When you think of 1980s-eras Toyotas, the old favourites always spring to mind: AE86 Corolla, Celica Supra, MR-2 and Starlet. The Corona GT coupe usually won’t, but perhaps only because it was one of Toyota’s most underrated cars of the time.
John’s kaido-racer-inspired and drift-built 1983 Toyota Corona GT two-door hardtop has to be one of the best survivors out there.
There a very few cars that strike up a conversation like this one, even here in Japan. Many people make a point of stopping to ask about the Corona, usually prefaced with the question: ‘What is it?’. John answers this best when he says “imagine an AE86, slightly stretched, with an independent rear end”.
With a 4A-GE powering the rear wheels, John’s GT does indeed feel like a feature-filled Hachiroku. It shares an identical drive train, with a T50 5-speed gearbox and short 4.556 final drive.
The Corona was a big part of Toyota’s vehicle line-up from 1957 to 2001, spawning numerous variants, models and generations. The ‘83 model, one of the early ‘T14’ cars, was available in Japan in sedan, wagon and coupe form, with diesel and petrol engine options. John’s Corona GT could be considered one of the more premium releases.
After parking the car up in downtown Yokohama, we were approached by passersby a number of times. A few people said they had seen the AT141 Corona on YouTube, while others were just curious. A elderly gentleman even stopped to reminisce on its straight-edge ’80s styling.
Despite regular outings at grassroots drift events – including Sportsland Yamanashi’s SLY Summit – John spares little expense keeping the car in immaculate condition.
After a few years of ownership, he took the Corona to a highly-regarded local body shop where rust was removed and a couple of select aftermarket body parts were fitted, namely a Restored JP fibreglass bonnet with hidden pins, and a pair of TOM’s aero side mirrors. Finally, the car was painted in red-over-grey, replacing the original blue.
The SSR MKIII wheels – sized 14×10-inch at all four corners (B-type front and A-type rear) and fitted with stretched 185/55 tyres – brings the look together nicely.
As with many purpose-built drift cars, there is much more than meets the eye. John has had the entire underside of the Corona modified, including raising the front crossmember, transmission member and rear differential mount by 25mm. The frame rails were sliced and raised by an inch too. These minor adjustments ensure plenty of clearance, even on the most challenging roads.
One of my favourite aspects of the build is the lengths John went to with the interior. Like many of us, throughout 2020 John found himself with a lot of free time, which led him down the slippery slope of fully refinishing many of the Corona’s interior surfaces in a wine-red Chinchilla-type fabric.
In addition, a digital dash cluster from a Canadian-delivered Celica Supra has been fitted into a Celica XX dashboard and centre console combo. The TRD bucket seat, Omori gauges, Pioneer cassette deck and TS-X60 parcel shelf box speakers are perfect period-correct touches.
For me, John’s Corona GT is the perfect example of a beautifully executed kaido-racer-style drift car. This period of Toyota saw some of the most exciting driver’s cars, and it’s always great to see examples like this one still being enjoyed today.
1983 Toyota Corona GT Hardtop Coupe
Engine: Factory-fitted 4A-GE 1.6L DOHC 16-valve, A’PEXi Power Intake, Martelius R1 exhaust manifold, Jast.On custom stainless exhaust, ANSA muffler, Koyorad AE86 radiator, Koyorad oil cooler
Driveline: Factory T50 5-speed gearbox, TechnoToyTuning AE86 short shifter, TRD limited slip differential with 4.556 final drive
Suspension: Izanami front coilovers with camber plates, Izanami SP01 dual-rate rear springs, Izanami short rear bump stops, 30mm extended lower arms & custom knuckles by Make Hirota, polyurethane bushings, Whiteline adjustable rear sway bar, Cusco pillow ball tension rods, Cusco front tower bar, front crossmember & transmission member raised 25mm, & frame rails sliced & raised 25mm by Jast.On, Rudeboy custom raised differential mount
Wheels/Tyres: SSR MKIII wheels, 14×10-inch B-type front, 14×10-inch A-type rear, 185/55R14 Yokohama S.Drive tyres front/rear
Exterior: Bodywork and custom paint by 岡田自動車鈑金 (Okada Jidōsha Bankin), RestoredJP fibreglass bonnet with custom hidden bonnet pins, TOM’S door mirrors, Acura MDX Red Rock/Porsche Cayenne Quartzite Gray paint
Interior: Celica XX dashboard, centre console & passenger seat, Canada-spec Celica Supra digital dash cluster, wine red chinchilla fabric interior, vintage TRD bucket seat, Omori Meter single DIN gauges, Pioneer KPX-777 cassette deck head unit with retrofitted Bluetooth, Pioneer TS-X60 box speakers, Pioneer RD-160 power level indicator
How To join the IATS program: We have always welcomed readers to contact us with examples of their work and believe that the best Speedhunter is always the person closest to the culture itself, right there on the street or local parking lot. If you think you have what it takes and would like to share your work with us then you should apply to become part of the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program. Read how to get involved here.
Great stance and wheel choice! With the chrome wheel caps, it would be perfect!
Period correct perfection!
Now THIS is a corona I'd like to catch!
Wow the Corona is immensely underrated it's like the Cressida coupe!
Cool to see that it is also a drift build too just perfect really
This car has charm and comfy factor. It gives me impression of being a part of the owner. The type of car that has its own smell, little knacks and tricks. Not something built for shows or attention online. But a real comfy machine to be used often and enjoyed.
Cockpit is wonderfully done. I really love the colors. The wine red outside is a great choice with the two tone scheme.
And interior material plus colors are really inviting.
Cockpit has to be comfortable since that is where you spend your time. The cool gauges and good audio system plus simple "cars car" mechanics are joy to be around I bet.
Nice photos as well!
Overall a cool article.
Absolutely stunning! Features like this are why Ive been frequenting SH for almost 10 years. Now I've got to go hunting for a relatively clean hardtop coupe on the classifieds
Stunning simple & simple stunning. Love this build
Stunning pictures of a beautiful car! By far one of the best features on this site in the last few months, i love it!
Literally in love with this car, I want one badly......
So ugly, yet so cool! Perfect!
So glad to see your work spill over on to SH Alec, hopefully there's more to come
Awesome feature. Watched a video from SLY earlier in the year and this had a small section, such a cool car.
Thanks Alex Pender. Good read, somethink fresh & old in the time.
Beautiful. I want it.