Toyota Carina AA-60 1983

Immersing into the world of authentic JDM that has transcended through the years is always fascinating. The abundance of various models, like those from the Japanese in the 1980s, arguably never existed elsewhere or at any other time. And the differences between conveyor neighbors were not always so obvious. Today, let’s talk about a car that didn’t quite fit into Toyota’s new century product lineup but still left its mark on the history of Japanese automotive engineering. It could have gained a significant share of the glory alongside the Hachi-Roku (AE86) and Hachigo (AE85).

The Toyota Carina made its debut in 1970 based on the popular Celica. It might sound strange now, but the new car was supposed to have a more “sporty” design to attract a younger audience. Yes, we’re accustomed to associating the Celica with the stunning T180 and T200 bodies, plus the slightly less successful T230 – much sportier, but in the ’70s, everything was different. Later, the car received the Corona platform, which again led to standardization and cost reduction in production. By the way, Carina isn’t someone’s wife after whom they named an entire Toyota model but a constellation – it logically continued the name Celica, formed from a word meaning “celestial.”

In its first generation, the body had the classic Toyota lines of those years, engines ranging from 1.5 to 2.0 liters and the classic FR layout: front engine, rear-wheel drive. Overall, the equipment of the cars was quite rich and even included 2 and 3-speed automatic transmissions. It was decided to also sell the new car in the US market, but the sales start coincided inconveniently with the introduction of a 10% duty, leading to a price increase and a small number of cars sold. In fact, this was the moment when Toyota seriously considered establishing production of its cars in the US.

The Carina we’re discussing today has the index AA60 – a 4-door sedan from 1983. The third generation, to which it belongs, started in 1981 and was in production until 1988. The model adopted an even more angular design, following the fashion of the time, but retained the “right” layout – the drive was still rear-wheel, although it was already a rarity in the Carina lineup. This allowed private teams under Japanese flags to participate in the Dakar Rally in 1981 and 1982. But the chassis itself was already common with the Corona. The mirrors, continuing the traditions of their predecessors, took their place on the front fenders, and the “face” received 4 rectangular headlights.

Just look at those wheel arches! Aren’t they beautiful? It’s hard to say how wide tires the Japanese were planning to use in their “near-sport” sedans, but the shape of the arches subtly hinted at the ability to accommodate quite decent sizes. The roofline and the overall side view beautifully accentuated the swift silhouette, even though this car didn’t feature frameless doors. In addition to producing traditional sedans, Toyota placed a bet on the wagon body style by releasing the Carina Surf modification – 5 doors with a spacious trunk. The goal was to capture the urban transport market and offer customers something more capacious.

The engine lineup, as always with the Japanese, turned out to be quite extensive. To satisfy the most economical drivers, a 1.8-liter diesel engine with a whopping 65 horsepower was developed. Considering the car’s weight of around a ton, living with such an engine was challenging, but it was economical and overall feasible. However, the specimen in the photos was luckier – it received the 3A-U (marketed as 3A-II in some regions). This modest 1.5-liter engine with 4 cylinders and 8 valves, controlled by a single overhead camshaft (SOHC) but already equipped with a catalytic converter. It had a single carburetor for intake. But don’t think this was the best it could be! In October 1982, the 3T-GTEU was introduced, with its complex alphanumeric name concealing a real 1.8-liter turbo engine delivering a whopping 160 horsepower for the GT-TR trim! Or, what’s equally important, you could get “the one,” the 4A-GEU, similar to the mentioned AE86.

The interior didn’t dazzle with grandeur, but it wasn’t expected to. Everything was done extremely neatly and functionally, but the engineers truly went all out on the instrument panel. It wasn’t just digital; the centerpiece was the tachometer! And it was designed in a way that resembled a power graph from a dynamometer – right from the start, it hinted that your car could do more, just rev the engine up to 4000 rpm. It’s a shame that such design choices are a thing of the past.

Some might protest, saying, “All Japanese cars of that era look the same to the extreme!” But that’s only at first glance. Unlike what we see with modern automakers, designers didn’t prioritize uniformity. Instead, they aimed to instill in each model a distinct character that appealed to the buyer’s desires. That’s why the model lineup expanded so extensively and why so few of them have survived to this day. They were capable of catering to every taste. Until we meet again, friends!

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