RWD Supermini: 1982 Toyota Starlet


Well, it’s time to say goodbye to our trusty parts runner. Since our recent acquisition of the Miata, our little Toyota doesn’t get much action so we feel it would be better to get it into hands of someone who will use it rather than let it sit in the driveway. We will miss it, as it has been proven reliable and actually entertaining to drive. Take a look at our auction listing here on eBay where we have started the bidding at $200 with no reserve. We are just going to let it go and see what the market thinks it’s worth. This should be interesting.


Supermini is not a term we use very often to describe a class of car here in the United States. That could because we don’t have many running around or maybe because we prefer to use a less flattering title for them. I could be wrong, but I think the name originated when manufactures started to improve on the original Mini concept. Small hatchbacks like the Ford Fiesta and the VW Polo take the idea that Austin started and make it even better. Superminis are always efficient, functional, and usually fun to drive. A small footprint and low weight probably contributes to that, but our little Toyota even throws rear wheel drive into the mix.


The five-speed manual transmission keeps things interesting too. Interior room is generous for such a small car and the fold down rear seat makes it possible to haul large items. We love the combination of efficiency and functionality that a car like this provides. Too bad the looks are less than sexy though. That diving board for a bumper seems excessive, but concerns about the exterior drift away once you are behind the wheel. The interior of our car is in decent shape. There is that scuff on the passenger side of the dash and the deteriorated front seats, but all the gauges and controls work as they should.


There is no air conditioning, so things can get steamy inside on hot days. Luckily, the fan on this thing is more powerful than any I have ever seen so it really helps when sitting at stoplights and once underway, the side vents blow in even more fresh air. The heater also works good when its cold and the rear wiper and defrost are a nice touch for this class of car. The windshield washer doesn’t spray because the fluid tank has a leak, but some epoxy could probably fix that.


Well, not everything works. After driving the car everyday for a few weeks, I was able to discover the little things that need attention. The dome light needs to be replaced, or at least resoldered because there is a bad connection. There were some NOS lenses on eBay the other day so that might be the route to take if a suitable replacement can’t be found. Also, the window rails could use some new grease and the driver side door lock needs adjusted. A few of the seals leak too so if the next owner is going to drive in the rain much, they may want to silicon them up until replacements can be found.


If you have been following our updates on this car, you will know that the rear taillights were both bashed out by hit and run drivers. Even with red tape over them, we got pulled over once because they were too bright. So, replacements were ordered from a junkyard in northern Idaho. Those went on, but I decided to not mess with the crash damage at this time. This job will either take some expert help or a whole heck of a lot of patience. I will throw in a Harbor Freight hammer and dolly set if the next owner wants to attempt to pound it out.


The 1.3 liter four-cylinder runs good and provides a surprising amount of pep. You are not going to win any races, but when combined with a 1,600 pound curb weight, it’s sufficient for keeping up with traffic. We never did get that electric fuel pump swapped out because the mechanical one we ordered ended up not fitting. A fuel regulator and oil pressure switch are recommended for optimal and safe operation. Also, remember that this is carbureted with a manual choke, so unlike new cars, there is a start up procedure. Pump the accelerator once, pull out the choke, and crank her over! Many people attempt to shove rotary or larger Toyota engines into these. I would probably just give this one a tuneup and drive it as is if I kept it, but it would be interesting to see a swap like this successfully pulled off.


The paint is old and tired, but the metal below it is solid and rust free. The air must really be dry out here in this part of Idaho because these older Toyotas were known to rot, but we couldn’t find any rust-through on this one. The spare tire rim did have some of the nasty stuff, but the metal underneath it appears to be unscathed. The suspension mounts all look solid too. The car tracks straight with no noticeable pulling to either side and the tires look new too! The owner added chrome trim rings caused some pitting to the rims, but some sand paper and grey paint should fix that right up.


This car may not seem exciting, but we sure enjoyed it and our short ownership experience gave us a new found appreciation for old Toyotas! It will be interesting to see what becomes of our Starlet. Perhaps the next owner will do one of those crazy engine swaps, or maybe they will just keep it the way it is and use it to commute back and forth to work. Either way, we hope they keep us informed on their progress and that they are able to keep it on the road for a long time to come.

You can view more photos here and feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below.


Starlet Project Updates:


  1. samberr

    WOW those taillights look amazing! hahahaaah love it!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks! Those little buggers were tough to find actually and ending up costing 10% of the car’s purchase price, so they had better look good!

  2. Jim-Bob

    I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of money this car goes for. I’ll predict that you’ll see at least $2,000 for it.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks for your optimism Jim-Bob! That would be a nice little addition to our BF project car fund. You don’t see a lot of Starlets on eBay, so it is hard to say what it’s worth. The ones that have sold recently have been all over the place, but you never know. Here’s hoping!

  3. Brian

    Best of luck with the sale. In the long run, I think you’ll be much happier with both the Miata and the Saab. Those little Toyotas were good on gas, but they were basic transportation.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks Brian. The Starlet was good for getting around, but truthfully the Miata is loads more fun! I will miss it, but I have my hands full with just trying to sort things out on two cars.

