1979 KP61 Toyota Starlet – Sport Compact Car Magazine

22 Jul 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 1979 KP61 Toyota Starlet – Sport Compact Car Magazine

One Man’s Junk Is Another Man’s Treasure

The orange, red and grey KP61 Toyota Starlet seen here can be found along a desolate strip of Highway 19 in northeast Nagano City, Japan. Sumio Okada’s restoration shop, called Old Run, opened its doors in 1998. Its simple mission was to instill automotive nostalgia into modern Japan, which is not easy in a country where humidity results in rust and salt water is usually a mere hour away at most. Ask anyone who has tried to import a Japanese car from before 1995.

The average lifespan of a car here is only five years.

Old Run is complete with a bone yard, strewn with decrepit carcasses and a body shop that saves them. Also on duty in the repair and restoration garage is friend, employee and former dairy farmer, Toshio Sakuma. Evidence that Sakuma carries a torch for the past can be found in this 1979 TRD-inspired Starlet. The look is detail-accurate 1979. Sakuma and Okada are members of the Japanese Classic Car Association (JCCA), where credentials are based on how close you can get to historical correctness.

Got a BRE, Bellet R6 or GT40 Suzuka special? Yeah, you’re cool. Have a 1981 Tercel with a carbon wing? Definitely cheesy.

History comes to life when the JCCA plays host to four major events every year: the New Year meeting, Fuji Jamboree at Fuji circuit during spring, the Tsukuba meeting in July and the Tsukuba endurance meeting in the fall. Entrants’ cars range from Aston Martin to Ford and Volvo, but the majority are Japanese. While the New Year Meeting brings out many pristine trailered specimens, prudence for rolling museum pieces is discarded at the three races.

Sakuma’s ’79 included, they’re all going flat out.

Sakuma’s Starlet has the full period TRD treatment with fender flares, front air dam and wing, giving it the necessary belligerence. Gazing into its front fascia finds a bone yard excavation: a GReddy 10-row oil cooler fends frothing, oven-like oil temps. Respective front and rear Yokohama 205/500-13 and 225/500-13 slicks wrap a set of SSR Mark IIs.

Peering through the undulating sun-battled Lexan, which covers all but the front windshield, there’s a modern Safety 21 six-point cage with removable rear clevises, a Bride seat with HPI appointment and the obligatory stitch welding seen in so many Japanese race cars. No doubt items not period-accurate are all in the name of safety and mandated by track officials.

Opening the doors uncovers the fact that they’re skinned almost entirely with fiberglass-reinforced plastic, inside and out. Riding shotgun is an old flywheel secured to the floor, proof positive that the Diet isn’t just a bunch of Japanese senators; weight penalties are a bitch. A Stack gauge simplifies engine vitals, displaying only necessary warnings, and a Lap Shot LP1 sits portside of the Tanida steering controls.

In the passenger footwell, an MSD 6AL PN6420 ignition amp with adjoining rev-control unit sends 45,000 volts to ignite the 110-octane cocktail and thwarts carnage from over-revving.

Looking into the heart requires unfastening the TRD fiberglass hood. A light, sealed Deka motorcycle battery holds lead-acid current and a Sard aluminum radiator maintains engine temps. An HPI engine damper oversees the pushrods’ activity, while hand-lathed, aluminum underdrive pulleys do what little they can to hinder reciprocating mass. Period faithfulness is maintained with a stage three, TRD-spec, 4K engine, reworked with Tomei pistons.

Bore has been upped from 75mm to 79mm, but OE stroke remains at 73mm. Upper engine architecture is a Toshio Sakuma original port-and-polish job with a TRD 110-degree camshaft, oversized valves, and high-tension valve springs, breathing via four Mikuni 44mm carbs. Torque meets the pavement through a Toda flywheel mated to a TRD clutch and close-ratio gear package, paired to a 4:1 TRD limited-slip differential.

Power delivery and balance are administered by Bils coilovers. Hand-crafted appendages and spherical bearings control fore/aft movement by replacing the rubber-infused stock lower control arms, while understeer is prevented via a set of TRD adjustable anti-roll bars. JCCA restrictions govern power to around 140hp, requiring Sakuma to take maximum advantage of the braking zones.

This Starlet’s AE86 knuckles accommodate Delphi slotted brake rotors, Endless pads and Earls stainless steel braided brake lines.

Out back, an enclosure of formed aluminum houses an ATL fuel cell with Mitsuba and Nismo fuel pumps (another scrap yard treasure), which feeds a hand-fabricated aluminum surge tank. This whole system replaces the aging period mechanical fuel pump. Cheese of the Swiss variety is an appropriate metaphor for the rear bumper, which has seen a significant amount of weight reduction.

The day these photos were taken, the folks at Old Run were off to the Fuji Jamboree event. The KP61 was loaded onto the back of their flatbed immediately after our shoot. Images of Bellets, Truenos, Bluebirds and, of course, Sakuma’s Starlet danced in our minds as we bade them farewell and good luck.

As for Sakuma’s past life as a dairy farmer, one look at his creation is affirmation enough of his new life. His words about this Starlet resonate: It’s the cheese.

1979 Toyota Starlet (KP61)

Engine Code: 4K

Type: 1431cc in-line four, OHV, iron block and head

Internal Modifications: TRD stage three engine, Tomei 79mm bore pistons, connecting rods, ported and polished, TRD +0.5mm oversized valves (38mm intake, 33mm exhaust), valve springs, 110-degree camshaft, custom exhaust system modeled after TRD components

External Modifications: Solex Mikuni 44mm quad carburetor, hand-lathed aluminum pulley, HPI engine damper, SARD aluminum radiator, Sakuma aluminum coolant reservoir, Denso platinum plugs, MSD ignition amplifier, GReddy 10-row oil cooler kit

Engine Management Modifications: Twin fuel pumps (Nismo and Mitsuba), ATL fuel tank, MSD spark-based rev limiter


Layout: Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

Drivetrain Modifications: TRD close gear set, clutch kit, 4:1 final drive gear, limited-slip differential


Front: Bils coilovers, pillow ball mounts, AE86 knuckles, custom spherical bearing lower control arms, tie rod ends, Boneyard front upper tie bar, TRD anti-roll bar

Rear: Bils coilovers, pillow ball mounts, AE86 rear brake assembly, custom spherical bearing lower control arms, tie rod ends, TRD anti-roll bar

Front: AE86 brake calipers, Delphi slotted rotors, Endless pads, Earls stainless steel lines

Body: Safety 21 six-point cage, stitch welded seams, TRD fiberglass hood flares, wing, front air dam, reinforced plastic door skins inside and outside, lightened bumpers, Lexan windows (excl. front windshield)

Interior: Bride seat, four-point HPI belt, Tanida 330mm steering wheel, Lapshot LP1, Stack gauge display

Inside Old Run

Tagged as:

Other articles of the category "Toyota":

Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts


Born in the USSR


About this site

For all questions about advertising, please contact listed on the site.

Car Catalog with specifications, pictures, ratings, reviews and discusssions about cars