Once ashamed to be seen in one, Michael Ledger­wood is now a Corolla man through and through

NZ Performance Car - - 1980 Toyota Corolla( Ke36) - WORDS: DAMIAN WI­JN­HOUD PHO­TOS: RENE VER­MEER

There are a few cars which don’t need def­i­ni­tion when dis­cussed. If some­one men­tions the name Ex­ige, Vey­ron or Aven­ta­dor you know what they’re on about. How­ever, for the vast ma­jor­ity of the ma­chines we mod­ify, there are a num­ber of vari­ants that fall un­der the same name — ar­guably none more so than the Corolla. Com­menc­ing pro­duc­tion in 1966 and span­ning right on through to to­day, there are count­less ver­sions rang­ing from cult clas­sics to airba­gloaded eco­nom­i­cal gro­cery col­lec­tors, and all with their own sub­fam­ily of defin­ing chas­sis codes. If Michael Ledger­wood of Christchurch owned one, chances are it had ‘KE’ stamped on the tag.

Hav­ing had his fair share of Toy­otas, it was the KE36 which got more at­ten­tion than the rest. “I used to get em­bar­rassed be­ing dropped off at school in one, but now I can’t get enough of them,” Michael laughs. “Ever since I got my first KE when I was 17, I fell in love.” Fast for­ward a few years and his fair share of KE26s, ’30s and ’35s, he set­tled on get­ting se­ri­ous with the wagon we see to­day.

Not a run-of-the-mill car to start with, Michael pur­chased the wagon with a turbo 4AGZE and Hilux diff from the getgo. How­ever, that set-up didn’t suf­fice for long, and plans for more power and an all-round bet­ter car were put in mo­tion. More horse­power was on the cards, and that wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen with­out mak­ing some changes to the cylin­der head. “I was prob­a­bly a bit young and ar­ro­gant at the time, but I wanted the heav­i­est cams I could get,” laughs Michael. Race-spec Kelford Cams were sourced, along with heav­ier Kelford valve springs to match. To as­sist in al­low­ing more fuel into the cham­ber, 510cc Evo in­jec­tors were in­stalled. There’s no point in throw­ing more fuel in the mix with­out adding air to the equa­tion, so Michael set about mak­ing sure that an op­ti­mal mix­ture would be achieved. A WRX throt­tle body was retro­fit­ted, and the head ported and pol­ished.

Try­ing to di­rect a few hun­dred horse­power through a stan­dard KE36 driv­e­line is go­ing to be any­thing but re­li­able, which the pre­vi­ous owner re­al­ized and reme­died with the in­stal­la­tion of a Toy­ota W55 gear­box and a Hilux diff. This is where the build takes an­other turn; Michael wasn’t sat­is­fied with that ei­ther. The set-up wasn’t too bad to begin with, but the rear end had to pro­vide for more than just spread­ing power to the rear wheels. “It was strong and never gave me is­sues,”

Michael ex­plains. “But I wanted rear cam­ber as there were no Corol­las around with it.” The de­ci­sion was made to axe the lot, and source an S13 rear sub­frame which would both han­dle the in­creased power, and pro­vide ad­just­ment at the wheels with a more mod­ern in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion type sys­tem.

The fuel tank, rear guards, and rails all needed mod­i­fi­ca­tion to fit the sub­frame and planned wide wheels, so Simon at Surfab was en­listed to take care of the in­stal­la­tion, which was def­i­nitely far from a bolt-in af­fair. As it turns out, it was a good time to begin fab­ri­ca­tion in that area of the car any­way, since the Hilux diff had started to tear through the floor un­der the rear seat. To com­pli­ment the new diff setup, the W55 was re­built and a new clutch and fly­wheel combo was in­stalled.

Fol­low­ing the ini­tial ar­ray of mod­i­fi­ca­tions, the car went for a tune. How­ever due to the wrong choice of turbo and a cheap man­i­fold, the re­sults weren’t what Michael was hop­ing for. “It made al­right power but it was su­per laggy,” Michael re­calls. “It meant I had to sit on the lim­iter to hold full boost. So af­ter more re­search and talk­ing to mates I went to a cus­tom T28 with big­ger com­pres­sor and tur­bine wheel, and got my mate Nick to make me a good man­i­fold and down­pipe.” As well as a bet­ter flow­ing man­i­fold and more suit­able turbo, the car’s in­ter­cooler pip­ing size was re­duced and a gen­uine TiAL 38mm waste­gate was bolted on. The re­sult: a re­spon­sive 238kW ( 320hp) at the wheels at 19psi. As Michael tells us, “It just screams right from the word go through un­til the lim­iter. Full boost is achieved at 3700 rpm and still makes full power at over 8000.”

The re­sult, a re­spon­sive 238kW ( 320hp) at the wheels at 19psi. As Michael tells us, “It just screams right from the word go through un­til the lim­iter. Full boost is achieved at 3700 rpm and still makes full power at over 8000.”

