Jason Perkins: From the Coca Corolla to Sexy Supra

Cars People

Jason Perkins moved from Corolla to Supra in a couple of decades of Toyota ownership. There's a common thread...

My first ever car was a 1985 Toyota Corolla hatchback. It came in a kind of cola brown. Of course we called it the Coca Corolla.

My grandfather had cut me a deal when I was a kid. I had to promise not to get a motorbike, a tattoo or an ear ring. If I didn’t have any of these by the time I was eighteen he’d buy me a car. He didn’t welch on the deal.

It was 1994 and I’d managed to make it through to adulthood without offending my old school gramps and passing my driving test first time. But he didn’t care about what was cool. They never do do they? This Corolla wasn’t cool in any way. It was nowhere near old enough to be a classic – and even that kind of retro cool thing hadn’t manifested itself anywhere as yet. This was a simple little motor. Safe. Inconspicuous. Inoffensive. It was a 1.3 and must have been cheap to insure (gramps was good enough to sort that out for me into the bargain). But like most people’s first cars, I loved this little motor. It was my freedom. It changed everything.

Little did I know that 22 years later I’d still be obsessed with the Japanese brand. I blame gramps.

Over three million Corollas have been produced. They range from the bland to the classic, from the workaday to the breathtaking. I never once thought that the Corolla was something to brag about – and it wasn’t until I bought my first Supra that I really thought I had arrived. But to me there’s something intriguing about the Toyota brand and the Corolla as the most popular and successful brand-within-a-brand. The world’s biggest car company – out in front – as the strap-line always said, in terms not only of global sales but manufacturing technology, forward-thinking design and passion for what mass market motors could really be.

I’m not sure why I kept buying Toyotas after the cola Corolla rolled up to the scrappers. It might be that I am as conservative as a Tokyo Salaryman or as safe and steady as the brand – but one thing you know about Toyotas is that they work. And they rarely go wrong. Compare that to the eighties Fords and the Vauxhalls that my mates were all driving in the 1990s and you’ll see what I mean. I spent my early twenties driving rather than getting greasy. My mates might have had more go faster stripes and Halfords accessories than me, but I was always the first person they called when they wanted a lift.

I might have been attracted to the Toyota brand for reasons of security and reliability – my Supra is sexier and probably more powerful than most things to roll off a Dagenham production line – and definitely went beyond these cars in terms of their pure sleekness and exoticism. This is the third I’ve owned, and it’s pretty impractical to say the least. It’s a bugger to park, wider at the back than the front and with almost zero practical visibility out the rear. The bonnet is way too long to be fun around town – and the 3 litre engine is juicy as all hell.

It’s a 1994. I bought it on import and it was a bit ragged, especially the interior. But I love it. It has never let me down. There’s a few annoying rattles in it – and as I only use it now and then these come to the fore when you give it a shakedown in the country lanes where I live. But open it up on a sweeping dual carriageway or a twisty mountain road over in Wales as I do on occasion and the long legs of the gearbox combine beautifully with all that power and it doesn’t get much better.

But aside from the way that it drives I love the Supra because it looks like nothing else. There a rounded, space age feel to the design that is muscular as well as sleek. It’s as if someone out there in the Toyota land wanted to create a muscle car for a whole new generation. A mate of mine often tells me there’s something Star Trek about it. He has a point, particularly when you look at the rear spoiler and the light clusters at the rear. One thing is for certain – there’s never been a car that compares to the way it looks.

Come on Toyota. How about a Supra for the Millennial Generation?