Without exaggeration, Mike Muniz’s 1972 Toyota Sprinter Trueno is a paradigm shift in the world of Japanese nostalgic cars. In fact, we’re pretty certain that Muniz has not only achieved one of the most stunning Toyota restorations we’ve ever encountered, but also built a time machine in which he traveled back to 1972 to acquire the rarest OEM parts.
The TE27 was the top-spec sport version of the second-generation Corolla. Powered by the Yamaha-designed 2T-G twin-cam 1.6 shared with the Toyota Celica 1600GT, it was distinct enough from more pedestrian Corollas that instead of an alphanumeric trim designation, Toyota decided to give it an extra word for its name.
Derived from the old English word for “lightning” and Spanish word for “thunder,” the names Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno should be familiar to anyone who’s fond of old Corollas. The TE27 was the first use of these monikers, which continued all the way to the end of the 20th century in Japan, lasting even longer than the rear-wheel-drive layouts of the cars themselves. The two were mechanically identical but had different lights and grilles, and were sold through two different Toyota dealership networks in Japan.
It might be a Corolla with a different name, but it was a favorite of racers on track and street alike. Muniz is a TE27 maniac and has built several of them over the years, but this Daytona Olive zenki Sprinter Trueno is his masterpiece. It took six years to build, and once you take a closer look you can see why.
Every piece of the car is either thoroughly restored to as-new spec or is actually new, as in new old stock long thought to be extinct and painstakingly unearthed from the other side of the globe.
Take one peek under the hood and it’s clear. Surrounding the twin-cam 2TG is an engine room that looks as fresh as it did the day it left the factory. Every fastener has shiny cadmium plating. The plastic windshield washer reservoir is white and new as the clean fallen snow. The hoses are soft and supple. Even the distributor cap and breather hose are in their original brown.
As everyone who’s restored an old Japanese car knows, the most difficult area to perfect is the interior. Plastic and vinyl discolor and get brittle over time, and is pretty much impossible to replace. Often, the only solution is to use out-of-production OEM parts, if you can find them.
Not only did Muniz find them, but he found door panels with the original factory plastic still on them. Stored in Japan for decades, somewhere along the way some collector with lots of foresight wrote “spare” and “Toyota” on the plastic to keep track of which car they were for. Obviously they were never used for that car, because now they’re on this one.
Perhaps the most astounding part of the restoration were the completely original, new old stock Bridgestone RD-102 tires that still had the original tread markings. Years before the Sprinter Trueno would be used to hurtle around touge passes, these 175/70-13s were marketed as the “Wide 70” to indicate more grip.
The tires still wore, after 45 years, the original stickers. Just as remarkable as the tires themselves was the source: The time capsule set was found in Japan, vacuum sealed, by a friend of Muniz’s who happens to be an employee of the Toyota Automobile Museum.
“I’m not sure if the tires were from the museum’s collection itself, or just another set that my friend who works for them found,” Muniz told us, “But when he saw the restoration that I was doing, he let me have them.”
You can pick up a decently clean TE27 in Japan for $25,000 to $30,000, but that wouldn’t be a fair comparison. The value on this car is more like $150,000, but with all the passion put into it, the real answer is that it’s priceless. For his efforts, Muniz took home the Best in Show award, and deservingly so. With his concours-level restoration of this historically significant model, Muniz has elevated the definition of a classic Japanese automobile.
Muniz is wrong about one thing, though. He says it took him six years to restore his Trueno. As Japanese cars grow in value and see increased interest from traditional auto collectors that wouldn’t have glanced at a Corolla five years ago, more will take interest in cars like his. The thing is, none of them will be able to build a car like Muniz’s in a mere six years.
Muniz’s restoration was made possible by friendships forged with fellow TE27 enthusiasts on the other side of the world, ones that would give up a set of vacuum sealed tires that they’ve been preserving for nearly half a century. He got to know these friends through previous TE27 builds through the years, so that’s at least a few decades of groundwork. Even then, we’d argue that was made possible only by Muniz’s passion for a single model, and when you factor that in, Mike Muniz’s Sprinter Trueno is the build of a lifetime.
That concludes our coverage for Toyotafest 2017. In case you missed it, check out Part 01 — New Digs, Part 02 — Celebrating the all-conquering Land Cruiser, Part 03 — Fun to Drive, Part 04 — The rise of the E30 Corolla, Part 05 — Trucks, and Part 06 — Straight Sixes, as well as a spotlight on Richard Pope’s 1977 Celica, a pair of drag-spec Celicas, and Orly Tapay’s works replica KP47 Starlet.
You can also revisit Toyotafest 2016 (Part 01, 02, 03, and 04), Toyotafest 2015 (Part 01, 02, and 03), Toyotafest 2014 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04), Toyotafest 2013 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04), Toyotafest 2012 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04), Toyotafest 2011 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04, 05), and Toyotafest 2010 (Part 01, 02, 03).