Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
When Nick S wrote to us about our mentioning the Corolla in our "Lemon List", he was quite justified in levelling his criticism - as many Australians have owned one at some stage in their lives. And although they now have a reputation as being the "Nana-mobile", they remain as popular as ever.
Indeed Toyota's reputation for building reliability and quality into an affordable car today goes without saying. But that reputation took a lot of hard work to achieve - and maintain - and if there is one model in its line up that's responsible it is the humble Corolla. The Corolla name is the second oldest in their stable, following the "Land Cruiser", and while never an "exciting" drive, with over 30 million Corollas sold worldwide, it has become the most popular car line in history.
there have been some 9 "Generations" of Corolla. Simplicity was at the core of the first Corolla's engineering. Introduced during 1966
in Japan, the first Corolla debuted in the US and Australia in 1968
. The original car had a 90-inch wheelbase and was available as a two door coupe, four door sedan and two door wagon.
The Corolla was powered by a 60bhp 1.1 litre OHV 4 cylinder motor, mated to a 4 speed floor mounted manual transmission
. The unibody structure had a strut front suspension
and mounted the rear axle on a pair of leaf springs. The car was a lesson in engineering simplicity - and by using as few parts as possible the chances of breakdown were reduced, thus ensuring a level of quality at a price point few believed possible.
Toyota worked hard through the '60s to overcome the then common perception that Japanese products were second rate. Today it is extremely rare to see Corolla's from the first and second generations, and they are not particularly collectable. However, these early models were an important part in creating the huge success that Toyota is today.
Developed by A.M.I, at its Port Melbourne plant, the "SL" was a slightly more luxurious Corolla with about 10% more pep, which sold at roughly the same price as the then current automatic version. The extra power output of about 7 bhp was achieved by improving the breathing and by fitting a free flow extractor exhaust system. Torque, too, was up slightly over the standard Corolla. All this meant that the already agile Corolla had been given a performance boost that put it even further ahead of its rivals - but it was still far from being a Cooper S eater.
From the outside, the SL was fairly readily indentified. Full wheel trims, badges and a matt black panel across the rear all served to warn other road users that this was no ordinary Corolla. A.M.I also offered a special Porsche-type yellow which was exclusive to the SL model. The interior, too, was paid some attention; the perforated vinyl material was cross-stitched and instrumentation included an 8000 rpm tachometer mounted on top of the dash.
Mechanical specifications, with the exception of the exhaust system, remained the same as with the standard Corolla - disc front brakes had yet to come to light - a pity - and wheels and tyres, too, were identical to the standard car. On the road the Corolla SL was quiet and vibration-free and there was none of the throaty resonance that you would have expected with an easy-breathing exhaust system.
The gearbox had the same ratios and synchro on second was somewhat slow. The engine's ability to rev and its good pickup from low rpm was exceptional for a mildly modified 1.1 litre car. Limiting rpm to 6500, you could achieve 25 mph in first, 47 mph in second, and 70 mph in third. The Corolla SL would run to an indicated 85 mph in top very quickly before running out of road, and the manufacturer's claim of 93 mph was fairly spot-on. 0-50 was claimed by A.M.I, to come up in 9.3 seconds, 60 mph in 13.3 seconds and the standing J mile in 19.5 seconds.