A V8 Corolla Van That Drifts

I love cars. I’m quite sure that if you’re reading this then you probably do too.

However, like all relationships that involve a lot of passion, there are inevitably going to be ups and downs. These manifest themselves in all sorts of ways but ultimately define who we are as car people. Every experience, good and bad, plays a role in shaping our tastes and preferences. Lately, I’ve found myself becoming more and more interested in the kind of builds which are more down to one person’s idea and execution than just filling out a shopping list.

1987 KE70 Wagon Extra by Paddy McGrath-2

When this Corolla wagon rolled up at Auto Heroes last month, I was immediately drawn to it. The familiarities with the Motor Fix cars in Japan are obvious, and in a proverbial sea of Nissan S and R bodies it was a welcome sight. You don’t really notice the bonnet cut from eye level, at least from a distance, but you do hear the definitely-not-a-4A-GE as it saunters past.

The owner of the car is Dennis Healy, and you might remember his SR86 we featured a few years back or his campaigns in the purple Nexen Levin notchback many moons ago in the then Prodrift Series. These days, he’s a married man and the proud father of two young children, so whilst his professional drift career is behind him for the meantime, he has been able to put together this wagon using old parts and a little bit of his own ingenuity.

1987 Toyota Corolla DX Van by Paddy McGrath-10

For those of you who find V8 swaps tasteless, you can at least find some solace in the fact that Dennis has kept this one in the family. The polished velocity stacks on eight OBX individual throttle bodies adorn the top of a 4.0-litre, quad-cam 1UZ-FE.

1987 Toyota Corolla DX Van by Paddy McGrath-3

The whole wagon is actually quite interesting because it has been built on very tight budget. So, instead of lots of expensive parts, Dennis has used his own creativity to give the Toyota a bit of flair. The smooth engine bay has seen the brake and clutch master cylinders relocated to the interior, while the motor itself is mounted to an RB20 gearbox with an SR20 Exedy clutch in between. The power is sent rearwards to a Mitsubishi Pajero rear axle nestled in a three-link rear end.

1987 Toyota Corolla DX Van by Paddy McGrath-7

What you might have noticed is that this wagon only has two doors. Dennis explained how this KE70 was originally a panel van before he replaced the steel ‘window’ apertures with clear acrylic. The rollcage back here (and throughout the rest of the car) is all custom, as is the larger gearbox tunnel.

1987 Toyota Corolla DX Van by Paddy McGrath-8

The freshly painted interior contrasts with the authentic patina on the outside, and the lack of dashboard or of any gauges is by design. Running an ECUMaster engine management unit with Bluetooth, Dennis can gather and display all vital data via his smartphone which is held in place with a windscreen-mounted cradle.

1987 Toyota Corolla DX Van by Paddy McGrath-6

That Thrash Racing seat could tell a story or two at this stage I’m sure. You can see the brake and clutch cylinders lurking behind the cross bar too.

1987 KE70 Wagon Extra by Paddy McGrath-3

The KE70 has been converted to coil-overs front and rear, with fully adjustable arms all around and custom steering knuckles in the mix. On the subject of ‘custom’. there’s also a custom exhaust and a custom wiring loom. Brakes are AE86 fare, which might be a bit under-powered usually, but are fine for a drift setup like this.

1987 KE70 Wagon Extra by Paddy McGrath-4

Dennis reckons the Corolla hasn’t even been washed in 20 years, but it’s all part of the charm. At this stage, painting it would be a shame as it would remove so much of the car’s original character. Can you imagine the life that this car has lived? From rolling off an Irish Toyota forecourt as someone’s new work steed, to its new life as a track car. I’m honestly just smiling thinking about it.

1987 KE70 Wagon Extra by Paddy McGrath-1

As things stand, its 260-odd horsepower at the wheels coupled with Dennis’ abilities are more than enough to keep this Corolla on full song around Mondello Park. I don’t think I’ve seen a stranger (if strange is even the right word) combination of this wagon twinning with James Deane’s Falken S14 during an open practice session.

It embodies for me everything that is right about our car world. Passion over budget.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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Loved the story Paddy, thanx! And my narrow minded personality was very happy to see a Toyota V8 in there hehehe. Gotta love KE70s!!


jajaja A very nice car really, i just enjoy the budget idea of the car, and of course the fact that this car have a new live. i hope that happens to my old cars too.


Personally would love to see it refined and painted on the outside. Would look really clean, but on the otherhand, I love the natural ware and tear look D;


I hate seeing cars like this. It makes me want to have a corolla wagon so badly. Anyway nice build though.


The V8 configuration is the sweet spot in engine design.

It's got enough size to be powerful without having to resort to forced induction like a four-banger, but it's not hideously complex or heavy like a DOHC V12 or quad-turbo V16.

It's dimensionally similar to a turbo-4 installation, once you account for all the plumbing and manifolds, and it can run on regular gas.

Plus, you get a great exhaust note. Only a jet engine sounds better than a properly-exhausted V8.

Think about it - an LS-3 in an RX-7 is one of the few times an aftermarket engine swap actually makes the car MORE reliable.


One of my favorite SH articles! Love it


Ice Age Preaching to the converted!


w3rrd Glad you enjoyed it :)


Looks so badass from above


CharlesChris15 For what this car is all about, I wouldn't change a thing.


Savage write up as always paddy...Credit to Denis also


Love it!


AlvinReid Thanks, Alvin. Hope you're good!


I love this! inspires me to ditch the 20v in my 4door sedan drifter for something a bit more powerful and unique!


Is it possible if SH can try to include more suspension detail shots where possible.


Thanks Paddy, great choice. Cars like this are what you need to find more of!! Don't think I've even seen a 2 door wagon before.  Did he swap the entire rear subframe to get coilovers?

turbo BEAMS ae86

no filter?  good bye  in 10,000km  piston ring


ADimitriRoumeliotis We try for full features, but not for 'Car Spotlights' which are just intended to be a quick look with 8-10 images.


@turbo BEAMS ae86 If a drift engine goes 10,000KM between re-builds, that's pretty good going!


Makes me want so silly swap my daily.


Hi guys this one really inspired me to finish my 1uz powered sigma , great job thank bro thanks for the inspiration


This thing is just beautiful, full of so much character.


Hi guys, my brother sent me your post and I thought it would be nice to share my old beast from back in the 80's.
My corolla panel van with its 1.3ltr motor just wasn't cutting it. A bit slow to overtake so I dropped a 2ltr twin cam in it.
Without the cams being done but being a 10R motor bored out to first oversize on a 2ltr, this car became a beast.
12.5 down the 1/4 mile.
It was quick. Sadly I traded it for a land cruiser.


NickAutoFiend just go diesel 3l turbo? blow smoke with me


love the down shot over the trumpets... it's a wolf in hobos clothing

Jonathan Casey Woland

Wow, that is very unusual beast!
But isn't 260hp are strange for UZ?


video ?


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