Can the Toyota Corolla be considered a dream car? Most people would probably say no; after all, Toyota’s people mover is cheap, it’s usually pretty boring and is bought primarily as basic transportation – nothing more. It’s also one of the most common vehicles on the road anywhere in the world.
But maybe that actually does makes the Corolla a dream car…
Not one that you aspire to own when you become a millionaire, like a Ferrari or a Rolls-Royce, but a dream car in the shape of something that you yearn to own and drive regardless of its price tag or horsepower output.
There’s no telling how many people across the world got their first taste of the open road behind the wheel of a humble little Corolla. And as basic as the car may seem, there’s something to be said for that. For millions, the Corolla and cars like it represent that dream of automobile ownership realized.
Joel Tan is a man who dreamed about owning a Corolla ever since he was a kid in the Philippines. Now the dream has become a reality on the streets of Southern California where he currently resides. Of course, his 1972 TE27 model is a bit more interesting than most Corollas plying the world’s roads, and that’s why you’re seeing it here.
At the age of 14 and living in Manila, Joel fixed up a Willys Jeep; but the whole time he was playing around with that he had his eye on the then new TE27 Toyota Corolla. At the time, owning any sort of new car was something that only the wealthy could dream of doing, but Joel never forgot the TE27 and the way it made him feel.
Later on when he moved to the United States, one of the first things Joel wanted to do was buy a car – a TE27 Corolla of course. And after finding the perfect example, he set out to transform the old Toyota into a machine that’s fully worthy of being considered a dream car.
Using parts sourced from different countries all over the world, Joel went about rebuilding the car into his version of the ultimate Corolla; one based on the rare TE27 Sprinter Trueno model that was released for the Japanese market back in 1972.Old School Magic
Sitting under the hood of Joel’s TE27 is the same engine found in that Trueno. The double overhead cam 2T-G four-cylinder was a very impressive piece in the early 1970s, and it still holds its own today.
This one has been beefed up a bit too. There are upgraded Wiseco pistons, a mild ported and polished head, and a pair of TRD 292-degree cams to give the little four-cylinder a bit more punch while still retaining the old school vibe.
It’d be a crime to have anything but a set of side-draft carburetors on an engine like this, and Joel’s pair of 40mm SK Racing units get the job done perfectly.
And adding to the symphony of sound made by the side-drafts is a TOM’S header straight from Japan, mated to a custom but subtle-looking exhaust system.
Having the car sit right was a crucial aspect of the build, and the Corolla’s stance comes via a set Bilstein shocks and a custom coilover setup with Eibach springs. There’s no doubt this also makes the car quite fun in the canyons and on tight freeway on ramps.The Look & The Feel
Because Joel has been a Corolla fan for such a long time, it’s no surprise that he went the period correct route when it came time to find a set wheels and tires to fit on the TE27.
The gold-finished eight-spoke Enkeis are only 13 inches in diameter, but they look perfect inside the car’s fender flares. The tires are 185/60R13 Federals with just enough sidewall to build upon the old school look.
As for the body, Joel gathered parts from all over the world, including an NOS (new old stock) front bumper that came all the way from Spain, and a front chin spoiler and rear wing which were both sourced from Japan. The result is something that looks aggressive but still very original.
Other touches to the exterior include Sprinter Trueno badging all around and of course a set of fender mirrors to give the TE27 that classic Japanese look.
The aforementioned fender flares are legitimate metal parts, and the whole body has been coated in that classic Toyota shade of orange that perfectly evokes the early 1970s.
Inside the cabin of the right-hand drive TE27 it’s the same story – period correct and simple. The seats? They are OEM Sprinter buckets that Joel found in New Zealand and had shipped all the way to the States to compete the Trueno look.
One of the only non-factory interior items is the silver-spoked Nardi Classic steering wheel which looks right at home among the rest of the Corolla’s vintage upgrades.
Joel’s Corolla isn’t just a perfect example of a classic Toyota that’s built right, it’s another great story of a dream car being realized across oceans and decades.
It might not be the exotic supercar or the plush luxury sedan that most regular people might dream of, but for Joel this old Corolla is every bit as satisfying, and to us it’s just as cool too.
Photos by Louis Yio
Joel Tan’s 1972 TE27 Toyota Corolla
Toyota 2T-G with 3T block, 89mm Wiseco pistons, ported/polished head, TRD 292-degree cams, SK Racing 40mm side-draft carbs, TOM’S header, custom exhaust system, Koyo aluminum radiator
5-speed manual transmission, Exedy clutch
Bilstein dampers, adjustable coilovers with Eibach springs
Wheels & Tires
Enkei 13-inch eight-spoke wheels, 185/60R13 Federal tires
NOS front bumper from Spain, JDM front chin spoiler, JDM rear spoiler, OEM metal fender flares, Sprinter Trueno badging, JDM fender mirrors
Toyota Sprinter bucket seats from New Zealand, OEM door panels, Nardi steering wheel