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Finding the perfect project car isn’t always about finding a rare barn find. Sometimes it’s just a matter of attitude and elbow grease. Don’t believe me? Watch; I can prove it. Richard “Riko” Gutierrez built this stunning and terrifying 1984 Toyota Corolla SR5 widebody racer from the bones of a $400 parts car. Who needs the super-rare JDM barn find, anyhow? 

Are old Toyota Corollas good? 

They sure as hell can be! “Riko” saw the potential in a very rough 1984 Toyota Corolla SR5 sitting outside somewhere outside of the Santa Cruz mountains in California. The Corolla had been there for over eight years when he snagged it for $400. While 80s Corollas generally aren’t overly rare, the SR5 models are a cut above the rest.

Riko says he originally bought the Toyota Corolla SR5 for parts to finish another Corolla he was working on. He robbed it of its best bits and stashed the husk off to the side for a few years. If this Corolla seems like a strange build choice, a quick look at his others will clear up any confusion. Riko’s stable of matching gold cars includes an S13, S30, and RWB-outfitted Porsche. These cars, along with his 1984 Toyota Corolla SR5, got the full treatment. 

What did it take to build such a cool 1984 Toyota Corolla SR5? 


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Like the rest of his cars, Riko’s Corolla is heavily modified. According to MotorTrend, Riko went to the mat for this car. He used a slew of high-quality parts and took his time with the build. Before the flashy gold paint was laid, the Corolla’s chassis was mounted to a spinning rig and was stripped neatly to its birthday suit. While that happened, Marcus Fry Racing fabricated a custom cage, and the frame was stitch-welded. 

The prep work for the chassis and frame was extensive but not quite as extensive as the paintwork. The gold paint has metal flakes and even diamond dust in it. Before painting, he made sure to make the car bigger to give even more surface to paint. Thanks to some help from a translator and tons of convincing, he got Japan’s Custom Garage SPEED to make the widebody fenders and their N3 aero kit. I think it’s fair to say that the widebody kit is a major part of what makes this Corolla so special. The original SR5 Corolla was a pretty slim little ride. These massive arches give it a stance like a coiled rattlesnake. 

The suspension is a work of art all its own. MotorTrend notes that the Corolla now sits on nearly the entire catalog of Techno Toy Tuning’s suspension bits. And thankfully, instead of the all-too-common trend of cramming a 10-trillion-hp engine into this tiny frame, Riko made the tasteful choice of leaning toward a car you actually need to be good at driving in order to make fast. Riko tastefully used a 3SGE with 20V individual throttle bodies and a custom header and exhaust system built by Marcus Fry Racing.

Cars like this take planning

Riko explains that this wasn’t a “might as well do this since we’re here” build. Cars like this require planning. He adds, “the car did cost a lot to build, but any race car project at this level will. I wanted to bring the same level of quality that I see in professional race cars to this car to show people that you can apply those same principles to these old Japanese cars.”

The work was nearly all-encompassing. “I like old cars but don’t like old wiring or dealing with hunting for classic parts or suspension,” he notes. “I find it more reliable to just redo everything and keep the soul of the car but bring it up to date.” 

The result is a classic Japanese racer built to an extremely high-quality standard. Riko’s 1984 Toyota Corolla SR5 is proof that the build matters more than the model. Forget about hunting the rare stuff; hunt the cool stuff and make them rare.