Monday, August 15, 2011

Nostalgic Subcompact: Toyota Starlet

Project Starlet from
By the early 1980s, Toyota had started making a name for itself with regards to small, frugal vehicles. One of those vehicles was the Toyota Starlet. This small, rear-drive hatchback was sold in the U.S. from 1981-1984; it was even sold along side the front-drive Toyota Tercel until the 1985 model year.

The USDM Starlet came with the 1.3-liter 4K-C (carbureted) engine from '81–'82, and the 4K-E (fuel injected) from '83–'84. The overhead-valve engine made 58 horsepower and between 67 and 74 ft. lbs. of torque. Fuel economy in '81 was rated at 38 city, 52 highway. Later models got as much as 54 MPG highway! (That's what low-horsepower, low-weight will do for cars' economy!) Early Starlets came with a five-speed transmission, later changing to a four-speed manual transmission. All starlets had power going to the rear wheels. The suspension wasn't too fancy: MacPherson suspension up front, four-link suspension out back. The wheelbase was a scant 90.4" with an overall length of 152-153 inches ('83–'84 were longer). Weight was as low as 1724 lbs and as much as 1755.

Toyota didn't continue to offer the Starlet after '84, instead opting to only sell the front-drive Tercel as the company's sole economy offering in the U.S. However, the rest of the world got updated Starlet models until 1999.

Photo via Driving Sports

Nowadays, Starlets are saught after by the drift/drag crowd due to their rear-drive layout and ability to swap in higher-performance engines. They are one of the harder Toyotas to find, especially in good shape. They are, however, one of my favorites! Someday, I'd love to have a KP61 with either a 3TC ("Mini Hemi" engine) or a full 4AG-E swap. The photo above has a 4AGZE swap (that is a supercharged MR2 engine!). More on that car at Driving Sports' site.

Toyota Starlet (Wikipedia)


nlpnt said...

A few things to add;

-This was the last generation RWD Starlet, all subsequent ones sold elsewhere were FWD. It has a "P" chassis code which places it in the same line as (and marks it as the halfway point between) the Publica and the Yaris.

-The US only got this as a 3-door hatch, elsewhere there was a 5-door and a wagon.

-54 MPG on the old EPA test. Pre-1986 EPA highway numbers were notoriously high. Steady 55 MPH, a/c off (if equipped- most cars in this class in the northern states weren't), ideal temp and load conditions. I'm not sure but I think id didn't even include a single acceleration phase.

Andy Lilienthal said...

All valid points; thanks.

CGS Motorsports said...

This car has made 5 series vehicles from 1973 up to 1999. These cars were 40, 60, 70, 80 and the 90 series which also included other variant types.

Jakabock said...

Wow, that car got 54 MPG back in 1986. I suppose there still might have been residual effects from the 1970's gas crisis. Cause otherwise, most cars in the late 80's seem to have been gearing more towards bigger, heavier cars.

Dealership Penciling said...

The Toyota Starlet is a small automobile manufactured by Toyota from 1973 to 1999, replacing the Publica, but retaining the Publica's "P" code and generation numbering. The Starlet was marketed as the Publica in some Toyota export markets.

DJ Kenny said...

My buddy had one. Over 300k miles. Killed it only because someone hit it from behind. My turbo Sprint weighed 1670 lbs, you can only imagine the speed of that little Demon.