It generally recognised that the Corona was the first successful Japanese car to be imported into the UK. A London based Concessionaire and decent dealer network was set up, and the brand quickly established a decent reputation in the press. The cars were new designs, with up to date engineering and design and introduced the British public to Japanese engineering and durability. The Corona name remained in the line up for several decades, despite the numerous and often confusing line up of similarly sized models being available at the same time.
The first models arrived shortly before the 1965 Motorshow, with a range of 1500 and 1600S RT40 Coronas. The 1600 had a higher spec, with chrome more detailing, twin carbs and produced 90bhp. They were the first full sized family cars to be officially imported and helped to create Toyotas reputation in the UK as builders of quality cars. The press reaction was generally very positive, with 4 door saloons, 3 door estates and for a brief period a hardtop 2 door coupe, just for 4 months towards the end of 1967, was sold in the UK. The car was aimed directly at the competitive Cortina market segment, helped by its Italian influenced styling (quite common on 60s Japanese cars), durable build quality and impressive specification.
In line with the typical policy of replacing the body shell at 3 to 4 yearly intervals, the similarly styled but larger 1900 Corona replaced the original in 1968. The normal Corona 1500 model imports continued until 1970, so there was some overlap. The Corona 1900 was available as a 4 door saloon and 2 door coupe (again for very short period, imports were no more than 2 months at the end of 1970), with the estate option not available in the UK, having been taken up by the Crown estate. It was at this point where the Corona range started to diversify, the 1900 model was visually similar to the previous Corona, but was a totally different car, with no interchangeable body parts. This was enough for Toyota to designate the car as the MK II, not the Corona. Toyota continued importing the Corona 1900 (RT60), until 1972 when replaced by the next MK II model, badged as the 2000 model. As before the range used the T series of engines. The importation of Corona/MKII/2000 models start become complicated as Toyota built several cars in this size range with different bodyshape shared badging for different markets.
The true success to the T60 Corona was not actually imported to the UK (RT80), but a new line known as the RX10 series replaced the Corona in the UK pecking order. The non imported T80 series which had lost the crisp ‘shovelnose’ element of the previous generations and adopted a more American influenced body shape. The RX10 series was badged as the Mark II 2000 in the UK, and was available in just 4 door saloon and 5 door estate form with a new range of R series 2 litre engines, the previous model had been discontinued at the start of 1971, and the gap in the line up was left for over 18 months before the replacement model arrived. At the time the cars natural competitors where the C130 Laurel and 1.8 litre 610 Bluebirds Datsuns. As the line had grown in size to now be imported with just 2 litre engines, it allowed the new Carina to fill in the 1.6 litre gap.
Production of the MKII RX10 series, had naturally come to a halt in Japan in early 1976. So Toyota UK decided to import the parallel Corona model into the UK for just 2 years. It was a direct descendant of the original Corona, carrying over the same enlarged series of T series engines. The model was known as the 2000 (RT100) and available as before in 4 door and 5 door estate form. It was released in Japan in 1973, but first imports arrived into the UK in 1976. Outwardly looking like a scaled down Crown, the car was steady seller but import numbers were quite low, often selling more than half the amount of Bluebird selling in the UK.
The MKII lineage made a reappearance in 1977, now badged as the Cressida (RX30) it helped to rationalise the complicated range. The car was sold again as a 4 door saloon and 5 door estate, and gradually became a familiar sight on the UK roads, becoming the 2nd biggest selling Toyota after the Corolla. The engineering was typically conservative, carrying over the same 2 litre engine as the previous 2 generations with less fussy styling than before. Like all previous versions of the Corona/MKII/2000 models, coupe versions were also available, several may have made it via personal imports but Toyota UK felt that the Celica alone had a positive enough image and decent sales to appeal to the UK coupe market.
The final Corona badged car to be sold in the UK arrived in the late 70’s, the actual model was a replacement for the RT100 which arrived in 1978 and was sold alongside the Cressida. The 1.8 5 door hatchback Corona, offered a smaller engine than previous models, with just one body trim available in the UK. Asides from the extra 5th door, it was just as conventionally engineered as before, but allowed a touch of versatility to the family car range – it was noticeable for being the first Japanese mid sized 5 door car to feature a hatchback, beating Datsun by 2 years with their Stanza. The replacement model was rebadged as a Carina in 1984 with a restyled Cressida continuing until the same year.
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