The Best Worst Car You’ll See Today

Like most, I enjoy a good sleeper. However, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve last seen a proper example either online or on the road.

This is because there’s nearly always a giveaway or a tell-tale sign that spoils the sleeper surprise. You know what I’m talking about, right? The clearly larger-than-stock brakes, that subtle front mount intercooler or a stripped and caged interior.

2015 Toyota Corolla E80 AE111 by Paddy McGrath-8

As hunters of speed, we’re all trained to look for these subtle differences and to spot the wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing from a mile off. Not all sleepers are created equally though…

2015 Toyota Corolla E80 AE111 by Paddy McGrath-6

Sat amongst a plethora of tasty Toyotas at Japfest last month, was this mid ’80s AE80 Corolla.

Let’s be honest, whilst it was a perfectly fine car at the time, there was no way it was ever going to set the motoring world on fire. For most people from this era, this model of Corolla is nothing but a hazy and distant memory.

2015 Toyota Corolla E80 AE111 by Paddy McGrath-5

Originally, this car would have featured a lethargic 1,300cc SOHC 8-valve motor making just under 70hp. The AE80 would have been a common sight around Ireland during its time, and even now a few still continue to serve their owners well.

2015 Toyota Corolla E80 AE111 by Paddy McGrath-7

Had this been parked outside of the event, I honestly would never have taken a second look at it. But its presence in the paddock alone was enough to catch my attention. With its bonnet open, I circled around for a closer look.

2015 Toyota Corolla E80 AE111 by Paddy McGrath-2

Well, that was unexpected.

At some stage in this car’s life, someone obviously thought it would be a great idea to dump the original 1.3L and replace it with a 1,600cc 4A-GE 20-valve ‘black top’ engine from an AE111 Corolla. They would have been right too, because it was a great idea.

2015 Toyota Corolla E80 AE111 by Paddy McGrath-10

With the proverbial cat out of the bag, you only then start to notice the little things. The wheels aren’t hub-caps, rather factory GTI alloys with AE111 brakes behind them. The lowered ride height again comes courtesy of an AE111’s coil-over suspension.

2015 Toyota Corolla E80 AE111 by Paddy McGrath-4

It doesn’t end there either, as the 4A-GE has been coupled to the later model Levin’s 6-speed (and LSD equipped) gearbox, ensuring that the lightweight Corolla can put its newfound power down effectively.

With the bonnet shut, this Corolla quickly reassumes its facade of being a humble grocery-getter that has survived far beyond its expected lifetime. Personally, I will be making a note of its registration and if I ever meet it on the road, will be giving it the respect it deserves.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
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I don't know anything about, or what is, "a fifth generation 1,600cc 4A-GE 20-valve ‘black top’ engine" Is that supposed to make that car fast?  In my definition, a sleeper is an unassuming car, that appears stock, but has mods that make it fast.  Not just faster than it was with it's original worthless motor...

My definition is not the only definition, but around here, that's what it means.


Come on. It looks really standart. I mean, it just look like an original corolla. But it use a blacktop. Hahaha

turbo BEAMS ae86

Roman64 that are double the power of stock, show respect ass nugget

turbo BEAMS ae86

love that one..remind me of my first tinkerings


Roman64  are you retarded?


@turbo BEAMS ae86 Roman64 I may not know what "sleeper" means around the globe, but I definitely know the word respect.  I advise you to find some if it's a habit for you to pop off at the mouth like that while defending a four-cylinder.  

I have not disrespected anyone, or anything.  As far as calling a complete stranger an ass nugget on the internet, let see know you are obviously a sensitive boy.  

I think ass nugget and butt wipe were popular at the same time I could be found in a brand new Corolla like that being dropped off to school by an Asian friend's grandma.


@IGOG Roman64 Oh geez...another one.

