DINO HILARIO’S ’87 TOYOTA COROLLA
PLENTY OF PRACTICE (PLUS A NISSAN SR20) MAKES PERFECT
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.”