The AE82 Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S is kind of underappreciated, even though it’s one of the best examples of ’80s front-wheel drive hatchback glory.

  • Car: ’80s Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S
  • Location: El Monte, CA
  • Photog: Peter Nelson (IG + Twitter: @16vPete)
  • Camera: Canon 6D + 35-70 EF zoom lens

This particular customized example was parked at Longo Lexus in El Monte, CA. Lexus was hosting a sort of pep rally before Vasser Sullivan, Lexus Racing’s entry into pro-level International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) racing, duked it out with its two RC F GT3 cars in the IMSA race during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend. Lots of enthusiasts were in attendance, and there was a very healthy number of street-going RC Fs and IS Fs parked up in a car show.

However, the FX16 was off to the side, which is often where the good cars rest at events. It was stationed at the front of a parking lot outside the car show, and I’d guess it might’ve belonged to one of the folks working the event or at the dealership.

That’s fine, but I think it should’ve been in the car show, seated next to the newer and shinier fun Toyotas. After all, the FX16 is the epitome of an ’80s hot hatchback: tiny size, miniscule curb weight, revvy little engine, short wheel base, and engineered from the ground-up for fun. Even with that setup, though, they didn’t catch on as much as the Honda Civic hatch or CR-X in the USA.

The FX16 GT-S came from the factory with a transverse-mounted 4A-GE, the same engine that helps feed enthusiasts’ lust for the rear-wheel-drive AE86 Corolla. It might’ve produced less than 120 horsepower when it was new, but it’s still a barrel of fun as a naturally aspirated four-cylinder that revs past 7,000 rpm. Plus, minor aftermarket tuning can net some decent power gains. This video demonstrates its fun factor quite well, and this old Car and Driver road test calls the car a “worthy achievement.”

I’ve seen one or two around Southern California, one of which was ripping laps at a track day I attended a few years back. It’s a shame I haven’t seen more of them, but then, considering it was only sold for a short time, it makes sense.