Okay, okay, I just googled what it is.  
GT-S specifications[ 7 characters of VIN: JT2AE88Chassis code: AE86 (which differs from the VIN)Horsepower: 112 hp (84 kW) @ 6600 rpm* Torque: 97 lb·ft (132 N·m) @ 4800 rpm*Weight: approximately 2200 lb (998 kg) to 2400 lb (1089 kg)Engine: 4A-GE, 1587 ccEngine type: DOHC 16-valve Inline-4 AFM Multiport Fuel Injection w/T-VISTransmission: T50, 8-bolt flywheelInjector size: approx. 180 cc, low impedanceCompression: 9.4:1Differential: 6.7" Open (T282) or optional LSD (USA Only) (T283) with 4.30:1 Ratio, 2-pinionWheels/tires: 14x5.5" +27 mm Offset Rims with 185/60R14 82H Tires (195/60R14 85H for 86+ models)
I had a Harley with less cc's and 131 HP and 126 FT/LBS.  See my perspective?


If that car pulled up next to anyone of you out there and it walked away from you with that motor in'd better go park your shit and hide, because that would be embarrassing!


Roman64 That's a 16 valve engine that you've Googled. The 20V is around 160hp (when stock) in a car that weights around 850kgs. With the correct gearing, that's going to be a quick car where you would typically expect an old, slow, saloon.


I stand corrected...

"4AGE 20 valve engine, a 1,600cc engine with 5 valves per cylinder, variable valve timing and individual throttle bodies. Essentially Toyota's answer to Honda's VTEC engines, the 4AGE sends an impressive 121kW (165hp) to the front wheels from a 1,600cc non turbo engine via extremely efficient heads and lofty rpms. Weighing a mere 1,050kg this makes the AE111 a real pocket rocket and so impressive is the 4A-GE 20 valve engine is it a favourite for engine swaps into other lightweight cars amongst tuners."

Apparently this is the engine that you guys are so defensive about huh?  A "power plant" worth defending.


Roman64 lol you googled the 1st gen engine son. I know you are mad because its a jdm engine and not a 9.0L v8 with 200hp and overdrive. Its a 1.6 20V not 16 as you "Googled".
Im not impressed a harley can make 131 hp since a R1 makes over 200 with 998ccm but bike engines are a bit different than a Car engine.


Raaban Roman64 I'm not mad at all.  I don't hate on any makes.  I just think it's funny how people worship these little iconic engines and they're still anemic.  My HD was plenty bad ass for a HD, but comparing a HD to an import sport bike ain't the same ballpark.  I'm not here to impress with numbers, just showing a comparison.

What has 9.0L V8 with 200 HP (and what's overdrive have to do with anything?)  Those are sorry numbers too!  I think we can agree with that!

And what's with all the lil boys staying home from school today with all kind of 'retard, fart face, butt nugget' business.  Shit's hella funny!!!


Paddy McGrath Roman64 Okay


Love the idea of a sleeper.any info on the k10 March turbo in the picture above?there a rare sight on Irish roads!


Roman64 Raaban Yeah the name calling isn't cool.
But neither is your arrogance, buddy.
Just respect the fact that someone has a different taste in cars.
I respect that you have an opinion. You have a right to an opinion. But having an opinion is much like having a penis; no one appreciates it if you ram it down their throats.


Roman64 Can you read? Or do you just copy stuff from the internt? Its a 20v not 16v and if you are such a wise guy stick with your bike and be quiet.


DecMcClure Roman64 Raaban Sarcasm yes, arrogance, don't think so...

Thanks for the penis down the throat...


LucasHubmann Roman64 Yes I cut and pasted those entries from the internet.  Perceptive.  I'm not wise guy and I sold my bike.  As far as your advice to be quiet...ssshhh...listen to yourself.


Roman64 That would be it, yes. The 20V was effectively Toyota's rival to Honda's B16A, although in every dyno comparison I've seen the B16A puts out more power than an equivalently modified 20v 4AGE, often in the vicinity of 20whp more. For its size it's a good little engine but I've always preferred the B-series.

As for the car in question, I think it's a nice little low-level sleeper, sure it's not a rocketship but it'd still move along better than one might expect. I too have a lovely sleeper in the form of a beat-up old Holden Commodore with dents, rust, scrapes and peeling paint all over it, but it's packing an LSX454. All it needs now is, um, the LSX454...


