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Hot Rod TE27, Part One

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I love looking through old magazines and reading about the kind of projects they took on as trends and technology changed.  Here’s Part One of a Corolla project car that Hot Rod Magazine built in the July 1972 issue.


By John Fuchs.

Over the years, the VW has surprisingly maintained its position at the head of the foreign economy cars, but a manufacturer from back in the pack began to gain by leaps and bounds as the public became acquainted with its products. That firm is Toyota Motor Company Ltd., a Japanese car maker that began life in 1939 as a division of Toyota Automatic Loom Works Ltd. A very inauspicious start for a company that by 1972 had moved solidly into second place among the imports. One reason for the fantastic sales surge that propelled Toyota ahead of some older and better established companies is their commitment to building excellent cars at affordable prices. The Toyota Corolla 1600 is an example of this philosophy.The first requirement that we look for in a potential Project Car is a sound engine, and the Corolla’s got one. It’s a 1588cc four-cylinder unit complete with a crossflow aluminum head and a downdraft two-barrel carburetor. For ’72 the hemi is rated at 88 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, down 14 from ’71, due mainly to a change in the rating system, but also due to some changes in emission hardware and a modification to the exhaust manifold. Rated torque has also decreased, from 101 ft./lbs. @ 3800 rpm to 91.3 at the same engine speed. While these changes are noticeable at the drag strip, the around-town performance seems to be just as peppy as last year’s model. Our trip to Orange County International Raceway with the stock vehicle produced consistent runs in the low 18s with a best e.t. of 17.97 at 73.18 mph. Don’t get the idea that this car is a slouch because the horsepower rating has decreased; it may be just a tad slower than last year’s model, but it’ll still blow the doors off almost any car in its class. It will even put away several mini-cars with engines as big as 2300cc.The Corolla 1600 has many other good things going for it, including a long list of standard features that cost extra money on many other economy cars. It includes. the following: front disc brakes with vacuum assist, fully reclining front bucket seats, an electric rear window defroster, a fully synchronized four-speed transmission, whitewall tires and full wheel covers, tinted glass and flip-out rear side windows, a trip odometer, bumper guards, a tool kit ,that includes a plug wrench and several metric open-end wrenches, and a few other items besides. The Vega and Pinto, for example, offer many of these features as optional equipment.With all that standard equipment on it, you’ve probably figured the Corolla’s list price will be on the steep side, but you’re wrong. The two-door fastback coupe that was provided to us by Toyota Motor Sales of Torrance, California, had absolutely no options on it and was priced at a gentle $2213.22, including dealer prep and freight, but not including tax and license fees.

The four-speed transmission is one of the best units we’ve ever used, and the shifter is precise and smooth. The disc front/drum rear brakes combine to provide this 2000-pound mini with tremendous stopping power, although a high-speed panic stop does produce a fair amount of nose dive. The black vinyl interior is both tasteful and comfortable, especially the high-back, fully reclining buckets. The three-point seat belt/shoulder harness is a bit of a hassle to get used to, but it is an excellent restraint system. The only real fault we can find with the whole car is its handling, and that only becomes evident under some hard flogging.

The suspension, with independent MacPherson struts up front and a live axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs at the rear, is basically sound. The car, however, is definitely front-end heavy.
As a result, it tends to plow in hard cornering (known as understeer among engineering types), exhibits an abundance of body roll, and tries to pick up the inside rear wheel at the same time. We suspect that the fault lies in the overly soft spring rates and the size of the front anti-sway bar. It could be corrected with a stiffer suspension, although ride quality would no doubt suffer in the process. The handling is certainly -adequate within the Corolla’s design limits, but we expect more from a Project Car, and we’re willing to make changes to get it.

