You always hear about those “lucky ones” that somehow come across project car chassis for way too cheap. Whether it’s the dusty and musty barn find, the little old lady owned Sunday car, or the right place at the right time scenario, you daydream about one day getting a similar opportunity to snatch up a fresh canvas on the cheap. For Richard “Riko” Gutierrez, the intense 1984 Toyota Corolla you see pictured began as a $400 parts car before its other-worldly transformation.

Neglected, Not Forgotten

The bones were solid, but this SR5 model was in dire condition when Riko found it for sale in the Santa Cruz mountains where it had sat untouched and under the elements for eight years with the stench and rodent residuals to prove it. He originally purchased it as a parts car to finish his other Corolla, and once it had served its purpose, it was pushed aside for another few years.

Riko’s current stable of cars includes an S13, S30, and RWB-outfitted Porsche. All are covered in gold, just like this Corolla, and all are heavily modified. There’s no shortage of quality parts being used on any of the bunch, and, as you’ll see on this build, the details haven’t been skimped on. Long before the new paint was laid down, the chassis was mounted to a rotisserie and media blasted, a custom cage fabricated by Marcus Fry Racing, and the chassis stitch welded prior to paint prep.

Beneath the custom gold paint, which, in this case features added gold flake and bits of diamond dust to really make it sparkle under direct light, the front and rear arches are extended by a mile thanks to Ibaraki, Japan’s Custom Garage SPEED and their N3 aero kit. Getting his hands on one required Riko to find a translator to communicate with CGS and some back and forth eventually led to the shop pulling out the aero mold and making the hand-crafted pieces for this build.

The huge flares that attach to the front and rear sit just inches below the factory body line limit, giving the slender Corolla body a bulky appearance. A carbon fiber hood was used just above the Levin headlights and match the Craft Square side mirrors, and the same sort of exposed hardware you see on the polycarbonate side and rear windows is found across the front lip and flares for a uniform look.

Brand New From Top To Bottom

Those larger arches allow a set of limited-edition Work Equip 40 that measure 15×9.5 -35 up front, and 15×10.5 -47 in the rear. They too required some conversation as they were no longer available with their smokey black faces, but Work of Japan was able to get a set completed and covered in the matte finished faces behind gloss black lips with Toyo Proxes R888R adding some additional attitude to the Toyota’s profile.

The drop comes courtesy of all-business Annex Pro Road coilovers fitted with Swift Springs and there isn’t much left of the factory suspension as Riko’s Corolla build included virtually all of Techno Toy Tuning’s suspension catalog. In addition, rather than using a GTS rear end, a Ford 8.8 was brought in and modified to work with all of the Techno Toy Tuning suspension goods just like the original Toyota version.

The front engine, rear-wheel drive layout and generous engine compartment of the mid-’80s Corolla takes kindly to a number of popular engine sways, some by way of Toyota, and others serving as cross-platform conversions. With so many options available and the nature of the athletic outward appearance, the 700 horsepower you expected under the hood is non-existent.

Rather than opting for something overpowering or running on the ragged edge, Riko elected for the tried-and-true Beams 3SGE with 20V individual throttle bodies, and a custom header and exhaust system built by Marcus Fry Racing. The idea was to create a driver’s car and one that leans toward finesse to highlight the car’s nimble underpinnings rather than brute force. You won’t find much beyond the engine and its bolt-ons as maximum effort was put toward hiding or eliminating everything from the firewall and shock tower sheet metal—including any traces of wiring.

Motorsport Inspiration

With the sort of attention to detail that you’d find on a competitive show car, Riko explains that this wasn’t a “might as well do this since we’re here” affair, but was carefully planned from the get-go. 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.”

With little more than the OEM chassis and front subframe remaining, there isn’t much left from Toyota. “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 less is more approach to the engine bay continues into the cabin where all of the factory panels and carpet, door cards and dash are long gone, exposing all of the intricate roll cage extensions. The original gauge cluster was replaced with a Link display tied into the custom, extended steering column, the factory footwork switched out for a Tilton pedal box, and all of the vehicle’s power and accessories controls are housed in a single aluminum box near the shifter, with the lone exception being an adjustable brake bias knob mounted just behind. To gain some much-needed headroom for his 6’2 frame, Riko opted to have the floor pans cut and lowered, bringing the Bride Zeta 3 much lower than stock. Those fancy buckets have also been pushed back quite a bit for additional leg room.

Appearing at SEMA a few years ago, the Corolla has since been tuned and finalized and hit the track a few times this year—an important factor for Riko who says he’s noticed a huge gap at the track between the high dollar exotics and the budget grassroots enthusiast. “How can I help?” he asks. “By taking a car that you would see on something like Hot Version and run it around the track. It makes people smile and I always get asked, ‘are you really going to track that today?’ Hell yes, that was the whole point. I was once that kid watching Hot Version and dreaming of driving a fully built dream car on the track, and now I’m doing it. That’s my message and it can be done. It will take many more track days and eventually track events to see the impact, but this is my next territory to challenge my efforts.” That’s Riko’s way.

Owner Richard (Riko) Gutierrez

Engine Beams 3SGE; Excessive Engineering mounts; 20V ITBs; SQ Engineering mounting plate, velocity stacks, alternator kit, rear housing, pull down throttle linkage, exhaust flange; Marcus Fry Racing custom header, radiator, chassis harness; Spal fan, exhaust sytem with Magnaflow muffler, resonator; Radium fuel pump, filter, 10.5 gallon fuel cell, surge tank system; Link ECU

Drivetrain J160 6-speed transmission; JSP Fab short shifter; Toda clutch, flywheel; OS Giken LSD; custom gold driveshaft by South Bay Driveline

Suspension Annex Pro Road coilovers; Swift springs; Cusco sway bars; T3 Techno Toy Tuning bushings, alignment kit, chassis bracing, equal length four-link kit w/box kit, panhard bar, front LCA, knuckles, outer tie rods, rear sway bar control brackets, and bar drop mounts; Marcus Fry Racing roll cage; Ford 8.8 rear axle; stitch welded chassis

Brakes Techno Toy Tuning Big Daddy front brake kit, slotted rotors; Wilwood calipers, pads; Wilwood Ford 8.8 T3 rear kit; Tilton pedal box, reservoir; Marcus Fry Racing custom brake lines

Wheels & Tires Work Equip 40 15×9.5 -35 front, 15×10.5 -47 rear; Toyo Proxes R888R 225/45 front, 235/50 rear

Exterior Paint and body by 24/7 Auto Body; Custom Garage Speed N3 widebody kit; TRD rear spoiler; JDM Levin front end; JDM headlights w/fog lights, AE86 Sprinter taillights; Craftsquare carbon fiber mirrors; Marcus Fry Racing polycarbonate windows

Interior Bride Zeta 3 XL seats; Takata Racing harnesses; Illest x Hundreds special edition Renown USA steering wheel; Link digital display; Techno Toy Tuning race floor plates; rear interior aluminum panels; driver’s floor pan cut to lower seat; Marcus Fry Racing control panel box and wiring



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