With a boosted 1UZ-FE V8 under the bonnet this little KE20 Corolla is a 9-second rocket sled

Photographers: Steve Kelly

WHEN you think of the term ‘street machine’, a mustard yellow old-school Corolla may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but with its nine-second timeslips, Chris Ethell’s turbo V8 example definitely fits the bill.

Corolla V8 Turbo Sleeper 2 NwWhat a wild swap! Was it a long build?

I bought it off my mate Scott Hoffman from Cleveland Exhausts, pretty much how it is now. Scott built the car and also has a 2JZ-powered KE20 that’s just stupid fast – it’s in the sevens. I always liked the car and have two others at home. I didn’t think he’d sell it to me, but I badgered Scott for months and eventually he needed a bit of money so I plonked cash down in front of him.

Corolla V8 Turbo Sleeper 1 NwHave you done much to it yourself?

We’ve screwed some more power out of this one but it’s pretty much how he had put it together. I bought it to do Powercruise events and to take out on weekend runs, but now we’re getting more into the drags. It has gone 9.60@140mph, which meant we’ve been booted for going too fast, so now it’s getting tech-inspected, a ’cage and a parachute. It is also getting a new transbraked Powerglide, so it should go 8.9s.

Corolla V8 Turbo Sleeper 6 NwSo what’s the combo?

It’s got an import yard 1UZ-FE V8, just with conrod bolts and head studs, Cometic head gaskets, and upgraded valve springs. I run it on Caltex E-Flex fuel with a Magnafuel 750hp fuel pump, 2000cc injectors and an Autronic SM4 ECU, with a $500 imitation GT42 turbo off eBay. The computer is pretty old, but Scott swears by them as they’re reliable; he’s put them in all my cars.

How much does it make?

It currently makes 600hp at the wheels at 28psi, but when it did the 9.60 it had 505hp with a 50-shot of gas. We’ll run the gas, and with the transbrake and extra power it should be into the eights. It’s made this power on Scott’s dyno, which seems to be more accurate.

Corolla V8 Turbo Sleeper 5 NwHas the chassis required many upgrades for so much power?

The chassis is pretty simple, just with CalTracs, seam-welded engine bay and a few small braces. Scott’s 2JZ KE20 is way faster and seems to have held up really well, so that tells me it should be fine. With the Salisbury diff in the back, I’ve got 15x8s under the rear with 235/60 ET Streets, and it hooks up really well at Willowbank. On the street it’s not so good and will blaze up, but plenty of guys run faster than me on 235s.

Corolla V8 Turbo Sleeper 4 NwDoes it attract any unwanted attention on the street?

I haven’t had any issues because it looks like a stock car with the VT Commodore brakes and 15-inch Commodore pursuit rims, plus the exhaust has a shut-off valve so it is really quiet. I’ve had cops drive past and give me a nod, like ‘that’s cool, mate’.

Is it really grumpy to drive?

It’s not a big-dollar build but it is really well sorted, has power everywhere and is actually daily-driver reliable. You can go out and take it for a drive, just hit the key and go; there aren’t any problems with cold starting or anything.