Our first step was the installation of a set of wheels and tires. We chose one of the neatest new designs we’ve seen in quite some time, a fresh approach for an aftermarket wheel. Made from cast aluminum, this model is called the Wire Mag, and the pattern consists of a tightly spaced crisscross webbing between a solid hub and a solid rim. It’s available in numerous sizes from J.C. Penney and also from Appliance Plating, the manufacturer. We received our set of 13x51f2-inchers, along with a set of Penney’s gigantic new B60x13 Scat Trac 60 Competition Profile tires.
As usual, an expert job of mounting and balancing was done by Ed Austin and his crew at Wesco Track and Tire.

It’s amazing what a difference some wider rubber can make in the handling characteristics of a car like this. A trip back to OCIR’s skid pad confirmed our feelings. With the stock wheels and tires, the best lateral acceleration time we could manage was 13.9 seconds around the 200-foot-diameter circle, which translates into a figure of..632 G, while the 7-inch-wide Penney’s baloneys made the same journey in 13.2 seconds, or .704 lateral G. Quite an increase in handling.

We also discovered that the B60s were just a hair too wide for the Toyota’s wheelwells, especially when the car was loaded down with four Hot Rod staffers going out for some worldfamous Pink’s chili dogs. The front tires were just touching the back of the . wheelwells during hard cornering, and the edges of the rear wells would rub the tires during suspension travel. We called on George Britting, the sheet metal specialist for Brock Racing Enterprises in El Segundo, California, to perform his magic on our Corolla’s wheelwells. George easily cured the problem up front by massaging the back of the wheelwell and vastly improved the situation in the rear by rolling the inner fender flange upward, The rear tires will just barely touch the wells if there are more than two people in, the. car when it hits a really severe bump. Better than it was, but still not as good as it should be. If you want to put fat tires on your Corolla, the Penney’s skins are terrific, but we recommend that you stick to an A60x13 or A 70×13, unless you plan to modify the wheelwells.

Turning our attention to the Corolla’s interior, we selected an FM multiplex eight-track stereo tape player (KS-666) and a pair of five-inch flushmount speakers (SST-101F), both made by Kraco Products in Compton, California. Everything necessary, such as all electrical connectors, are included, and that usually tedious installation task was accomplished in short order. (For a report on the installation of this stereo system in your car, see “Good Vibes for Your Wheels,” June ’72 HRM.)


The next task at hand involved installing the tach, gauges and coolant recovery system. All our Toyota’s additional instruments come from Rite Autotronics Corporation (RAC), and they’re excellent. The tach is the “hi-ten” 0-10,000 rpm racing model featuring a 270-degree sweep movement, solid state circuitry and large, easily readable numbers on a black four-inch-diameter face. 1;’he installation of the tach was surprisingly simple, but we did run into one problem. The RAC sending unit attaches’ to one plug wire and measures rpm by doubling the spark impulses, rather than getting its signal from the coil, as is the case with most tachs. This sending unit is extremely sensitive and may pick up multiple signals unless it’s kept at least four to six inches’ away from any other plug wire. We hasten to add that this is definitely not the fault of the tach, but is a case where the fault will lie in a poor installation. It happened to us, but we soon found that it was in fact our own fault. With that problem out of the way, we realized what a good tach this “hi-ten” is, and also discovered another of its handy features: a screw on the back that allows the face to be rotated 360 degrees so that the shift point can be placed in the 12 o’clock position.

The installation of the oil pressure gauge and ammeter was uneventful. This two-gauge set, designated the “Continental 942,” includes two very handsome white-on-black instruments mounted on a chrome panel with a simulated woodgrain insert. The set contains mounting hardware and an illumination kit. The oil pressure gauge is the mechanical type, so it requires more work to install. The effort is worthwhile, as mechanical units are usually more accurate than electrical ones and are certainly better than an idiot light. Next came the RAC Coolant Overflow System, a very inexpensive type of insurance against overheating, particularly during extensive drag strip testing. The system seals the radiator and provides an overflow tank so that the expanding coolant can pour into the tank and will be drawn back into the radiator as the engine cools off. This prevents excess coolant loss and keeps air pockets from forming in the cooling system.

