Parked 20 Years: 22k Mile 1986 Toyota Corolla

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Having a slightly less awkward profile than I do, this 1986 Toyota Corolla Liftback is a car that’s rarely seen today and that makes no sense, they were really good cars. Made in California alongside the Chevrolet Nova, this Liftback example can be found posted here on craigslist in Stony Brook, New York, and the seller is asking $7,500. Here is the original listing, and thanks to Mitchell G. for the tip!

“It didn’t cost that much new!!!” Well actually, it did, so there’s no discount for this Corolla being 38 years old. It seemed like these cars were everywhere a decade or two ago but I haven’t seen one in person in years. I like the unusual factor here, along with the reliability, size, utility of a hatchback, and its condition. This one just just 22,514 miles, so there’s that, too. The seller says that there appears to be some paintwork on the inside of the rear passenger door.

Sadly, the seller is very short on photos as per 99% of craigslist ads. We don’t get to see inside the hatchback area and that’s very disappointing. Worse than that? Yes, there are no engine photos. New United Motoring Manufacturing, Inc (NUMMI) was a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors and was based in Fremont, California. They made the Corolla and also a similar Chevy Nova. We saw a really nice $2,200 ’85 Nova a few years ago here on Barn Finds.

As expected for a car with 22,500 miles, the interior looks basically like new. I can’t tell if that’s some sagging on the driver’s side bolster or not, but otherwise, it looks great inside. There’s one other possible buzzkill inside – this car has an automatic transmission. The AE82 Corolla was made in a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback, or liftback, from 1984 for the 1985 model year until 1988.

The backseat looks like new, but I’d rather see the engine. I believe this one has a Toyota 1.6-liter SOHC inline-four with around 75 horsepower. The automatic holds back the fun factor a bit but the seller says this car was owned by an elderly woman who passed away and it sat in her garage for 20 years, until her grandson brought it back. When was the last time you’ve seen a Corolla liftback like this?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Butch smith

    When I met my soon to be wife in 84, she had recently bought a new LE 4 door sedan. Damn thing was indestructible! Went the highway sounding like a happy little sewing machine. Loved it!

    Like 12
    • Angie Manolis

      Definitely was a great car back then! Would love to have this now!

      Like 0
    • JustPassinThru

      Yes, and compared to the crude, rough-running domestic offerings of the time…still carbureted, with electronic controls like Lean Burn or variable-venturi, that sometimes worked, but never for long…we know why, and how, the Asian makers, led by Toyota, took the market over.

      I miss those cars, too. I moved from a Pinto to a Datsun PL620, and while the Pinto was a credible car, better than modern critics assert…the Lil Hustler lived up to its name, singing a song of joy as the pedal was mashed. What it lacked in speed, it made up for in eagerness. It was a happy revver – and took me to Alaska from Ohio, and back again.

      Alas, those days are gone, now. Even the modern Asian offerings, are not as common-sense and reliable as those of 40 years ago.

      Like 8
      • Joseph J. Salas

        Totally agree, I was always
        around Toyotas, Datsuns &
        Imports in general. Where I
        am from(Guam), Japanese
        Vehicles are the norm. The
        Fact is, they’re affordable..
        reliable with enough power
        for the Island. So, yes. The
        Modern Imports..They’re to
        sophisticated w/modern…
        This & That..NOT like they-
        used to be..Simple A to B’s.

        Like 7
      • bone

        Not much was carbureted by 1986 , and Toyota went to EFI pretty much when everybody else did. This car, like most Toyotas has a very dependable , though low powered engine, but they had cheap plastic interiors and the thin sheet metal was good fodder for the tin worm. This car was lucky to have been stored away ; it would not have lasted long on the East Coast

        Like 0
      • TheGasHole


        Like 0
  2. Herbert

    Why ignore a great car like this? I wish we could hear some back stories on this web site.

    Like 10
    • JDC

      I agree. These are the kinds of cars I love seeing on here. Hemmings and other sources are full of muscle cars and exotics. But where else can you find hidden gems like this.

