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Kick-Ass Corona!

A Toyota Corona like no other you've heard about!

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • DOHC turbo engine
  • IRS with LSD
  • Easy power oversteer
  • Sedan practicality
  • Sleeper appeal
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This article was first published in 2004.
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What’s rear-wheel-drive, DOHC, turbocharged and cheap? Forget Nissan Silvias - the most affordable car that fits this description is the grey market Japanese-import Toyota Corona GT-T. Yes, Corona!

We’re the first to admit that we approached this vehicle with only mild interest. Boy, were we in for a rude awakening...

With 120kW and strong torque, the GT-T Corona is no slouch. And, believe it or not, it’s also a real tail-out ball of fun to throw around. Wanna go drifting? Amaze your friends when you hold a perfect power slide in a plain looking ‘80s ‘rona!

In Australia, the 1983 – 1987 ST141/RT142 Corona has a terrible reputation – it all started when contemporary motoring magazines called it a “dog”. In Japan, however, the Corona was available in various guises, including the go-fast GT-T.

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Lift the bonnet and you’ll see the ultimate version of the T-series four-cylinder – the 3T-GTEU. Displacing 1.8 litres and with a 7.8:1 static compression ratio, the 3T-GTEU breathes through a DOHC, 2-valves-per-cylinder head. But the real power comes from a single CT20 turbocharger that delivers about 7 psi of boost without an intercooler.

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The electronic engine management system operates multi-point fuel injection and works with a distributor type ignition system. Note there are two spark plugs per cylinder. The official power output is 120kW at 6000 rpm and there’s 207Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. In comparison, a 1984 (leaded fuel) Mitsubishi Cordia 1.8 litre turbo makes just 110kW. Oh, and the locally-delivered 2.0 and 2.4 litre Coronas are good for 73 and 87kW respectively...

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As far as we can determine, the 3T-GTEU powered Corona came only with a 5-speed manual gearbox. It’s a nice ‘box with good feel and the clutch is relatively light.

A key advantage of the GT-T is that drive is channelled to the rear-end. And what a rear it is... Forget about the agricultural live-axle in local Coronas – the GT-T rides on a semi-trailing arm independent set-up, which looks very similar to other Toyota IRSs from the era. Our test car was also equipped with a factory 4.1:1 LSD, which endowed the car with good traction. Still, dial up a few revs and pop the clutch and the Corona lights ‘em up.

Stuffed rear tyres and a wet road meant we couldn’t run any performance times but we’d bank on 9 second 0 – 100 km/h acceleration. In-gear performance is even stronger than this time would suggest.

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In addition to enhancing off-the-line traction, that rear LSD also gives the GT-T great power-oversteer ability. As we said, you could quite easily go drifting in this. Unfortunately, the suspension is very soft – there’s plenty of roll and squirming from the rear-end. Of course, the upshot is a comfortable ride. As mentioned, the rear employs a semi-trailing arm IRS while MacPherson struts are used at the front – swaybars are used at both ends.

The 1160kg GT-T also features four-wheel disc brakes that provided good stopping power during test. The power assisted steering is decent overall.

But forget about what the Corona GT-T is like in standard form - the potential for modification is huge!

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A quick perve beneath tells us the factory exhaust is plenty restrictive and the air intake arrangement should be easy to improve. But the major shove in the back will come from installing an intercooler (there’s plenty of space in the nosecone) along with increasing boost pressure. If mixtures remain safe and there’s no detonation, we can’t see any reason why you couldn't double the boost pressure to around 14 - 15 psi. With these mods you’d achieve a power increase in the order of 30 to 40 percent – around 160kW at the flywheel! And then you might want to upsize the turbo and run bigger injectors...

With such huge tuning potential it’s kinda cruel that the body looks so damn, well, plain.

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The GT-T shares exactly the same appearance as the upmarket 2.4 litre version of the local Corona. The side mouldings, grille and bumpers are identical – you might notice the fog lights (which are part of the main headlights) are yellow in the Japanese car. The only noticeable interest raisers are the GT-T badge on the boot lid and the “twin-cam turbo” signage on the grille and back window. Aftermarket 14 inch wheels were also fitted to our test car.

The GT-T might not be pretty but it is certainly useable and relatively comfortable.

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Inside, there’s good overall space - even if rear legroom is limited. The GT-T’s sports seats are also quite comfy. Standard features on the GT-T include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, electric mirrors, air conditioning, adjustable steering column and an adjustable height mechanism for the driver’s seat. The instrument cluster contains a 180 km/h speedo, tacho, fuel level, coolant temp and oil pressure gauges. There’s also a boost light and an oil temperature warning light.

And note the condition of the interior in our demo vehicle – it’s almost as if it’s 5 years old, not 20...

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Manufactured in 1984, our test Corona GT-T (chassis code TT142) is another Japanese import that you can get your hand on cheaply thanks to the 15 year old rule. Provided by Adelaide’s Yahoo Motorsport, this non-ADR’d car is in fantastic condition for its age and we imagine it would breeze through inspection. Yahoo currently has the car stickered at AUD$3500, which includes a locally-delivered Corona for parts...

For a total on-road cost of around AUD$4000 you can have some real fun on Saturday nights and knock those Silvia drifters off their feet!

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