Toyotafest Spotlight: Mike Muniz’s 1972 Sprinter Trueno is one of the finest Toyota restorations we’ve ever seen

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 DigsPart 02 — Celebrating the all-conquering Land Cruiser, Part 03 — Fun to DrivePart 04 — The rise of the E30 CorollaPart 05 — Trucks, and Part 06 — Straight Sixes, as well as a spotlight on Richard Pope’s 1977 Celicaa pair of drag-spec Celicas, and Orly Tapay’s works replica KP47 Starlet.

You can also revisit Toyotafest 2016 (Part 01, 0203, and 04), Toyotafest 2015 (Part 01, 02, and 03), Toyotafest 2014 (Part 01020304), 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, 0203).



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31 Responses to Toyotafest Spotlight: Mike Muniz’s 1972 Sprinter Trueno is one of the finest Toyota restorations we’ve ever seen

  1. Big Mike Muniz says:

    Ben and JNC Can’t thank you enough for this well written feature. I do not know if my next build can ever top this one (wont stop me from trying). It was a labor of love. I have had a total of 36 TE-27/ KE-25/KE20 over the past 30+ years. This build was the culmination of my obsession for this car. Everyone has told me that the amount of money I have spent on these cars I could have built one bad ass Hakosuka. But I tell them the hako is not where my passion is. I don’t want to build a car just because it is the latest fad. I’m a TE27 junkie through and through!

    Big Mike Muniz

    • Ben Hsu says:

      You’re most welcome, Mike. You deserve all the kudos you’re getting for the car. In still astonished by your work!

      • Big Mike Muniz says:

        Hey Ben,

        I’ll be signing up for the Touge this year. I’m planning on taking my 1973 RHD TE27. Hope I get chosen to participate.


      • Ben Hsu says:

        Please submit your application soon. There’s already been a lot of Toyotas applying and we only have so many spots for each make.

        • Please have a different set of tires. These are too perfect.

          • sabin simard says:

            They are not only perfect, they are BEAUTIFUL and fit the beauty of the car with perfection. This car needed these tires or 1972-73 Dunlop tires like all classic cars need classic tires. It’s like a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro with GoodYear Polyglass or Firestone Wide Oval. These tires are beautiful like all things of the past, they just don’t built tires like this anymore

          • Big Mike Muniz says:

            I have different set of wheels and tires (Watanabe RS) for this car when I drive it.

            Big Mike Muniz

    • ahja says:

      I would be more excited by seeing a TE27 than a C10 Skyline. Particularly a 2TG mango.

    • Anthony says:

      Wow. I’m beside myself. Props, this is the most awesome looking piece of history I’ve ever seen.

  2. Tim Eull says:

    Wow…. just flat out amazing. As a junkie obsessed by detail, this car sets a new bar. Original tires with original stickers stilll intact is the pinnacle of obsessive detail. Thanks for sharing your passion with all of us Mike!

  3. Randy says:

    Never, ever, EVER, sell that car! As you said, it’s a labor of love, and it’s COMPLETED, and will continue to take the BOS awards! WAAAYYYY down the road, your estate can donate it to a museum, but for as long as you can, KEEP it!

    (BTW, another strong candidate for the repro parts candidate question.)

  4. Brett says:

    Beautiful car.

  5. Myron Vernis says:

    Congrats to Mike on his grand accomplishment! This car is nothing short of amazing. I absolutely love my beater TE27 Sprinter Trueno, so I can fully understand Mike’s passion for the model.

  6. Marc says:

    After the show we stuck around and saw Mike removing the wheels for storage and wondered if everything was okay. This was until I saw the stickers and had to pick up my jaw off the grass. Simply amazing work and an even better person. Even as the show was done and the other cars were gone, he spent considerable time showing us the rest of the car. Congratulations!

    • Big Mike Muniz says:

      Thanks Marc, I enjoy building cars. But what I enjoy more is sharing what I have built.

      Big Mike Muniz

  7. Mark Newton-John says:

    I see that the wheels are painted black. Although I can’t say what they did in Japan in 1972, my 1974 USDM SR5 had a really dark gray color. And I see that the screws securing the fender flares appear to have the correct nylon washers.
    I have to say from 1974 until 2010, I had NEVER seen another TE27 or even TE37 SR5 (except a red one for sale in some lot in Stockton in the 80’s) and now they’re coming out of the woodwork.

  8. Punto8 says:

    I can’t. What’s the point of owning something you can’t use? I just can’t lol

  9. Punto8 says:

    Big up Big Mike!!!! Nice to hear!!!!! It would be a shame not to drive that car. Now if you need an extra driver just let me know 😉 Congrats on the awards!

  10. Scotty G says:

    Well done, sir. This is a painfully perfect, beautiful car! The go-to guru for Toyota restorations surely is known as Merciless Muniz? And, thank you for caring about and restoring what you love, not what’s profitable or popular at the moment. Life is much too short to think about such nonsense.

  11. Russ says:

    As per my complete brochures for Sprinters for 1972, the black colored rims are technically correct. I also saw the SR model that has gray color steel rims. if only i can post a pic of the 2, Trueno and SR, it does show black for Trueno and gray for SR.
    Great restoration.

  12. pete240z says:

    those flairs, the interior, those seats, that engine………….it’s a drug to me. Where can I get one………….

  13. Yaru says:

    The idiots trying to hate seriously can’t figure out that mike is on a level they will never know, even after reading it? Guess it’s true, haters gonna hate

  14. robin says:

    WOW, I’m at a loss for words. To the owner this is beautiful.

  15. Tom Hudgens says:

    Gorgeous! Would you restore a 1982 Tercel Sedan for me?

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