Go Your Own Way: A Boxy Starlet With Attitude
Aspirations & Realisations

Lately, I’ve found myself becoming further and further disassociated with über car builds. It’s not that I don’t enjoy or appreciate them, but in my view, it’s got to the stage where some of these builds might as well be hypercars, because I have no hope of ever owning or building one. Sure, they’re great for inspiration and I’m truly happy for the owner or creator, but I’m just finding it more and more difficult to connect with these sort of cars.

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In a similar vein, I generally find myself paying more attention to the next iteration of the GTI than I do the next Ferrari. I sort of see it as wasting time on daydreams rather than spending time doing something about things I can actually achieve.

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I hope this is something that some of you can relate to, because I really feel it’s like this for a lot of us and why we’re interested in modified cars in the first place.

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I mean, who amongst us doesn’t dream of taking down a supercar at a local track day in a home-built car that probably cost less than the other car’s four wheels?

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Or building a car that puts a smile on our face like nothing else possibly could? A car that we build for our exact needs and requirements, and to hell with what anyone else thinks. This is definitely one of those kind of cars…

More Doors
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Prior to this shoot, I never really looked at the five-door EP70 Toyota Starlet as something to lust after. But that’s because I didn’t see it in the way that Evan O’Connor did.

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Honestly, I don’t think Toyota did either. Or many, many others for that matter.

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In Ireland, the front-wheel drive EP70 is more associated with ferrying grannies to mass or as a first car for a learner driver. It’s the sort of car that could be discarded with minimal financial penalty should the worst occur. By all accounts, this model Starlet was a white goods kind of car. A utility that got you from A to B with as little fuss or sense of occasion as possible. It’s not a slight on the EP70 either, this is what it was designed for and it was superb at it.

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But what Evan envisioned and subsequently followed through right to the end, is nothing short of remarkable. This is no longer a white goods sort of car. This is very much a Speedhunters sort of car.

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What started life as a very Irish Starlet, has now been reimagined into something with a far more JDM theme about it.

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The front wings have been replaced with Japanese items that feature a relocated indicator and an actual wing mirror. Notice the subtle front-exit exhaust? We’ll get to that in a bit…

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The boot lid too has been swapped for a JDM equivalent; the difference this time being a different number plate recess, no rear wiper and a full-width garnish with an offset Toyota logo.

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Evan even managed to recover the Japanese newspaper packaging that some of his parts arrived in, to use as a neat prop for the rear window. Sure, some will roll their eyes, but it’s just one of those nice little free details that others will appreciate and enjoy.

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A two and a half year project, the choice to restore a five-door body was an inspired one. Although the three and five-door variants share the same wheelbase, the rear doors visually make the car look a little longer, and in my opinion, better proportioned.

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However, this EP70’s real party trick is what lies beneath the surface…

Power To Weight
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The original motor has long since been dumped; the power plant and associated ancillaries from an EP91 Glanza V taking its place. That is, a 1331cc 4E-FTE motor complete with factory turbocharger.

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Maximum power output is a modest 156hp, but before your rush to the comments section to declare this as slow, consider the car only weighs 770kg. This puts it at somewhere around 202hp per tonne of weight. For reference, the new Civic Type R is 222hp per tonne. Regardless of the numbers though, it’s more than enough to hold its own on the road and to keep you entertained in the process.

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These small capacity engines are also renowned for making more horsepower relatively easy, which leaves huge scope for improvement in the future. And with the car already fitted with an EP82’s LSD-equipped gearbox, it’s something that this EP70 will be ready for when the time comes.

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An EP91 also provided some of the handling assistance in the shape of a front anti-roll bar. Glanza V hubs and front calipers were also used, whilst the original rear axle needed to be converted to take the EP91 brakes. The car is sprung on BC Racing BR type coil-overs.

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It all adds up to a more modern driving feel and an almost incomprehensible improvement over the factory setup.

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Of course, the interior has been treated to the Japanese touch, too. The factory instrument cluster has been replaced by a JDM equivalent and is surrounded by a plethora of extra gauges to monitor the engine’s vitals.

2015 Toyota Starlet EP70 by Paddy McGrath-41

A Japanese centre console has also been installed, along with an extra dash tray and a 300mm Nardi wheel. The seats are a matching pair of Bride Brix recliners. It’s these small details that really add to the quality of the car. It would be all too easy to go without them, but for me it’s what separates an ordinary build from a great build.

2015 Toyota Starlet EP70 by Paddy McGrath-54

When he set out to build this car, Evan just wanted to end up with something unique to him. Whilst there are other EP70s with Glanza turbo engine swaps around Ireland, there are no others that I can think of that come close to matching what’s been created here.

