Out of the Japanese brands that landed in the American Market during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Toyota learned the quickest how to adapt to the foreign to them trends that set the Jones’s hearts alight. One trend realized was the splintering of the American Market, as the generation of Boomers headed to dealerships, they weren’t happy with one-size fits all motoring in escalating finery that had dominated the automotive landscape from The Great Depression through the Fabulous Fifties.
Indeed, after landing a hit with the Corona during the 2nd half of the 1960’s, Toyota went above and below, bringing the baby bear Corolla and the Papa Bear Crown stateside. For those moving immediately out of their Coronas could find themselves in the Mama Bear Corona Mark II.
Granted, Toyota’s spread of baby, bigger, bit bigger and biggest wasn’t as shadow casting as, say, Chevrolet with the size variation and expansion between their Vega, Nova, Chevelle and Impala. However the incremental difference nonetheless allowed the classic American feeling of trading up vehicular station as one’s wealth or necessity dictated, in a more manageable package for more appealing to boomers of the “Me” generation enabled by birth control, sexual-women’s-gay-lesbian liberation that wouldn’t need the space for 2.5 or more kids, or the status symbol to drive to the country club or play golf.
Toyota’s fast escalating reputation for quality, with a design tendency to echo American trends more than European ones made buyers feel more at home. Check the complex grille of this 1972 redesign as Toyota tried to impress the younger Joneses with the good old planned obsolescence familiar to Yankee buyers. In these reputation gaining years small tweaks in design language kept buyers coming back. Of course, as with American cars, both the need for keeping up with the horsepower race and new emissions equipment meant there would be the All-American need to increase displacement as well. The Mark II series featured the sturdy, legendary R-Series engines, punched out to 2.0 Liters in the form of the 18R version and 97 to 105 horsepower depending on emissions equipment market by 1972.
The Mark II Corona also offered an upgrade in Automatics as well, as the Chevy Powerglide related Toyoglide 2 speed automatic lost out to a more flexible 3 speed automatic to keep up with modern highway demands. Where the smaller Corona saw some interstate highway limitations with above legal speed cruising, the Mark II acquitted itself extremely well against base 6 cylinder Novas, Valiants, Hornets and Mavericks as a more potent alternative to the ’67 Corona being traded in. Also, being still rather lightweight and 4 cylinder powered, the efficiency became appealing as well.
Add in the Mark II offered a flexible compact wagon with 4 doors and a liftgate where the only American options were the cramped and low slung Pinto Squire and Vega Kammback or the close to midsized Hornet Sportback, the Corona Mark II Wagon found itself in that goldilocks sweet spot for a decent number of compact buyers.
The Mark II would eventually provide the market scope that would become the sweet spot that the Toyota Camry came to occupy, even if its direct replacements found themselves bearing the Cressida nameplate. If it weren’t for this little car that checked all the right boxes, Toyota wouldn’t have had a bed to sleep in to dream bigger dreams.