Corolla Hunting At Tuner Wars

Old Toyota Corollas have really just been getting better and better as time has gone by.

The humble little Toyota first popped into this world in 1966, and by 1974 it had become the best-selling car on the planet. In the years since, it’s continued to be one of the world’s most popular cars, and in 2013 Toyota achieved the amazing milestone of 40 million units sold.


I can’t say seeing a modern day Corolla makes me, or perhaps anyone else for that matter, evenly remotely excited though. Yes, they’re reliable as hell, but who ever fell in love with a just a reliable car?

To me, the last exciting Corolla was the AE86, which we all know is such a massive cult car today. But unfortunately, we never got any of these in South Africa.


What we did get though, were lots of other Corollas from the model’s 1980s prime time, including the venerable KE70. Over the years, KE70s have become extremely popular enthusiast cars in South Africa, especially for guys doing wild engine tunes and swaps, and making huge power.


At the recent Tuner Wars event at Tarlton International Raceway near Johannesburg, there were quite a few juicy examples.

The oldest gal at the event was the little turquoise two-door KE30, which runs a turbocharged Mazda FE 16V setup with a 5-speed Jericho gearbox. It makes some serious power, and along with its light weight and grip it managed a 9.63-second ET at 227.3km/h [That's 141mph, Americans - PMcG].


Then there was this super-neat Corolla Liftback – most likely an ’84 model – which is re-powered by a 2JZ engine reputedly outputting more than 1,000kW [That's around 1,341hp, everyone outside of South Africa & Australia - PMcG] and 1,400Nm of torque. It runs anti-lag, a launch control system, and off the line it just hooks up instantly.

Posting a 9.05-second run at 253.8km/h (157mph) on the day, its ‘Lethal Assassin’ name is very well suited.


I’ve seen loads of different engines in KE70s before, but until this moment never a 13B Mazda rotary. The guys running the car had do some onsite modifications to the bodywork, as the rear slicks were lightly scraping against the wheel arches.As you can see though, there’s nothing a quick grinding session couldn’t fix, and moments later the car took to the strip and stormed a 9.97-second ET at 222.7km/h (138mph).

There was some sideways action, but the driver has some epic driving skills and kept it pointed in the right direction with his foot right up it.


Who you gonna call? The only Corolla wagon on the day looked really epic with its Ghostbusters livery, and it seemed to be quite haunted as it was running on the strip like it was being tormented by all the horsepower that its FE motor generates. This monster was well on its way to running a nine, but unfortunately had an accident later in the day, when it did a wheelie and broke the sump.

Oil spilled on the track when the wagon’s front wheels came back down to earth, and that caused it to lose control and smash into another red Corolla. That’s racing for you though; sometimes it sucks, and other times it sucks real bad. The guys have already found a new body and are already in the process of swapping the running gear into it.


With a plate like ‘Try Me 2,’ you already know that this Corolla will be quite potent. It also runs a Mazda FE 16V turbo setup, and looked like it was going to run some really great times on the day. That was until the aforementioned Ghostbusters Corolla incident – this was the Corolla hit, leaving it with a more than just battle scars.


For my final car, we have another red Corolla. But this wasn’t running a four or six-cylinder engine like the majority of others. Instead, you’ll find a Lexus V8 with an extremely neat single turbo setup. It’s a super tight fit, but it actually looks so at home in the Corolla’s bay. I really liked how simple this was; with a completely original interior and gold and silver multi-spoke wheels, it looked great.

I’ll be taking a closer look at some of these cars pretty soon, so keep an eye out for those stories if you’re a Corolla fan.

Stefan Kotzé
Instagram: stefankotzephoto



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Dang is a ghost lifting the front


nice cars, would be nice if you could chase down some of the others from around SA.
how is that radiator cap safe, looks like an overflow bottle cap. (mazda egi setup)

Tharushen Munsamy

That's a custom radiator with a VW coolant bottle cap, work's the same as a radiator cap


As soon as I saw these photos I knew you shoot Fuji. Awesome photos, which film simulation is it?


Hahah good eye. I'm usually a massive fan of Classic Chrome, but this time I just made up a custom look and feel for these images instead


I've never seen those Mazda 4 cylinders being swapped into anything. Why so much love for them in South Africa?