Japan's growing middle class thought the Publica (Toyota's entry level car in the early 1960's) was too boring while the Crown and Corona were too expensive for them. At this time, a Toyota engineer called Tatsuo Hasegawa had noticed that the Opel Kadett was doing very well in Germany. The Kadett was a very light car that looked good, was fun to drive and was replacing the VW beetle as the car to have in Germany. Hasegawa designed the Corolla around the same ideas as the Kadett. It was sized between the Publica (700cc) and Corona (1500cc), looked classy, had modest power, yet was economical and inexpensive.
Management originally wanted to use an existing 1000cc engine but it was heavy and low powered. Management only let them design a new engine as long as they could find a use for the old engine in another product - so they put it in a truck. The Nissan Sunny (also called the Datsun 1000) was to be released a few months earlier than the Corolla with a new1000cc A10 engine, so Toyota ordered the engineers to increase the engine by 100cc. This was hard to do so late in the design scedule but it was done. It also raised the Corolla into the next tax class but this gave it more prestige with Japan's growing middle class. It was advertised as "the 100cc advantage" and "the extra 100cc gives extra comfort".
(The 100cc Advantage Ad [circa 1966])
At the time, Japanese owners prefered a
3 speed column shift - more gears meant more gear changing
(a sign of a weak engine) and floor shifts were for trucks.
But America was going to 4 speed floor shifts, so Toyota
decided to go with the new trend before other Japanese companies
The new factory was built with the latest
automated and computerised facilities. Lower production costs
reduced its selling price to Y432,000 - 5% lower than the
Sunny (Datsun 1000). Combined with disc brakes, 4 speed floor
shift and MacPherson suspension, it outsold the Sunny by
The Corolla was sold under 2 names - "Corolla" and "Sprinter".
The Corolla was offered as a 4 door sedan, a 2 door sedan
and a 2 door van but not as a fastback coupe. The Sprinter
(never called a Corolla but sharing most parts) was offered
only as a fastback coupe.
Corolla's first export destination was
Australia in November 1966.
By March 1968 more than 3000 cars were being exported to
many countries every month. In April 1968 the Corolla was
introduced to America. Its selling price of US$1800 catapulted
total US sales to 71,000 that year, 130,000 in 1969 and 208,000
Wayne Stephenson's Corolla Production page
1ST Gen | 2ND Gen | 3RD Gen | 4TH Gen | 5TH Gen