1978 Toyota Corolla: Original SR5

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Believe it or not, Japanese car enthusiasts fawn over these older Corollas, especially in SR5 trim with a factory manual transmission. I’m surprised this 1978 Corolla SR5 here on eBay doesn’t have more action, as these cars are getting to be very hard to find. Originally from Puerto Rico, it seems to be a stalled restoration project that needs rescuing before more parts are stolen off of it. 

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A large part of the appeal to these older Toyotas is the combination of rear-wheel drive and light weight. Starting in the mid-80s, Toyota changed over to being almost exclusively front-wheel drive (with the exception of the Supra and All-Trac models, and later the FR-S), closing the book on an era when rear-wheel drive was the norm.

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Adding to this car’s appeal is that it’s not the typical liftback body style. A lot of the Corollas I’ve seen from this era have the hatch-style rear. The coupe body is much sharper, in my opinion. However, it doesn’t do much to disguise the fact that you’re going to have to work that little 1.6L inline-four cylinder into a frenzy to extract any juice from its 75 b.h.p. on tap.

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The later Supra wheels look sharp here, and a mild suspension drop would make this car look downright mean. Some fender-mounted side view mirrors would help, too. The engine and transmission are said to work fine, but the carburetor was stolen and bodywork is needed – but the seller doesn’t elaborate on whether that’s limited to the need for a paint job or more invasive rust issues. This could be a fun classic on the cheap – what do you think?

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Comments

  1. mark

    Please. Whats next an “original” Chevy Chevette? Oh wait there is one of these listed a couple below this one. This is a 1978 Toyota Corolla with a 5 speed. It is worth the current price of scrap.

    • MountainMan

      You would be surprised , these old Yotas have quite the following. Values are rising and I’m sure it will find a home. Remember, even if you don’t personally care for it that doesn’t mean it’s only worth scrap. Although I think it’s cool it’s not something I would search out but if I ran across one for the right price I would certainly scoop it up

  2. randy

    It’s worth more than a pile of German rust. I wish I had my old Honda’s and Toyota’s back.

  3. Rich

    Mark, these older imports are really gaining steam. This is an awesome car. These little imports take up ALOT less space in the garage too!!! Install a stiffer suspension, nice front end spoiler and an ANSA exhaust and you’re good to go!!

  4. mark

    “The engine and transmission are said to work fine, but the carburetor was stolen”………………….Wow, that is why it is so valuable. It has a test engine that was not supposed to be released to the general public. It has the engine in it that “works fine” with no carburetor. I read about these on the internet so it has to be true. Wow. Probably does not even need fuel injection either. Where is my check book………………………………..

  5. Rick

    Back in the mid 80s the were literally millions of cars like that these went begging in running condition for $250-300. In ’83 (back when I was too poor to afford anything newer) I bought ’75 Corolla E5 4 dr for $300, drove it for a few years (seldom changed the oil) anyhow sold it for $300. Point I’m trying to make is that I’m in general agreement with the comments above that this is nothing special or even worth saving. Heck, a restored Model T Roadster is only worth $8K tops.

  6. Jim

    Yugos and Ford Fiestas take up even less space but …. who knows what someone might want to restore!

  7. Mo

    I would find a carb and get it back on the road.

  8. Blindmarc

    This is a better car than 90% of the crap posted here, and more affordable. I’m a American car guy but this one is worth the time.

    • randy

      Rough crowd! I like seeing all of the “crap” posted here. This site is an excellent learning tool for guys like me that don’t know everything pertaining to cars and their “value”.. Keep the “crap” coming, please. ;>)

      I finally checked out the ebay ad, this car seems to be way over priced. I am going to watch this one.

  9. Jessie

    I had a ’81 Corolla Tercel SR5. Fun little car.

    • randy

      I had an ’82 like that but blue. I like the rounded off rear end and tail lights of the Tercel. Mine was also an SR-5. Mine got repo’ed In ’83 due to a very bad marriage.

  10. 64 bonneville

    reading through the comments, it seems one mans turd is another mans supper. human nature being what it is, not every one will like what is posted. if you are a fan of a specific make or model, go to that clubs’ website. my understanding is this is a site for anyone who likes old cars, or wants to post memories or comments, but let us not disparage what is posted or commented on. I happen to like all old cars some more than others, this helps make the hobby more enjoyable for everyone.

    Like 1
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi 64. Well said. I too have my likes and dislikes but so does everyone else on this site. Our hobby is diversified and that’s what keeps it interesting. Nothing more boring than to see five of the same thing on display at the car show.

      Like 1
  11. Cassidy

    Back in ’85, I bought a beautiful Toy 5speed truck brand new off the lot. As we were going through the mountain of paperwork, I asked the salesguy what “SR5” meant. Long silence, then he looked to the sales manager for help. Dumb helping dumber, The SM said with a lot more confidence thean he should have: “SR5 means Sports Truck 5 Speed”. I’d still own that nice little truck, except a high school punk was paying more attention to the 2 girls sharing his truck’s cab than my wife driving the truck through the intersection and turned it into a permanent U-turn. Third accident for the moron within 6 months of getting his license; Daddy just kept getting the fool another vehicle. I hope he is a permanent bus rider now!

