The Corolla (KE10) was Japans best selling car when it was introduced into the UK at the 1967 motorshow. The Corolla was the everyman car in Japan and a fierce competitor to the similarly engineered Datsun Sunny. The Corolla went on to be become the worlds best selling car, despite the 11 body changes, it maintains this record to this day with around 40 Million sales. The Corolla was Toyotas volume UK seller, helped by several different bodystyles and engines.
Initially offered as a 4 and 2 door saloon, like the Corona it became clear that it featured the same attributes and quality as the bigger Corona. Initial versions came with 1077cc engines and would have fought in the highly competitive BMC 1100/Escort/Viva market. While this seemingly impossible task to tempt owners away from the best selling cars in the UK, the Corolla was quickly gathering ground on roads in the Far East, Africa and the States. The model continued in relatively unchanged form until 1970, when replaced by an updated version (KE20), with a 1166cc engine and now offered with a coupe and 3 door estate bodies. The 2 door saloon had an unusually long production run, having survived the arrival of the new KE30 model. It was rebadged as the Corolla E, to serve as an entry level model until 1978.
The next generation of Corolla, the KE30 is where volume sales into the UK really started. The car had grown in size, and featured a clean if slightly anonymous range of full body styles. The Corolla was a direct competitor to the Sunny in Japan, where it would often outsell the Datsun, but in the UK the roles were reversed, but the Corolla did become their highest selling car in the 70’s, averaging 10,000 sales a year from the mid seventies onwards, helped by much of the same attributes as the Datsun. Various off-shoot models were developed from the KE30, including the ‘Levin’ performance model which were never imported into the UK, but several bodyshapes were seen on UK roads, including the 2 and 4 door saloon, 5 door estate, a 2 door coupe, and a 3 door liftback coupe styled in a similar vein the Reliant Scimitar GTE or Lancia Beta HPE.
By the time the KE30 replacement arrived in 1979, the car was fast becoming the most popular car in the world. They were familiar sights in almost every country helped by their unrivalled reputation for reliability and durability. The UK didn’t take delivery of the new square bodied KE70, until late 1980 which by then had already gone through one minor facelift. The same body options were available, but the coupe had now started to demonstrate a more sporting nature helped with the reasonable success as a rally car. The liftback continued with the bigger engine variant. The drivetrain was still conventionally engineered, driving the rear wheels. The car continued production until 1983, when a brand new FWD design finally took over, Toyota were in fact one of the last major motor manufacturers to convert their smaller cars to FWD, but still retained the old layout for certain high performing Corolla models.
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