1976 Toyota 1000 – Lost In Translation


Recently in this space, we recalled how America pooh-pooh’ed anything made in Japan following WWII-after which showed a Datsun Sports roadster to prove why that resistance was both futile and stupid. That attitude was once in the same way strong in Europe: It took another decade before Japan made serious inroads on the European continent, while Japanese cars made it to American shores in the late 1950s. The battles were the same: national pride, a skoshe of racism thrown in for good measure, as well as the Japanese car companies didn’t really try to gain a foothold in continental Europe until after the American market was under way and out from danger. A dribble of models from the ‘60s established the Japanese way of doing things, and European buyers were deluged by a flood of new and improved models during the ‘70s. Countries with established automotive factories and companies like Germany and France were slower to embrace the Japanese onslaught than countries, like Belgium or The Netherlands, that have few homegrown cars of their to speak of.

Once on European soil, all of the Japanese marques became entrenched exactly the same they conquered the rest of the world: excellent packaging and build quality, plus enough creature comforts, at a terrific price. The cars themselves weren’t necessarily fun, or powerful, nonetheless they were reliable; any issues finding parts mattered less when the damned things didn’t break. In addition, because the cost of fuel was triple what it is at the States, and because Europe was used to small-displacement machines running around, the Europeans got over their culture shock a little more readily and clutched the Japanese marques for their chests like long-lost kin. So, a number of the cool machines that never made it to America did get on a boat-but instead of coming here, they went to Europe.It’s a 1976 Toyota 1000, or model designation KP30. Imagine an early Corolla… but smaller. It never came to the States, which happens to be probably why you’ve never heard of it-the Corolla was small enough, thanks a lot; the KP30 was consigned to Japan and, starting in late 1974, multiple European destinations. Germany came first (the Toyota 1000 name was export-only nomenclature) but it really quickly got traction in Switzerland and the Benelux region, where Toyota called it Copain, or “buddy”. Purchased in Japan as being the Publica, this wasn’t the starchy little ‘60s sedan that shared air-cooled two-cylinder power together with the legendary Sports 800, but was an all-new version, introduced in 1970 and based upon a shortened E10-generation (earliest) Corolla chassis. (From some angles, it bears over a passing resemblance to a pre-’74 Corolla as well.) Wagon, pickup and two-door sedan versions were available also. The KP30 was targeted at first-time buyers, as the Corolla was Toyota’s rapidly-established family car in Japan; there was no hopped-up performance versions, beyond a fastback coupe that appeared mid-‘70s, called Starlet. By 1978 it was actually done, replaced by the KP61-generation Starlet which was available here.

Most significantly, the KP30 weighed 1,500 pounds full of fluids, and the power (such as it was, about 44 horsepower in the iron 993cc K-series inline-Four) went to the back wheels. Rendering itareas of his vision: “My inspiration is from Bosozoku (Japanese street gang), Belgian car culture (clean and lowered) and Mad Max! ,” he says. He wanted something that wouldn’t cost a million Euros to develop, which meant bang for your buck was essential. Also: he wanted a car from his birth year: 1976.

Voila! Greg turned up an old lady-spec Toyota 1000: bone-stock, untouched, relatively low mileage and then in really nice shape. No rot, no dents, clean in and out. (Easier said than done in a place like Belgium, where the climate is a little more Delaware than Del Mar.) It would warm a purist’s heart to find out a vintage machine such condition.

So of course, he tore its ass up: out came the wheezy 993cc Four as well as in went a turbocharged Mazda 13B out from a late ‘80s RX7 Turbo II that, as was so most of the case Stateside, had a perfectly good engine encased within a rotting shell. Nearly quintupled the Toyota’s stock 45 horsepower and is placing a solid 200hp to the rear wheels, because of this. (The intercooler hanging off of the front gives it a part-Mad Max, part-bosozoku feel.) A quick diddle of the calculator reveals that the particular Toyota measures in at around 7.5 pounds per horsepower, exactly the same power-to-weight ratio like a Lexus LF-A. Some fabrication had to be introduced into the equation because the last thing you’d want with all of that torque and power are the floor pans folding themselves into a pretzel. A fresh engine cradle had to be manufactured to hold the low, light 13B in place. The trans tunnel was torn up and replaced with a welded cage, both for strength and clearance. The work is simple, clean and strong, but needed.a collection of aftermarket AE86 wheel flared trimmed to suit and grafted into place; a hood with a set of vents a rear-engined VW fastback grafted in; a front lip he scored on eBay; a pair of TA22 Celica fender mirrors, painted the factory mustard hue to fit the rest of the machine he sprayed himself (though we’d prefer to think of it as the sort of golden brown you’d see on a Belgian Waffle, ‘cause we like carbs more than condiments).

Similarly, the stock suspension and brakes are largely left alone: some gas shocks instead of the ancient oil shocks propping up the rear end, new coilovers replacing the factory MacPherson struts in front, and nothing special with all the brakes whatsoever. The Delta wheels were sourced from Greg’s brother’s old rotary Mazda and replaced a vintage list of Gottis that had lived there previously.

We realize what 7.5 pounds per horsepower feels like, in rough terms, but we wanted to hear Greg describe it. He told us, “Special moment is a meeting with exhaust flame and bang bang song.” OK, then.

Good thing that hot Japanese cars such as this refuse to acquire lost in translation.