An Article from our friends over at Lucian Streets in St. Lucia!
Although a popular phrase, the words ‘cheap’ and ‘cheerful’ really go together well about as often as fast and Prius. But on occasion, they do come together in a smiles for miles package, which is what we have here. No, not the fast Prius, the other bit. When you’re asked to think about a Toyota built sports car from the 90s, more than likely the Supra would spring to mind almost as quickly as it accelerates. But what if you’re told to think of something a little smaller? Celica, Levin? How about the Starlet? The Toyota Starlet Glanza V was the entry to the Toyota sports car brotherhood, but by no means is it to be taken for granted. With a punchy engine, go-kart like handling and so little weight that you have to pin it down when you park, the Starlet Glanza V is a potent little pocket rocket.
Starting out life as an economical hatchback, Toyota capitalised on the Starlet’s small size and decided to crank it up from mild to wild. Changes were made to the suspension in order to stiffen it up and improve handling, and under the hood Toyota added a turbocharger to the 4E-FE engine in order for it to produce 131HP fed to the front wheels through a close ratio 5 speed transmission. In OEM specifications the Glanza V wouldn’t have much of an issue keeping up with its larger brothers on tight and windy roads but as with almost every car in existence there was still something to be had. Some pent up potential left for one to discover for themselves.
Valence’s obsidian little fighter began its life in his hands as most Starlets do these days. Battered, faded and in need of love. Tired from years of abuse and changed owners. Not too long after purchasing it Valence breathed new life into the Starlet with a fresh paint job, front lip and many performance goodies. The car’s already impressive handling characteristics were improved on with polyurethane bushing and coilovers, and the car was given a decent amount of more go-go through an aftermarket ECU and TD04 turbocharger pumping air through a larger front mounted intercooler to help keep things, well…cool.
With the larger turbocharger, the 1300cc engine has to reach further up into its revs to get the turbo spinning fast enough to develop positive boost pressures but when it does, the little hatch hurls you towards the horizon at an alarmingly quick rate. And then when you get to the end of the horizon and need to go around a corner, it sticks to the pavement with tenacious grip and minimal body roll, seeming to avoid the laws of physics like a disease. In a world dominated by big ticket star cars, sometimes we need to take a step back and appreciate the light, lower power fun machines. The sort of cars that cost next to nothing to maintain and modify, the sort that one can actually drive to its full potential with more enjoyment than concentration. Small car’s not hot.
What got you into the car scene?
A couple years ago I was looking at buying my first vehicle and my friend thought it would be a good idea to buy a car that his friend was selling. Turns out it was a turbocharged Starlet, and that’s what really got me started.
It’s been said that you’re the go to guy for Starlets on the island. Is this where it started?
Yeah, that’s where it started. It started with me knowing little to nothing about cars and then buying this car. Then came engine failure. I gave it to who I thought was a competent mechanic to rebuild the engine which only lasted another two weeks after it was repaired. From that moment on I decided if it was to be done right, I’d have to do it myself. I took some time to research, browsed the web, talked to people and gathered my information. I built a 1500 block myself to replace the 1300. From then on I always worked on my own cars, and have worked on just about every Starlet on island, except for a few.
Do you favour small cars, or is it just Starlets?
I like small cars, I find they are easier to work on. I find the larger vehicles require a lot more effort, and I do everything myself usually without help. I can work on the smaller vehicles in my spare time. I like cars generally – sports cars – but because I do the work myself I prefer smaller vehicles.
What’s your level of enthusiasm in the scene?
I’d say casual enthusiast. Over the years you live and you learn. I look at things differently, especially with this car. When I got it I said I built 3 of them for myself prior so I want to do everything right with this one. I’m not a hardcore racer; I don’t think I have the time or the budget for that. I’m more causal.
What’s the story behind getting this vehicle?
How did it get from where it was to where it is? Getting this one in particular is a very funny story. I noticed it a couple of times on the road a couple years after I sold my last one. I decided if I had to get one I wanted a stock one with no accident history and that’s why I wanted this one. I was hunting it down but could never get it. I got to know the car was owned my someone in the fire service so I spoke to an EMT I knew, and it turned out that the owner of the car was her boyfriend. Initially the owner said his car is not for sale and wasn’t budging. About a month later I was back on the hunt for a car, looking at the GT Advance but the night before I decided to contact this guy again and he said he had just put a for sale sign on the car so I snatched it up.
How much work have you done on it?
When I got the car it was in rough shape, visually and suspension wise. It’s had a full respray and suspension overhaul. The stock struts and TRD lowering springs were replaced with McMaster coilovers, every bushing is either Powerflex or Super Street and more. And that’s just the beginning. A completely new engine is going in. It’s a work in progress.
Would you recommend a Starlet to someone?
I would, because one of the things I always say to my friends in the car scene is that when they take parts off of their car to go faster, I just take them to go faster. A lot of the parts that are stock for other cars, are modifications for these cars such as a Subaru’s TD04 turbo. For someone who’s just starting and on a budget I would definitely recommend one of these cars to them.
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