Corollas have had my interest since I bought a KE55 sedan in July of 2007 for $300 – about $250 too much, but purely as a bush basher. It’s purpose was terminal in nature, and as such it did an amazing job. In the years since I’ve come to notice that many people have a testimonial to the indestructible nature of these little sedans, and I’m no different. This one was tuned like a piano after a drop from a skyscraper, endured very little other than full throttle, and ultimately around 1 ½ hours without coolant and very little oil. It’d been airborne more than I’d like to admit, and took some borderline sadistic punishment off-road. Rest easy though; this was not a Corolla in showroom condition, and enough of it was far-gone enough that it met a worthwhile and entertaining end less than a year after I bought it.
Fast forward to the start of 2010 and I picked up what I always wished the KE55 was – a KE70 sedan. Something about 1980s ruler-edge styling gave the kesev just the right proportion. This one was purchased as a defected car and as such never saw bitumen. It goes to show how prices have started to go with these, with this one being $850 back in 2010, as a drivable but far from complete car.
If the KE55 gave me an impression as to the durability of these cars, the KE70 surely cemented it. The 4K engine and K40 four speed manual were in a much better state of repair and took five years of abuse – I don’t mean ‘oh golly, you sure gave it the beans to 4000rpm there old chap,’ more like cold starts with oil off the end of the dipstick, and holding it wide open to valve float for the first ten minutes of driving before I stopped to top it up – a leaky sump plug being the only culprit. This is important later in the build thread, so keep it in mind.
The KE70 got a number of small bush bashing mods over the years – all dirt-cheap of course, and all with a ‘roadkill’ nature to them.
What place does this heinous automotive abuse have on this blog? It was formative, and gave me an appreciation for the character of the humble Corolla. While I shied away from mechanical work on my daily drivers in the early days, the Corollas were my hands-on machines and I learnt mechanical sympathy (although I chose to ignore it for the most part.) despite, or perhaps because they were my two cheapest, nastiest machines, their character has remained in my memory far stronger than some of the nicer cars I’ve owned. I think a lot of mechanically-minded enthusiasts will have similar experience.
There is of course a continuation of this story, and neither of these vehicles have completely departed. All will become clear!