 1990s. As Tsuchiya, an AE86 devotee himself, became one of professional drifting’s first stars known as the “Drift King,” the hachiroku’s mythos grew. The AE86 became so synonymous with drifting that it remained a regular fixture at competitions long after more powerful cars such as the Nissan Silvia S13 and Mazda FC RX-7 appeared on the scene.

Toyota Corolla AE86

The canyons and mountain passes of Japan are the natural habitat for the lightweight and superb chassis dynamics of the AE86

If anything, the invasion of these turbocharged sports coupes with independent rear suspensions made the underdog hachiroku even more beloved. That notion was perfectly captured in Shuichi Shigeno’s Initial D manga series, which debuted in 1995. The story is about a tofu delivery boy named Takumi who becomes a touge hero behind the wheel of his Sprinter Trueno liftback. Although the AE86 was already a decade old, it helped the manga become a best seller. In 1999, Initial D was brought to motion as an anime, arriving in the United States just as the American fascination with drifting was reaching critical mass.

In 1999, Initial D was brought to motion as an anime, arriving in the United States just as the American fascination with drifting was reaching critical mass. Suddenly, prices for the long-forgotten Corolla GT-S skyrocketed. But even exponentially increasing prices couldn’t stop amateur drifters from gutting AE86s and sliding them into walls. The number of true GT-Ss was already small (by some accounts eight in nine FR Corollas were the lesser SR-5s), and the mass culling made an already scarce car even rarer. On top of that AE86 parts such as the disc-brakeequipped rear axle and 4A-GE engine are extremely desirable swaps for earlier Corollas. The result was a highly coveted, rare performance car that was the star of its own hit TV show—a confluence of factors bestowing upon it the status of automotive icon. On top of it all, it was the last rear-wheel-drive Corolla, because by 1988 even the Corolla GT-S (and its Levin/Trueno counterpart in Japan) had become nosedriven. But the AE86 wasn’t just the last “enthusiast’s Corolla,” it was the last of a breed. From that point on, Japanese sports cars became larger and more complex; the age of the lightweight, rear-wheel-drive Japanese sport coupe has come to an end. Or has it? In recent years Toyota seems to have realized the importance of the AE86’s legacy. In 2009, the company introduced a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe concept geared toward the enthusiast driver. Toyota spent much of the 1990s and 2000s chasing the title of world’s largest automaker, killing off all of its niche sports cars in the process. When the company’s presidency was returned to the Toyoda family with 2009’s election of Akio Toyoda (the great-grandson of Sakichi), he vowed to reconnect Toyota to its sporting roots. Akio also happened to be a huge advocate of sports cars, being somewhat of an amateur racer. So when it came time to name this new car that would return the automaker to its glory days, they called it the Toyota 86.

On top of that AE86 parts such as the disc-brakeequipped rear axle and 4A-GE engine are extremely desirable swaps for earlier Corollas. The result was a highly coveted, rare performance car that was the star of its own hit TV show—a confluence of factors bestowing upon it the status of automotive icon. On top of it all, it was the last rear-wheel-drive Corolla, because by 1988 even the Corolla GT-S (and its Levin/Trueno counterpart in Japan) had become nosedriven. But the AE86 wasn’t just the last “enthusiast’s Corolla,” it was the last of a breed. From that point on, Japanese sports cars became larger and more complex; the age of the lightweight, rear-wheel-drive Japanese sport coupe has come to an end. Or has it? In recent years Toyota seems to have realized the importance of the AE86’s legacy. In 2009, the company introduced a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe concept geared toward the enthusiast driver. Toyota spent much of the 1990s and 2000s chasing the title of world’s largest automaker, killing off all of its niche sports cars in the process. When the company’s presidency was returned to the Toyoda family with 2009’s election of Akio Toyoda (the great-grandson of Sakichi), he vowed to reconnect Toyota to its sporting roots. Akio also happened to be a huge advocate of sports cars, being somewhat of an amateur racer. So when it came time to name this new car that would return the automaker to its glory days, they called it the Toyota 86.

Or has it? In recent years Toyota seems to have realized the importance of the AE86’s legacy. In 2009, the company introduced a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe concept geared toward the enthusiast driver. Toyota spent much of the 1990s and 2000s chasing the title of world’s largest automaker, killing off all of its niche sports cars in the process. When the company’s presidency was returned to the Toyoda family with 2009’s election of Akio Toyoda (the great-grandson of Sakichi), he vowed to reconnect Toyota to its sporting roots. Akio also happened to be a huge advocate of sports cars, being somewhat of an amateur racer. So when it came time to name this new car that would return the automaker to its glory days, they called it the Toyota 86.