1983-85 Toyota Sprinter - Future Classics

By: Joe Kenwright

toyota sprinter toyota sprinter

Conspicuous by their absence today is the huge range of tiny but fun rear-drive Japanese coupes that started arriving in the late ‘60s.

From Unique Cars #318, Nov/Dec 2010

Any Aussie who has owned a small Mazda, Datsun or Mitsubishi coupe from this era would be made of stone if these beguiling little cars still didn’t put a smile on their faces. Compared to the Minis and baby Fiat coupes they often replaced, they were reliable, long-lived and simple to maintain, albeit at the expense of some character.

These coupes continued into the 1970s, often as fully-imported niche models that supplemented locally produced sedan equivalents. No one did it better than Toyota. The company almost bookended the trend with the first Toyota Corolla Sprinter in 1968 – two years after the pioneering Mazda 1000 coupe arrived – then kept it alive until 1985. Because the AE86 Sprinter outlasted the final Mitsubishi Lancer, Datsun Sunny and Holden Gemini coupes, it was the only one to exploit next-generation aero styling.

This last Sprinter was not only the last rear-drive Corolla, it was also the very last affordable rear-drive coupe ever likely to be offered in Australia. Because most have since been heavily modified or driven into the ground, few are left in original condition. A survivor with the right local history is a classic in the making.

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The way Toyota kept these imported Corolla coupes alive and separate when they were often two years ahead of their locally-produced Corolla siblings was masterful. The T-18, Sprinter’s immediate predecessor, arrived in 1979, two years ahead of the Australian-built Corolla of the same generation. After the Corolla badges were deleted, few linked this coupe with the next Corolla sedan, even after it arrived. Toyota again removed all Corolla badges from its local 1983 Sprinter replacement. It was part of a new 1983 Corolla range that included a FWD series that wouldn’t be built here until 1985. Our Sprinter coupe was part of a parallel RWD Corolla range that included sedan, notchback and fastback coupes sold under the Sprinter badge by a separate network in Japan.

The wild twin-cam GT was favourably compared to the Alfetta GTV in Europe and underpinned a Group A rally program. The notchback Levin coupe raced at Bathurst. Yet the only Sprinter import offered to Australians was the fastback powered by Toyota’s new 4A-C

SOHC 1.6, shared with the last locally produced RWD Corollas. It left this Sprinter with heaps in reserve, hence its unbelievably long life.


As import prices soared after 1986, Sprinter no longer made sense against cheaper, quicker twin-cam FWD models built locally. After the Seca liftback from the new twin-cam local range became the premium Corolla model, the AE86 Sprinter was quietly cleared before it had to be upgraded for unleaded early in ‘86. And with it, an amazing era ended without ceremony.


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