Toyota Corolla Levin GT-V Escapes 1980s to Fulfill Modern Owner’s Dreams

Dipping into the past to get your hands on a legendary chassis that carries as much emotional connection and global fanfare as a 1985 Corolla Levin is no easy task—the hype tax will assure that. Inevitably, if you do line up an ’80s Corolla to snag for your own, it’s all but guaranteed to carry a long list of former owners who probably made a few changes (for better or worse) over the years.

In Good Company

Fortunately for Ariel Espanola, this particular chassis was in good hands before he took ownership. Long ago it served as a basis for Kei Miura to work his magic on while creating his very first Rocket Bunny kit for the Levin. Later in the car’s life, it ended up with talented photographer and enthusiast Jean-Christophe Pepino before a short stint with Stancenation’s Elvis Skender, a car fanatic known for buying and selling JDM gems.

Not long after receiving the car, Skender posted it for sale on Instagram and Espanola just so happened to be scrolling by. On whim, he reached out to see what sort of price was being asked and after some back and forth, a deal was struck, followed by a deposit being sent. Fully committed at that point, Espanola pieced together the rest of the funds needed to bring the car home.

Early Exposure

No stranger to project cars, Espanola has owned quite a few different chassis over the years. His fascination with automotive culture began at a very young age when he discovered Formula 1 racing, which later led to BTCC, JGTC, and N2 Corolla competition. Many years later, a friend would introduce him to a stock ’85 USDM GT-S and that ultimately set the tone for this purchase. Though it was painfully slow in stock form, the raw feel of the sporty mid-’80s fan favorite stuck with him and thoughts of owning a Corolla of his own began brewing. Years later, that random spin through his social feed and a bit of luck connected him with this project.

In line with Espanola’s circuit-inspired upbringing, much of the modifications made to the 8-6 remain intact. The previous owners put some effort into maintaining a clean, uniform look while also dropping a few pounds to improve on the cars power-to-weight ratio. The hood and trunk have both been replaced with lightweight FRP panels, and the rear window was swapped out for a much lighter acrylic version.

Rather than adding larger flares with exposed hardware, the front fenders were replaced with more FRP in the form of DMax arches. The additional wheel well space allows the Work Equip 03 in 15×8.5 -6 to snugly fit without issue, while out back, a more aggressive 15×9.5 -9 is tucked under the modified rear fenders – the sum of which adds considerable width to the AE86’s body and track while maintaining a tasteful look from any angle.

If that angle happens to be from the front, the Zenki bumper and TRD lip make a statement all on their own. Just above, the black Levin grill breaks up the all-white body and, mounted just behind its plastic slats, are fog lights that sneak by when they’re off and shine bright in yellow when Espanola flips a switch.

All About A Balance

Lift the featherweight hood and the familiar 4AGE in big port trim is on duty. It’s been fitted with AE101 individual throttle bodies topped with Tec-Art’s velocity stacks on the cold side and a Fujitsubo header on the other end that leads to an HKS Hi-power exhaust. An AE92 distributor and coil-on-plug conversion was introduced to beef up the ignition, while a set of Toda cams and adjustable gears replace the OEM sticks and cogs.

With a Freedom ECU wired in to fine-tune the set-up, the combination of parts offers the sort of throttle response and ability to rev that a lightweight, front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout relishes in. Add to that a close-ratio TRD transmission with a 4.9 final drive and LSD and you put aside any thoughts of boost, especially when the ITBs are wide open.

The original dash and door panels are still intact while the rear has been completely stripped – exposing the intricate stitch welding that continues throughout the chassis. The heavy factory seats and clunky steering wheel were replaced with Bride Zeta XL carbon fiber buckets and a Nardi Deep Corn wheel, and the cabin laced with a Cusco roll cage. No signs of that spiffy auto-reverse cassette deck from the 80s; the lower console now housing only a trio of Defi gauges.

Take ownership of a popular project car that’s passed through multiple hands and, in most cases, you’re in for a mixed bag of good and terrible, as past mistakes and questionable decisions can wreak havoc on an 80s car. Fortunately for Ariel Espanola, the car’s previous owners knew a thing or two about building a proper Corolla and now, after making a handful of changes, he’s enjoying the result.

1985 Toyota Corolla Levin GT-V

Owner Ariel Espanola

Instagram @levin.yeye86

Engine 4AGE big port; TRD engine mounts, head gasket; Toda cams; AE101 ITBs; Tec-Art’s velocity stacks; Gluck radiator, electric fan; Fujitsubo header; HKS Hi-power exhaust; AE92 distributor w/coil-on-plug conversion; Freedom engine management

Drivetrain TRD transmission w/close ratio 1st, 2nd, 3rd, short shifter, 2-way LSD; 4.9 final drive; Toda Racing clutch kit, lightweight flywheel

Suspension Swift springs; TRD AE92 shocks front, blue rears, antiroll bars; Cusco roll cage; custom stitch-welded chassis

Braking Dixcel discs; WinMax Super Zgen pads

Wheels & Tires Work Equip 03 15×8.5 -6 front, 15×9.5 -9 rear; Toyo Proxes R888 195/50 front, 205/50 rear

Exterior FRP hood, trunk, rear fenders; acrylic rear window; DMax FRP front fenders; TRD lip; Winds Auto Type 2 mirrors; Zenki front bumper, grill w/foglights

Interior Bride Japan Zeta XL seats; Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel w/Personal hub; WC Lathewerks titanium shifter extension; GReddy shift knob; Defi gauges

Thanks Zenia Armendariz, Zoey Española, Arthur Española, Avelina Española, Arthur Española Jr., Arlene Rosales, Kenny Kieng, Fred Lopez, Miguel Davila, Steve Wong, Allen Lugue, Marvin Recinos, Richard Trujillo, Andrew Garcia, Jesse Hernandez, Juan Sanchez, Abraham Phan, Elvis Skendar, Jean-Christophe Pepino, (MastermindNA), Takashi Ohira, Wen Huang, Rajeet Dalal (Tec-Art’s) Yoshinori Kamata, Midnight Kids, AE86 Ratchet Club—you know who you are.

Hot Reads

  • Watch a Chevy Silverado Miraculously Drive Away After a Tornado Flips It Over
  • Is the 1,000-HP SRT Ghoul a Real Thing? Maybe!
  • Has BMW Run Out of Road?
  • 70th Anniversary: 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Gets Updated Pricing With More Options
  • Tornado-Surviving Chevy Silverado Gives “Like A Rock” New Meaning

Source: Read Full Article