Here’s to you, Toyota Corolla. Can you believe it’s been 50 years since you first came into the world? What a mark you’ve made! In no time you cemented your place in the American market, hitting the magic 1-million-cars-sold milestone in only four years. How did you manage that? Your inoffensive appearance? Your weedy powertrain? Your subdued personality? Did they also help foist you to the front of the global automotive market in the ’70s? By the early ’80s, 116 countries were being charmed by your squared-off shape and easily memorized list of standard features. You even seduced General Motors to open its doors, welcome you in, and reshape you into one Detroit’s most visionary models, the Geo Prizm.
Remember your “high-performance” GT-S variant? And the subsequent “high-performance” XRS model? Oh, the laughs we had! And we’ll never forget how, for 2004, you swapped Sandrift Metallic paint for the now-famous Desert Sand Mica. Inspired. You remained otherwise unchanged that year, a bold-but-courageous move you made again and again throughout your storied life. We understand why: You’re a cute caterpillar with no need or want to molt, confident in yourself and sure people will love you even if you don’t become a butterfly. And you’re right: In 2013, you became the world’s all-time best-selling car, just one year before an all-new, 11th-generation model debuted.
Eleven generations—wow—but we can’t say we’re surprised. Your name, which means “the part of a flower that consists of the separate or fused petals and constitutes the inner whorl of the perianth,” is not at all confusing and instantly evokes the image of a elegantly styled compact.
There’s not a day that goes by we don’t see a Corolla—be it coupe, sedan, or wagon—rolling down the street, parked snugly against the shopping cart return outside of the grocery store, or sitting in the far corner of a shabby Pick-n-Pull lot. You’ve long given people what they need and little else. As recognition for your outstanding ability to adequately please, Toyota has surprised us with a cleverly dubbed Special Edition model, limited to only 8,000 examples for the 2017 model year. The soon-to-be-sought-after car has rear disc brakes, which we guess some Corollas still don’t have, as well as paddle “shifters” that have little to no effect on the continuously variable transmission. The Special Edition model is meant to look more aggressive, which means it should be mildly more intimidating than a three-legged, toothless dachshund.
1966: First Corolla goes on sale in Japan.
The Special Edition model is an absolutely appropriate hurrah to celebrate your much-appreciated service. You, Toyota Corolla, are the mortar of the automotive world. A solid investment, a car that each and every one of us would recommend to a distant relative who’s fallen on hard times, knowing the person could sell you for a small loss to a 20-something with neck tattoos who typed “car” into Craigslist. Your unwavering courage to ignore what’s cool and cut your own way through the automotive world is remarkable, and that you found such success by vaunting steadfast reliability and consumer friendliness instead of inventiveness and sex appeal makes perfect sense. So thank you, Toyota Corolla. Here’s to another humdrum 50.