Cream Puff: 23k Mile 1982 Toyota Corolla

When someone tells you they have a cool Toyota Corolla, it may seem like an oxymoron. You’d likely picture a front-wheel-drive econobox with a gutless engine, known for clogging up the road on your daily commute. However, thanks to a small group of enthusiasts, early models, featuring rear-wheel-drive, are getting some long-overdue appreciation. While there are sure to be those who appreciate these cars as they were delivered from the factory, they can also provide an excellent platform for modification. With a supportive aftermarket offering plenty of parts, all you need is a good solid car to start with. Our feature car, found here on eBay, has just under 24,000 miles and looks brand new. With glossy blue paint, perfect trim, and a spotless engine bay, it’s almost too nice to change a thing on it.

You’ve likely heard of the drift scene, dominated by ’80s and ’90’s import cars set up to powerslide the rear end around the track. Drifters constantly push the car to the edge, keeping it in a perpetual state of oversteer on every turn. While not the fastest way around the track, it does make for good entertainment. One of the most famous cars in the drifting world is the 1983-1987 Toyota Corolla, also known as the AE86. Its lightweight, front-engine/rear-drive layout makes it easy to learn on, with sprightly handling and great balance. While our feature car is a year older than its more popular brethren, it still provides the same rear-drive layout and handling benefits along with similarly sporty fastback styling. The engine is a 3T-C, renowned for its proven reliability but lacking in power. However, several case studies have been made showing that it will support surprising levels of boost when upgraded to turbo power.

While spartan compared to today’s vehicles, the interiors of ’80s import cars provided the essentials required for a basic commuter vehicle. The seats, while not exactly plush, offered plenty of padding and decent support for longer trips. The inside of our feature vehicle looks almost new, aside from some slight discoloration on the seats. Hiding on the right side of the climate controls is an A/C button, relatively rare on early import cars. One thing the new owner may want to change is the four-speed slushbox, which shouldn’t be too difficult to upgrade to a manual along with the requisite third pedal.

After living the easy life for nearly forty years, could this Corolla be on its way to becoming a new animal? Maybe a full-on drift car would be too far, but a few simple bolt-ons could easily turn it into a fun weekend autocross racer. Some suspension mods, a wheel and tire package, and maybe even some forced induction could help breathe new life into this stodgy commuter car.


  1. angliagt angliagt

    Bid up to $14,725 – Proof that some people
    with WAY too much money are NUTS.

    Like 25
  2. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Nice or not, there is no way in the world an old 80’s corolla is worth 20K!

    Like 14
  3. 4spdBernie 4spdBernie

    Yeah, it’s got a Hemi. And yeah, it’ll pull the asking $$.

    Like 2
  4. Howard A Member

    Nice. This again, in my usual demeanor, only shows how out of whack this foolishness has become. This car would only be worth 5 figures if it had $10 grand in the trunk. The only reason there’s this much hoopla with 2 (fake) bids, is the fact it exists at all. These rusted faster than an anchor chain on a battleship at sea( rusty enough?) Poppycock aside, one simply can’t ignore what a find this is. It’s perfectly understandable, due to the car choices today, someone would love to go back to that simple time of 1982, when these were cheap, economical transportation, nothing more. Too bad it will cost some fool 5 figures to find out what a lackluster car it really was.

    Like 22
    • RayT Member

      Howard A, my Theory of Low-mileage Cars tells me the reason some have so few miles on the clock is simply that the original owners just weren’t motivated to drive them. I can see this one fitting the bill….

      I guess eventually even snooze-mobiles become Valuable Classics. Just scan BaT.

      Like 7
      • Connecticut Mark

        Low miles, mint condition, cared for by owner who obviously cares for cars, has air con conditioner, will run fir ever, no computer crap. No power windows, keep garaged, will last another 40 plus years. I like it, price too.

        Like 22
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo Member

      We had these, known as an SE, built in Durban, South Africa, which is on the Indian Ocean coast. The factory was only about five miles from the sea as the crow flies so by the time they left the factory for the showrooms they were already going rusty! My friend bought one and within three months he sold it because the rust was breaking through in all four doors as well as the lift-back. The mechanicals lasted forever but the bodies not so.

      Like 5
    • Sk8erboy

      Dude, you always complain about prices, no ones forcing you to buy it

      Like 10
      • Ralph

        Just because he expresses his feelings on the price is no reason to say crap about being forced to buy it…just saying. This was a 7K car NEW. If you can understand what others have said, 14K+ is still too much money for something from that era. For 1982 it was a cheap, economy car, nothing more. But hey, you do/be you…Maybe open your head up and realize we all have our opinions and freedom to express them. No need to be a turd. YMMV

        Like 5
      • 370zpp 370zpp Member

        I bought a new Corolla SR-5 liftback 5 speed in 1981. It lasted through five Vermont winters before I relocated with it to Florida, owning it for nine years total. When I sold it, the original clutch was intact, didn’t burn oil but admittedly was starting to go “flintstone” on the floor.
        Aside from that, it was well made, high quality and an overall great ride. No regrets. Except for selling it.

        Like 7
      • Howard A Member

        Not always, but yes, the greed of the modern day classic car hobby does grind my gears considerable. I seem to be the sites most vocal on that. These outlandish prices for clean hum-drum cars, eliminates the folks that would actually enjoy a car like this. Poor people, REGULAR people, like us, not spoiled brats with deep pockets, used to driving a Lexus with heated butt warmers,, and will be horrified at what they just spent 5 figures on, btw. It will get put in the “garage” with all the other whimsical purchases, and will be sold down the line to the next sucker with money. THAT’S the old car hobby today.

