Why nostalgia for the 1983–87 E80 Corolla might be justified

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Toyota

If the infinitely configurable Ford F-150 is the automotive equivalent of a hamburger, the Toyota Corolla is certainly akin to the everything bagel: Filling the need by offering a cornucopia of toppings atop a bland, affordable, and approachable foundation. For several decades, it’s been delivering the goods for millions of users around the globe. While the 1983–87 E80 Corolla will never get the Initial D fanboism afforded to the AE86, it filled our collective stomach with everything we needed in an honest, simple package.

1987 Chevrolet Nova NUMMI
Chevrolet

While the E80 ushered in the era of the space-efficient Toyota Corolla, no discussion from a North American automotive journalist is complete without mentioning New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) and the badge-engineered Chevrolet Nova which came thence. NUMMI was a win-win for both parties, as General Motors learned geeky stuff like lean manufacturing and six-sigma quality control, while Toyota got a U.S.-based factory to both sell product and to learn the cultural norms that made them a permanent fixture in Kentuckian society. Well, eventually. 

And this, the genesis of all things Toyota U.S.A., was covered in detail by Motorweek in a Retro Road Test. Finished in a loverly bittersweet brown, this 1984 Corolla LE sedan shows us just how far technology’s advanced, even if the good old days did have merit. We will never see a 2240-pound, subcompact Toyota with a manual transmission and a modest 1.6-liter engine, much less one with an optional (1.8-liter) diesel soot-factory. The 14.5 second “sprint” to 60 mph won’t be missed, but the radical 1980’s wedge styling and the $6498 base price should make a comeback.

With enough room for four adults to ride around in comfort, perhaps the E80 Corolla will indeed pull a few reader’s heartstrings. Because if an Eagle Summit can, why not the first wrong front-wheel drive Toyota Corolla?

2021 Toyota Corolla LE
Toyota

Nostalgia is sometimes legitimate: The latest Corolla is rather hard to find with a stick, starts at a smidge over 21 grand, weighs 2910 pounds with zero options, and has a face only a Xenomorph can appreciate. There’s no doubt the E210 Corolla evolved into a fine machine that completely outclasses its original FWD forefather, and it’s certainly nice to see just how far we’ve come in the last 37 years. If only we could do something about getting closer to the original’s $6498 ($16,835 adjusted) asking price …

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