With the light at the end of the tun­nel now near for the me­chan­i­cal part of the build, it was time to make sure the car looked the part, and that meant mak­ing the most of the mod­i­fied guards. “I’ve al­ways run cheap Chi­nese-made wheels,” Michael ex­plains. “I just wanted to spend my money on go­ing faster. But with con­stant shit and digs from a mate Mar­cus, I fi­nally de­cided it was time to pur­chase some gen­uine Ja­panese wheels. He was amazed!” A set of SSR Star­sharks were sourced lo­cally, ar­riv­ing as a pair of 14x8-inch and an­other pair of smaller 14x6.5-inch. Be­ing a fit­ter and turner by trade, Michael ma­chined the outer lips off the 6.5s and sent them away for some big­ger ones to be made up to match the width of the other pair. “Luck­ily, with the off­set of the new lips, they sat in the rear guards per­fectly,” Michael re­calls. “And with a bit of per­sua­sion and cam­ber, the fronts fit well, too.”

Fol­low­ing a paint job and fin­ish­ing touches to the guards and brakes, the car def­i­nitely stands out as one of the most unique KE36s we’ve seen. We’re told that even though the S13 rear-end vastly im­proved the han­dling side of things, the car is a bit of a ‘sunny day driver’ due to mas­sive amounts of cam­ber mak­ing it a hand­ful in the wet — no sur­prise re­ally. Michael isn’t fin­ished with it and has men­tioned plans to go faster, lower and louder which in­clude a switch to E85 in the hopes of break­ing the 400hp mark. With that in mind, the car may begin to get a bit loose on dry tar­mac as well!

Michael isn’t fin­ished with it and has men­tioned plans to go faster, lower and louder which in­clude a switch to E85 in the hopes of break­ing the 400hp mark. With that in mind, the car may begin to get a bit loose on dry tar­mac as well!

There are a lot of things to be con­sid­ered when buy­ing a bodykit for your car, be­sides the ob­vi­ous — de­cid­ing what look you’re af­ter and what you want to get from it. Not all kits are cre­ated equal, some are sup­plied in a readyto-fit state, and oth­ers mean you (or the fit­ter) will end up spend­ing plenty of time fid­dling to get them fit­ting just right. Of course if you head straight out to the race track, chances are you won’t spend much time on the fit, as you’re likely to smash it straight away. But if you’re a bit more con­ser­va­tive, it may pay to check how the kit you’re look­ing at com­pares to oth­ers in terms of fit, fin­ished qual­ity, and thick­ness of the ma­te­ri­als used. Some higher-end kits fea­ture brac­ing where re­quired, while oth­ers are bare bones, so do your re­search be­fore hit­ting ‘buy now’, or hand­ing over your hard-earned cash. If you want to shed ki­los then car­bon pan­els will be high on your list, though not all will save weight, as some are purely a sin­gle layer of car­bon laid over fi­bre­glass, which is fine if you just want the look and a few ex­tra dol­lars left in your wal­let. Some high-end kits are very thin fi­bre­glass, but with weight sav­ings can come loss of strength, so you’re likely to sac­ri­fice stur­di­ness. We are spoilt for choice with lo­cally avail­able kits for most popular car mod­els th­ese days, and in this fea­ture you will find a few lo­cal sup­pli­ers and get an idea of the types of prod­ucts they sell. A kit can make or break a car, so do your re­search first, and choose wisely.


Sure we’ve all seen bodyk­its painted with a spray can, or oth­ers just left in the white gel coat, but let’s face it, no one wants to be that guy. When look­ing to get a body kit painted, keep in mind that all paint jobs are not cre­ated equal. If you’re aim­ing to colour match the kit to an ex­ist­ing paint job, there may be a bit more work in­volved to make sure that the colours match cor­rectly, as the paint on the rest of the car may have faded over time and will no longer be an ex­act match to the colour code on the chas­sis tag. Depend­ing on the qual­ity of the kit to start with, mod­i­fi­ca­tions may also be re­quired be­fore it is ready to fit, so it pays to make sure your paint shop of choice can work with fi­bre­glass to make the changes needed, or that it’s fit­ting per­fectly be­fore you send it to paint, as we have seen kits painted be­fore they ever get a test fit­ting that then needed big mod­i­fi­ca­tions, and ul­ti­mately a sec­ond paint job.

Michael is not one to shy away from giv­ing the KE a good beat­ing at any time. He is a regular on the skid­pan and at the drags like at the re­cent South Is­land Champs, where the Corolla rat­tled off a string of 13s, the best of which was a 13.5, wheel spin­ning through sec­ond and third.

The fit­ting of the rear sub­frame was han­dled by Simon from Surfab, and it re­placed the retro-fit­ted Hilux solid axle. This re­quired pick up points to be welded into the chas­sis. It was a good thing the con­ver­sion was done as the four link was be­gin­ning to tear out of the chas­sis.

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