We Need To Talk About That 1985 Toyota Corolla GT-S That Sold for $40,000 on Bring a Trailer
If living your Initial D fantasies is really worth new Civic Type R money to you, we’d like to chat.
I'd like to think that I'm at the point where nothing really surprises me anymore. After a year of various and sundry horrors spent Extremely Online as part of my job—a job that sometimes involves waking up extra early to round up clips of Elon Musk on Saturday Night Live, for example—I was hoping I could greet any new development with a "Huh, okay," and then move on. But even I find myself so bewildered by the sale price of a Toyota Corolla on Bring a Trailer that I'm still thinking about it days later.
The car in question is a U.S.-spec 1985 Toyota Corolla GT-S that sold for a staggering $40,000. And even in a time when eye-popping Bring a Trailer sale prices are weekly occurrences, this one has me quite shocked. And frankly, I'd love to chat with the buyer.
First, let's talk about the car. This example of the sporty, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive Corolla hatchback of the 1980s—which was later made extra-famous by its star turn in the street racing anime Initial D and inspired the modern Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ—was sold out of North Carolina. As should be the case for a Corolla, this thing's actually been driven. It boasts 112,000 miles on the clock.
It's in good shape for its age and for something not destined to be a museum piece, but it still has some rust, paint fade, dings, scratches and blemishes. It's a solid A-minus car for a 36-year-old Corolla, Super Eurobeat heritage notwithstanding.
But, come on—$40,000? For that? For the same price as a loaded new Honda Civic Type R, or a nicely equipped new Ford Mustang GT, or any number of objectively excellent entry-level luxury sedans? I'm stunned. Especially for a car that doesn't have, like, 10 miles on the odometer and has also been in storage since Tears for Fears was reliably turning out mega-hits.
Even by Bring a Trailer's sometimes outrageous standards, this car stands out. Their price guide shows this AE86 is an outlier; an extremely modified version with a Honda S2000 motor sold for $30,000 a few months ago, but most of these sell at most in the low-$20,000 range. Most go for $10,000 or thereabouts. This one got into an intense bidding war that nearly doubled its price in under 10 minutes. Someone really, really wanted this car.
I want to be very clear that I'm not judging this buyer. I like the AE86 too. And I get how both Bring a Trailer and capitalism writ large work. Millennials (those who don't work in digital media like yours truly, of course) are finally coming into real spending power, and some of them are snatching up the cars they dreamed about as kids. For many of us, and unlike our Boomer parents, that means going after the stuff from Initial D, Gran Turismo, Wangan Midnight, the Fast & Furious films and so on. We've seen countless '80s, '90s and 2000s sporty Japanese cars fetch big money on everyone's favorite auction site in recent years. Demand exists and some people have money. I get it!
I'm just trying to understand what motivated this person to go after it. I bet there's a story here, and I want to hear it and, hopefully, tell more people about it. As cool as the AE86 is, it's not a lot of car to drop $40,000 on. And while the hachiroku is sometimes spoken of in the same breath as other RWD classics like the BMW E30, it's worth remembering the technological gulf between an '80s Corolla and an '80s 3 Series was far greater than so with their modern counterparts. Let's call this thing what it is: A cheap, affordable Toyota hatchback that happened to be RWD, had some decent sporting credentials for its price tag, and later got famous thanks to drift racers, anime and video games.
Like I said, I want to hear more. I reached out to Bring a Trailer myself and put some feelers out on Twitter, but haven't heard back yet. Owner DCCZONE—if you're out there, we'd love to chat. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whoever you are, I hope you're happy with your purchase, and that you intend to drive the hell out of this thing. It's got a lot of years of sideways fun and tofu deliveries left in it.