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Light, rear-wheel drive and with enough grunt to keep the steering column well lubricated, the Toyota Starlet is a New Zealand rallying favourite. We recently featured Tony McConachy's Suzuki Hyabusa-engined rocket, but Christchurch's Tim Smith has gone down the more traditional route with his car. Smith's 1982 Toyota Starlet KP61 was originally rallied by Glenn Inkster, who went on to rally a Skoda Fabia AP4. Back then it had the popular 4AGE motor fitted. It was then sold to on and was latter found by Tim's dad, Mark, in Pukekohe, virtually rusting away. After being delivered to Christchurch, the rebuild begun.

The 1300cc Toyota 3K engine is strong and reliable.

The body shell is standard, "right out of 1982" jokes Tim. Inside is a fully welded in roll cage that helps with crew protection. Under the bonnet lies a 1300cc 3K engine, a 4-cylinder motor with modified head, 4K crank, Weber carburettors and a homemade inlet manifold.
"The motor's mostly standard, but that's why they are so cool - they're cheap and easy to work," Tim points out.
The engine build was by Peter Kennard at Kennelly Cams, and so far it's proved to be strong and reliable.

The interior of Smith's Starlet is typically neat and tidy.

Gearbox is a Toyota T50 with a close ratio gear set fitted, built by Don Mathias in Christchurch. Power is transferred to the rear wheels via a Ford Escort LSD fitted with a 5.3:1 ratio which really gets the wheels spinning.
Keeping the car stuck to the road is achieved via coil-over front shock absorbers - Bilstein front and rear.
The car features a standard rear-end with bigger springs and bigger shocks. Stopping power is achieved by Corolla AE86 discs and callipers on the front, and via Mercedes Benz units on the rear. Competition brake pads from Brake Tec complete the package. Laser-cut calliper adaptors ensure everything fits snugly. Being a Japanese car, there are plenty of bits that fit, and in this regard 13x6" Nissan wheels ("found upstairs in Dad's workshop") are fitted.
They are fitted to Kumho rally tyres, usually acquired secondhand after Jeff Judd has finished with them on his Escort!
Eighty per cent of the work on the car has been done by Tim's dad, who is somewhat of a Starlet guru in the South Island. What the Smiths have produced is a well-built club car that does everything asked of it, and then some. While it may not provide the horsepower of a Mazda RX8, or the traction of a Subaru WRX, the Toyota Starlet continues to provide budget rallying at its best. And there's something magical about that.
  • Photos: Peter Whitten / Tim Smith

Toyota Starlets are a staple of New Zealand rallying.

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