1974 Toyota Corolla Sprinter KE20 – Frankensprinter


We love new technology because it’s able to squeeze out every last horsepower or fraction of a G in a way that old steel just wasn’t created to do. In part because its style has a certain charm, but also because it’s so damned light-you need to be trying hard to find a pre-1975 Japanese car available in America that weighs greater than a ton, yet we love old J-tin. And mostly we like melding both together seamlessly; old-school metal hiding a number of freaky late-model performance pieces that feel and operate like it’s all one piece, rather than a assortment of components performing a dance collectively. Shock of shocks, we like Ver Jumamoy’s ’74 Toyota KE20 Corolla.

California-based ER nurse has taken the guts of a Hachi-Roku and grafted them into the shell of a KE20 Sprinter-not least of which because that engine is much more than any factory-built AE86 ever got, it would oversimplify things dramatically to surmise that the Fairfield. But there’s an awful lot of Hachi under there. Dare we refer to this one a shichi-shi (74)? Monkets (20)? We settled on Frankensprinter-because the engine under that hood can be a monster for now.Oh, it’s a 4A-GE, all right, but it’s this sort of different animal than what arrived on American shores in the mid-’80s in Toyota’s MR2 and Corolla GT-S so you’d hardly recognize it. The second-generation five-valver, known as the black-top for its black cam covers, is the ultimate naturally-aspirated iteration of Toyota’s iron-block, aluminum-headed A-series engine, which goes back to the late 1970s. By 1983, the 4A-GE had replaced the long-lived 2-TG as Toyota’s volume-production twin-cam engine. Yamaha, who had done cylinder head work with Toyota clear back to the twin-cam 2000GT of 1967, designed the aluminum five-valve (three intake, two exhaust) head following their Formula One efforts in the late ’80s. The 5-valve 4A-GE can be neatly split into early (silver-top, starting 1991) and later (black-top, starting 1995) generations; everything you see here is the hairier black-top piece.

Why is it so? For the black-top version, the reciprocating assembly was put on a diet, weighing less and spinning more freely than earlier four-valve (and even silver-top five-valve) components could. Aiding in the black-top’s effort were four individual 45mm throttle bodies, a MAP sensor, velocity stacks and a whopping 11: 1 compression. Mix in variable timing on the 8.2mm-lift intake camshaft, a tubular exhaust header and also the black-top beats both horsepower and torque figures from previous four-valve 4A-GEs, plus it can sustain revs longer at the same time. The result? According to Toyota, roughly double what the hottest 1974 Corolla SR5 will have had beneath its hood Stateside, nearly 165hp at 7800rpm. Plus, let’s tell the truth: It’s a dead sexy piece of kit, because the five-valve 4A-GE never managed to get out of Japan.

1974 toyota corolla sprinter KE20 ISP custom high rise header 12

1974 toyota corolla sprinter KE20 TOMs controls 07

1974 toyota corolla sprinter KE20 front grille badge 03

But then we have into the reinforcements, which are all the bits needed to bolster that power doubling. It’s fair to say that the stock K50 five-speed stick could easily have been outmatched-cue sounds of grinding (or worse, stripped) gears. Within its place goes the AE86’s standard-issue cog-swapper, Toyota’s T50 five-speed, that offers identical gear ratios. It also has a wide variety of suitability upgrades, like TRD shifters and aftermarket clutches and six-pound flywheels. That power then has to go out to the rear tires, and that spindly little axle under a stock ’74 Corolla won’t take the pressure; far easier to merely drop a complete AE86 axle onto the re-arched rear leafs, to incorporate a restricted-slip, beefier axles, and of course the rear disc brakes that were parcel and part of your GT-S back into the day. Granted, they were barely nine inches in diameter, and front discs take more of the abuse when you step on that middle pedal, but it’s still a tremendous upgrade.

And also the rear disc brakes coming along for your ride around the ends in the axle housing, it would be silly not to upgrade the fronts as well; hello Hachi! May as well include the master cylinder and power brake booster from an AE86 too, while we’re at the yard stripping out parts. tires and Wheels are sized up significantly from stock-195/50-15 rubber compared to a stock AE86’s 185/60R14 and a 175/70-13 tire that was the biggest you could find on a ’74 Corolla-but the 15s do are able to fill out the KE20’s significantly smaller wheel openings quite nicely without looking too big. The 4-point cage stiffens the unit-body structure significantly; it adds a few pounds, granted, but it’s a small price to fund feeling that chassis stay flat during aggressive cornering, as a bonus.The entire body has largely been left alone: some mild flares for the oversized rolling stock, a chin spoiler, a trunk lip, a fresh coat of red paint, exchanging the massive 1974 federally-mandated 5mph crash bumpers for something a bit older (smaller, and built to bolt on) and fare thee well. No two-toning, no pinstriping, no lettering, not even a pair of Japan-spec fender mirrors to pretend that this is some kind of overseas creation celebrating a past that never quite was.

And so the heart and soul of an AE86 has been poured into a KE20 shell. So what? First, when you double the effectiveness of anything, it’s bound to be a shedload of fun, as we’ve proven time and again. With regards to chassis components, think of it by doing this: they’re largely stock AE86 underneath, but they’re meant for a vehicle that weighs some 450 pounds over the car they came off. The brakes that stop an AE86 just great suddenly become a whole lot more dramatic, stretching you against those five-point harnesses that are thoughtfully installed in the interior, when there’s a quarter-ton less steel to stop. The tires, just an inch bigger in diameter and 10mm wider across the tread that would have given an AE86 a whole new attitude, now practically suck brain matter out your ears in the turns. And that’s not even with the coilovers, or maybe the tough stance aided by re-arching the back leaf springs.

Better still is the perception of turnkey reliability. We all know that aftermarket parts can be used to make our cars run better, and that they’re generally compatible with whatever factory components they have to work with. However they are they compatible with each other? It’s a bit of a crapshoot. By sticking with Toyota components for the driveline and keeping items in a single brand family for certain other components (the all-Techno Toy front suspension, for instance) there are precious few worries that tab A won’t fit into slot B because that slot is instead a hole drilled 4cm to the righteven when you’re coping with OEM parts, things are simple. There will be a lot of issues that are included with a build, Ver suggests. Expect them. Also be prepared to spend some money; it’ll be expensive! And not surprisingly enough, time-consuming: he estimates his KE20/AE86 hybrid took 3 years to get to the idea you see here.

But when you’re out for the cruise, enough time invested along with the dollars spent disappear from your mind. Only the performance, the best times and the artifact itself remains; the design on the other guy’s face as he disappears in your rear view mirror, on the other hand, is priceless.