Home Run: A Toyota Corolla That Does It All
I remember years ago I was selected to be a judge at a car show for classic Japanese cars, so many vehicles had the right mods for multiple categories, one car stood out for me and had all of the period correct JDM parts, original paint, and a pristine engine bay. So as you do when judging, you fill out your choice to receive the award for whichever class you think a particular car fits but of course not knowing how these things work... I got a bit of push back because the wealth had to be spread amongst the guys and gals who put in the late nights getting their car looks perfect. The car I was wiping my own drool off of got an award of course, but it also made me think of other people's cars a bit differently.
Some cars are made for show, others for go, people sometimes just want everything original so they can cruise around in and enjoy a bygone era; others want to rip around a track as fast as possible. There are a few people out there who want the most out their rides without much compromise, they want it all, the looks along with the speed and of course attention to detail that makes the purists nod with admiration. Julio Toro is a man who wants it all and made it happen with his 1982 TE72 Corolla liftback, it really caught my attention because it had a very "JDM" look to it, like a bit of wild enhancements added to an exceptionally clean shell but that's all I could tell until I took a closer look.
The first thing that struck me was the engine bay, a 1992 Lexus LS400 engine backed by a W59 transmission sits perfectly on the AE86 crossmember like it came this way from the factory. Four liters of modern V8 power is more than enough to move a lightweight chassis like this but to retain the dimensions and feel a Toyota Van rear end was used along with a custom driveshaft and parts from Xcessive like the engine mounts. Of course just looking at the engine bay you can see more attention to detail was paid beyond the fresh blue paint, gold accented valve covers and strut bar, the wiring was expertly tucked by Julio's good friend Matt Kennedy removing the clutter and giving it a show car look.
Having to take in more of the car I instantly took a step back to admire some of the exterior parts I maybe didn't pay attention to at first, JDM KE70 headlights, front bumper, grill, and a custom air dam. Some of the other touches like the power folding ragtop, Japanese heart shaped subway handle, fender mounted mirrors, and overfenders take this Corolla to another level albeit with subtlety outside of the Atara Racing rims that filled out the wheel wells measuring 9 inches wide and standing at 14 inches tall. For a car that is nearing 40 years old, the body itself is very clean, the original blue paint is still intact so I had to just know the backstory of this car; not only to find out how it hasn't accumulated rust by being on the east coast but also because of some of the insane details I've yet to disclose.
The story of how this ride came to be is a story of Julio's own ambition and dreams that he had along with a love of classic Toyotas that he shares with many other car crazy Puerto Ricans. The idea of having that one classic that can be both show and go always swirled around in his head but the resources didn't meet up with his desires until he finished his duty as a proud member of the United States Army. While stationed at Fort Carson, Julio had just sold a 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon in May of 2017, and within hours a good friend who owned this particular offered it for sale in a twist of luck. With the permission of his wife (take not fellas this is how not to get in trouble) his build would begin over the next two years as he finally had the chance to make a dream come true. Previously owning three other TE72 era Corollas, Julio knew exactly what he wanted, and with that we'll dig back in to his build.
So I had to figure out where this car was from, why? Well it's right hand drive, but while many KE70's were made around the world, not many exist for sale in anywhere near the condition of Julio's Corolla. The next best option is to get the parts you need to realize your vision like a KE70 right hand drive steering rack and dashboard that changes the whole driving dynamic along with the Wilwood pedal box with integrated reservoirs that also resolves some logistical issues. The interior is littered with a bunch of more cool parts, a Momo steering wheel, classic Greddy shift knob, a push to start button, and custom Bride material armrest, shift boot, and even dashboard cover. The seats really stood out, a pair of black leather seats that look like they came out of a classic Porsche 356 draped with racing harnesses connected to a custom seat belt bar, and in that direction we next discuss the trunk along with suspension.
Many owners of classic Japanese cars have one of two issues, a suspension that is too soft because it's stock and the car in question didn't intend to receive certain inputs, or the car is too low and too stiff because of a set of coilovers that weren't meant for street use. Circumventing the issue of ride quality and safety for the purpose of driveability when needed, Julio employed the help of Iceboxx to create a set of airbags for his chassis to sit on. Using BC coilovers and a set of airbags is the perfect way to balance out the needs for this build, Florida roads are usually straight and even which rarely unsettle any vehicle along with the warmer temperatures allowing the airbags to last longer than those of yesteryear that have been given a bad wrap. Wanting the ability to use that V8 power and still get home safely, Techno Toy Tuning front suspension parts were thrown in the mix along with custom rear disk brakes to make sure that the 260 horsepower the engine produces doesn't overwhelm the 2000 lb chassis.
With proper planning it seems like one can have it all, Julio's car is a homerun, it knocks it out of the park and touches all the bases; you can have show, go, and daily driver reliability. While not everyone wants to spread out their focus to have a car that can do so much, it is a build like this that really elevates the idea of enjoying your car. One of the best ways to enjoy your car of course is with others, and Julio is grateful when discussing those who helped him with the build and supported him through the process, his wife Tatiana, his dad Ivan, his crew LowKee Oldskool, his buddy that runs a Youtube channel called Improd Live, Matt Kennedy with the custom wiring harness, and Iceboxx with the smooth versatility of the custom airbag kit.
Thanks again for checking out this feature, stay tuned for more!