The interior was now worthy of Project Car status, but the exterior was still bare except for the wheels and tires. First came the Hot Rod Magazine Project Car lettering on the fenders, capably handled by Dennis Jones of Whittier, California, and then a trick side stripe. Instead of getting some high-buck painter to do it, however, we called on Cliff Ghetti to perform the task. Cliff started with the basic white stripe offered by Cannon Industries in Culver City, California, for many different makes of cars. It consists of a wide center stripe on both sides of the name Toyota and a narrow stripe above and below it. A little work with a tape measure and razor blade and a lot of creative ingenuity on Cliff’s part resulted in that trick stripe you can see in the photos.

After realizing the handling benefits provided by the super-wide tires, we headed for the drag strip in search of increased traction, which was worth well over a tenth of a second. But it took us a while to find it, because the Corolla lacks a limited-slip rearend and therefore tends to smoke the right rear tire coming out of the gate. Our best e.t. was 17.82. (We later discovered that the added traction at the rear was actually worth about a quarter of a second, but the added rolling resistance of the wide tires on the front was in fact costing us a tenth.)

 A trip to Exzostec in Paramount, California, brought us a shiny new set of headers for our 1600 hemi, as well as a fairly quiet low-resistance glasspack muffler replacing the stock Toyota unit. The clocks showed an increase of a tenth with the headers capped and another two tenths with them open. A good increase, but frankly, we had expected more. The reason for the lack of a gigantic increase, we found, is that the Toyota’s stock exhaust manifold is very well designed. The addition of headers will not provide as big a gain as found on most other cars. That exhaust manifold, incidentally, is part of the reason for the 1600’s excellent performance in stock condition. With the open headers, we ran a 17.53 at 76.14 mph, but the better breathing had leaned out the mixture, causing the hemi to diesel (run on after the key was shut off). We considered changing to another carb and manifold but decided to experiment first with the stock setup. In our initial attempt, we tried a richened power jet and a leaner secondary, an arrangement that several people had used with good results on the street. The unfailing Chrondeks at OCIR showed a marginal reduction in e.t., but this combination was too lean on the top end, resulting in a slight drop in mph.

Our next low-buck experiment was far more successful, because we took the advice of a seasoned drag racing veteran, Dean Lowry, one of the men responsible for getting the VW performance thing going. The VW fans will be sad to learn that he’s no longer affiliated with Deano’s Dyno Soars, but the Toyota fans will be happy to learn that he’s now playing with Corollas, Coronas and Celicas: All we had to do was drive to Dean’s shop in Santa Ana, and Dean and his mechanic, John Johnston, did the rest.

The first step was modifying the distributor to limit the total advance to 38 degrees rather than the 47 in the stocker. This was done by brazing a piece onto the advance plate, but Dean will shortly have a kit available that will perform this task. Initial advance was bumped to 15 degrees and a new set of points were installed. Dean admitted that the carburetion is a little bit on the lean side, especially with headers, so the jets had to be opened up. The stock 1.08mm primary jet was drilled out to 1.23mm, the stock 1.62mm secondary was drilled to 1.75, and the richened power jet was replaced with the stock .60mm size. In addition, the 1 1/2-inch-long spring inside the secondary diaphragm was removed, a few coils were cut off so that the spring height in a relaxed position was exactly one inch, and the spring was then reinstalled. The purpose of this last modification is to cause the secondary to open just a shade sooner than stock by decreasing the internal resistance of the diaphragm.

During the course of the extensive drag strip testing that Dean has done with the Corolla, he also discovered that a few hundredths can be gained by clipping the rear springs just ahead of the point where the emergency brake cable passes over each spring. The clipping is done with two one-inch-wide pieces of 1/4-inch flat stock that have been bolted together around the spring to prevent the leaves from separating under acceleration. He just happened to have a spare set lying around the shop, so they were quickly bolted into place.