  12. john C

    Nicely spoken 64Bonneville. Some vehicles ‘do’ look unappetizing to me too…mainly because as I was fairly ‘poor’ as a young man, I drove those ‘pieces of crap’ for years…even reaching down through the rusted floorboards of my ’64 Suburban to reattach/jerk the stick transmission linkage back into gear instead of ‘freewheeling’ , all while driving. I have not actually ‘seen’ any of my own pieces of automobile history on here… but I have left a few vehicles right where they broke down !!! Happy New Year BarnFinds, and I learn from all the folks who post, so for all of us…Keep on Keeping On !!!

  13. Paul B

    These are very good little cars. The reasons for caring about them? One, they’re history on wheels. Two, they’re actually fun to drive. Three, they’re reliable and repairable at reasonable prices — unlike BMWs or VWs of the same era. I wish I had my ’76 Corolla 4-speed wagon, my ’78 Corolla 5-speed wagon and my ’85 Tercel 5-speed wagon and my ’84 Tercel 4WD 6-speed wagon back, and my ’93 Camry 4-cylinder 5-speed. They were all great. Oh yeah, not to mention the ’84 Toyota diesel pickup. Every single one of them was excellent where solid engineering and toughness and good driving characteristics were concerned. Not the most exciting things in the world, but fun to drive every all, and dependable as the day was long. I’ve had my share of more exotic cars and still do, but some of these old Toyotas deserve to be saved. I hope a buyer steps up for this one and gives it a good home.

  14. Charles H.

    I agree with you 64 bonneville…..I agree with you 100%

    • randy

      ’64 Bonneville is a great guy, I think the only one not in lockstep would be JH!

  15. Glen

    My Mom had an SR5, I believe it was an ’85. Lots of fun to drive, great on gas, and reliable. My Mom eventually gave it to a friend who used it as an ice racer!

  16. Dolphin Member

    At least one automotive writer for a major No American paper has named the Toyota Corolla as the best car ever made. He didn’t say exactly what he meant by “best”, but at least the Corolla is reliable, cheap, and has been around for decades. I can think of ways that the Corolla isn’t the “best” car, but keeping up with a supercar on the Nurburgring might not be everyone’s definition of best, either.

  17. Doug Towsley

    We bought a new Corolla S model in 2004 largely based on the false reputation of Toyotas. I say false because that modern Corolla is a heap of crap. We just had it in the dealership today and i lost count of factory recalls and service problems. Some problems we just had to learn to live with. My family in the late 70s, and early 80s had a Corolla, great car. My wifes family had a 1977 Corolla wagon known as “Old Yeller” Mustard yellow/Orange. That thing was amazing. Freezing cold AC, Excellent fuel mileage, low road noise, decent handling, brakes, and performance. Everyone in their family drove it and owned it at one point or another. We sold it to one of my renters for a go to work car and when it left us, it was still going strong with 370,000 miles. It had maintenance and a top end overhaul but was still chugging along last i saw it several years after we sold it.
    We purchased the new Corolla off the lot, My wifes and I very first new car purchase. I will say the headlights were amazing, nice and bright. Thats the only thing positive I can say. That 1977 car was 10x the modern POS. We would happily trade in heartbeat for a good condition vintage Corolla. Toyota no longer is the same company. I am not surprised at all to see people seek older Toys and restore them. I told the service mgr at the dealership we will never purchase another new Toyota.

  18. Jasper

    It’s a very cool old Toy. Fairly extinct body style. Someone will pay way more for this than I ever would.
    I know in 80-83 there was a sport coupe, coupe and lift back Corolla. I figured this hardtop was dropped after 75 or 76 and replaced with the sport coupe with lift back grille, pop out back windows and less funky tail-lamps. Info is scant.

  19. AMCFAN

    I like it. Would be an awesome 1JZ swap. Vintage Toyotas and Hondas are not the future collectable. They are now. They might not be bringing crazy money at the moment but like everything else that has been used up will have it’s day. There is a large amount of interest. Cars like this in this condition will always be in demand. The JDM versions that make it to US soil are a different story. Try pricing early legal 1990’s Skyline GTR’s. Lucky if you can find a nice example for under $25K

  20. Tundra/BMW Guy

    I am a Toyota “fan”! I too, in my poor days, drove quite the collection of Toyota’s. Of course working for Toyota gave me access to what we called “beaters” (cars owners decided not to fix usually due to their being thrashed). Put a little time, elbow grease, and minor $$$ you could end up with something that although would not win a beauty pageant, would get you from point A to point B reliably, eveytime!!!! To this day, I still have Toyota’s and love them!!
    With every manufacturer, you will have “lemons”. Heck I Lemon Law’ed a Ford F-150! Number one selling truck in the US!
    With all that being said, I would snag this thing in a heart beat, if the price and location were where they needed to be!! Again, little money, little elbow grease = neat old could be cool looking, reliable DD!
    To each their own. Don’t beat on other peoples tastes just because they might not be yours!

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