Back To That Old Dream – A KE30 Corolla Story

4 min read

Does the love affair with the automobile come to an end in one’s lifetime? Or does it just go back to a temporary hiatus to hibernate in one’s subconscious waiting for the chance to one day wake up? Like that childhood love interest that still haunts you to this day, the endearment with the automobile stubbornly stays with you even though you thought you have successfully shoved it at the back alley of your brain so you could give way to some important things in life that needs to be given priority. But like metal is to magnet, you helplessly get pulled in back when opportunity strikes. Then you realize you’re not only back to square one, the desire gets stronger the second time around, it’s almost like a revenge.

It was not the most desirable car of its day. The KE30 first came out in 1975 to replace the KE20 series and was Toyota’s base-model economy car aimed towards the entry-level market, so these were among the common cars that you see roaming around the streets of Manila back in the 70s, most were daily driven family cars, some ended up as taxi cabs. Although one might think these cars will never become future collectibles when they were still new, time eventually became its ally.  Many people who now have stronger buying powers that once could not afford these Corollas are going back to the cars of their youth, since brand-new cars during the 70s were a mere privilege for the elite few. Some people on the other hand are acquiring these cars to celebrate nostalgia and re-live their wistful affection of the past.

Rouelito Lim Narvaez always knew he loved cars even at a young age and has always dreamt of having his own project car as far back as when he was in grade school.  In fact, his idea of fun was hanging out with his older brothers all day as they were fixing up their cars. When he was in high school, his parents gifted him a Volkswagen Beetle but the love for cars grew exponentially when in college his sister allowed him to use her car, a Toyota Corolla KE30. Roulito treated this Toyota like it was his own and he practically spent every single cent of allowance money so he could dress up and personalize that old Corolla. That KE30 became the object of his passion, a dream come true for Rouelito, but just like any dream, it abruptly comes to an end the moment he wakes up to reality.

Like many of us, there is a season in life that responsibility overtakes real passion and sadly, that desire will oftentimes be redefined as impractical nuisance that needs to get pushed back to our innermost concealed thought. Rouelito had other priorities in life that the semi ownership of the Corolla was cut short when he migrated to the U.S. where he would spend the next few decades of his life building a family and running after a career. 

When Rouelito came back to the Philippines for good in 2009, he started his own business, AutoCo AMG Wheels, a shop that specializes on aftermarket wheels.  Soon as he got back, the passion on what was left of with the old Corolla was rekindled. The Corolla he once drove to college was long gone and by this time, KE30s are over 30 years old and are getting harder to find. He eventually found one, but did not fit in to his budget. Without anything to lose, Rouelito made an offer so low, yet without any expectations but the gamble paid off when the owner accepted it, they shook hands and closed the deal.

The KE30 he purchased was all stock, an empty canvass that Rouelito can customize according to his taste. It was then repainted to give a new luster from its tired dulled by nature blue paint job. The car was dropped so that there will be no big clearance between the fender and the low profile tires that wrapped the period correct 13” ATS wheels. All trims were completed and a fender mirror was bolted on to give the old Corolla a Japanese vibe. Interior had also been redone and the factory old bucket seats were replaced with new Recaros. The original 1.2L overhead valve 3K motor was kept stock as a little over 65 horsepower is all you would need to move the 880kg curb weight car around city traffic. Talk about power to weight ratio.

Well, I guess the love affair with the automobile will never cease. Time may fog those memories, make the image vague, but the gapping question of “what if” remains. Then you search and test the water, until you know it’s meant to be. That feeling, the same old passion has morphed to that old relationship once more. No, it’s not the same exact car he once co-owned with his sister, yet it was the same passion he had from the Corolla that once slipped away, now finally back in Rouelito’s hands.

Happy Lumang Oto motoring folks!     

Lumang Oto

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Back To That Old Dream – A KE30 Corolla Story