You know who to call when that's done Matty...


Needs agze ribbed block, forged internals and FI. Sweet nonetheless


SnoozinRichy Now taking donations. :P


......grabs popcorn out of microwave


jbfromsiliconvalley HAHAHA!  Good one!  We're probably in the same area code right now...


Paddy McGrath Roman64 "quick" would still be subjective. Doubling 80hp by swapping an engine to still be behind any B- or H-motored stock car.


D1RGE EXE Paddy McGrath Roman64 What's a B or H motor?  I'm from California and went to high school early/mid 90's.  It was all about muscle cars and lowriders growing up.  We were never into these types of cars...


D1RGE EXE Paddy McGrath Roman64 Absolutely, but for its environment (Irish roads) where outright horsepower doesn't matter a damn, it's going to be faster than probably 85% of the cars on the road here.


Speedhunters my dad used to have one of those :D


You're right, man. This engine is shit...... compared to a Boeing 747 50,000hp engine. Perspective right?

turbo BEAMS ae86

find you and make take you to a drive in a 4AGE hatch and you become my slave trapped in my garage 20 years


@turbo BEAMS ae86 Roman64 I hope you're hot, can cook good, and are female...


roryfjohnston Yes to perspective...and yes to $hit engine...and not only to the massive extreme you have given.  

Opinion, perspective, what speech.  All mine and equally all yours out there.   Tell me to shove off, call me immature names, no sweat to this vato.  People love pointing fingers and telling others they're wrong when they don't agree.

All I'm saying is the car is crap, the engine is a turd, I don't like it, I wouldn't buy it, or build it because it's not my flavor.  In fact, I think it's a waste of time to go through all that work for a marginal improvement.  

For all I know, he could've had the parts sitting around, or maybe it was a HS kid shop class project.  Irrelevant.

Reply if you want, or don't.  Some will agree, some disagree and some could care less otherwise.  Jesus people, relax...


Paddy McGrath D1RGE EXE Roman64 Makes sense from a wet Irish countryside point of view.


I'm a Corolla/AE86 guy and i'll say this.
You are 100% right.
They are nice engines, elegant no less. But they don't make these cars fast.
Very durable, punchy for their capacity due to their bottom end architecture, which is also what limits their peak HP, but fast, never.
Correctly installed and set up and making close to their factory rating, they create a fun cheap car, in years gone by at least, now days the desirable base cars are very rare, as are the engines.
In the case of installing one in a RWD Corolla, their is still some validity in the combination, enough power to learn/enjoy counter-steer (with liberal use of clutch kicks) and or drive quickly enough on some fun twisty road. in fact driving these cars at 10/10ths (due to their limitations) is definitely something special. 
I find the car in the topic interesting, for the simple fact that it makes so little sense.
A Yaris with a 2ZZ-GE on the other hand.


ADimitriRoumeliotis Roman64 HAHAHAHA!  Well played!

See? This is fun right??


So much hate on the little corolla!
I had one of these growing up, fantastic little cars, light, nimble and fun and with a 20V rev to the moon!
Just good cheap fun, people need to remember it's not about beating everyone in a race but the joy of driving and joy of machine!
Brilliant little car and thanks to the owner for sharing his/her own style and thanks to Paddy for sharing this with us all!


roryfjohnston ROFLMAO.  I feel like this Roman guy's trolling has all just lead up to this post and that's fine.


i have no idea why i saw this out of everything else but the underside of the hood (the hood itself not the engine) is a design ive never seen.


ANYWAY......Nice car. Good change to see an article on a car that otherwise wouldn't get a second look and I'm sure this would be a fun thing to drive. 
I've been considering this transplant in the wife's ae92 corolla :-)


I had an AE92 Corolla (similar to this one but newer) for a couple years. It had the lower spec 4AFE 1.6 Litre (North America 113bhp) but was still kinda fun to drive as it was pretty light and nimble.


