DINO HI­LARIO’S ’87 TOY­OTA COROLLA

PLENTY OF PRAC­TICE (PLUS A NIS­SAN SR20) MAKES PER­FECT

Super Street - - Contents - Wong WORDS Jonathan PHO­TOS Dan Co­ria

For more than 15 years, this lit­tle Corolla has played a ma­jor role in defin­ing Dino Hi­lario’s au­to­mo­tive life. The one-time SR5 had been equipped with a 4AG mo­tor and the rear end retro­fit­ted with that of a GT-S model be­fore his dad passed it down to him in ’03, just one of many cars from the fam­ily col­lec­tion that’s in­cluded other TE and AE Corol­las, a RA Cel­ica, and a KP Star­let, to name a hand­ful. “You could say my ob­ses­sion for cars started with my dad’s ob­ses­sion for older Toy­otas,” Dino says.

Since tak­ing own­er­ship, Dino started fre­quent­ing au­tocross events with min­i­mal sus­pen­sion mods and street tires, even­tu­ally up­grad­ing both as his driv­ing im­proved. Later, he found him­self drift­ing much more than he was grip rac­ing, prac­tic­ing with his friends at as many events as they could get seat time at. Af­ter be­com­ing more com­fort­able with the car, Dino put some at­ten­tion to­ward im­prov­ing the aes­thet­ics of his Corolla with dif­fer­ent wheel set­ups, aero parts, and a fresh coat of paint. “Once I did that, I fell in love with [the car] all over again,” he says. “Even if I crashed or de­stroyed the aero, I al­ways had it re­paired to keep it look­ing clean.”

But a look un­der the hood quickly re­veals this SR5 has tran­scended be­yond the world of what Toy­ota orig­i­nally in­tended for this chas­sis. Af­ter sev­eral 4AG re­place­ments, a friend of Dino’s con­vinced him to swap in a tur­bocharged SR20DET from Nis­san’s JDM S14 Sil­via, which gave him a big power up­grade. “It was a whole new learn­ing curve and took a while to get used to,” he ex­plains. “But the SR is a good value for the power it of­fers and has plenty of aftermarket and OEM sup­port in com­par­i­son to seek­ing out 16V/20V 4AG parts. In a 2,300-pound car, there’s plenty of torque, and it’s very re­spon­sive.”

With a setup like this, the most im­por­tant thing Dino has learned about drift­ing is that each setup teaches you some­thing new about car con­trol. With the 4AG setup, car­ry­ing mo­men­tum and weight re­quires skill and a fear­less com­mit­ment to go all out be­cause of a lack of power. That doesn’t mean he drives an SR20 any dif­fer­ently, how­ever. “You still need to com­mit fully,” he says. “The AE86 teaches you so much about driv­ing and drift­ing—a lot of guys can jump into an S chas­sis and do 10 times bet­ter in that car than their own. But it doesn’t work the same way when Nis­san guys jump into an AE86. The 86 proves you need to be in tune with your own car and driv­ing in or­der to progress.”

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