Thursday, July 11, 2013

Subcompact Showcase: TE72 Toyota Corolla Wagon With A Turbo Pontiac Powerplant

TE27 Toyota Corolla Wagon with a Pontiac Solstice GXP turbo engine

My buddy Justin has had this TE72 Corolla Wagon since 2008. It's lowered on Ground Control coilovers, has some good looking XXR wheels, and he's done quite a bit of work to it. A few months ago I get a text from him saying he's thinking about doing an engine swap, as the Rolla wasn't very peppy in stock form. I ask him what he's swapping in, thinking it'd be a warmed over 4AGE or maybe a built 3TC. He says he's looking for a turbo engine out of a Pontiac Solstice GXP. Wait, what?

Well sure enough, he decided to go ahead with it. He found a wrecked Solstice GXP and pulled the motor and transmission out of it. The Solstice GXP (and Saturn Sky Redline) were fairly rare vehicles to begin with. They were powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled mill with direct injection that made 260 horsepower and 260 ft./lbs. of torque and mated to five-speed manual transmission or an automatic. The setup he bought had the manual transmission and already had an upgraded turbo. Obviously it was going to take a bit of fabrication and some custom parts to get this swap to work in a early '80s Corolla Wagon, but Justin is a mechanical engineer and was up to the task.

To make a long story short, he did a bunch of fab work to get it to fit. He also built a three-inch exhaust system, added a front-mount intercooler, used a narrowed Chevrolet S-10 rear end with a Camaro limited-slip differential inside. A bit of testing and tuning later, and now he's got one badass Corolla. In fact, his Rolla, which weighs in at around 2,500 lbs., ran a 13.0 pass at 110 MPH at Portland International Raceway last week. Not bad for the first time out.

I got the chance to drive his beast wagon, and this sucker flies. Fire it up, and there's a nice growl. Under throttle, it's not excessively noisy, either; it's very livable. Go full throttle, and this thing cooks. You can smoke the tires all the way through third gear, and the thrust is very linear. Although there's a brief bit of turbo lag, once that turbo kicks in, you'd better hold on, cause it's going to get crazy. The early melodic turbo whine gives way to a massive sucking sound akin to having a hyper-powered Shop Vac under the hood. Shifts are accompanied by the sound of a Greddy blow-off valve, which was also already installed on the engine when he got it.

The car has some creature comforts, though. It's got fully functioning air conditioning and he's installed heated seats and cruise control. It's totally drivable, even on a daily basis. And other than the intercooler hanging off the front, the Corolla looks like a nicely done early Toyota wagon on some cool wheels with that just-right stance. A semi sleeper if you will.

It's cars like this that keep my passion alive. Creations like this that fuel my drive for unique automobiles. It's people like Justin who think outside the box that keep the import scene fresh—and fast.

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