  4. rusty

    yep goodluck too..Will watch with interest…hope it goes well..see if you might get the new owner to join us..


    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah, I’m hoping the next owner will keep us updated on what they end up doing with the car. So many people do engine swaps on these that it wouldnt surprise me if it goes that route. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it would be fun to read about.

  5. RickyM

    Good luck. It’s in good nick for a 32 year old Japanese car !

  6. scott allison

    $365.00 bid! Do I hear $365.50? $366.00? Common folks! You won’t see a beauty like this at Barrett-Jackson!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      It is funny that the bidding is going up in $1 and $5 increments!

  7. Martin

    Jesse, I’m going to slap your wrists here my friend. Not about selling the little Starlet, but the fact that you’re just going to throw it out on ebay as it is and see where it lands. IMHO taking a day or two and taking care of all the little things that you list out as needing done makes the car so much more desireable. Most of it could be done with little cash outlay and a Saturdays’ worth of elbow grease. Sure she’s a bit rough around the edges oerall, but fixing the washer resevoir, dome light, greasing the tracks, and giving her a good clean up and engine wash does wonders! A little sanding of the wheels and a coat of the correct silver paint would really bring up the wheels and the whole car! Wash her, clean the windows, and put some dressing on all the black plastic bits. It makes people see the car for what it’s strengths are, rather then all it’s short comings. I feel that as “car people” its on us to pay it forward to the next care takers of the cars that pass through our hands. I’ve always tried to make sure that the cars that i’ve sent on have been nicer than when i got them, even if it’s just a really good cleaning.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      You know what Martin? You are exactly right! I have been feeling bad about not doing more to this one before cutting it loose. I always leave my cars better than found, but apart from some cleaning and the taillights, I didn’t do much here. Truth is, I was feeling a little maxed out with trying to maintain a fleet of 4 cars while still keeping my business afloat. How about this? I will follow your advice and fix a few of the little things before the auction ends. Then I can have a clear conscious and the winner of the auction will be pleasantly surprised when they receive the car. Thanks for the wrist slap!

      • Martin

        You’re a good man Jesse. Glad to hear it.

      • Darren

        I don’t know…the new owner needs to get their hands dirty too. We build relationships with these tubs by fixing and fine tuning the little things that matter to us, the things no one will notice we’ve done. I say point them out and “see where it lands”. The right owner would most certainly thank you in the end.

  8. jim s

    up to $455 with more then 6 days to go, it will be fun to watch this one. i hope the new owner will post updates to the site.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      What do you predict it will go for Jim?

      • jim s

        $810 with 6 days to go. i think jim-bob is right on the money.

  9. Tim H

    I am interested in why you say the Miata is more fun. I like nimble cars, my Miata is my favorite car to drive but Light weight (1600 lb), McStruts, solid rear Vs great suspension and 2200 lb. Is the Miata as nimble as a 600 lb lighter car?

  10. Mark W

    I’m sure it will enjoy its rotary transplant. I’ll keep an eye out for it at Raceway Park in Englishtown ;)

  11. Jim-Bob

    Up over $1200 with 5 days left. Who knows? This thing may see $3k by the time it’s done!

  12. Tim H
  13. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Wow, we are already up past $1,500! I have been busy addressing a bunch of the little issues and will post an update of what I have done tomorrow.

  14. AMCFAN

    I like it and think that what ever price it brings would be a dealio. You certainly couldn’t buy a new car that would achieve the fuel economy for the buy in price. These Toyota cars were honest vehicles. When this car was made the mileage was measured at 100K as most everything was done at that point. That is untill these came along. Most were entry level cars and with little or minimal maintance would out live their American counterpart. The rust would get it way before it quit running. GM and others never understood that by making a cheap entry level car and put your heart in it and build it like you would build your flagship the customers would always come back. I bet the original owner still drives a Toyota! Very cool Jessie, I would hate to see it go. Good luck.

  15. Cap

    I have two 1982 toyota starlets that have been sitting. The yellow one has been sitting for 10 years and the red one for about 2 years, I am pretty sure I can get the red one started.
    The bodies are in pretty good shape, the yellow one has good body and interior. They are california cars originally so no rust issues. I have an extra engine that has 50K original miles on it. Both cars are now in Texas. If you are interested call me 713-851-5355
    I would rather they go to someone that is willing to bring them back up to full charm, not much work to do that.

    • Alex

      I may be interested in your Starlets, any way you can email some hi def pictures or better yet video? My first question about them is are they manual shifts?

  16. andres diaz

    I’ve loved these cars since I was a young buck. Oh, how I would love to see this in my drive way every morning. 2JZ swap would be what I would do. No hesitation.

  17. Tracy M

    Have you sold it yet? l am very interested! My first car was an 82 Starlet! Ohhh how l loved her!

  18. Victor

    I’m interested on the starlet

  19. Raymond

    I have a 1982 Toyota Starlet since 1990. Until 2006 was my daily driver and now is my toy, pride and joy. I use it twice a week, but I always wait anxiously my “Starlet Day”. I bought it with 42,000 miles and now it has 250,000 miles with only the regular maintenance. It´s an outstanding car, strong, reliable, fun to drive, and everything on it has excellent quality. I hope to keep it foreever :)

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