Preserving The Senses: A Timeless TE71 Corolla
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
The enthusiasm behind certain classic Toyota vehicles are built upon a deep sense of nostalgia, the connection between a memory long ago and a vehicle like the Corolla featured below that is unlike anything you can purchase on a new car lot today. For many their is another reason why so many people worldwide are huge fans of Toyota's old and new; it's because they provide a great platform for modification. In general, those looking to go fast have sought out the best rear-drive chassis they can afford and modify greatly, stuffing larger engines in the bay, changing every part on the suspension to ensure that it is far from mediocre on a track, and aerodynamics that enhance both down force and it's aesthetics. Going fast isn't always that important however, bridging the gap between nostalgia and making a classic car drive-able yet fun, is about retaining the true nature of the platform you are given. Angel Robles' 1980 TE71 Toyota Corolla Sprinter Trueno represents the precise path that should be taken to lightly enhance a classic Toyota while preserving the senses behind the wheel.
The Toyota Corolla is the best selling model ever, 44.1 million examples and growing, but the E70 (fourth) generation has a few specific trim levels that make them very special cars. The TE71 Sprinter Trueno is one of those special models, sold in Europe and Japan with a dual overhead cam 2TG engine and with sportier suspension bits, along with an upscale interior. In the United States we weren't fortunate enough to get the prelude to the 4AGE in the 2TG but we did receive the hatch back TE71 albeit with the larger bumpers and amber turn signals, but the recipe was close.
The shape of the TE71 is another factor to what makes it special, a 2-door coupe with a sleek, yet efficient hatch opening in the rear. Like many other cars of yesteryear the A-pillars are pencil thin, providing a large viewing area for those in the front seat which is matched by the amazing green house of the large rear hatch glass and pop-out quarter panel windows on the sides. A pop-up factory sunroof is also included on this model which is rare for those 3-door Corollas sold in the U.S., but this car's origins are a bit far from it's current home in Tampa, Florida.
Scrolling down and just admiring the pictures you would notice a few things that are different about this Corolla that aren't like others you've seen in person, most noticeable are the badges throughout the car that say "Sprinter Trueno." Typically we recognize the Sprinter Trueno as the AE86 we all admire as the co-star in Initial D, but before that their was this car, and before that other vehicles from Toyota that donned the Sprinter Trueno and Levin name from the Corolla lineup. The signature "S" can be found on the original steering wheel and it's on the left hand side, because this very vehicle once had a life destined to be lived out in West Germany.
Hatchbacks, lift-backs, and wagons are all popular vehicle types for those in Europe, so when Martha (the original owner) purchased her car new from Toyota to be used for day to day chores in Germany, a hatch was desired to make things easier. Fold down seats help make the compact car larger inside than one would think, and it's sea of blue vinyl, carpet, and plastic trim contrast perfectly with the bright white original paint that glistens on the body.
But how did this car make it to Tampa of all places? This is partly due to Angel's proclivity towards old Toyotas. While searching for an old car he could fix before he could legally drive, he came upon a listing for an original owner car in North Carolina with an interesting back story for just the right price. The Corolla he had wanted turned out to be the Sprinter Trueno he would come to love and cherish, before the car came stateside it was turned CARB legal by the original owner, having the engine swapped over to the 3TC and smog tested. The slim bumpers that many enthusiasts seek to import, were unfortunately swapped for the thicker black pieces you normally see on these cars in order to meet crash standards. Undeterred by this process it seems as if Martha truly enjoyed her nimble hatchback, so much so that she completed the tasks necessary and continued driving the car sparingly until this decade.
What the current owner purchased was a fine example of a TE71, the bright-work seemingly never having been molested in all it's years. The interior is hardly worn through it's roughly 100,000 kilometers of use, a few normal tears but nary a crack in the dash or a stain that would make anyone think lesser of the well cared for Toyota.
The small bits around the car, Euro-spec corner lights that are clear with an amber bulb, the original driver's side only side-view mirror, and all of the badges have been kept intact for almost 40 years. The exterior's paint is original, upon it's purchase Angel and his father buffed out any inconsistencies with the paint, touched it up where necessary, and then applied two layers of clear coat to seal it all in. Protecting the original paint from the sun is important in sun-rich Florida, a solid clear coat can also help deter rock chips that turn in to unsightly defects. Outside of keeping everything clean, it's Angel's mods that have taken this Toyota to the next level.
