Myth Buster

Toyota Carina

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Giles Chap­man

1 IT’S JUST A MEDI­OCRE SA­LOON

De­spite a long stint in Bri­tish show­rooms between 1971 and ‘77, the Carina is largely for­got­ten to­day. But it shared its plat­form with the Cel­ica coupé and some of its driv­e­train with the big­ger Corona, with MacPher­son strut front end, a beam rear axle, and coil springs all round. It had servo-as­sisted front disc brakes and a choice of four-speed man­ual or au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and con­formed to Toyota’s trusty lay­out of an in-line petrol engine (a 1.6-litre ‘four’ with an al­loy cylin­der head and twin carbs) pow­er­ing the rear wheels.

2 IT WAS GUT­LESS

Not at all. It was a beacon of live­li­ness for a medium sized fam­ily sa­loon. The Carina could leap from stand­still to 60mph in an ea­ger 12.2sec, and the top speed was 100mph. Han­dling was rather prone to un­der­steer but con­tem­po­rary re­ports were full of praise for brakes, steer­ing and gearchange. From a day-to-day viewpoint, Bri­tish driv­ers ac­cus­tomed to Fords and Vaux­halls were im­me­di­ately aware of the car’s ex­cel­lent re­fine­ment and driv­ing po­si­tion. It was far from poor to drive, while never re­motely pre­tend­ing to be a sports car.

3 BRI­TISH BUY­ERS HATED IT

Peo­ple could be openly hos­tile to Ja­panese cars in the early 1970s; sales took off at the ex­pense of the ail­ing Bri­tish Ley­land. But it wasn’t pa­tri­o­tism that lim­ited sales, more the du­ties levied on Ja­panese im­ports. The Carina’s main ri­vals were the Ford Cortina MkIII and Mor­ris Ma­rina. But the £1183 Carina – avail­able as one model, a none-too-pretty, semi­fast­back four-door sa­loon – had a spec­i­fi­ca­tion groan­ing with things you paid ex­tra for on ri­vals, in­clud­ing a ra­dio, clock, re­vers­ing lights, servo-as­sisted brakes and re­clin­ing seats.

Quasi-fast­back styling a re­fresh­ing change to Bri­tish sa­loon styling.

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