Vehicle Home: 1980 Corolla

In October of 2014 I moved into a vintage 2-door car, borrowed from my uncle. I had only a few days to convert it into something livable, so I scrambled to use whatever was available. I was pretty surprised with how well it turned out!

1980 Toyota Corolla fully liveable

The Foundation

I needed space. I also needed insulation, as itt was nearly winter. So I removed the backseats and placed Reflectix over the bare metal.

Vehicle Home: 1980 Corolla stripped floor     Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla Reflectix floor 1
Now I had room to move around and it was starting to feel cozy.

But I needed a flat area large enough to lay down on. Luckily, I found a thin board that looked just about big enough for the job, and with a little help cut it to fit. I added cardboard at the end where the board wasn’t long enough.

Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla uncut floppy board 2     Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla uncut floppy board
The board was not much stronger than cardboard, so I stacked a variety of plastic bins beneath it for support and storage. A “hinge” made of foil tape was designed so the top could fold back for access.

Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla uncut board storage     Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla small bins
Next I cut out an area so I could sit upright, adding more Reflectix for comfort.

Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyoa Corolla bare nook   Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla cut floppy board

The Bed

I used a Thermarest mattress pad for cushioning and a warm sleeping bag, which I rolled up each morning. The string was added to keep my bed from sliding off the uneven platform!

Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla bed pad sleeping bag 1     Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla bed pad sleeping bag 2
Once set up, my bed was a comfy, cheerful place.

Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla head of bed     Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla full view with stuff

The Nook

I placed a bin behind the driver’s seat that served as the seat to my chair –with the tipped forward driver’s seat serving as the back! In front of me I had my “computer desk”, a patch of bare wood for my laptop to rest on without overheating. Beside me, a hanging toiletry kit for essentials.

1980 Toyota Corolla nook setup     1980 Toyota Corolla nook backrest
I typically spent the bulk of my days hanging out in my nook.

Food & Cooking

Unable to eat most prepared foods, I needed my vehicle home to have a fridge. I pulled out the passenger seat and added a cheap dorm fridge from Craigslist for $50. Since I was mostly parking in driveways with access to the grid, this worked well. Then I simply added a hotplate and I was good to go!

Vehicle Home: 1980 Toyota Corolla clean cooking area 2     Vehicle Home: 1980 Corolla cooking
Once I even cooked myself oatmeal without even getting out of bed while a massive rainstorm pounded down all around me. It was pretty awesome!


I had two strategies for maintaining privacy: removable 5% tinting and Reflectix window inserts.

1980 Toyota Corolla dark window tinting     1980 Toyota Corolla hanging toiletry bag

The first picture has examples of tinting done badly (left) and well (right). During the day tinting concealed the fact that there was someone living in the vehicle. At night, the Reflectix blocked the light from inside and kept me warmer. Meanwhile tinting hid the otherwise obvious Reflectix when the sun rose.

I had to remove all window coverings, including tinting, in order to drive safely. I’ve since further refined my approach to windows significantly, but this is what I had at the time.


Far an above the worst issue I experienced was condensation. This is because I was staying in Western Washington state during the late fall and early winter. When 100% humidity drops below the dew point it doesn’t matter how much ventilation you’ve got going on, everything will be wet. My windows were literally dripping rivulets of water down into growing puddles soaking all my stuff.

The view out my window most mornings.

My best solution to condensation turned out to be a cute little dehumidifier that uses less wattage than a light bulb. They’re available in various brands, and have a 12 volt cigarette plug cord available as well. Ever since discovering it, I’ve used it in each subsequent vehicle home!


The little 1980 Corolla was my home for about 6 weeks before it sadly ended up dead in my parents’ driveway. Unable to address mechanical issues while my uncle was overseas, I continued to live in it there until I found my next van, Ol’ Blue.