The Good, the Bland and the Avalon
A selection of the best – and worst – Toyotas made in Australia
EIGE cardigan? Appliance on wheels? Uninspired? Some Toyotas certainly deserve to cop a serve, but for every Avalon, Nagoya has provided a model that delivers driving nirvana, such as the 86, ’86 Celica and AE86 Levin/sprinter/trueno. Not one of these is even remotely Aussie-made, but that’s not to say the Melbourne-based factory didn’t turn out some gems over almost 55 years of operation. Consider the shovel-nosed 1964 RT40 Corona, the best of the locally built series by far. While the Pininfarina-assisted styling made it stand out, the real appeal lay in the Toyota’s dependable and user-friendly engineering, down to a slick manual column shifter and torquey 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine. Or, if you preferred, an incredibly smooth (but performance-sapping) two-speed Toyoglide. That family recipe was scaled down successfully in 1967’s KE10 Corolla. It was relatively quick, affordable and – most of all – a hoot to hurl through corners, at a time when most low-priced alternatives were none of the above. Wheels went gaga for the KE10, revelling in its lusty performance and engaging handling. Sadly, later Aussie-built rear-drive Corollas lost the cheek of the Swinging Sixties original. It wasn’t until nearly a year after the series went front- drive in the mid-80s that the real jewel became apparent, courtesy of the 1986 AE82 Corolla Twin Cam 16. Always eager to scream past 7500rpm, the joyous 4A-GE 1.6 nicked from the MR2 developed a fizzy 86kw and hurled the 975kg hatch from zero to 100km/h in under 10 seconds. And while the steering wasn’t hot-hatch sharp, the chassis entertained.
The RT140 Corona from 1983, conversely, was almost the worst Australian-made Toyota ever, despite its angular contemporary styling and appealing dashboard presentation.
Poor packaging, gruff engines (especially the agricultural 2.4), wayward handling and a punishing ride sealed the reardrive family car swansong from Toyota as a complete turkey, way off the cracking pace set by Mitsubishi’s TM Magna.
Yet the early-80s Corona initially seemed brilliant, compared with the preceding RT130 Corona of 1979, with its turgid Holden 1.9-litre Starfire 4 lump.
The final candidate for worst Aussie Toyota ever is still aeons ahead of the later Coronas, the 2002 XV30 Camry. The bloated design sat awkwardly over the narrower-thanintended track, since the Australian version of this American midsizer retained a smaller, earlier platform for cost-saving reasons. This may have also explained the twitchy handling. Meanwhile, extra kilos blunted any sense of oomph from the ageing 2.4-litre engine.
Anaemic Starfire, dud ride and packaging – Toyota at its laziest