There is never a shortage of Corollas at Toyotafest, and for years the best builds in the field belonged to the AE86, TE27, and TE72 contingents, maybe even a front-driver AE92. This year, however, the 1975-79 E30 Corolla has emerged as a new “it” chassis.
Two of the most striking Corolla builds were Scott Kanemura and Kirk Hubbard’s TE37s. Both started life as USDM SR5 models, which came with factory fender flares and rear side markers neatly integrated into the rear vent trim. However, the addition of JDM parts like the slimmer bumpers, a twin-cam 2TG and a nicely matched TOM’s steering wheel perfectly combined the best from both sides of the Pacific.
Anton Gross brought another TE37 (also yellow!) after spending two-years bringing it back to showroom spec. Anton decided to keep the 5 mph safety bumpers and 2TC engine on his 1976 SR5 for a faithful USDM restoration.
One of the reasons the TE37 is so rare is that in Japan, the top-spec third-gen Corollas were the TE47 and TE55 Liftback Coupes. In the US, however, the Liftback Coupes like Nathaniel Galindo’s TE51 didn’t come with Toyota’s performance twin-cam engines, making the SR5 TE37 the “sport” model despite a standard 3TC motor. Despite the single cam, those engines can still be quite potent, and Nathaniel has replaced his with a 2TC/3TC hybrid motor, a popular setup for drag racing.
Not all the shiny new third-gen Corolla builds were TE37s, either. The TE31 two-door sedan got plenty of love as well, serving as a reminder of just how varied the Corolla was back then.
And not all of them were yellow. Manuel Mendez’s 1978 TE31 is said to be an unrestored survivor that’s all original except for the wheels, fender mirrors, fog lights and headlight covers. It’s also running its fuel-efficient factory 1.6-liter 2TC, a key technology in changing the automotive landscape from land yachts to compacts in post-Oil Crisis America.
Beyond the E30s, there was diverse representation from the Corolla family across the board. Daniel Acosta’s stunning 1969 Corolla Sprinter fastback coupe was another original, unrestored survivor, and quite possibly the nicest example left in the country. Toyota USA doesn’t even have a KE15 in its collection, so we hope this rare example sticks around for many more decades to come.
Of course, favorite platforms like the TE27 were still represented in full. Joel Tan’s mango has been a regular at Toyotafest and JCCS, but this year he went with a classic race theme that looks wholly appropriate for blasting around Fuji Speedway.
This TE27 was found in on a ranch, where it had been used as a farm vehicle for many years. It was then given a thorough refresh and a 2TG. The owner took it under a 7-year restoration down to bare metal, then repainted it the original Orion Turquoise Metallic paint, a color we didn’t even know existed for the TE27.
We were honored to have Russ Capulong’s all-original US-spec TE27 as JNC‘s official Toyotafest booth car this year. With only 28,000 miles on the clock, we have never seen a more museum-quality Corolla SR5. If you stopped by our display, then you likely saw the most original Corolla SR5 in the country.
Russ’s fleet extends to two other stunning examples of the Corolla breed as well. He brought all three to the show, including an immaculate Sprinter Trueno TE27 conversion and an astounding unicorn-level all-original kouki AE86 hatch.
If fully restored zenki AE86s are more your speed, then Janet Fujimoto and Duane Tomono’s 1985 hatch is the finest example out there. We are thrilled to see more AE86s being restored to show quality standards as this seminal model grows rarer and rarer.
Peter Rosario’s 1986 AE86 hatch is another all-original survivor, and in a rare all-black color scheme. Not only that, but it’s fully loaded with every checkbox on the option sheet ticked, including rare accessories like power windows and power mirrors in addition to must-haves like LSD.
The clean, stock look is extending even to SR5s. It wasn’t too long ago that the drum-braked, carbureted, single-cam sibling to the GT-S was basically worthless except for whatever trim could be salvaged. Nowadays, a well preserved body is worth what a full GT-S would’ve cost before, if you can find one. Drop a hi-comp red top in there, put some Longchamps on it and you’ve got a brilliantly fun little car.
Modified AE86s are trending towards the clean as well, including a sleek Levin coupe conversion in a proper two-tone graphic scheme. Beside it was Allan Lugue’s famous gold Run Free hatch, built to show level quality over 12 years ago and one of the first AE86s to appear on the national scene during the peak of the tuner era.
For the JDM look, you can’t get more touge-ready than a coupe and hatch pair in clean white and classic drift era wheels like Dori Doris and — as it happens — Volk TE37s (no relation to the Corollas mentioned above).
The Corolla show of force at this year’s Toyotafest was one of the best in recent memory, with high quality regulars and new builds represented. The emergence of E30s was a pleasant surprise, especially for a car that has largely been skipped over for a long time. Like all Corollas, they were once plentiful and ubiquitous. We’re happy to see them getting some long overdue recognition.
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, 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).