Toyota Corona ST-140 Hardtop 1982

It so happened that one can talk about Toyota cars almost endlessly: the model range of this manufacturer was too extensive from the early 1980s to the late 2000s. Some models, like the Corolla and Land Cruiser, have survived to this day, while others have ceased to exist. Today, we will talk about the Corona model, which is no longer with us.

The car was launched by Toyota in 1957. The new model was meant to fill the niche between the more compact Corolla and the larger Crown. We won’t repeat ourselves: for Toyota, it was always important to offer the customer exactly the size they needed. The Corona showed customers, including those in export markets, that for the same maintenance cost as the Corolla, they could get a more spacious interior and sometimes a richer configuration. In European markets, the car gained more fame as the Carina.

The seventh generation, coded as 140, which appeared in 1982, was the last “classic” generation of the Corona. To refresh your memory: a classic layout is when the engine is in the front, and the drive goes to the rear axle, also known as FR. Interestingly, sensing the demise of rear-wheel drive for the mass consumer, Toyota released a facelifted version coded as 150 the following year, which was front-wheel drive. Both versions of the car lasted on the assembly line until 1987, but they had quite different destinies. It was quite rare for a manufacturer to produce two such different versions of one car simultaneously.

The assembly was carried out in three locations: Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The Toyota Celica platform, previously used in the car, was replaced with its own. True to its old tradition, the car was sold as Carina at Toyota Store along with the larger Crown, and at Toyopet Store, it continued to be called Corona. Exports did not go too well, as dealers preferred to sell the front-wheel-drive model due to lower maintenance costs for essentially the same level of comfort. Thus, for Toyota, the era of mass rear-wheel drive was coming to an end.

What did this last classic Corona look like? It was produced in 3 traditional body styles: station wagon, sedan, and 2-door hardtop coupe, which we are discussing today. To be precise, this model is called the ST140 Hard Top GX. In terms of body shape, the coupe resembles many other American and Japanese cars of the time: a slightly elongated hood, chopped body shapes, but without excessive width or aggressive design elements. Just a calm, 4.5-meter long car, which didn’t even have a “hot” version. Well, almost didn’t.

But what catches the eye is the huge glass area! Due to the tilt and elongated shape in all directions, the rear window is almost larger than the windshield and is further enlarged by small side windows. The doors, again, are of the true grand tourismo size, which should provide ease of access for rear passengers.

As often happens, the car had about 15 powertrains, from the classic 1.5-liter with a carburetor intake to the 22R-E engine – an eight-valve “four” with a volume of 2.4 liters already with a manifold on the intake. There were also a couple of 1.8 and 2.0-liter diesel engines available. The power was transmitted to the wheels either by 4 and 5-speed manual transmissions or by 3 and 4-speed “automatics”. Again: yes, it was really important for the Japanese to ensure that you bought exactly the car you needed. And they also wanted to “test” various engineering solutions to make million-kilometer engines. Unfortunately, that’s a thing of the past.

But in the case of this beauty, there’s no point in focusing on standard engines, as the factory-installed 1SU – a 1.8-liter carburetor engine – has already given way to a new unit. Now it houses a true atmospheric dream of any drifter – the genuine 1JZ-GE. It’s the same “first jay,” but without a turbo. It might seem boring, but don’t forget about the car’s weight! 180 atmospheric horsepower contained in a voluminous 2.5-liter 6-cylinder engine on ~1200 kg of actual weight! The transmission is the familiar R154 – a standard solution for the JZ series, but unlike the turbo monsters with 600 wheel horsepower, this gearbox will live quite comfortably here.

The interior may remind you of all Toyotas of that time, yet it still differs from contemporaries. It must be admitted – at that time, standardization was not so widespread, and although one could find analogies when switching from one car to another, there was no outright copying. The dashboard is pleasantly lowered, as the driver’s seat is moved closer to the floor. Of course, we would like to believe that this is for weight distribution and lowering the center of gravity, but how true that is remains an open question. It was destined for another model, the Corolla’s conveyor neighbor, to shine in motorsports. By the way, these seat covers are actually slipcovers. What we consider “tacky” and a sign of not having enough money for dry cleaning, in Japan, is brought to an aesthetic level. The formula for seating here is 2+2, as they would say now, and for four people including the driver, as they would have said earlier.

The Corona did not receive a digital dashboard. All instruments, except for the quartz clock, are analog, needle-based, which does not diminish their style at all. In the kingdom of buttons, although there were no innovations, there was quality, relatively expensive plastic, and quality contacts. Since the car is for the domestic market in Japan, it may have climate control, cruise control, various heaters, electric windows, and other options that now seem natural to us, but for those years, as we have already said, were not the rule.

SSR mk.1 wheels, 7J wide in front and 7.5J in the back, make a striking point in terms of style. The rims suit this body well, as well as almost all Japanese cars of the 80s, with 15″ diameter being optimal and not lost in the arches. This car is not a showroom example, although in excellent condition. It is not a time capsule, although its interior is exactly as it was from the factory. Yes, the radio and chargers look somewhat foreign, but friends, this car drives its owner around every day and often travels around Ukraine! It’s not that hard to assemble a project and leave it conserved in the garage, but to drive every day and be confident – that requires real preparation.

Perhaps we’ve dwelled a bit too much on the Japanese “old school,” but understand correctly – in Ukraine, there are too many cars in almost original condition (I can’t consider replacing the engine with a JZ a degradation of the car) and it’s impossible not to enjoy them while they’re still here. Love your cars, and in 40 years, we will definitely write about them!