Michael Magill’s time machine has a stick shift, carburetor and 811,000 miles – MPR News
Michael Magill doesn’t drive his father’s Oldsmobile, to paraphrase that bygone ad slogan.
It’s his grandfather’s 1984 4-door Toyota Corolla sedan.
You may spot it on the road in the northern suburbs near his home in Blaine, an automotive dinosaur — a light blue, boxy, rusty relic of the Reagan era.
Chances are you will hear it first.
“I cut the muffler off it and removed all the emissions stuff,” Magill said. The periscope-like tailpipe sticking up from the back bumper is just a novelty. Appearances only. Same with the dead cell phone he has glued to the roof — decidedly the car’s most modern component.
“I’ve been pulled over by the cops multiple times,” he said. “They’re like, ‘Do you know you left your phone on your roof?’”
A dead cell phone is glued to the top of Michael Magill’s 1984 Toyota Corolla, seen here in Blaine, Minn. on Aug. 18. Magill says he likes fooling people into thinking he forgot his phone on the roof of his car.
Ben Hovland | MPR News
It’s supposed to be a joke.
As many drivers prepare to turn the page to electric propulsion, when artificial intelligence is standard equipment on many new cars and wheel-spinning street racers are the move of the moment, Magill’s decades-old Corolla isn’t vintage or a collector’s item, but an enduring curiosity, now with more than 811,000 miles on it.
It still has the original engine and the original transmission. The car pre-dates Magill, who is only 23 years old, but it has been in his family the entire time. His grandfather purchased it from a dealership in Seattle.
“It was given to my father in 1991, who gave it to my older brother, and I got it about two months later.”
Back in the day, the ‘84 Corolla was hailed for its “economy, practicality, dependability and affordable style,” as Motor Week described it. The model marked the changeover to front-wheel drive for Toyota’s popular Corolla and helped make that a near universal vehicle configuration. It was the shape of the future.
Now, Magill’s version can barely hit the speed limit on the freeway. It’s even slower uphill. “Not really more than about 20 miles an hour,” Magill says. “But if you throw it in second gear, it’ll make it.” He’s painted an ironic lightning bolt on the roof and hood.
The passing road surface is clearly visible through the passenger-side front footwell. A kind description for the upholstery is tattered. Magill keeps Vise-Grip pliers to roll down the front passenger window, since the hand crank is long lost.
But the car is still running.
Michael Magill’s 1984 Toyota Corolla features many custom modifications, seen here in Blaine, Minn. on Aug. 18. Some of his updates include a periscope-like tailpipe extension and taped-over wheel wells, which, according to Magill, increase fuel economy.
Ben Hovland | MPR News
Magill’s secret: good luck — the Corolla has never been in a major crash — and regular maintenance. “Oil changes every 3,000 miles, a new clutch every 100,000 miles,” he says.
The Corolla is already a minor internet celebrity. It regularly shows up on Minnesota-centric Reddit, and mechanics have been known to post about it when it pulls in for occasional routine maintenance.
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