Amazing Survivor: 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon

I was still in high school in 1978 and the furthest thing from my mind would have been a 1978 Toyota Corolla wagon like this car for sale here on eBay. Actually, high school itself probably would have been the furthest thing from my mind in those days. Little did I know that a couple of years later, my first car would end up being a ’71 Toyota Corolla wagon. This one-owner car is located in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and there’s a $7,500 buy it now price listed.

This Corolla wagon is pretty incredible, actually, whether a person likes them or not. Anything that has survived for over four decades in this preserved condition is amazing. Most of us know that imports of this era didn’t have the thickest or most rust-proof sheet metal so to see one that basically looks like it just rolled off of the showroom floor is pretty cool. You already know that I’m a huge fan of vintage Japanese vehicles, but it doesn’t matter what it is to me, if it’s survived for this long in this condition, I love it. Although, is a “survivor car” a true survivor if it has been repainted? Questions like that keep me up at night.

The bumpers take away from the otherwise tight design and the third-generation Corollas hit North America hard and at the right time. The gas crunch was in full swing by 1974 and folks were looking for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. The seller says that the first owner bought this Corolla new in 1978 and owned it until 2015. It has had one respray at some point in its history which may explain why it looks so nice.

Yes, it has a three-speed automatic rather than a 5-speed manual, but most of these cars were bought by families and used as commuter cars, not as sporty drivers. My ’71 Corolla wagon had the smaller 1.2L engine so it was anything but sporty but it was still fun to drive with its 4-speed manual. The interior in this wagon looks almost like new other than a couple of dash cracks. The seats look perfect both front and rear as does the rear cargo area, other than some staining.

The engine is Toyota’s 2T-C which is a 1.6L inline-four with around 75 hp. The current owner/seller says that it runs great but sometimes has an imperfect idle. I’m assuming that it’s carburetor-related since it doesn’t get driven that much anymore. Have any of you owned a similar era Corolla?

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Comments

  1. Skorzeny

    Boy, I was excited until I saw the automatic… sigh. I do love it though, and how many do you ever see anymore? This will find a home pretty quickly, even with the slush box.

    Like 12
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    …..aaaaand,of course,it’s an automatic (big surprise).
    These were great reliable cars,& a Corolla wagon is a practical car.
    The price seems high (flipper?),but all you need is one person
    willing to spend this much.

    Like 2
    • Steve R

      For it’s condition it’s reasonably priced. Japanese cars from the 70’s and 80’s are gaining in popularity, so are wagons. You are right, it won’t last long.

      Steve R

      Like 7
    • nlpnt

      This predates it by a couple years, but Toyota and Honda both could’ve spent the entirety of the VRA years offering nothing but manual-transmission cars in America and still sold every one they could bring in, and I kind of wish they had.

  3. Howard A Member

    Quite a find, indeed. I think it was the Corolla that really got things spinning for Toyota. Up until this time, Toyota was still considered a minor threat, on par with those cheap Asian tools at Atlantic Mills, but the Corolla, proved, it had everything, the wagon, even more so. One teensy little drawback, they melted away in the north. To see one like this again, is truly unusual. Be nice if these clown carmakers would give us something like this again. Someone , probably the last person on earth( there simply can’t be many like this left), will find out what all the rage was about. And I don’t get why there’s such a hatred for automatics. Toyota made a great automatic, and I can’t be the only one tired of shifting. Great find. Oh, btw, the “idling snafu”, is probably a vacuum leak, very common with Asian cars of this vintage.

    Like 5
    • Skorzeny

      Howard, why? Because driving an automatic is not driving, it’s riding. I just love shifting for myself, and love having to skill to do so in a near perfect manner. I know that I am on the extreme end of the spectrum, and manuals are disappearing, but then so is the proper use of the English language… Doesn’t mean it’s good…

      Like 6
      • Howard A Member

        I guess I’m partial, being a truck driver for 35 years, I’ve shifted my axx off. Oh, it was fun at first, gear jammin’, 5 speeds, 6 speeds, 9 speeds, 10 speeds, 13 speeds, 15 speeds, 5X4 TWENTY SPEEDS,,( never drove a 18 speed) and with the small motors of yore, you literally shift all day long, and it gets mighty old, not to mention damage to the rotator cuff. Now, I’m not a fan of automatics in a semi, a huge trend today to attract drivers that can’t shift a manual transmission, but some things I still hold dear, just prefer an automatic in my DD, even though, my square body is a 4 speed and many times don’t even use the clutch.

        Like 2
  4. Chris Mann

    I had a 1974 corolla 1200cc with a 4 spd …. I put wider steel rims and tires on it and a JC Whitney glass pack muffler with a 2.5 inch chrome tip on it…handled great…rear main seal leaked dropped the tranny in my parents garage…and replaced it…unfortunately that car got totaled and it was replaced by a 1975 corolla SR5 …1600 cc with a 5 Spd that I go in Florida in 1982…that car ran until the frame rotted out on it..

    Like 2
  5. Paul

    I had a 78 SR5 liftback 5-speed with the same engine. Great car. The instrument panel was so packed with factory gauges it was shear joy. One of the gauges was oil temperature – not oil pressure, (yes, it had that too) but oil temperature. That is something you don’t see anymore. I drove that car for 200k miles on the original clutch. The car ended due to rust but still ran great.

    Like 1
    • RonD

      I had the same car………dark maroon, tan vinyl interior. My first brand new car! Sold it to buy my ’82 Celica GT liftback, another wonderful vehicle.

