One of the more overlooked cars in the Toyota Corolla lineage is the TE72 liftback. This car came out in the USA from 1980 to 1983 (technically, it started in 1979.5 and ran a little into 1984) , and was the predecessor to the beloved AE86. This month, we've been featuring some pretty cool TE71/AE71 sedans, but I wanted to draw a little more attention to the TE72 liftback/hatchback version. If you look at the three rear windows, the roofline, and front fenders (well, you can't see the fender detail exactly on this particular car because it has big fiberglass fender flares that have been molded/bondoed onto the original body steel), then you can see that this car has some very similar lines to the AE86 hatchback. I suppose you could say that this is the "father" (or uncle?) of the AE86.
In fact, AE86 front suspension and brake components swap right in, and in the past, I've known a lot of people who have swapped out their AE86 power steering racks for AE71 manual steering racks, which are said to have a quicker steering ratio – meaning, you can go from lock to lock in less turns of the steering wheel. Nowadays though, there are many available modifications for AE86 steering racks, and it isn't necessary to hunt down one of these AE71 racks. (People I know were doing this AE71 rack swap like 10 years ago.)
Another nice thing about the TE71/72 series Corollas, they also use a T50 5-speed transmission (just like an AE86), but the engine has bigger power potential than a 4AGE! In North America, the TE71/72 comes with a 3TC (carbureted 1.8 liter hemi pushrod engine), which is capable of doing 7 or 8 second quarter mile times if it's in the hands of the right Puerto Ricans with turbos. In Japan, these cars were more commonly found with a 2TG engine, which is a twin-carbed 1.6 liter twincam engine. While the 2TG engine might not produce as much power as a turbocharged 3TC, the 2TG was more popular for circuit racing in Japan because of its high rpm performance and response. A lesser known fact is that JUN Auto's legendary car builder, Koyama, built JUN to what it is today, based on his success in building 2TG engines for TRD and Toyota Team Tom's in the 1970s. Even though the 2TC and 3TC engines came as standard equipment in North American market Corollas, they were only available in Japan as equipped in the lower end Corollas. (Good looking out, Toyota, for always giving us the good stuff, sheesh.) I bet the engineers in Japan who designed the 2TC and 3TC engines would never have dreamed that those engines would actually become popular for high power output in old school Toyotas. This only happened because of a few handfuls of resourceful and dedicated Puerto Ricans and Filipinos who knew enough about building and tuning engines to make it happen.
Oh what a feeling…