I’ve always appreciated older vehicles that have been given a new breath of life. This holds true for both domestic and import machineries. Often times, I really don’t want to make this too obvious… One, it provides hints and signs of times – getting the dreaded question about age becomes common. Two, you get the “itch” to start what may seem to be a little project but we all know this isn’t always the case.
Though I’ve had a keen eye for both older domestic and import vehicles, seeing the older Toyotas specially the 80’s on the road or events without fail always catches my attention and has been my kryptonite. Let’s get this straight – I’ll definitely admit that I’m not a Toyota connoisseur but it just dates back to what I was brought up with. Seeing “Yota’s” such as Neil De La Cruz’s ’81 Starlet – “Milo”, which I had the pleasure of featuring – made me feel like a kid in a candy store and having a good ol’ chocolaty drink (wink-hint ;-). More recently, Neil introduced me to another Pinoy Olschooler just like him, Ben Fernandez. Ben’s ’83 Corolla sedan put quite a grin on my face when I first saw it up close. You may ask why but growing up in the Philippines, my dad always bought Toyotas and one of them was a brand new midnight blue 1983 corolla as a family car – right before my younger brother was born. I’ve asked my dad why always a Toyota and he never fails to answer it with – “it’s reliable, cheap parts.” Sure enough, I can’t seem to remember that it gave my dad any issues.
Unlike our midnight blue family “rolla” way back when, Ben’s ’83 AE71 didn’t get to look and growled like how it is now that easy. He’s owned the AE71 for 4 years now. However, it took quite some time to get it to a point where he was completely satisfied with not only its looks but go fast bits. It took Ben at least 2 years to collect the parts needed; then another 8 glorious months to complete such a looker and as he described it “with a lot of tender love.” I can’t disagree as the TLC definitely shows. As for most of us car guys and gals, the love just comes naturally; as certain machinery attachments reflect a piece of yester-years or sometimes family. In Ben’s case, he’s KE70 back home, the Philippines, served as an inspiration to move forward with his project ‘83 AE71.
Ben had challenges getting a hold of parts as most of them are hard to find now. With a 29 year old car, suppliers or yards usually hoard parts to increase profit especially overseas. Luckily, Ben has some good contacts in the Philippines to find him parts. His brother Benjamin III is his primary parts scavenger. Ichiban Racing located, of course, at the ever so popular spot for hard to find parts in the Philippines; Banauwe Quezon City was frequently visited. Rhet Del Rosario of Toycool Corolla also helped him out to piece together the parts for the “ol’skul rolla.”
The exterior of the AE71 looks completely clean. The boxy body styling of the corolla was accentuated by the custom 918 Orange color from the Toyota pioneers of PJ Bonifacio Autobody. The color just seizes your attention as it rolls by. Subtle exterior touches such as the custom front lip, flared fenders, GTS coupe rear spoiler, JDM chrome bumpers and JDM fender mirrors were just enough to show a renewed edge to the corolla. The 13 x 8 classic ATS lightweight wheels put a little of German flavor to this 80’s Japanese machinery. Simple things such as the badges on the grill were hard to ignore which shows homage not only to classic Japanese automotive association but to dedicated Filipino restorers in the United States as well as the Philippines.
BlackTop 20 Valve AE111 4A-GELU was the chosen center piece for this oldie which was installed by Racetoys. Toda pieces such as Toda Cam’s 272’s, Toda adjustable Cam Gear and Toda Flywheel also made it to the new power plant of the Rolla. Growling with new life, Racetoys Velocity Stacks and custom high rise headers and exhausted were installed. AEM Engine management was needed to keep the vitals in check and orchestrate engine components. GTS Mishimoto Aluminum radiators and Greddy Oil catch-can can’t also be missed as you look down the tidy engine bay. T50 Transmission and ACT Stage 3 clutch assembly were used to transfer the BlackTop power to the ground.
The spotless interior is another highlight of this vehicle. The faded original interior were all tossed to accommodate the all black seats, panels and restored dash. Nardi steering wheel, Auto Meter Tach, and TRD knob entraps an onlooker right away. The laptop holder or movable neck was just a cool touch; giving me a good grin when I first saw this. The set up mimicked the good ol’ discman car movable necks or holder in the past. Surely youngins these days won’t probably know what I’m talking about.
Well some may think that this 80’s oldie was put together for looks and cruise, shutting any doubters up, Ben enjoyed running the AE71 for the first time on track during 86fest that Motormavens put together. With the help of the jeers and cheers of some homies, surely enough the corolla ran consistent low 38 track times beating some of the more expensive and track-prepped cars at the event.
Like Neil’s Starlet, Ben’s ’83 corolla sedan was built due to the fact that he had an unfinished mission that was left in the Philippines. The “behind the scenes” value and TLC that went in into rejuvenating an uncommon platform is what sets this 1983 AE71 apart. It did not only complete what he longed for in the past but brought reminiscences of the Philippines to a new found home here in the United States. Ben is very thankful to family and friends that supported him during the build – His wife Melody and son Weber the carburetor, Racetoys of Walnut, PJ Bonifacio AutoBody, TGP-IERC and his crew Team Klassifed.
Until the next one… Peace