EVENTS: All-Toyotafest, Part 04 — Starlets & Tercels

Over the years even traditional, Camry-hating mainstream car enthusiasts have come to appreciate some Toyotas, your Celicas, MR2s, and FR Corollas. However, when it comes to the marque’s most diminutive compacts, the love still tends to emanate only from the dedicated Toyotaku.

The Starlet was Toyota’s hot hatch of the early 80s, but unlike the defining cars of the breed, were rear wheel drive. Lightweight and capable of accepting all sorts of mods, it was an popular platform throughout Asia. Alex Leyva’s 1981 appeared to only have a drop, wheels, and headlights, otherwise a clean, original-bodied example, even with the right decal stripe.

We’ve been fans of Archie Giron’s yellow, SSR MkII-shod 1981, a former award winner at Toyotafest. Though stock-bodied, the it runs a turbocharged 4AG that should make a car that weighted only 1,650 pounds in its plushest trim level a real sleeper.

On the other side of the modification spectrum comes Tommy Dolormente’s Hawaiian-built Starlet. With its SSR Air Stage wheels and TOM’s livery it looks the part of a race car, but retains its 4KC its low-riding stance comes courtesy of an air suspension. Built with a sharp eye for design, though, it exudes an old school 80s coolness throughout.

We also really like Christian Cortejos’ very proper 1981 blue-plate special. Riding on nicely coordinated SSR MkIIs and a simple TRD-style wing, it’s the prototypical streets style KP61.

While the Starlet is perfectly capable of taking larger Toyota engines, period appropriate builds used a TRD upright kit to bring the factory’s angled 4K-C engine into a vertical alignment. The build also includes a lot of parts that increase cool quotient, like a TRD N2 wide-body kit, Hayashi Racing’s Interspeed performance tires for old school diameters, and RS-Watanabes. Everything is finished in Angeles’ trademark candy purple paint.

Dennis Dasalla went home with the Toygarage Award for his 1982 Starlet. It was completely reworked with a 20-valve 4A-GE black-top, as well as the brakes, transmission and narrowed rear axle and TRD LSD from an AE86, and a host of other cooling, fuel, and suspension improvements. Panasport 13-inchers with Advan A048 tires rounded out the quintessential PI-style build.

The Starlet was an odd compact for Toyota USA, because at the same time they were marketing the front-wheel-drive Tercel was well. Bernando Hernandez’s 1982 sedan proves that fun could be had with the little-loved entry-level machine. A custom coilover kit lowered the car on Enkei 92s and the now-ubiquitous stock car-esque spoiler somehow works better than it does on any number of SEMA widebody Scions.

We always had a soft spot for the Tercel 4WD Wagon, Briwurm De Mesa’s blue goon was definitely an eye-catcher. Though the stickering and stancing might be overkill for some, there’s no denying the charm of a factory plaid seats and an off-road capable mini-wagon.

A stand-out car everywhere it goes, Edgar Briones’ 1982 Tercel Coupe has experienced the type of meticulous preservation typically reserved for a 1960s Ferrari. It is said to be all-original, even including the plain-Jane paint, called simply “White.” Obviously an original battery would be impossible to use, but an old Toyota Genuine Parts sticker is at least affixed to the one underhood. In the end, this Tercel even beat out Supras, MR2s and Lexues for the Original/Restored Condition Award car for all of Toyotafest.

To be continued…

This post is filed under: events and
tagged: , , , , .

14 Responses to EVENTS: All-Toyotafest, Part 04 — Starlets & Tercels

  1. Lupus says:

    The blue 4WD rocks! I have a diecast model of that model from Majorette, and i must sadly admit that i’ve never saw a real one in person. Where they even offered in Europe at all?

  2. Mark Newton-John says:

    Starlets a hot hatch? Well…. No. Volkswagen GTI, Ford Escort GT, even the Suzuki Swift GTi, but not the K-engined KP61 in stock form, anyway. Of course throw in a 4A-GE, coil-overs and N1 flares.
    Pretty nice and very unusual to see a entry-level AL10-series sedan in this condition. Bought cheap and almost never maintained properly, most if not all have already been crushed and recycled into Camrys.

    • Steven says:

      I’d take the RWD platform of the Starlet, even stock, over any of those others.

    • Steve says:


      I’d take the RWD Starlet (even stock) over any of those “hot hatches”…

    • Bob says:

      Which Escort GT? My 1983 American version was utterly unimpressive. We didn’t get Cosworths or the European versions in the US.

      • Ant says:

        To be fair the European Escorts have been hit and miss too (though I don’t think we ever got one called the GT).

        As a general rule Mk1/Mk2 Mexicos, RS1600s, RS2000s etc are all great, the Cosworth is great, and Mk3-Mk6 XR3s, RS2000s and the like are pretty patchy.

        However, basic rear-drive Starlet over proper hot hatchbacks for the sole reason it’s rear-drive? Not by a mile.

  3. I love these Starlets! How come you don’t see them (from what I’ve observed at least) used for drifting and racing as much as the Corolla ae86? Just curious because if they are rwd and light it seems like it would be also good for that. Are they not sought after as much or were they not produced in the same amount? Also I just love the looks of these cars.

    • Mark F Newton-John says:

      Simple. It was not the feature car in Initial D. Hell, think if they had used a Nissan Cherry or a Mitsubishi Galant? Hell, I’m surprised they didn’t use a Datsun 510, with it’s IRS. Maybe because it would have been too old…

    • regis says:

      they’re not that light, and people did use them, there were just many other better options out there

  4. Nigel says:

    Nice to see so many Starlets and Tercels !

  5. Angelo says:

    Maby of those KPs look like they came from here.(I live in the Philippines)

    Judging by the owner’s names, they had to be Filipino haha.

  6. Jim says:

    What?! No Jesse Pinkman Tercel “tribute” car ? ;-)…. it’ll happen.
    The real one lives on in the care of a “Breaking Bad” ultra fan.

  7. EBriones says:

    Awesome pics! Great coverage on the starlets and Tercel. Thanks Ben!

  8. Cho says:

    I had a Tercel Blackhawk. Was a limited editons. special stripes and logo but wider tires and incredible grip. Love that little 5 spd. Toyota get back to basics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *