Project Starletabusa: Introductions


Welcome to the Starletabusa!  For those of you not familiar, the Toyota Starlet, A.K.A. the KP61, was an entry level grocery getter made in the late 70's into the early 80's whereafter it was replaced by the FWD Tercel.  It was among the last of the rear drive low end Toyotas and weighed in at about 1700lbs stock.  This giant killer was set in motion by a pretty sad 1300cc pushrod slant 4 pumping out about 60hp.  Here's a picture of one of these beauties in stock trim:



Not exactly a super car, but it has some potential being rear wheel drive and about as heavy as a wiffle ball.  Now the black car is sporting some pretty massive fenders so we must ask where did the awesome body kit come from?  TRD my friends, TRD.  Back in the early 80's Toyota Racing Development put together an equipment package for the Starlet and those cars where used in a spec series in Japan.  Privateers the world over also bought up these parts and used them on their racing Starlets as well.  Some of these parts are still in circulation to this day and my new ride was sporting a TRD kit.  Watch this video for a few minutes to get an idea of what those TRD cars were like.

So back to the car I ended up with.  It's a 1981 Starlet that was actually pretty well optioned out with a 5 speed, air, “premium” interior, and best of all a rear window wiper.  Unfortunately I would discover that nearly none of those items worked.  Murdered out is one thing, but this car was just plain murdered.  Unfortunately those rare TRD fiberglass morsels were held onto a pretty dinged up body with wood screws and tape.  Literally.  This is what I meant about inhaled fumes.  After about 2 months of huffing every kind of nasty chemical you can buy in a paint store I got the car to this stage:



A pretty massive transformation!  The color is a late 1950's Porsche tone called “Cloud Grey” and I think it really worked out nicely.  I made sure to pick a light color because it would not be likely that I could get the car straight enough to hold up to a dark hue.  While paint and body is all well and good the real nuts of this project are yet to come.  Unfortunately there is still an unwanted squatter in the engine bay and it's going to take a while to process the eviction since the Miatabusa engine setup is still being perfected.  The good news is that even though the stock 4k 1300 is looking a bit shabby, it actually runs very well and the stock 5 speed shifts nicely too.  This does not help the suspension where all the original bushings are still soldiering on and a set of cut springs barely hold the car off rock hard bump stops.  Don't ask about the dampers because they are not even part of the setup right now, having no effect on the car's vertical movements.  If the suspension in this car was a horse I'd call an ambulance.  OK, that was a bit weird, but you get what I am saying.  Here are a couple of pictures of the hand as it was dealt.  No choice now, I'm all in.




This theme of worn out parts with crude “upgrades” is continued in the interior where one lonely, sad and deflated, 80's era Supra seat was almost mounted to the driver's side of the car.  Actually the term “mounted” is pretty generous.  It's really just wedged in there.  That's it.  No carpet, a headliner that looks like the dining room table cloth in a post snack time pre-school, and nary a door card in sight.  The plan for the interior is to keep it simple yet streetable and try to use commonly available materials to finish everything off.  While there are some interior kits available for carpet a Starlet owner is pretty much on their own for any KP61 specific parts.  Why does one take this kind of thing on?  Because cool car!  That's why. 



So here's the plan of attack.  The combing of the junkyards has already started to yield some very nice parts to help bring this little car into a better place.  One of the mandates of this project is to use as many OEM bits as possible to keep the costs down and bring the fun and innovation up.  When I mean OEM I don't mean just parts for this car.  OEM parts from any car will do if they car be made to fit and improve performance.  Along the way I hope to find out more about how to build a really fun dual purpose machine on a tight budget using brain power to fill the gaps in the money stream.  On other fronts, I am working with the rest of the Miatabusa nutters to add a V-belt drive pulley to the adaptor shaft so I can actually keep the A/C that this car came with and run a high amp alternator if needbe.  Power steering?  There is a P/S rack available for the Starlet but since I expect to drop about 100 lbs. off the front of the car with the Hayabusa engine it won't be nessecery.

Oh F.Y.I. and P.S., the kind of groovy old school rims you see in the pictures are all bent.




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