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Reader test: Toyota Corolla

2010-06-22 09:32

Peter's Corolla descending the downstream face of the Mohale Dam in Lesotho.

Peter Ramsden

My previous car was a Corolla 180 GLE, those square ones of about four generations back.
When its clock struck 500 000 km, I was reluctantly persuaded by a slick petrol attendant to depart with it. We sat on the back seat at the garage while his brother counted out the R5 000 hard cash. It had cost R9 000 new or R1 000 per 100 000 km and some tyres; oh yes and a new battery as I had used the original one for a power converter…
My car needs to go to some tough places and I had to decide whether to buy a Cruiser or another Corolla. I phoned my friend Julius in Kampala for his opinion, who thought I was wasting his time and being silly. He has bought a few Corollas in Dubai from the large second-hand car parks where they are graded A, B, or C, depending on the kilometers, and hires them to people such as myself for use in Africa. A Corolla can be fixed on the side of any lake, mountain or river. Every town has a wreck from which to wrestle some parts and for enough money you can even buy parts from someone's working car.
Six men can lift up the back or front of a Corolla and pull it out of mud. I know this because I got stuck up to the chassis visiting a pump station on a muddy river bank after the Demoina floods and asked my passenger/client who was in white shirt and tie to try and push. He was unsuccessful and ended up covered in mud. Funny that he never gave me any work again.

Easy choice

So the choice was easy and I bought a 160 GLi the day after selling the old 180. (I have bought six Toyotas in total, but three were for other people and one was stolen.) To my pleasure I discovered that the front-wheel drive Corolla also had lots of usable torque. A picture of my Corolla descending the downstream face of Mohale Dam in Lesotho is included above. Warning: Don't descend the back of a dam if you can't get back up. And if a Corolla can't get back up then nothing else can.
Some places that I have been in a Corolla include Namibia up the Skeleton Coast, Botswana, the Lesotho Highlands and a Kalahari game reserve with wife, daughter, and full camping gear including stools, cool bag, gas bottle, tent, foam mattress, duvet.

One problem was that the people in the next camping site kept waking me up when they clambered over the bonnet of their Land Rover to get to their roof tent and when they cleaned all the cutlery that filled their 4x4 trailer. The only problem with the Corolla was that when I opened the petrol flap afterwards at Nossob the sand was flush with the body work and I had to dig and blow the sand out before I could reach the petrol cap. Don't worry, I changed the air and fuel filters within six months of that trip.

And, yes, besides the Equator, I have been to the source of the Nile in one of Julius's Corollas, not mine (see picture near source of Nile).

And finally a picture of my Corolla almost run-in (over a decade old and four hundred thou kilos) posing outside an abandoned hotel on the Highlands.
My conclusion: The Corolla is probably not ideal for the executive car park, it doesn't cost nearly enough, nor is it for hairdressers and soccer players as it does not come in cabriolet. But if you need to get from Tshwane to Timbuktu, it might just be the car for you.

Do you have any colourful Corolla stories to share? Join the Toyota Corolla reader test discussion.


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