One of the stars of Toyotafest this year was Orly Tapay’s 1974 Toyota Starlet. Not only was it a rare model never sold in the US, but it was a stunning replica of a Toyota works racer from the heyday of Japanese touring cars.
Back in 1974 the KP47 Starlet was Toyota’s entry into the Minor Touring class of the Fuji Grand Champion series, where it battled viciously against cars like the B110 Nissan Sunny and the SB1 Honda Civic. But even under the banner of Toyota, individual teams had their own rivalries.
Toyota worked with two main constructors to develop the KP47. Covering western Japan western Japan was the largely forgotten Kuwahara Racing. In eastern Japan the main constructor was TOM’s, which eventually became the world-renowned authorized Toyota tuning house. The exteriors were modified with the standard aero accoutrements of the era — huge composite over-fenders along with front and rear spoilers.
To take down Nissan’s Sunny, Toyota stroked the stock 1.2-liter 3K engine to increase displacement by 100cc. Engineers then created a monstrous 16-valve twin-cam head with slide-valve injection, giving birth to the 137E race motor.
The engine was sold only to race teams and never released to the public, so needless to say they are incredibly rare today. However, Orly has managed to recreate the look and feel of one with a twin-cam 2TG, complete with the 137E’s blue valve cover and pre-Helvetica Toyota font.
The original TOM’s KP47 Starlet is likely long gone by now, but during its glory years it was immortalized in model kit form. This was the kit Orly referenced to build his 1:1 scale car.
For his efforts, Orly was proudly given the Toyotaku Award, a prize that goes to to the owner and car who most embodies the spirit of Toyotafest. Not only did he have to really know his Toyota history, but he had to possess steel-willed determination to complete the build. We say the honor was well deserved.
Our Toyotafest 2017 coverage continues, but in the meantime check out Part 01 — New Digs, Part 02 — Celebrating the all-conquering Land Cruiser, and Part 03 — Fun to Drive, as well as a spotlight on Richard Pope’s 1977 Celica and a pair of drag-spec Celicas.
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).