      Like 1
  6. Christopher Gentry

    I had a 78 corolla 2 door , sadly yes automatic. But a wonderful little car. It was my third car in 1989. It was “dark metallic copper” or as my friends called “metallic turd ” I decided to have to repainted a more red copper , that’s when I found out the frame was rusting thru. Still drove it another year but then the drivers side floor board fell thru. Any who. To see one that nice that’s 42 years old. I’d buy it in a second if I had any money :) and for that matter it was a WHOLE LOT CLOSER to Tennessee. Not seen one in at least 10 years

  7. Gearhead1960

    I had a 78 Corolla Wagon in white with the 5 speed. It was my 2nd car after my 1st one, a 76 Corolla Wagon that got totalled. I made the 1978 into a nice little sleeper. Built up the 2TC for more HP, put Konis on it with lowering springs and blocks. It wasn’t fast until I blew up the 2TC and put in a 2TG (twin cams, twin carbs), a JDM motor before anyone knew what JDM was. I used to track the car at Summit Point giving early RX-7s, MR2s, Camaros and Corvettes fits. They couldn’t understand why this car could hang in the corners with them and in the case of the other Jap cars, stay ahead of them. Car sadly rusted away, was junked, and I sold the motor for what I paid for it. If I had the spare change, I would buy this car and do it all over again. It was such a fun car…..

    Like 3
  8. Stangalang

    This one looks amazing and they were good cars for the time..I bet if you squat next to it and put your ear against it you can hear it rusting ask me how I know

    Like 2
    • karl

      I know !

      Like 1
  9. Steven

    My folks bought a new 77 4door sedan. Silver with black vinyl and NO A/C. 5speed. They road tripped me and my 2 sisters from Ga to the Florida beaches a couple of hot summers in that ride. My oldest sister got the car to drive to work and school in the 80s… she wrecked that thing 3 times. Still ran like a top. That engine is probably still running somewhere today…

    Like 1
  10. James Simpson

    Notice how similar in body design it is to the Fiat Brava, and the Mercedes 300 TD Wagon of the same era. Stripped of all chrome and bumpers, the designs are very similar.
    One thing for sure- the Quality of the Toyota will keep it going for years and years. The Toyota Pick up having the 20R motor simply will not die! 500,000 miles is not that unusual! This is a great find.

  11. Car Nut Tacoma

    Wow! I’ve not seen a 70s Toyota Corolla since the 70s. Given its nice original condition, $7500 is a good asking price. Manual gearbox would’ve been nice. But I’d take an auto if it works like it should.

  12. BigCat Member

    First Car my new bride and I bought was a 75 Corolla E-5, yellow with a black interior. Nice little 2 door 5 speed. I had it Zbarted (lived in Chicago area) and that helped keep the rust down. Sold it 5 years later, still running well. Only issue I ever had was with distributor points, quit running one time and took 2 days for dealer to get parts. I’m looking for another, registered on this site so if you know anybody…..

  13. John C.

    Nice but if the car was kept in good condition and possibly stored inside I wonder why the whole thing would have needed repainted. They were easy cars to buff out, I had several old Toyotas like that.

  14. Backintheusa

    I put over 200,000 miles on my 77 Corolla Liftback with the 2TC engine and only once did it fail to start, which was due to a bad alternator failing to charge the battery. The engine was incredible, but I had to replace the alternator about every 60-70,000 miles. A dealer sales manager once told me that the 2TC was the best engine Toyota ever built and I have no reason to doubt that.

    • James Simpson

      Same here! Our Corolla wagon 2TC motor outlasted the car! Finally rear ended on Hwy 101, STILL driven another 30,000 with slammed rear end! BTW– failure of the alternators was most likely shortened alternator brushes, and the starter motor failed because of the copper contacts inside the reduction gear solenoid had worn as an anode and cathode- metal transfer. Our Corolla was an Auto Parts delivery vehicle- so–we took care of it-yet at the LEAST expense! Yet, a great motor that 2TC!

  15. Jack Gray

    I bought a ’78 Corolla Hatchback new in Leesburg, FL. It had silver paint before clear coat and oxidized really bad before it was 3 years old. Maybe that’s why the wagon was repainted. It was the SR with the 5 speed, ran great. I drove it over a 100 thousand miles and gave it to my son while he was at FSU. Unfortunately, he hit a curb, broke the front wheel completely off the car and ended up on a phone pole guide wire and the car was totaled. One of the few cars I’ve had over the years I wouldn’t mind having back!

  16. DKW

    It’s an automatic… sigh.

    But it is very nice, otherwise. I miss cars like this. Simple and reliable. Now, there are so many bells and whistles on even a stripped down model (with very few exceptions), you need a plumber and electrician just to get to the engine. Back in the day of these cars, unless the thing was going to blow-up (Pinto), you rarely heard of a recall. Now it seems many marques get them regularly and repeatedly.

  17. Stevieg

    A buddy of mine from high school had a white one with woodgrain. It had the same tan vinyl interior. It was a stick shift, and it had a fast idle due to a vacuum leak.
    One day he & I are going somewhere in the car. He looks at me & told me to take the wheel. He crawls in back, retrieved a bottle of Wild Turkey from the cargo compartment, a d crawled back up to the drivers seat. The fast idle kept her going while I aimed the wheel from the passenger seat. Looking back on it, that is pretty stupid and scary lol.
    I had a 1977 Corolla liftback,automatic. 2nd gear was dead in it when I got it. Since then, I just don’t trust the automatic transmissions in these. I might have had a rare one that was bad, but the experience was enough for me.
    This is a really nice car though. Ya just don’t see them like this no more.

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