        Like 6
  5. Steveo

    It will get you where you have to go and you can fix it yourself.

    Like 9
  6. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Dad bought a similar SR5 black over grey. Funner car with the extra pedal. Liked the ‘cool’ rotating radio pod suspended below the dash. It did slowly dissolve but not until 100k+.

    Like 3
  7. flmikey

    Forget the car…look at this guys (or gals) garage…impressive is an understatement…that would be my dream garage…btw, nice car, way overpriced…

    Like 7
    • Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

      West Coast Classics – reasonably respectable volume Socal dealer.

      Like 2
      • DN

        But mostly unreasonable prices

        Like 2
  8. Ed H

    “… gutless engine, known for clogging up the road on your daily commute.” change that sentence to: “overwhelmed engine, known for clogging up the road on your daily commute” and apply it to the big threes pickup trucks and full size SUVs. My Corolla zips along slices through traffic and flies under the radar of the midsize police SUVs.

    Like 10
    • 370zpp 370zpp Member

      “gutless engine”? Not mine with the 5 speed. I still have the citations to prove it.

      Like 6
  9. CCFisher

    To those complaining about the price, try to find another one like it. On the off chance that you do find another, I bet the price is similar. No, I wouldn’t pay this much for this car, but I understand why someone into cars like this would.

    Like 10
    • Ralph

      Exactly. Everyone thinks in terms of BAT prices now…So it’s easy to say “not me” when it comes to buying something for double or more the original selling price. Don’t care how rare it is, it’s just an old clean Toyota…YMMV

      Like 3
    • Steve R

      CC, you are right, find another. I wouldn’t pay that much either, but then again, I’m not their target customer. People on this site seem to forget they don’t determine prices, buyers do. Sitting on the sidelines for several decades makes them them out of touch, not experts.

      Japanese cars from this era, especially those with rear wheel drive have been gaining in popularity for years. It’s not just on the west coast either. My mom, who lives in the SF Bay Area, had an 84 Honda Accord with 27,000 miles which she sold 5-6 years ago, a couple of years later she got a call from someone in Atlanta that had bought the car and wanted to ask about its history. She was happy to answer his questions and was glad it wound up with someone who was going to take care of it.

      Steve R

      Like 2
  10. Solosolo UK Solosolo Member

    We had these, known as an SE, built in Durban, South Africa, which is on the Indian Ocean coast. The factory was only about five miles from the sea as the crow flies so by the time they left the factory for the showrooms they were already going rusty! My friend bought one and within three months he sold it because the rust was breaking through in all four doors as well as the lift-back. The mechanicals lasted forever but the bodies not so.

    Like 0
  11. Troy

    Nice car $16,000 over priced

    Like 3
  12. 4 Quarts

    OMG – This is the exact car I had in Jr. College. It was the first Brand New Car I ever bought and paid about $4,500 for it. It was toss-able, economical and carried me through until I got a real job and sold it to buy a RX-7. This would make for a very good car to send your kids off to College with but, not for $15-$20K.

    Like 4
  13. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. Who says that there’s no such thing as a cool Corolla? This was before Toyota ruined it by switching to front-wheel drive.

    Like 4
    • CJinSD

      They were getting pilloried by Car and Driver for still selling rear wheel drive antiques in a market where front wheel drive Accords, Omnis and Rabbits were setting the pace in comfort, efficiency and performance. Only the Accords could rival the Corollas for quality, but the Toyotas were considered pretty obsolete by enthusiast rags.

      Like 0
  14. joenywf64

    Well, it’s good that this is simpler rear wheel drive & it has the sporty hardtop look.
    Not sure if those side rear windows roll down.
    This version with the TRUNK is exactly what i want today as an errand runner …
    I am still not convinced that front wheel drive gives you better mpg than rwd.
    Surely the handling suffers, & the front vs rear balance is ridiculous with fwd.

    Like 0
  15. MoragaPulsar

    Way, way more interesting and appealing than the unending parade of Tri-Five Chevrolets (and similar, you know what they are).

    Like 8
  16. Howie Mueler

    Almost $15k now with reserve not met.

    Like 2
  17. Tom Farabee

    Nice little car just as is. Please! Whoever buys it dont cut the muffler off and make it sound like an annoying Big Band Trombone Horn! Leave it alone. It is wonderful as is. Great transportation.

    Like 2
  18. Patrick Anderson

    There wasn’t an American car made that even came close to this in quality. Not. One. Anyone that worked in that industry should look at this and their faces should burn in shame. Toyota showed the world what a car for the average person could be. You could even say that these were built with some sense of morality. All the industry did was to squeeze every penny of profit from every car they built, and to play every person that bought American for a chump. Including my grandparents, who bought a diesel Cadillac. That smartened up my grandmother. WC Fields said “never smarten up a chump”. Grandma got smart.

    Like 5
  19. Gary

    Needs a stick and a 20R engine. Better yet, a nice little 22R. Pretty car, though. Does anyone remember how these smelled inside in the showroom? I found the smell of the plastics to be horrible. Didn’t smell at all like an American new car of the time.

    Like 1
  20. Felix Gallardo

    Poor, unsuspecting, 80 year-old original owner never saw it coming when he listed it for $800 OBO on Craigslist last month, lol!

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.