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When faced with a limited budget and in-turn limited options, Evan still managed to build something that’s both genuinely interesting and finished to the highest of standards.

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The fact that the car is now attracting attention is only a bonus. It wasn’t built as an ‘Instagram car’ to attract likes and praise, and it wasn’t built for anyone else but for Evan’s own personal enjoyment and satisfaction.

The world needs more cars like this. Cars we can all relate to.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

Bonus Video & Images

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Comments are closed.


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I bet that is an absolute riot to drive! I love the noises that thing makes :)


Love this! Great night shoot, too, Paddy.


obsession_Si Cheers, Si!


I_AM_DAVE_COX I think the video was a must for this one, the turbo noises are hilarious. 

Incidentally, when he brought it for its NCT (MOT equivalent) the tester asked where his real exhaust was. It still passed with the front side exit!


That thing is exactly what defines style. Clean, simple yet not screamy at all.
And Paddy, your story is spot on. People, and mostly the younger ones, only want Ferrari's/Porsches/Lamborghini's or a GT-R. What happened to cool small cars? Real project cars instead of a big-budget build, that is why I follow Speedhunters in the first place.


Paddy McGrath I_AM_DAVE_COX Yeah I don't normally watch all the videos but for this I made the exception. Did you have fun shooting it? Will this be something that will happen more regularly from you?Love the fact that it still passed. It also has that cute factor with it, still takes you from A - B but with a massive smile on your face :)

Starlet Nostalgia

That front wheel spin take off looks sketchy as hell ! makes me miss my Starlet GT.


This is my number one article on SH that I have read. I've not been here for long but it totally encapsulates my view on things.
It's all well and good featuring high-end super builds that cost the owners thousands upon thousands to build and the outcome is often incredible, but it's not something that I can see myself ever achieving and find it really hard to relate to. To me, they are poster cars. Great. They serve a purpose and show what can be achieved with a bottomless pocket.
This is a proper down to earth build. Almost a "build for the people" if you like. It's a regular guy, with a regular car that he has made awesome on, (what I assume to be) a fairly modest budget.
To me this has more character than any of the top dollar builds. Relatability wins me over every time and inspires me more personally than a supercar or international drift machine.


I_AM_DAVE_COX Paddy McGrath

Loved the video as well! The turbo noise made me say "HA, NICE" out loud.
Definitely wouldn't mind videos like this one more often.

Lovely feature on a great and well built car too. Would I buy one? Probably not. Would I have fun driving it? Not a single doubt! We need more of this and less Lamborghini's with fender flares ;)


Maurice Bergers I_AM_DAVE_COX Paddy McGrath Hahaha that last line...


One hell of a cool car and a nice write up too.


Maurice Bergers I_AM_DAVE_COX Paddy McGrath Thanks, Maurice. Tried to keep it simple. Video is HARD.


LarryKehoe Cheers, Larry. Good to see you around here more regularly!


REKT_Disco Glad you understand where I'm coming from. I'm not hating on those big builds, I just can't invest in them the same way I can with a cool street car.


Excellent little car, another hatchback I'd really like to own. Top marks Paddy, the first paragraph of this article is exactly why I've stuck with my Fiesta RS Turbo and Classic Mini Cooper for so long. The stuff I have done to them I couldn't possibly afford to do to even, lets say, a TVR or a GTR.

Hot hatch FTW!


Starlet Nostalgia Got to love that power-to-weight ratio!


Jochem Really happy you can relate to this.


TurboHippie I haven't seen a Fiesta RST in years, good on you for keeping one alive!


I took at least...... One of these photos, where's my recognition :p


Paddy McGrath REKT_Disco Definitely not detracting from the high end stuff, it's nearly always awesome and shows what people can do and pushes boundaries when they are not limited by time or money like us 'normal' folk.
This shows that total badassery can still be achieved by regular Joe's with 9-5's.


Paddy McGrath Its not easy at the best of times, trust me. Its not very standard any more but have tried to retain the soul of her where possible. Still runs the original 1.6 Turbo CVH albeit over 220hp now :-)


Damn I'm at work and can't see the video but I will in the evening.
I absolutely agree with REKT_Disco 
This is what car culture is about. Having fun and making the most of what you have and can afford and not what you wish you had.
Thanks Paddy.




