Toyota Corolla (2nd Gen)

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Toyota Corolla (2nd generation)

1970 - 1974
4 cyl.
70/102 bhp
3 spd. auto / 4 & 5 spd. man
Top Speed:
Number Built:
0 star
Toyota Corolla Coupe
Toyota Corolla (2nd generation)
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


While the original Corolla was a very good, solid and reliable car, many considered it a little too small and underpowered for Australian roads. Toyota quickly recognised the need to make the Corolla larger and endow it with more power. Thus the second generation Corolla arrived in 1970, with its wheelbase stretched to 91.9 inches and power coming from a new 1.2 litre version of the OHV four making 73 horsepower.

The strut front and leaf spring rear suspension carried forward. Slight though the nearly two-inch wheelbase stretch may seem, and with minimal styling changes, the 1970 Corolla was a significantly more comfortable and confident machine than the '69 version. Importantly, the car was finding favour from young women, and so Toyota introduced a new 3 speed automatic transmission to help widen its appeal. While the Corolla could never expect to usurp to Kingswood and Falcon mad Australian public, in global terms the Corolla became the second best selling car!

In 1971 the engine capacity was increased to 1.6 litres and output expanded to 102 horsepower. The grille was redesigned for the 1972 model year, becoming fussier while giving little aesthetic advantage - although it was an attempt by the designers to give the car a classier more up-market look. There were few changes for either 1973 or 1974 other than larger bumpers to accommodate US federal regulations and the introduction of sporty SR5 models with five-speed manual transmissions.

Behind the Wheel

Inside the new Corolla was more comfortable and roomier than the older version. And it also featured better primary and secondary safety features, like progressive crumple front and rear sections, anti-burst door locks, high backed front seats plus a breakaway rear vision mirror, soft control knobs and recessed anti-glare instruments. Other improvements over the old Corolla were a 9.9 gallon fuel tank to replace the small 7.9 gallon version, better ventilation through big fresh air vents at either end of the dashboard, revised suspension rates that coupled with the wider track and longer wheelbase, mean even better handling and ride. There was less road noise too.

But the new car didn’t go quite as hard as the old one because it weighed 50 lb more yet still used the same engine, although now with a little more power, and had a taller differential - 4.1 instead of the old 4.2. The result was that the Mark Two Corolla was marginally slower in acceleration, and despite the taller diff, didn't have a higher top speed. Nevertheless, the performance was still brisk and more than adequate for a small car (and of course the well-proven engine had established its reliability). The standing quarter was a respectable 19.6, so it was still fast enough for around town.

In the overtaking range, the Corolla pulled firmly and smoothly with enough top gear lug to please women drivers who don't like fiddling with gears. Those that wanted extra performance could opt for the Laurie Stewart 2+2 conversion, which proved that by fitting a good extractor and exhaust system and performing a precise dyno tune, the little 1166cc engine really did not require big head jobs and other expensive modifications to make it a performance package.

The Mark 2 was more sure-footed than its predecessor - a result of the new suspension settings and bigger dimensions. There was mild initial – and when you were punting hard the understeer changed gently and progressively to oversteer. The switch to oversteer was in fact a great help for fast driving because it usually came just when you needed it to sharpen up the apex of a corner. The Corolla was also reasonably happy on dirt, although the live axle did like to jump around with speed on the rough stuff, bringing the tail around a little too easily. But the light, responsive steering and tractable engine made it easy to get back onto line. Like the steering, the gear change and clutch were light and easy to use; and that's one of the main reasons the car was so popular with women.

Inside the Corolla

The neat gearstick was well-placed, spearing directly from the gearbox through the transmission tunnel and carpet to the driver's left hand. For the driver, the simple cockpit layout was good. The driving position was superb and without doubt one of the most comfortable of any small car. The tall, curved "tombstone" seats grabbed you firmly and comfortably, providing good lateral support that helped eliminate tiredness. Although the seats had some rake adjustment, they didn't recline and the adjuster cam was finicky. The steering wheel was well positioned in relation to the seat, allowing all drivers, even the very tall, to establish a good long-arm position with comfort. The switch gear - soft to prevent injuries - were simply laid-out: the pull 1-2 for wiper/rotate for washer knob was to the left of the wheel, the pull 1-2 light switch to the right, with the high beam switch/flasher on the indicator stalk.

The bigger dimensions gave the Mk.2 Corolla more room in the rear, and four people could travel in the car for many miles with quite a high degree of comfort; it was well above average for the car's class. But where the Corolla really fell flat was in the braking department: the brakes were still drums all round, unlike the Corolla's competitors. Still, this did not seem to stop the punters going into the Toyota dealership. Even though the lining area was increased from 77.4 to 88.6 square inches, the pedal pressure was high, demanding a big push to get the anchors on hard. And they were unable to withstand hard work, and when being punished would develop seriously disconcerting levels of fade. It was easy to increase braking times from 60 mph from an initial 4.5 seconds (which was around 1.5 seconds longer than most competitors) to 5+ seconds or more.

Another annoying problem was instability in cross winds. The Corolla had a tendency to wander from side to side in strong gusts, forcing the driver to be well prepared to catch it. However, it was not as bad as some other small cars. One of the Corolla’s best points was its huge (for the class) boot with its deep and wide flat floor. With the petrol filler pipe hidden up in the C pillar, the spare wheel under the floor and only minute intrusions from the wheel arches it provided a lesson for other small car manufacturers. The very low lip won lots of praise from car testers too. And its economy was around 36-38 mpg.

At a basic A$2030, with the well equipped SE (radio, tape deck, white-wall tyres) and the SL (radio, tacho, extractor, radials) both at A$2180, it was still the one to beat in the small car field - even if the brakes were miserable.

Toyota Corolla Mk2

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Also see:

Kiichiro Toyoda
The Toyota Australia Story
Toyota Car Brochures
Toyota Car Commercials
Toyota Production 1950 - 1979
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