I always look for two kinds of Toyotas when I’m walking the rows of a Ewe Pullet-type yard: Newish Camrys with manual transmissions and odometers showing better than 300,000 miles. Generally, Corolla wagons in junkyards are either mercilessly thrashed hoopties, assaulted-with-glue-gun art cars, or fastidiously-maintained trade-ins, few of which reach the magical 300k-mile mark. When I saw a fairly straight late-production AE92 Corolla in lurid, backyard-applied purple house paint and snowboard-culture decals, I expected to see Grandma’s hand-me-down church-on-Sundays-only wagon that had 120,000 miles when its keys were pressed into the grandbaby’s eager hands… and 127,000 miles when it took that final tow-truck ride to Pick Your Part.
Such was not the case here! This car averaged more than 10,000 miles for each of its 31 years on the road, which means it got proper maintenance for all (or nearly all) of its long and productive life.
The handcrafted Sculpey mirror-hangers show an artistic sensibility that differs from the colored-duct-tape-and-manga-stickers and chug-a-beer-while-dabbing decor so prevalent on Denver-area junkyard station wagons. Sculpey is amazing stuff; I know someone who made a reasonably convincing new Sculpey tooth when her British bridgework fell out.
It’s noteworthy that there are no stickers from breweries or cannabis dispensaries on this car. Skateboard-wear stickers, sure, but no wastoid stuff.
A closer look at the homemade purple paint job offered more clues. Note the lack of overspray on the weatherstripping and plastic cladding, the lights, and door handles that were carefully masked off.
The interior is faded but not abused. The last owner of this car wanted it to be personalized but still wanted to drive it for a good long time. This is in stark contrast to what happens to cars whose owners know they’ll be the very last.
Under the hood, we see the venerable A engine, in this case, a 4A-FE rated at 102 horsepower.
The transmission is a five-speed manual, a transmission still (barely) available in new U.S.-market cars right now. This rig certainly helped with longevity, though I’ll bet it needed at least one clutch job during its career.
I happened to have an East German 35mm film camera on hand, because who doesn’t carry Warsaw Pact photographic equipment to the junkyard these days?
[Images courtesy the author]
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