First, it's the wheels, a vintage set of 15 x 7 staggered offset SSR Reverse Mesh wrapped with Continental Extreme Contract Sport tires measuring 205/55 all around. The combination is period correct and classy, mesh wheels look good on anything of this era while the sidewall ratio is perfect for keeping damage at a minimum while absorbing the few bumps encountered on Florida roads.
The 3TC, known as the 4 cylinder Hemi by some enthusiasts, it's a tried and true power plant that makes modest power with tons of potential if you modify it. Originally the car came with a 2TG but during the conversion, wiring components were swapped out to make this bulletproof engine run normally. The engine is equipped with the necessary upgrades to make driving a vintage car possible, an MSD Blaster coil,MSD 6al, upgraded spark plug wires, normal maintenance...and just a port and polish so the car responds a bit better under throttle.
The one modification that cannot be forgotten however is the Weber 40 DCOE conversion that was performed by Angel himself. Ridding the old Toyota engine of it's top draft OEM carburetor meant that learning how to properly care for and tune side drafts was a necessity to maintain peak performance conditions. It's rather amazing that a 20 year old would have the patience to dive in to carburetors head first without any worries, perhaps Angel is an old soul; or maybe that the payoff in both sound and speed would be worth the squeeze. Webers like other side drafts sing a beautiful melody regardless of the engine they're attached to, these Type 18 DCOE's are fitted with Techno Toy Tuning 75 mm velocity stacks that generate a wicked induction noise and create the most power. Not having been dyno tested, estimates of around 100 horsepower is what is being pushed out currently, this is until a 2TG that was sourced by Angel is built and swapped sometime in the near future.
For some stance is everything, for Angel it's a matter of enjoying a ride that handles well but looks good doing it. You won't find anyone driving this car pull over to set up a ramp to get in line at Popeyes as Fortune Auto 500 series coil overs handle the task of lowering the ride height to a reasonable level. Angel himself has adjusted his suspension by way of the 24 different settings on the coil overs themselves and the Techno Toy Tuning top hats which provide camber adjustments.
Techno Toy Tuning is also responsible for providing the other handling components found on this Toyota, GTX2 lower control arms, 4-link rear suspension, and the pan hard bar. Everything together as a package makes driving enjoyable, spirited drives up and down some of the few twisty roads in surrounding areas are less of a job for this Corolla; low powered fun can be had with the right chassis. Extracting all of the 3TC's power is a custom exhaust with a Vibrant muffler, it adds an aural experience that pleases the senses, from clutch in, brake down, and a blip of the throttle through a turn.
Some cars are built special at the factory, some cars are built special by their owners. Modifications can make or break a build but it's all by design of what our true nature is. Creating the perfect balance is terribly difficult but approaching the concept of enhancing the basics can be rewarding.
When you drive a car you use up all of your senses, you feel the car and the way it moves, you hear the intake suck air in and the exhaust blast it out; the smell of fumes are just as invigorating as air freshener is calming, when you finally step out and look back, your sight is filled with the beauty you behold. In the automotive world when you're able to experience all of these things, it's probably because you have the last sense not listed, taste... good taste.
Toyota made special cars, the Sprinter Trueno was one of them, it took the ordinary Corolla to another level for those lucky enough to purchase one. Today Toyota makes special cars like the Supra and the 86, they have matched that with the Tacoma/4 Runner with their trucks, and Lexus has the captivating LC500. While we may not be able to go back in time to purchase these beautiful analog experiences, Akio Toyoda's willingness to invest resources in new cars to make them more spirited, should have owners grabbing a piece of their past and finding somewhere to put it in today's world. The 6-speed option in the new Corolla may be a start to making the mundane something magnificent, but the story isn't over.
Angel is the right owner for this car, he's tasked with making his classic Toyota perform on a daily basis, it's not about winning races or trophies at car shows. Making fun of the everyday chores he has makes Angel a true enthusiast. I look forward to seeing this car around as often as possible, a daily driver dedicated to one's self and way of life is the best vehicle you can own; build what makes sense for you.