The Toyota Starlet you’re looking at might look
pretty much like a stocker but, believe us, this is one of the hottest hatches
in the land. This truly incredible machine puts out a stunning 355hp (265kW) at
the front wheels from an engine of just 1.3 litres – and there’s scope for
picked your jaw off the floor yet?
Chris Murdoch bought his Japanese import Starlet
GT Turbo in 2001 after seeing the little Toyota’s immense tuning potential
explored in a go-fast magazine. Chris says he really liked the idea of buying
something that’s not a Skyline or Silvia and he loved their chuckable
feel. The example Chris picked up is typical of many Japanese imports – it was
stock aside from lowered springs, an aftermarket steering wheel and a fuel cut
defender to allow some more boost.
Chris’ Starlet relationship went great-guns from
the start – that is, until an oil pressure relief valve failed, causing a spun
bottom-end bearing... At this point Chris decided to treat the car to forged
pistons and an assortment of bolt-ons. Auto-Tech of Toowoomba was called upon to
rebuild the motor with forgies, a custom manifold with a Skyline R33
turbocharger, CA18DET injectors, MicroTech LT8 programmable management, modified
inlet manifold, big exhaust and a custom intercooler. These mods proved their
worth with 242hp (181kW) at the wheels on a mild 12 psi boost.
At this point, the Starlet started breaking CV
joints and really needed some assistance in the traction department. The answer
was the installation of a TRD clutch-type LSD. Unfortunately, the brakes were
left largely untouched at this point and Chris ended up giving another car a bit
of a biff-o. And that’s when he decided to get serious.
Chris’ philosophy; if you’re gonna upgrade the
brakes, you might as well make damn sure you’ve got the performance to justify
The Toyota engine was once again rebuilt using
HPC’d Ross pistons (giving a factory-spec 8.2:1 compression ratio), Crower rods,
ARP 12mm head studs, a polished oil pump and a balanced and crack-tested crank.
The head has received extensive porting, a five-angle valve job and custom Tighe
camshafts with upgrade valve springs.
Supporting this seriously built engine is a custom
PWR radiator (which is approximately twice the standard thickness but half the
width to accommodate the large frame turbocharger), custom aluminium header tank
and a single thermo fan. The oil system benefits from a Peterson remote oil
filter mount combined with a forward-mount remote oil cooler.
The previous R33 turbocharger was a bit laggy so
Chris went for a GT25 Garrett rated up to 400hp (298kW). This turbo uses a
T2-type flange, so yet another custom exhaust manifold had to be fabricated from
stainless piping. The turbo exhales through a 3 inch mandrel stainless exhaust
and inhales through a large filter mounted on the turbo. The existing
aftermarket intercooler was also replaced with a PWR cored unit that measures
600 x 260 x 75mm. A TurboSmart Type 2 Z port blow-off valve is integrated with
the polished mandrel bent intercooler plumbing.
While the original modified intake manifold was
built around the standard inlet runners, an all-new manifold can now be found
under the bonnet. The new manifold is home to a set of HKS 550cc injectors, a
custom rail and a Mallory fuel pressure regulator. At the opposite end of the
fuel system you’ll find a Walbro lift pump feeding a surge tank (mounted in the
hatch area) and a Bosch Motorsport pump.
Controlling fuel and ignition is a new MicroTech
LT10S management system with an X4 ignition box. This allows the standard
single-coil ignition system to be upgraded with direct-fire coils – there are
four MSD Blaster coils with 8.5mm MSD leads and Bosch Racing plugs. Boost
pressure is controlled by a TurboSmart e-Boost 2.
With boost pressure maxing at a relatively mild 20
– 21 psi and the rev limiter set to 8600 rpm (though the engine can handle
more), Chris’s Starlet has made power and torque levels that are just insane for
a 1.3-litre engine. Peter from Auto-Tech says the recorded tractive effort is
comparable to a Nissan SR20DET with some bolt-ons... As seen in this graph, peak
power is 355hp (265kW) at the wheels, though note that the engine was staring to
run lean and the dyno operator had to lift off the throttle at around 7900
rpm... Power is still climbing at that point!
Amazingly, the Toyota five-speed gearbox remains
standard and is showing no signs of failure. Chris says he doesn’t needlessly
thrash it and finds that the LSD prevents tramping and rampant one-wheel
burnouts. The clutch is a four-puck job with a 3000lb pressure plate and the
standard flywheel is lightened by around 30 percent. An aluminium crank pulley
further contributes to reduced parasitic drag.
So what about those brakes which were
the whole motivation for this second round of mods?
Well, Chris has installed a pair of Wilwood 4-pot
front calipers which are designed to suit a 20 – 22mm thick disc. This posed a
problem because the standard Starlet discs are just 18mm thick; the solution was
to bolt on some Toyota MR-2 Spyder discs. Rear brakes are slotted DBA discs
designed for the Paseo. A TRD braided brake line is the final touch to the
substantially improved anchor system.
The Starlet GT is a fun car to drive hard – even
in standard form. Chris’ example is even more so thanks to GAB adjustable
coil-overs, Whiteline swaybars (adjustable at the rear), Whiteline anti-lift kit
and rear strut brace. The factory front strut brace remains in place. At each
corner you’ll find a Starcorp 16 x 7 alloy wheel wearing Falken ST115 205/45
rubber. Chris points out these aftermarket rims are particularly lightweight at
just 5.5 kilograms each.
Traffic light suckers are easily fooled into a
duel by this car’s near-stock appearance. Sure, there are the big rims, a
cut-out for the intercooler and a polished muffler out the back but nothing
indicates this machine might run as quick as a low/mid 12 second quarter mile
The interior is a similar story. Toyota endowed
the Starlet GT with a pretty high level of equipment and sports trim so all
Chris has done is fit a Momo wheel, gearknob and pedals. The A pillar is also
equipped with an AutoMeter air-fuel ratio and oil pressure gauge while the
nearby e-Boost 2 unit is used to display boost pressure. Interestingly, Chris
has also converted the car to a two-seater and added RPM harnesses to help
Understandably, Chris doesn’t feel the need to
chase any more performance – let’s face it, 355hp ATW in a car weighing around
870kg is pretty damn spectacular! Nope, he won’t be fitting a bigger
turbocharger or adding a nitrous boost. The only thing left in store for this
little hatch is a whole lot of driving.
Contact: Auto-Tech Automotive and
Performance +61 7 4632 1999