I wish my FWD had an LSD option from factory =/ I'd be straight out there to find a box! (though it would probably break as my car is now running between 3 and 4 times factory power


This would be the perfect daily drive :)


I think its funny that people in the US dont ser the potential in the 4A-GE engine claiming that it cant nake sufficient power...well here in finland in the same town as me are 2 Toyotas with around 750bhp. -85 GT Corolla and around the same year Starlet.. Street cars both ;)


Roman64 sorry for my english, or can u write on croatian


Still have these running in the streets in South Africa the a day never passes without seeing 1 to 6 of them, the likes of GLI Twincam 2.0 16V


Jeez Roman shut the **** up dawg


I think this car is the perfect definition of a sleeper personally. It's not just a hugely upgraded engine and driveline package, but also the brakes and suspension too. If you saw this car up in the mountains railing bends you'd be scratching your head for sure...


Roman64 DecMcClure Raaban Blatant arrogance mate. And obviously a troll. Grow up.




Any more pictures of the black March super turbo sat next to it?? that thing looks CLEAN and they are rare as hens teeth..


Nice to know that the AE111’s coil-over suspension can fit a ae80... :)


Does anyone know what the white car next to the corolla is?


ssvirk toyota levin


ssvirk Toyota Levin BZR

56's like walking through pit lane at a drag race in 1997 at Atco raceway in New Jersey


My father has one of those cars, and I have been thinking of doing the same conversion for a long time now.


Some math for the hater(s): 160hp in a 1900 lb car.... or roughly the hp/weight of an LS1 trans-am. By any measure, the combination would be fun to drive (to say the least).


PPK459 I know right? Okes love these down in the Cape. The favoured 4AGZE swap woth a turbo conversion. I myself had an AE82 hatch, it was a cream colour and affectionately known as "Die Kaas" as it resembled a wedge of mature cheddar.

I had plans to swap the 2E with a 4E-FTE from a Starlet as the blocks are the same, but parts are hella rare.


Oh Lordy! I can just imagine how that Ae86 runs! Just love these 4AGE little engines! Here's my cabby and have 353000km on the clock and still embarrass 325i's and Ford ST170's at the lights.Roman64  you can't compare cars and bikes....that is just plain silly. Once you driven a vehicle with a 4age motor you understand what we on about...the way they scream...the mechanical sound the engine make under load etc.


Zohann Man how I miss those pre-con walls!


These engines don't quite make 160hp. A really good one will usually pull about 100KW at the wheels on a chassis dyno, mid 90s is common. 
they also weigh more than "1900LB" Unless you are talking KE20 etc.
E7/E8 (fwd or rwd) are more like 2100lb without a lot of weight reduction.

I've owned, driven, and worked on a lot of these cars.


Great write! Corollas are the best! They're a cheap and there are tons of possible upgrades to put in. These corollas are reliable and the looks of it doesn't get old. It iss always a good project to work with. Anyways, I'd like to share my sleeper project AE92. It runs with a 3rd gen 3sgte engine and I'm still waiting for the usdm parts tho before restoring it.


Zohann Roman64 my dad used to have this AE92 ,I've learned driving with this by stealing his key and than my dad sold it and change it with newer corolla ('95 don't now what's it called)


You know what this little beauty reminds me of.. Initial D.
If anyone knows what I'm talking about, you deserve several cookies.


Roman64 D1RGE EXE Paddy McGrath Honda engines.


Reminds me of my little AE82!


What about the Trueno next to it?


my toyota ae82...a car that my dad give it to me...


I think my dad had one of those ae80s with a 4agze supercharger in it, i dont know much about it, buti know that it had a massiv supercharger and it had over 220hp on the wheels


My old AE82 was a heap of fun! Daily driven and ripped up the track too punching way above its weight!
Had a lightly tuned smallport 4AGE, great brakes, alot of suspension work and numerous wheel setups. Thing weighed about 900kg with A/C and all the interior stripped right out
- Justin


Loving the Super S Micra on the right


Toyota avante AE82 only place you find this one is cape town was a proud own of this one the love for Toyota 20v inside


the car was very good 
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Have an 85 ae80 hatch with a 4agze swapped into it pushing 200hp at the front wheels also not one sign of it being modded looks sleeper as until the bonnets popped