Perfect weather conditions for breathtaking shots :)
Greetings from Germany


I love hatchbacks. :)



I wish my NA miata made that much hp lol! Although i dont have any trouble keeping up with most cars on a circuit.


very beautiful starlet.i think ssr's make it very unique and the two tone paint its very 80's


I see I'm not the only one that's bored of hypercars. It seems that as cars become more and more important in my life; I'm less interested in overpowered overpriced exotics, and more intersted in home-brewed, built-not-bought project cars.


Dill Pickle its easy just to buy a car, but to build one is soo much more special. im alot more interested in the cars that were build right and have the right amount of horsepower for the chassis. 156hp for such a small car is just glorious :) and much more interesting than a caged, stripped and with a generic engine swap guaranteeing high hp.   (although they are incredible too)




Paddy McGrath A good post as usual! May I ask something a little bit off topic? I'm amazed to see the lighting in your photos, mind to share how you can create such great lightings in the photos? Thank you!


Revrene Paddy McGrath Nothing fancy, just a workshop torch for some fill light on a couple of them.


REKT_Disco Paddy McGrath Totally agree with all of this...i love all the big amazing all out builds but its kinda like watching MTV cribs..looks great, amazing stuff and awesome for the builders and all but not something i'm gonna be doing anytime soon. Also Paddy, loved the little video at the end...it added just that little bit extra magic to the usual SH visuals


Paddy McGrath Revrene Okay, noted. I'm learning automotive photography as for now. Thank you for taking your time to reply, I know you're busy and I appreciate it a lot!


Love this type of "restomod", I dream about doing something similar with a E70 Corolla one day (must get rid of My R33 GTR for that before though).
I'm always amazed by how simple it seems to make engine swap in Ireland or England. Here in Belgium, it's a complete other story (legally speaking) :(


Paddy McGrath LarryKehoe A recent trip to DriftMatsuri and the new Auto Hero's show in Mondello has helped reignite my interest again. I had become completely fed up with the whole scene over the past few years and completely lost my car mojo. Back sniffing around again though and looking forward to it :)


Paddy McGrath "This is no longer a white goods sort of car. This is very much a Speedhunters sort of car." 

100% spot on - love it, great review and images too. Respects to you, SH and the owner of the car.


PeteMMarshall Paddy McGrath Very kind, thank you.


Jocky I'm aware of how tough it can be on the continent. We got some strange looks rolling through Belgium a couple of years back in a pair of even mildly modified cars. 

But, you do have Spa-Francorchamps, so it kind of balances out :)


Revrene Paddy McGrath Just enjoy yourself and have fun with your photography. Be sure to check out the photography guides that Larry & I wrote. 



Robgrimes91 Your certificate is in the post XD


LarryKehoe Paddy McGrath It's good to have you back. You'll have to get machine polisher ready for me in the new year, I hear Tornado Red is a b*tch...


ethosVeritas_Z32 REKT_Disco Paddy McGrath I'm really glad you liked the video. Almost makes all the swearing and crying worth it.


Paddy McGrath Jocky :you've got a point :)


The RS is beyond describable at pace, oh my lord and the noise!


This is just awesome.


very cool car :)


Brilliant set of photos. you've outdone yourself me McGrath


StreetStatik that's the truth. Those are incredible.


" Lately, I’ve found myself becoming further and further disassociated
with über car builds. It’s not that I don’t enjoy or appreciate them,
but in my view, it’s got to the stage where some of these builds might
as well be hypercars, because I have no hope of ever owning or building
one. Sure, they’re great for inspiration and I’m truly happy for the
owner or creator, but I’m just finding it more and more difficult to
connect with these sort of cars."
Spot on! You're basically speaking from my heart here, Paddy. 

While all those extreme builds are still cool as hell, personally I just can't relate because most of them are - to say it very simplified - just a huge bunch of money thrown at certain cars. The end result is usually still very impressive, but a homebrew car like this hast just got so much more character, so much more story behind it.A while ago, there was another article on Speedhunters, I think it was about what makes a car cool or some such. I commented then, that a car that's built by it's owner to their heart's content will always be the most interesting and cool car out there. This Starlet definitely falls into that category and I feel better for knowing that it exists, thanks to your article. 

It's good to know that there are still people out there who are passionate about their cars, regardless of e-fame and popular opinions. 

That said, all your articles about the Irish car culture lately make me want to visit Ireland myself Paddy McGrath - I've been planning a trip to mainland UK next year anyways, maybe I can squeeze in a visit to Ireland as well... do you have any recommendations on what would be a good time to visit and maybe where to go?


i love hot hatches and tuned daily drivers. the big creations are a dream but those are the reality for most of us. awesome!


