This one is just a single photo. The car drove off before I could get more shots and plus also the driver sat inside and didn’t seem like the kind of person who would appreciate my interest.
I have blurred the driver’s face, just in case. Normally I don’t photograph people in cars or cars if there are people in them.
Now: In 1983 Toyota presented the E80, the fifth generation of their answer to the VW Golf and Ford Escort. That makes it mainstream in the extreme. A look back at the previous four generations of Corollas shows cars that are studiously nothing much to look at. Maybe the second generation (1970-1974) had a touch of the American about it, not unlike the Cortina. Even that faint whiff of personality faded away for version three which managed to
look different without being meaningfully different. I can’t imagine the brief for that version. Or I can: I think they may have taken the clay model of the Mk2 and simply changed the radii and altered the nose and tail.
Generic seems to sum up the Toyota Corolla design policy and yet, paradoxically, Toyota Corollas look like nothing else. If one thinks that the Corolla is a watered down mix of other cars’ shapes, you will look hard to certifiably pin down those references. To manage this balance of credible characterlessness requires tremendous control. You have to be able to see the faintest of resemblances and eliminate them. So, if it’s really anonymous and bland it must be a Corolla.
Is there a bit of Irv Rybicki’s GM in this car? And what was that but the least interesting period of GM’s entire history. The E80 is the watering down of a dilution then. I don’t even believe that the similarity is any more than that both the Corolla and the Rybicki cars are lacking the same things. That’s not much of a commonality.
The E80 would appear to be the generic 80s car. It has relatively flat panels, integrated plastic bumpers and a fairly formal roofline. Put it next to any other car from the same period and they are all screaming with character in comparison. What Toyota seem to do – and this takes quite some considerable talent– is to identify what constitutes mainstream design features and merge them into a homogenous form without adding anything new into the mix.
What you get is car which (like the Talbot Tagora) can’t be reduced to a caricature. If you change anything on this car it develops a personality. If you change anything on the car it immediately becomes something else. There is no underlying theme to the car as there is to, say, a Ritmo, XJ-6 or Citroen. Ford came close with the 1980-1986 Escort yet but that car has shades of the contemporary Granada. Even the tedious Mk2 Golf has its C-pillar and headlamps.
So, the paradox of this car is its strong lack of character. Can we say the current Ford Focus gets quite close to that state – it’s also a car I identify by the fact it’s not the other cars (though I do sometimes think they are big Fiestas).
These E80s are not keepers as nobody loves them. They are well-priced, perform decently and as soon as entropy begins to gnaw, they are dumped. Inevitably one or two survive because they freakishly have a careful owner with a garage and little inclination to drive. This car is one, about thirty years old and supernaturally well-preserved. I am pretty sure the driver bought it for not more than a thousand euros, the property of someone who recently ended their retirement. The current owner really would like a ten year old Beemer but this is a cheap and reliable car for not much money. It will do for a year or two.
For the record then, dear readers, the 1983-1987 Toyota Corolla saloon.
[NB: For convenience I have found some studio shots of the E80, above. They show an earlier – I think – version with slightly different headlamps and some black-out decals.]