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Hagerty Employee

Dissecting the four-cylinder engines that helped Toyota dominate the world | Hagerty Media

The pandemic aside, Toyota sold more than 9 million cars and trucks last year around the world. The key to this company's prosperity is its broad portfolio of affordable models and a list of attributes that is topped by value and followed closely by quality, reliability, and durability-QRD, in industry shorthand.
Intermediate Driver

timing chain is one key to reliability- nothing is worse than paying near $1k for a timing belt

I have paid more. They are time bombs.

There are worse things. Timing chains stretch and jump time. My father had this happen in his Fairlane with ~100,000 on the clock. The engine promptly backfired through the carb and set fire to the fuel line. Papa came off I-40 and pulled into a gas station with flames streaming out from under the hood.
New timing chain, new carb, strip and repaint the hood. Have all of this done at a trade school to keep the costs down. Then sell the car to your son.
Pit Crew

I had a '77 Celica GT lift back with the 20R engine and it was one of the best cars I ever owned. It made several cross country trips and got great mileage plus had to power to pass uphill in the mountains. Of all the cars I owned over the years, that was one of the few I would consider buying again to restore.

I had one myself that was frequently mistaken for a Mustang. They are nearly unobtainable now. The big downside is that I put three engines in that car during the same general period of time that I ticked off 290,000 miles on my '79 Coupe Deville. That experience has forever left me with the notion that the mantra of superior Japanese quality has a healthy dose of hype attached to it

Was this a cut/paste of various internet postings, or did Hagerty actually pay money for someone to write this? That "temperature-sensitive viscous drive" fan, "neat and tidy" air injection plumbing and 5-bearing crank all sound pretty nifty, but I came here to see what all the fuss was about and basically read a vintage press-release. Where is the story about Shoichiro Toyoda threatening an engineer with a broken connecting rod, or the anecdote of carb-icing up Mt. Fuji? Boooring.

I can peruse those cutaways for hours. Amazing to think they were drawn by hand with drafting instruments. Remember instruments?!
Intermediate Driver

I have a really cool and special 1980 Toyota Celica GT Sunchaser conversion for sale with the 20R motor in it. Amazingly, the car has less than 90k original miles, and is one of just 500 converted by Griffith Motor Company for the 1980 model year. It was a $3,000 option at the time, which wasn't chump change, for sure. But this car still drives like absolute butter, and the 5 speed shifts smoothly all the time. I would not hesitate to drive this fun, targa-convertible absolutely anywhere. And if anyone ends up buying it, I will happily tell them they can leave their trailer at home. Hard to believe I still have the car, esp considering its rarity and the fact it can be had for just under five digits to the left of the decimal....heh.
Intermediate Driver

The 20R was built like a truck. When I bought my Celica GT lift back I needed to make it as quick as it looked. Motor wasn’t really going to be a rev happy thing so I turbocharged it! Lasted forever. Besides fan belts and brakes, only had to replace a pin in the shift linkage that backed out. Was an awesome car and drive train.


Timing chain for sure, especially on a transverse mounted engine. Oh and especially on interference engines! Thank goodness they didn't do it on mainstream on V8's.

I'm on my second Toyota pickup with the 4-banger. Never had any engine problems. Wish I could say the same for the hydraulic clutch in my 2010.

Solid motors. While not a performance icon it was a reliability icon for sure.
Intermediate Driver

I inherited my folks ‘78 Corona with the 20R in it while I was in college in the early ‘80’s. Absolutely bulletproof! Regular oil changes, valve adjustments, and tune ups (which I was easily able to do myself) kept it running perfectly for me until 1989 when I got my first new car. The only problem that engine ever had was a cracked distributor rotor. Seriously, that was literally the only repair that engine ever had in the 11 years it was in our family! Simply brilliant!

The key is they worked to find the weak spots in a 4 cylinder engine. Stiff block, timing chain vs belt and sealing the engine up were three keys over most 4 cylinders of the era.

Many of our better 4 cylinders today have followed this and added tech to boost the HP to nearly twice the V8 HP of the 70’s. My Ecotec Turbo ran 23 psi daily 300 hp with no issues and used the things that were found in this engine.

Now for the rest of the car Toyota had not put the efforts there for the salt regions as these cars would rot apparat before the engine dies. Today an old Toyota in many Midwest regions are a rare sight while we may have some haggard old Chevy here but they are still on the road.

Many folks today with timing belts are on borrowed time. They are lucky many last longer than recommended. Hyundai in particular.
Intermediate Driver

The funny thing is that those 20R and 22R engines that are unkillable in daily drivers and African technicals are total grenades in Lemons racers. Murilee Martin's web site used to a have a gallery full of Lemons engines with thrown rods.