Along with the key to my test vehicle, I feel like I’m being handed a piece of automotive history.
The 2021 Toyota Corolla, in its lovely iridescent blue paint, looks like a little gem. It’s a large gem in the crown of the Toyota Motor Corporation, though.
The Corolla first launched in Japan in 1966. What was going on in Japan 55 years ago?
Executives at Toyota foresaw a Japanese ‘motorization boom’. Families were moving to the suburbs and the need for family cars was about to explode.
Other factors in Japan during this era included the burgeoning television and the advertising dollars that were moving towards it, rather than newspaper. According to Toyota’s Global website, everyone was thinking about the 3 Cs (air-Conditioning, Colour TV and Cars).
The prescient thinking of Toyota executives brought about the construction of a sprawling plant in Takaoka which would be solely dedicated to the manufacture of the Corolla, at a rate of 30,000 per month.
Shocking! said the media, considering Toyota was building 50,000 vehicles total per month.
Forward-thinking Toyota execs saw big things ahead for the little Corolla
The first-generation Corolla went on sale in November of 1966. The sub-compact was technologically advanced for its time. A floor-shift transmission inspired by European vehicles, for example, as opposed to the standard column shifter, was a first for Japan and Toyota. They saw it as a requirement for the coming ‘highway age’.
Another first in Japan, the Corolla had a MacPherson strut front suspension which lightened the vehicle and lowered manufacturing costs.
Tatsuo Hasegawa, known as the Father of the Corolla, foresaw the globalization of his ‘creation’ and wanted the vehicle to live up to its responsibility to bring happiness and well-being to ‘everyone on Earth’.
Best-selling car in the world
By 1974, at the ripe old age of eight years, it had become the best-selling car in the world and has remained at or near the top, fighting it out with that other global happy car, the Volkswagen Beetle. In 1997, the Corolla finally won, becoming the best-selling nameplate in the world, surpassing the Beetle.
In July of 2013, Toyota reached the milestone of 40 million Corollas sold over eleven generations. Today (as of July 2021), 50 million, a new milestone for Toyota, have been sold in more than 150 countries around the world.
Save the manuals
Wow! I love the fact that 55 years later, the 2021 Corolla is still available with a manual transmission, one of the last few survivors of the manual gearbox. I also love the hatch version.
It’s not quite a ‘hot hatch’ but I sure had fun winding it through the bends in the roads just outside of Halifax through Ferguson’s Cove, Portuguese Cove, Ketch Harbour and into Sambro. The six-speed manual transmission with rev matching definitely boosts the fun quotient.
Always ahead of its time, in 1966 the 1.1-litre, 60-horsepower newborn Corolla was equipped with two-speed windshield wipers and impact-absorbing steering wheel, column and headrests.
Today’s version, with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, has standard safety features galore and, of course, Toyota’s impeccable fit and finish.
The word ‘corolla’ is Latin for ‘small crown’. For this gem of a Toyota, it’s a well-deserved moniker for the vehicle that reigns as the best-selling car on the planet. Maybe I should be tooling about town in the Corolla wearing a crown. Yas, Queen!