1981 Toyota Corolla with a Lexus V8

Old station wagon with a Lexus V8, and everything else built and driven on a shoestring budget.
Why This Car Is In My Portfolio

   Although this car never got the proper resources it deserved, I learned so much from completely dismantling and rebuilding everything into something different to chase some ambitious goals using nothing other than determination, time, and a huge lack of money. 

   Building this car forced me to frugally learn wiring, welding, tuning, engineering, how to research obscure topics and apply that knowledge… and reiterate until you get what you’re after.

   The entire project was built on various driveways in Florida starting in 2010 for about $3000 total. The car made the drive from Tampa, Florida to Portland, Oregon and was my daily driver until I sold it to move overseas in 2016.


   The goal for this project was to build a station wagon that was less than 2000lbs (most cars today are 3000lbs – 4000lbs and sometimes more), rear wheel drive, manual transmission, and a good sounding engine with a lot of torque. Through the constraints of budget, style, and accessibility, I decided to build a 1981 Toyota Corolla Wagon (TE72) with a 4.0L all aluminum 32 valve V8 from a Lexus SC400.

Using the Lexus engine harness was possible, but it would have forced me to keep a lot of unnecessary sensors and wiring. Instead, I rewired the engine to only use essential sensors to run and used an open source engine management system called MS2 to control the engine. To make use of all the control and data that can be collected from the system, a tablet was installed in the dashboard to be used as a gauge cluster. The tablet connects to the ECU via bluetooth, has a GPS speedometer, and also has the ability to datalog the engine and the car.

My original plan was to just put in the V8, but almost everything had to be modified for this car to accommodate all the big changes that were taking place. The Lexus V8 (1UZ-FE) was never sold with a manual transmission, so a custom adapter plate and flywheel was made to attach a 5 speed transmission and clutch from a mkIII Toyota Supra. The factory Corolla rear axle was replaced with a 8.8″ rear axle from a Ford Mustang for extra strength and ease of access to aftermarket parts. The Corolla originally had a steering box that took up too much space for the 1UZ to fit in the engine bay, so I installed the entire front subframe / suspension and steering rack from a Nissan 240sx to accommodate the new engine. Since the car was originally carbureted with a 1.8 liter engine instead of a fuel injected 4.0 liter engine the fuel system needed to be overhauled with bigger fuel lines, a dual fuel pump system and swirl pot to prevent fuel starvation to the engine under acceleration and cornering.


Engine TypeV8 (1UZ-FE)
Horsepower250 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Engine ManagementMS2 (open source engine management system)
Ignition SystemFord EDIS (controlled by MS2)
Torque260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission5 speed manual (W58) custom adapter plate, flywheel, clutch and driveshaft
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Curb Weight2200lbs (approximate)
Wheel Base2,400 mm (94.5 in)
Suspension FrontS13 subframe, steering rack, knuckles, control arms, disc brakes, adjustable coilovers, custom strut top spacers
Suspension RearStacked and flipped leaf springs, Camaro gas-shocks, drum brakes
Rear AxleFord 8.8" Limited slip 3.27 final