This is the first of a somewhat regular column where I will aim to drive and photograph cars that I deem interesting, thought provoking and slightly out of the ordinary. I had actually planned to kick things off with a W203 C55 AMG rather than a 31 year old Toyota but this thing has character - the AMG can wait.
I recently made the switch to a German vehicle after owing a host of turbo-charged RWD Japanese coupes. While a lot of my 'car friends' didn't really understand the move, I have absolutely no regrets. My E34 540i is fast enough, handles pretty well and I still get excited when I jump in it after 12 months of ownership. It is also quiet, comfortable, luxurious, spacious and refined.
This DX Corolla is none of those things. But it doesn't seem to matter. It's a 240hp go-kart that tries its hardest to loose control whenever you put your foot down. It's loud, full of rattles, uncomfortable, angry and FAST. How fast? Well the power to weight ratio (by my incredibly reliable maths) puts it between a W211 E55 AMG and an E60 M5. It achieves this through a SR20DET drivetrain derived from an S14 Silvia which puts out 240hp. In a car that weighs around 900kg.
That power is put to the ground via 14" wheels with 185 width tyres so traction does become quite a large issue, especially in the rain. You can't really drive it in the rain to be honest. But in the dry this thing gets up and goes fast. The interpretation of speed is aided by the fact everything throughout the car feels like it's going to fall apart as you race through the gears on a New Zealand back road. Once you get used to the incredibly firm ride it actually handles pretty well throughout the corners and the Toyota Hilux rear-end & LSD setup mean you can have a lot of fun on a winding section of road.
The car is set up well where it needs to be and it's these little details that make the occasionally terrifying driving experience still feel somewhat controlled. The 90's Recaro drivers seat holds you well, GReddy gearknob feels perfect as you shift, heavy duty clutch is appropriately firm and it has an amazing steering lock. The best part about it all? The car is 100% road legal. It just flew through our 6 monthly road worthiness check and while it does attract a little bit of attention from the fuzz, there is nothing they can do about it.
Would I want to drive this car every day? No. Shit no. But it's the ideal little weapon to have sitting in the garage when you feel like having fun. And that's what this car is about - forcing the biggest smile on your face every time you drive it. It is the exact opposite of everything I now look for when purchasing a car but this crazy mix just feels so right. It is the definition of fun.
I'd like to thank my friend Mark for letting me spend an afternoon with his creation. Unfortunately the time has come for him to sell it as he has just purchased the Porsche you will see in the pictures below. If you want to see more detail on the car click here.
JOYRIDE is a somewhat regular column featuring thoughts from my rambling mind and photographs from my camera as I set about driving cars that I deem interesting, thought provoking and slightly out of the ordinary, from a little corner of the world known as New Zealand.