Today’s Rare Ride is a case of forbidden fruit. Though North American consumers could buy something similar, this Rare Ride was never on domestic shores as new.
It’s the Toyota Corona 2000 GT, from 1974.
Toyota’s Corona line entered production in 1957. A compilation of parts from a recently deceased Crown, it was made to fill the space the (now larger) Crown vacated. Over the years the Corona grew in size and model variation, and became an important global model for Toyota. Additional production began in Australia in the sixties, and by the early seventies it was also produced in Indonesia and South Africa.
After a short fourth generation of just four model years, the fifth-gen Corona entered production late in 1973. By that time it was a midsize entry, and occupied a place between the smaller Carina and the larger, more luxury-oriented Mark II. Body styles included two- and four-door sedans, a five-door wagon, and the rakish two-door hardtop coupe.
As expected, North American Coronas had big, chunky bumpers to meet new crash standards. Though a variety of engines were used in other markets, North American Coronas had just one: the 20R. Toyota liked the 2.2-liter unit for North American applications. Its 97 horsepower also motivated the Hilux and Celica of the period. Transmissions included three- and four-speed manuals, and a three-speed automatic.
For its domestic market only, Toyota built two hotter versions of the Corona. Dubbed the 2000 GT, a sporty sedan was accompanied by a hardtop coupe to form the top of the Corona line. These models used the twin cam 18R-G engine. A two-liter unit designed to fit into the small car tax bracket in Japan, the 18R-G produced 143 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque in a car that weighed around 2,200 pounds. North Americans stayed content with their 97-horsepower truck engine.
The Corona faced an uphill battle in the US. Front-drive economy was all the rage, and entries like the new Honda Accord and Subaru DL gained market share. The fifth generation finished off the seventies before it was replaced by a short-lived sixth generation that persevered through 1983. It was not missed, as Americans embraced the brand new front-drive Camry with open arms. By 1983 there was a front-drive Corona in other markets, as the model began its descent. Through the remainder of its life (model year 2002) the Corona turned into a Corolla-like vehicle for markets outside North America, and eventually spawned Caldina wagon variants.
Today’s burgundy beauty is a 1974 2000 GT coupe. All 143 horsepower are shifted via the five-speed manual, and everything looks in original condition. 2000 GT is yours for $25,995.