The Good, the Bland and the Avalon

A se­lec­tion of the best – and worst – Toy­otas made in Aus­tralia

Wheels (Australia) - - Headtoheaod - WORDS BY­RON MATHIOUDAKIS

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.