Gas Crunch King: 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon

This is the car that made Toyota famous, at least in the US market. Well, not specifically this 1978 Toyota Corolla Deluxe Wagon but the third-generation Corollas, in general. This one can be found on craigslist, or go here when the ad goes away. It’s located in Bow, Washington and the seller is asking $4,500. All it takes is a gas crisis to get people into smaller cars again, but they usually go back to big vehicles once the crisis is over with. The early-70s gas crunch made Toyota a household name in the US.

This car is a bit of a head-scratcher. I found a listing for this car for sale in 2016 and they talked about a replaced, bigger engine than what the seller talks about in this one. But, more on that in a bit. The body looks about the same as it did a couple of years ago, probably thanks to the mild climate in Washington state, at least as far as using literally thousands of tons of road salt goes. Here is a photo of the passenger side from the front from the 2016 listing, just as a reference.

New carpet in the cargo area would have made a world of difference, visually. Or, gasp, dare I say.. dying the existing carpet? There are many YouTube videos on dying upholstery, although I have never tried it. Have any of you? The seller doesn’t talk about rust in the current listing but in the 2016 listing they mention a little rust here and there. I’d want to check it out for sure.

The 2016 listing mentioned a missing globe box door and this is what they must have come up with. I know that parts can be horrific to find for these 1970s Japanese cars but dang. The dash is also cracked so the next owner will have their hands full tracking down some NOS parts. But, it’s has a 5-speed manual transmission and that’s always a bonus, especially in a small car. After the gas crisis in the early-1970s, the E30 Corolla filled a need, to say the least. It is the car that put Toyota on solid ground in the US market and it hasn’t looked back.

To add to the confusion, the seller mentions that this 2T-C is fairly freshly rebuilt but in the previous 2016 listing the seller talks about this being a “recently transplanted 1980 3tc 1800 in front of a 5spd.. A Weber progressive 2bbl, Pacesetter header and 2.5″ exhaust exiting through a Superflow muffler”. I’m not sure what engine is in this car but it looks clean whatever it is. Have any of you owned a third-generation Corolla?

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  1. SAM61

    Neat wagon. Price seems a bit strong given apparent “to do’s”.

    Air cleaner by Briggs and Stratton.

  2. 70kingswood

    I had a 78 with the 3tc and a four speed now it was a rusty two door but it ran great easily chirping the tire going into third when driven aggressively! I would like this one but the wood grain would need to go!

  3. Gearhead1960

    I had a 76 and a 78 with the 2TC engine. Replaced the 2TC in the 78 with a JDM 2TG engine that made for a fun car, adding about 50hp more than stock. It was lowered and had Koni Sport shocks on it that made the car like a go-cart. Sadly, it rusted away….sold the engine for what I paid ten years later. Now all the old skool Toyota freaks are resurrecting the 2TGs they can find and putting them in old Celicas and Carinas.

  4. Sparkster

    Worked at a Toyota dealer in 78′. All the cute gals were buying Corolla’s and Celica’s.

    • SnuffySmiff

      Yup-I dated one of ’em in particular-she had one of the later model FWD Corollas but it had the Twin-Cam engine and if wound up-it would scoot! Both were quite the fun ride back in the late 80’s! Last I heard she’d gotten a job @ Delta-prolly a retired senior stew and/or married to a pilot with grandkids by now…

  5. Beatnik Bedouin

    This could be a fun build. Drop a 4A-GE and five speed in it, do some suspension tuning and have a ball! The glovebox door could probably be found in a SoCal junk yard, as the Toymotors didn’t rust out as quickly in my homeland.

    I think the cargo area would need a replacement rather than a dye. I have successfully redyed the interior of the Low Sierra, as well as a number of other vehicles over the last 50 or so years.

  6. Classic Steel

    Never seen one without rust👀

  7. Mike Russell

    I had a ’79 2 door with the 1.2L & 4 speed in ’87. Then a ’79 wagon with the 1.6L & 5speed in ’95. I’d kill for another one!

  8. Rube Goldberg Member

    While the author knows my opinion on Asian cars, the write up is spot on. When gas quadrupled in price, people panicked, and these became incredibly popular, ( I bet Toyota dealers had a ton of gas guzzlers in the back row) for a couple years, but they didn’t last long and always had doors and fenders falling off. ( but still running great) I don’t recall many of these being modified really, kind of a contradiction, you bought these for one reason only, good gas mileage. Sorry, even though it’s rare to actually see one again, I think it’s hardly a $4500 car.

  9. Danno

    I thought the faux wood paneling was a Pinto thing only.

  10. Greg

    My dad bought my mom a used ’79 wagon in 1981. I was never really “into” that car as a 20 year old, but I do remember it being an automatic. My dad sold it a few years later to one of his co-workers. They wanted it for their son to use for college. He drove it from So Cal to Chicago to attend school. Some time later, he went outside one morning just to find it sitting on blocks and completely stripped. Here it is above when my folks owned it.

  11. Jeff

    I would NOT recommend dying the carpet. I bought a conversion van, unknown to me at the time was that the seller had dyed the carpet red. Unknown until the first time a got into the van at the beach with wet feet and my feet turned red. I ended up having to gut the interior and re-carpet the entire van.

    • Russ

      Had a similar thing happen to me with a water-based dye on a set of seats. Lesson here is to use spirit/alcohol-based dyes on anything that will get moisture on it. I could only find black or dark blue as a spirit-based dye at the time I needed it, so the seats went from mid-blue to navy blue and stayed that way, fortunately! Had to use a shampoo machine to get all the water-based mid-blue dye back out first…

  12. BOP Guy Member

    When the second gas crunch hit (early 80’s), my Dad sold off our 72 Chevy Suburban and Mercury Grand Marquis, and bought a 82 Corolla SR-5 hatchback and a 1980 Datsun 510 wagon. I learned to drive stick on them. Great little cars, but as was usual with my Dad, he sold them two years later.
    This one is a great little find! A bit overpriced given all the interior work (and possible rust fixes!) needed. Like the Scotty mentioned, gas prices fluctuate. When they spike again, think of all the cheap SUV’s that’ll be on the market!!

  13. Gay Seattle Car Nut

    Although I was too young to drive at the time, I remember when the Toyota Corolla looked like this.


    Yes my girl had a 1974 GT Celica….wrenched on it well into the 80’s – just normal stuff as she really didn’t drive it all to much…..and – sadly we are reminded of these cars that kicked the USA in the ass……..

  15. Jon

    When speaking of rust, Bow Wa. is on Puget Sound so with the salt air would want to inspect really well. Agree seems a little high, but am sure it will sell.

    • Gay Seattle Car Nut

      I’ve never visited Bow, Washington. But I agree. Some areas in Washington state do get snow and ice, and therefore we do have salt and sand being laid along our roads.

  16. Mountainwoodie

    These Toyotas were everywhere in California at one time along with the 2 and four door Corolla sedans, I had an earlier Corolla 4 doorwith a 4/5 speed…cant remember.went like a bat out of hell

  17. Maurader

    The 2TC had 97 HP. And it was a true Hemi. As they said back in the day… “it has spritey performance.”

  18. chad

    Scotty: “…A Weber progressive 2bbl…”

    Sam: “Air cleaner by Briggs and Stratton.”

    no, that’s OEM or the “Pinto” carb (a Holly/Weber, Holley 5200, or Weber 32/36). They come w/that foam thing…

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