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1973 Toyota Corolla - Old School

A Cherished Memory Clad In White Sheet Metal

If Derryk Ludwig's 1973 Toyota Corolla could speak, it would recount a convoluted tale of faithful use, neglect, renewed appreciation and a mechanical rebirth.

Derryk's grandfather purchased the car several years ago from a co-worker as a cost-effective solution to an unpleasant commute. Though it had a straight body, the Te21 Corolla was pretty well worn at the time as shown by its dull paint, a whistling windshield seal, and a compressed upholstery driver's seat. About six months before his grandfather's retirement, this fossil-era Toyota got stolen and had to be recovered from National City near the Mexican border, where $100 was paid to remove it from impound. The Corolla required a tow back to Los Angeles since the thieves had unplugged its harness from the firewall, perhaps to keep someone from stealing the Toyota from them.

When Derryk's grandfather retired, the Corolla, now in need of an engine rebuild, followed him to Missouri, where it survived a traffic accident that damaged the left front fender, the grille and the front bumper. This resulted in a polite $400 payout from the insurance company, but the car remained in its eyesore condition.

When Derryk's cousin Steffany and her family moved back to L.A. from Missouri, grandpa had the Corolla trailered back to California for her use. Once in California, Steffany drove the Corolla within an inch of its life, only stopping it occasionally for the necessary fuel, oil and water to stay on the road. The car had fallen upon hard times, but its loyal service now made it feel like a member of the family, so Derryk paid Steffany $100 for the downtrodden Toyota and got to work on its rehabilitation.

Getting the Corolla road-ready was a tall order, but Derryk's previous experience with a modified 1974 Corona station wagon had made him a fan of the brand and he sought to work similar magic with his grandfather's old car. First, local junkyards were scoured for the best replacement sheet metal and seats. Then Derryk turned Toyota junkies Juan and Jose Lalama, the proprietors of R-rated Motorsports in Ontario, Calif., loose on his Te21. A year later, he had this completely resurrected, performance-enhanced 1973 Corolla that roams the street today.

Juan and Jose replaced the beaten-to-hell stock engine with a modified version of Toyota's bulletproof 3TC engine. This popular four-banger, which in this case was found under the hood of a 1980 Corolla, received an 89mm overbore to increase displacement to 2.0 liters. The forged 10.5:1 pistons are attached to the 3TC's stout rotating assembly, which has been balanced and blueprinted. The cylinder head was aggressively ported with its hemispherical combustion chambers polished, and along with oversized valves and an aggressive TRD camshaft, help provide this engine with some high-revving grunt.

A pair of Mikuni 44mm carburetors rest atop a TRD manifold and dispense large volumes of fuel, maintain excellent throttle response, as well as add a sense of period-correctness to the car's modifications menu. A recurved distributor and an MSD 6AL ignition box help provide the additional spark energy this high-compression engine requires. An equal-length Thermo-coated header expels the spent fumes through a 2.25-inch mandrel-bent exhaust system.

The rest of the Corolla's drivetrain relies on proven components borrowed from other Toyota vehicles. The transmission is a five-speed unit from a 1986 Corolla GTS that, along with a stock, lightened flywheel and a Centerforce Dual-Friction clutch and pressure plate, get the engine through the gears. Derryk's Corolla uses a rear-end, equipped with a LSD, that originally rested beneath a 1980 Supra. The axles are shortened and resplined 1980 Supra units that were altered to accommodate the 3-inch shorter axle housing, and the driveshaft is a custom-fabricated aluminum unit.

The car's suspension was modified for tighter handling, but also ride quality was taken into consideration since the vehicle would be driven daily. The original front struts were replaced with 1986 Corolla GTS strut housings filled with Tokico adjustable shocks. The strut housings were modified with a Ground Control coil-over arrangement that uses 200 lb/in. springs. A front strut tower brace from Cusco in Japan helps stiffen the car's front end. The rear suspension relies on stock, reconditioned leaf springs and a pair of Tokico Illumina rear shocks. Urethane bushings are used on the front control arms and in the rear springs.

The stock front brakes were replaced with vented and cross-drilled units pirated from a 1990 model Mazda RX-7 that measure 12.3 inches in diameter. The rear brakes rely on 10.5 cross-drilled and vented rotors and a stock 1980 Toyota Celica caliper. Rolling beneath the 1973 Corolla are early Supra wheels (14x6) that were triple chrome-plated and shod with Yokohama A-008 tires.

The car's exterior was painted a shade of white created by Albert of Mario's Auto Works in Montclair, Calif. The Corolla's very clean interior remains period-correct with its vinyl seats and completely intact trim.

Derryk's grandfather never made it back to California to see the car in person, but did manage to see pictures of the vehicle and approved of it. The future for the vehicle is very bright as plans are to upgrade it with more modern running gear (3S-GTE engine, Electromotive Tech III) as well as a roll cage to complement suspension enhancements. Given the owner's dedication, this 1973 Corolla seems destined to only get better with age.

Engine Code : 3TC
Type : Inline four, iron block,
aluminum head
Internal Modifications : Forged 10.5:1 pistons,
balanced and blueprinted
reciprocating assembly,
shotpeened rods with ARP
bolts, ported and polished
cylinder head, oversized
valves,TRD camshaft
and gearset
External Modifications : TRD intake manifold, Thermo-
coated equal length headers,
2.25 inch custom fabricated
exhaust system
Engine Management Mods : Dual Mikuni 44s, recurved
distributor, Bosch racing,
fuel pressure regulator,
370cc injectors
Layout : Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Drivetrain Modifications : 1986 Corolla GTS five-speed,
shortened (by 3 inches)1980
Supra rear-end with LSD,
shortened and resplined
axles, custom aluminum
driveshaft, stock, lightened
Front : 1986 Corolla GTS strut
housings, adjustable Tokico
shocks, Addco 22mm anti-roll
bar, Ground Control coil-overs,
200-lb. springs
Rear : Reconditioned rear springs,
Tokico shocks, polyurethane
Front : 12.3-in. disc brakes (1990
RX-7), vented and cross-
drilled rotors with metal pads
Rear : 10.5-in. rear disc (1980
Toyota Celica, cross-drilled
with metal pads)
Wheels : 14x6-in. triple chrome-plated
1981 Supra wheels
Tires : P185/60R-14 (F), P195/
60R-14 (R)
Body : Custom shade of white paint
by Mario's Autoworks
(Montclair, Calif.)
Interior : Vinyl seats, Auto Meter
tachometer, aftermarket
steering wheel
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