Absolutely love this car, cheers for finally doing a feature on it! 
As always the photos are exceptional, nice one Paddy.




A very good looking car. Here in Malaysia we rarely see a 3-doors version Starlet. 5-doors rules the road around here.

This one looks subtle enough without any the over-the-top parts, yet at the same time a teaser with that front exit exhaust.

Love the video piece.
SH should do a good looking video like that for each car featured here.
So that we can see they roll and hear their roar.

I didn't know this white car can accelerate that fast until I watch the video.

Good job.


here in Indonesia, it's called starlet "kotak". or in english means starlet "box". very good looking car!! nice!!


MearBiaggi gyahaha we always call it "kambing" or goat.


It is funny how I look at this car as 'cool' and 'retro' today - 15 years ago when I was in school if any of our friends bought one of these we used to give them a hard time because they were always known as 'nuns cars' back then in Ireland because they were mostly driven by old ladys and nuns :) 

Funny how time can change your perception of a car ( and a boosted engine :p )


LarryKehoe Watch as the price of EP70s goes through the roof here now!


YaserReaper That's really cool, they're known as 'boxys' here.


MearBiaggi Thank you, I'll try to bring more videos like this where possible!


@AwesomeNZ Thank you very much, appreciated.


BastienBochmann Paddy McGrath I'd think about visiting in the autumn of next year and taking in probably Japfest and the IDC series finale which usually happens at the same event. Mondello is only an hour from Dublin, so easily reachable too.


Paddy McGrath About time you featured an ep70. We have tons of em holding it down here in Aruba. Ep82's are the ones to have. Aruba is like starlet heaven. Don't be fooled by their size, these little buggars are fun. https://www.facebook.com/BellosGarage/photos/pcb.543391119147108/543390952480458/?type=3

So when is this little pebble of an island going to get featured? This guy deserves some spotlight. Hard working ET killing hell of a down to earth guy.


Is that a boost gauge? I didn't see no snail in the engine bay but maybe I need to go back and look at the pics again?? But it's really good what he did to this car. I don't consider it retro at all because I can remember a time it was "just another car" and they were as common as chips. However they are slowly disappearing and will be more widely considered old school in a few years time.


Wow! What a clean build! A really beautiful car.


John Key NZ It is, it has an EP91 Glanza V engine swap (4E-FTE). Listen to the video :-)

I'm sort of that point too, where I can distinctly remember these being common and particularly uncool. It feels a bit strange watching it come full circle.


jwcangieter Paddy McGrath I think distance & cost could be a factor, but would love to come see your island's car culture some time!


This car is perfect U0001f44c


sadly most car builds are about that Instagram fame ..


We need more limited budget builds!


Cool, would kidnapping lower costs? Just playing. In all seriousness, it is cheaper between sept-november. The rest of the year being so busy and this island being a tourist destination does not make tickets any cheaper.


MearBiaggi Wel, they weigh next to nothing. I only wish we could have gotten our hands on the JDM bumpers, but it's difficult when you live half way around the world.


Gods, this Starlet is so well executed. Great find Paddy!


Ah...the Toyota "Ting".
SO GLAD I took mine out of my AE86! Haha.

That was a long drive back from Belfast to Stirling!


Could not have said it better about the mega dollar built cars.....
they are just not that interesting because a build like that is so far
out of reach for most.

I too own and have built a
Toyota Starlet weapon (EP91 4 door) . My setup is a bone stock N/A 4efe
engine with a WRX sourced TD04, with modified smaller than stock exhaust
housing to suit from a 99 forester. All the extra fuel, ignition, ecu
and exhaust mods as well.
It has spun the rollers to the tune (and to my amazement ) of 206hp/ 154kw @ the wheels. 14 psi boost


Cool RWD


Paddy McGrath BastienBochmann I only just now saw your answer, haha. Thanks! I have booked some time off from work in June, though. I'll be going to the UK to attend Players Classic and the Festival of Speed, so I'm staying 2 weeks... I'll definitely try to visit Ireland during that time.

Tasos Papazachariou

In all honesty I'd take this over a supercar,the whole feel of it kinda makes me feel at home and the interior looks cozy.


I love how they shot in the most common places, the car couldn't look better.


I loved the story.....beautiful little beast


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My bad, was wishful thinking


I'm currently restoring a starlet ep71 and this story, this car and its owner Evan have all given me all the motivation i'll ever need. Thanks Speedhunters, Thanks Evan...And that car is truly an awesome build

Charles Mathenge

Suberb work.. I'm buying mine n i would like to build it that way.. All i need is help to where i can get the mods.