Our next trip to the drag strip yielded a best-ever e.t. of 17.21 seconds at 77.98 mph. Just a simple carb and distributor modification (plus the spring clips) had brought a gain of over a quarter of a second. During some of our many trips to OCIR, we also discovered a couple of other little tricks worth some time. As we mentioned earlier, putting on the skinny tires up front was worth a tenth and removing the air cleaner top and element was worth about the same amount. We never got a chance to run our Corolla with all these little tricks applied before the car went into the shop for some engine modifications, but we figure that a time around 17.0s at over 78 mph would not be out of the realm of reality.

Our Project Car is only half-done now, and we’ve chopped almost a full second off the e. t. and added almost 5 mph to the top end speed. Needless to say, the performance on the street is vastly improved, and we’re still getting 22-25 mpg on regular gas, just a shade under the 23-27 figure we got with the stock vehicle. With the addition of wheels, tires, headers, instruments, stripes, a tape deck and some low-buck engine mods, we’ve gained immensely in appearance and function, while chipping away gradually at the e.t. We still feel there’s a lot to be done, particularly in the engine and suspension areas. We’ve got a whole lot of things up our sleeves, like Isky camshafts, Koni shocks, a five-speed transmission, 4.11 rearend gears, carbs, manifolds, spoilers, radial tires, and more. We can’t tell you all our secrets now or we’ll have nothing left for next month. Stick around till then; it’ll be worth the wait!



VEHICLE. . . Toyota Corolla 1600 2-dr. fastback

PRICE. . . Base, $2213.22; as tested, $2213.22

ENGINE. . . 1588cc in-line 4-cylinder (96.9cu.-in.) with aluminum crossflow hemi head, 88 hp @ 6000 rpm (SAE net), 91.3 ft./lbs. torque @ 3800 rpm (SAE net), 85mm bore x 70mm stroke (3.35-in. x 2.76-in.), 8.5:1 compression ratio

CARBURETION . . . Downdraft two-barrel with automatic choke. 1.18-in. primary throttle bore; 1.33-in. secondary bore

VALVE TRAIN . . . Mechanical lifters, double rocker shafts, 1.61-in.-head-dia. intake valve opens @ 16° BTC, closes @ 54° ABC, 250° duration, lash .007-in. cold;
1.42-in.-dia. exhaust valve opens @ 58° BBC, closes @ 12° ATC, 250° duration, 28° overlap, lash .012-in. cold. Maximum valve lift: .342-in.

DRIVE TRAIN. . . 4-speed manual ail-synchromesh transmission. Ratios: 3.587:1, 1st; 2.022:1, 2nd; 1.384:1, 3rd; 1.000:1, 4th; 3.484:1, reverse; 3.90:1 rear axle ratio. Hydraulic clutch

BRAKES. . . Front disc/rear drum with vacuum assist. 6.3-inch front solid disc; 7.9 x 1.2-inch cast-iron rear drum

WHEELS & TIRES. . . 6.15×13 Bridgestone bias-ply whitewall tires mounted on 13 x 4 1/2 -inch steel wheels

SUSPENSION. . . Front: Independent MacPherson strut using coil springs, torsion stabilizer, strut bar and double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers. Rear: Asymmetrical semi-elliptical leaf springs with double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers

STEERING. . . Manual recirculating ball type; ratio: 18.1-to-1. Turning circle 29.6 ft., 3.2 turns lock-to-lock

PERFORMANCE. . . Quarter-mile (best): 17 .91 sec., 73.18 mph

DIMENSIONS. . . Wheelbase: 91.9 in.; front track: 49.6 in.; rear track: 49.0 in.; overall height: 53.0 in.; overall width: 59.3 in.; overall length: 157.5 in.; test weight: 1980 lb.; shipping weight: .1915 lb.; body/ frame construction: unitized body; fuel tank capacity: 11.9 gal.


Article continues in Chapter Two..

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