Take a look around Mason Ryan’s 1977 RA23 Toyota Celica, and once you clock the licence plate, you know it’s not going to be running even a remotely standard motor.
In fact, the current big-spec 1JZ, which as this car’s ‘Cornfed’ nickname suggests is fuelled by corn-based E85 ethanol, is the latest in a line of turbocharged power plants that Mason has built and developed over the eight years he’s owned the Celica.
Developed, in fact, to the point where today it’s a successful Racewars contender.
“It had a 1G-GTE, the 2.0-litre twin-turbo six, when I first bought it,” remembers Mason. “I used it as a daily when I was an apprentice. Then one afternoon I crashed it at a set of lights, and during the repair process I made the decision to go 1JZ-GTE.”
As the rebuild took its course, Mason had one goal in mind, as although he still needed the car to get to work, above all else he wanted it to be fast.
Subsequently, the 1JZ didn’t stay stock for long – the 250hp it was producing just wasn’t enough. A large single turbo kit from a mate was installed along with some 2JZ injectors and a Haltech ECU, and the Celica made 330hp on 15psi. “The large GT35-style turbo with a big rear housing was too laggy however, and left a hole in the heart once the novelty of the big pull wore off,” recalls Mason with a grimace. “It was a slug to drive on the street, but it would be a few years before funds allowed an upgrade.”Responsible Power
This came in the form of a new Garrett GTX3076R, a turbocharger decided upon for its response and power potential. “The new turbo setup changed the car into a completely different beast”.
At the same time, Mason installed a Teflon-lined fuel system with a Walbro 460lph pump – retrofitted inside the factory tank – to run the E85 fuel, along with some 2,200cc injectors to future-proof the build. “Tristan at WTFauto was the mad scientist behind the laptop I chose to awaken the power we knew the 1JZ could make with very little mods, and it made 404whp at 20psi, limited due to MAP sensor restraints. Personally, I’m glad it did because the car was savage.”
Thankfully, Mason hadn’t neglected the rest of the spec. Coilovers based on the original front struts were created from a sleeve kit, and bolted up with adjustable top mounts.
A large brake upgrade was built thanks to the knowhow of another Celica owner in Perth, Western Australia where Mason lives. The package features 336mm GM Holden HSV rotors machined and fitted to the hubs with custom brackets, and massive Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX Brembo callipers that sit inside the staggered 17×7-inch and 17×8-inch RAYS Volk Racing GT-Ps.Racewars Calling
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility – the responsibility to take part in Racewars. “That was my partner, Tash’s idea,” grins Mason. “She knew how much I’d wanted to compete in the past, but wasn’t in a position to. I’ve always wanted to go to Racewars because it’s the only place I can push the Celica to its limits. Getting the invite to become a WTFauto team member topped it off for me.”
With that in mind, Mason had to live by the Racewars mantra and ‘step up his game.’ “I needed more power and better tyres. A pair of Kelford cams were installed by my good mate, Karel Foster, and a new 4-bar MAP sensor was installed to raise the power ceiling. Tristan had it back on the dyno just before Christmas,. pumping out 520 to 530rwhp at 26psi still with a stock 1JZ bottom end.”
“We also fitted a screamer pipe so I could hear the car better, which greatly increased my ability to shift gears and avoid any over-revving or boost creep issues, being on the edge of the 44mm wastegate’s capabilities.”
It all went to plan on the day, too. “All of my passes apart from one were very consistent,” says Mason. “Due to the nature of my build it gives you a very raw driving experience, and to me that’s what makes it so special. A true 10-second manual street-licensed engineered car. No cages, no parachute, no power steering, and no traction control. Just you and 530hp to play with.”
Over 260km/h (161mph) in a 40-year-old car must be frightening though, right?
“The first 400 metre was violent. Cornfed accelerates very hard up to 200km/h and sort of settles down getting into fifth. My first 800-metre pass was probably the most exciting driving experience of my life – the first time I’ve had the Celica at full throttle, doing 255km/h and out-running an R35 GT-R.”
“My best run was 261km/h over the rolling 800 metres. It was the best the car felt stability-wise, but I still had to pedal it a bit in fifth. The only issue we had with the car was vibration – the short shifter bolts had rattled loose at some point and I lost a bit of gearbox oil. After a bit of a team effort the mess was cleaned up and shifter re-secured and sealed with a bit of Loctite to keep it down. We had no other issues, which to me is a testament to the build and the tune from Tristan.”Exit, Stage Left
“Cornfed did every well and I’m very proud of how it performed. The Wednesday after Racewars we headed straight back to the strip and the car ran its first 10-second pass — 10.83 at 217km/h [135mph] with a 1.61-second 60-foot. Unfortunately, this earned us an ‘exit stage left’ as the car is not tech’d to run 10-second ETs without the relevant safety equipment. We did however get invited to the Outlaw Radial 1/8th-mile events where I ran a new personal best of a 6.83 at 170km/h [106mph]. I’m sure there’s potential for a low 10-second pass with the car.”
“I was surprised at how Cornfed became a favourite at Racewars, not only with the crowd but media crews as well. The entire weekend had an electric vibe and I’m sure all participants were on cloud nine – I know I was.”
“Racewars to me was a journey and it started long before the road trip to Albany began. the whole thing was something I won’t soon forget.”
Photography by Matthew Everingham