The year is 1971. America is two years away from the oil crisis, the first Disney World just opened, and you’ve just got yourself a brand new Toyota Corolla Coupe. It is now 2020, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at this car.
This is Tu’s 1971 Toyota Corolla Coupe and it is a true survivor. Tu bought it from Craigslist when he was just window shopping around for a car. The previous owner had the motor built but he never really enjoyed it to its true potential and let it sit for a while; that’s when Tu stepped in. As he puts it, all his friends had classic JDM cars like Celicas and Corollas and he wanted in on the action.
Now he never had experience with classic cars and going from a modern car to a car with no power steering, no AC, and manual windows was quite the jump. On top of that, the car was not as great mechanically as it was visually. The exhaust wasn’t done quite right, the u-bolts for the rear axle were just a bent rod from Home Depot, the engine bay was full of battery acid corrosion, and eventually, the head cracked and the car started overheating. The first couple of years were rough, but as Tu spent more time learning the ins and outs of the car, things got easier.
Despite the initial mechanical goblins, a lot of the hard-to-find details were there: the badges, the trim pieces, and even the windshield chrome strips. The paint and its scratches are also original to the car but they give it more patina and character than if it was shiny and freshly painted.
The entire suspension is also new, the car is riding on some TOM’S Racing wheels, and it has all been freshly rewired. The engine is a built 3TC block with 2TC heads, Mikuni carburetors, and a myriad of other mechanical improvements. Check out the full build list here if you want to know everything that powers Tu’s Corolla.
In addition to that, Tu added a few modern spins to the car while keeping it mostly original. He added an immobilizer for theft protection, remote control headlights, LED lights, GPS speedometers, and some custom gauges with a custom-built insert to match the look and curvature of the dash. As he puts it, the car has an “old school feel and old school look but very modern electronics.”
Unlike the previous owner, Tu likes to have fun with his Corolla. He has taken it to Thunder Hill multiple times, he has autocrossed it half a dozen times, and he drives it everywhere he goes.
As for its future, he plans to keep it as it is. He has a spare head that he is building with bigger valves and ports for a bit more horsepower but the bottom end will stay the same. Even if the Corolla only pushes 110 HP on a dyno, that’s not what he bought it for. It’s a true surviving time machine and cars like it are starting to be rarer and rarer as time goes by.
Big thank you to Tu for introducing me to his car and letting me take a look around it! I had a great time talking to him about it and I wish him the best of luck with it in the future. Be sure to stay tuned for another “Best of Sacramento” article later this week!