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A Deal Done Right – A 1980 Corolla Levin

4 min read

Do you remember all the deals and promises you’ve made with your friends when you were younger? Some may be too cheesy that you intentionally don’t want to remember while others are way too trivial for you to even recall. Then there are those outrageous ones that you thought to be too important back then, but shifts in interests put those once great ideas to the side and forgotten over time.

When Patrick De Leon was in high school, his best friend bought a brand-new 1980 Toyota Corolla TE71 Levin. For them, it was the coolest car of its day and it was obtained to be driven hard. Like any teenager’s car, it has been street raced, trashed and abused, and has been driven to the moon and back. Even when it was fairly new, the Corolla was never meant to be kept stock. In 1984, its 2TG motor has been modified and race-prepped by engine builder Ben Alameda. Yes, it was a great car, but like the fate of most cars of its contemporary, time was not its ally. It will eventually get so used up to become just one of those tired old forgotten rides. For Patrick however, he has seen beyond the ordinary. There’s just so much nostalgia in that Corolla, the thought of his friend getting rid of it should never be an option. Patrick knows there’s so much potential with it that he made a deal with his buddy. When the car has served its purpose and time to let go, the Corolla should only go to his possession. That was a little over 30 years ago.

But then life’s priorities change. We all grow up, we ran after careers, start raising families and what was perceived as necessity back when we were young doesn’t seem to be as much important as they were after we outgrew our Peter Pan days. And after purchasing the car in the late 80s, it remained sitting in his friend’s driveway, neglected and slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Fast forward 30 years, when life has been well established and Patrick still the avid car enthusiast as always has been, he decided it’s time to get back to the old rotting Corolla he acquired a few decades ago so he could finally bring it back life. It may not be an easy fix. Not only was the car welded with outdated accessories that may be cool in the 80s but not by today’s standard, the years of constant exposure to the elements has not been too kind to the Corolla. It was a sight difficult to appreciate, unless you are one hard core car aficionado who could look beyond the car’s current status to envision its potential when it’s done. Patrick did not waste his time soon as he got the TE71. He and her 18-year-old daughter Adora began the restoration process right away.  It eventually became his running project as he drove it regularly to local cars and coffee meets undone as if teasing the car people of how the car would end up as they slowly watched the Corolla’s progress.

Patrick and Adora are both hand’s on mechanics so they started working on the Corolla’s tired 2TG motor as it has been stocked up after years of being sidelined. The engine was ported and polished and updated with TRD 18RG intake and exhaust valves, using 320 TRD intake and 304 TRD exhaust cams. Carburetors are twin side Weber 45s. The engine is hooked to a 5 speed T50 transmission with a close ratio shifter and an AE86 limited slip rear differential to drive the rear wheels. Suspension was also updated using Geckco front and rear coil overs and brakes were upgraded to AE86 front and rear discs for better stopping power.  

The car was then scraped to bare metal for a delta blue paint job and the fenders were subtly flared to accommodate the 13 x 8 Watanabes wrapped in 215/50R13 rubbers.  A Foha front lip was fitted adding more 80s vibe to the car. The interior has also been redone with front seats coming from an A60 Supra, and the instrument panel restomoded with its gauge housing hand built by Adora herself.  

Sound system came from a modified Bluetooth-capable KP500 to keep it modern, yet correct for its 80s look. The radio is wired to PT6 tweeters, also a period correct accessory and Lanzar subwoofers and 6×9 MB quartz powered by 400 watts 4 channel Rockford Fosgate amplifiers.

The finished product is a true head turner and never fails to impress judges from even the major car shows around town. The Corolla has won Recognition For Outstanding Workmanship for Old School Corollas at the All Toyota Fest and recently voted Best Corolla at the Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, California.

What started as a deal with a friend that almost became another old car casualty, the Corolla is back in the streets finally getting the glory it deserved. But just like any other project car, the Corolla is never finished and a continuous work in progress. Enjoy the photos and be sure to follow its evolution in Instagram @dricksar_garage  

Lumang Oto

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A Deal Done Right – A 1980 Corolla Levin