      Like 16
  3. Aussie Dave Aussie DaveMember

    Bought one of these new in 86 for the girlfriend (then wife, then ex wife)
    The issue we had, there were 3 body types, settled on the sedan, then 4 trim levels, (that was easy, always buy the top level for better re-sale value) Then manual or automatic, MANUAL, lol no contest.
    Then the colour, we had a choice of 36 exterior colours, and 18 interiors, took us hours to decide. And then we had to wait months for delivery.
    One of the very few front wheel drives we owned (I’m a hoon, so rwd is the only way to go)

    Liked it that much (well she did) bought another new “roller” for her in 94.

    Like 1
  4. CarNutDan

    Rare ? Yes desirable? Not sure, but I remember the 2 lunch ladies at my elementary school who wore their makeup like mimi on the Drew Carey show, both had the badge engineered Nova versions. It might be welcome in a 80s Era movie or Radwood car show though

    Like 8
    • Fox owner

      Liked for makeup like Mimi on the Drew Carey show 😁 I remembered these things being everywhere back in the eighties and I like that tall greenhouse. Not awkward looking at all. Would really rock with a five speed though.

      Like 6
  5. Bo

    Love it! I’m sure it is not everyone’s idea of a classic but it sure is nostalgic for a certain generation.

    Like 7
  6. Aussie Dave Aussie DaveMember

    Forget to add, Holden (GM-H) badge engineered the roller too, badge Apollo, most went for the Toyota.

    Like 7
    • Bob S

      I had the Nova version of this, same color, it was my 70 mile a day work vehicle for 5yrs, bought it 5 years old. Totally indestructible with regular maintenance, only difference is I had the 5 speed manual. I’d have no problem parking this in my driveway, but not at this price. Everything is going to need to be gone over.

      Like 8
      • Bob S

        The only reason why I had to stop driving it was because living in the Midwest, it was a preferred cuisine of the tin worm.

        Like 3
  7. MrBZ

    I sold new Chevys , 84-87 models and the Novas were without a doubt the most reliable vehicles on the lot. Not great lookers, but fun to drive with a stick. Cool car to my old eyes.

    Like 7
  8. Bakes

    My ex had a 1986 Nova variant of this car when we met. It was an awesome car, we called it the tardis because you could hold massive amounts inside of that interior, especially with the seat down. It was a great car, it finally gave up the ghost when the thermostat went bad and we took it to Auto Phall, err, Palace, who let it run for 15 minutes outside, warping the head. The mechanic said what happened and his manager took him into the back room and came back and flat out lied to us We sold it to a local garage who apparently repaired the head and then used it as a loaner car for a while.

    Like 4
  9. Jesse Stout

    I love seeing cats like this on here, too! 🙂

    Like 3
  10. Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

    Hey, wow! I never would have guessed there would be so many positive comments, that’s great! I love dusty muscle cars, but there’s just something about these unusual, everyday vehicles that get under my skin. The memories and remembering what life was like back then, what I was doing, what I was looking forward to doing with my life, etc. I could never afford a muscle car, and certainly can’t now unless they go back to 1970s prices again.
    I’d also want a Nova version of this car. I think it would be fun to own, and not just for the reliability, but for showing it and seeing the reaction at Cars & Coffee-type events.

    Like 8
  11. Troy

    Definitely would want to do the timing belt and water pump and replace other rubber parts but this will make someone a nice daily driver

    Like 5
  12. CarbobMember

    My wife and I bought the station wagon version of this new. She went from driving a 1968 Oldsmobile 98 to the Corolla. She had one week to learn how to shift the five speed. Great little car. Wish I still had it or that similar vehicles were made today.

    Like 3
  13. Woofer2609

    Pretty sure these were carburated engines. Not going to hate on the car, but they really aren’t a looker, and with the automatic, kind of a dog. Good for a collector plate, imo. Driven these and they really came into themselves when they were fuel injected and manual transmission. I’d pass.

    Like 0
  14. nlpnt

    These 80-series Corolla FWD four-doors live in the shadow of the 2-door sport models that retained RWD for one last generation and have been sought-after classics both here and in Japan since they were little more than a decade old thanks to Initial D.

    Toyota let their hair down a bit on the hatchbacks and wagons – sometimes, as with the slightly smaller Tercel wagons, the result has a niche following that sees its’ quirky charm, in other cases like this one it seems as though it’s lost on people.
    The “COROLLA” reflex panel between the taillights, a period accessory, helps; Toyota’s stinginess in holding blacked-out window framing out for the higher LE trim level doesn’t.

    Like 0

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