You always hear about the “lucky ones” who somehow come across a project car chassis for very cheap. Whether it’s a dusty and dingy barn find, a Sunday car owned by a little old lady, or just the right place at the right time, you’ll have the same opportunity to snag a new canvas on the cheap that you dream of one day. For Richard “Rico” Gutierrez, the fierce 1984 Toyota Corolla you see in the picture started out as a $400 parts car before an otherworldly transformation.
Neglected, not forgotten
The bones were solid, but this SR5 model was in terrible shape when Ricoh found it for sale in the Santa Cruz Mountains where it had been sitting under the elements with stench and rat residue for eight years. He originally bought it as a parts car to finish off his other Corolla, and once it served its purpose, it was put aside for a few more years.
Ricoh’s current stable of cars includes an S13, S30 and RWB-equipped Porsche. All covered in gold, just like this Corolla, and all heavily modified. There’s no shortage of quality parts used in either bunch, and, as you’ll see in this build, details haven’t been skimped on. Long before the new paint was applied, the chassis was mounted on a rotisserie and media blasted, a custom cage made by Marcus Frye Racing and chassis stitch welded before paint prep.
Underneath the custom gold paint, which in this case adds gold flakes and bits of diamond dust to make it sparkle in direct light, the front and rear arches have been stretched by a mile for Ibaraki, Japan’s custom garage Speed and their N3. Aero kit. Rico needed to get his hands on one to contact CGS to find a translator and after some back and forth the shop finally pulled out the aero mold and hand made pieces for this build.
The massive flares attached to the front and rear sit just inches below the factory body line, giving the narrow Corolla body a massive look. A carbon fiber hood was used just above the Levin headlights and matches the craft square side mirrors, and the same exposed hardware you see on the polycarbonate side and rear windows is found across the front lip and flares for a uniform look.
Brand new top to bottom
Those larger arches allow for a set of limited-edition Work Equip 40s that measure 15×9.5-35 in the front and 15×10.5-47 in the rear. They also needed some conversation as they were no longer available with their smokey black face, but Work of Japan added some extra attitude with the Toyota Proxes R888R with a gloss black lip behind the matte finished face to complete and wrap a set. was able profile
The drop comes courtesy of all-business Annex Pro Road coilovers fitted with Swift springs, and there’s not much left of the factory suspension as Ricoh’s Corolla build included virtually all of Techno Toy Tuning’s suspension catalog. Additionally, instead of using a GTS rear end, a Ford 8.8 was brought in and modified to work with all the Techno Toy tuning suspension products like the original Toyota version.
The front engine, rear-wheel drive layout and generous engine compartment of the mid-80s Corolla served as a push for several popular engines, some by Toyota and others as cross-platform conversions. With so many options available and the nature of the athletic exterior, the 700 horses you’d expect to get under the hood are non-existent.
Instead of opting for something overwhelming or running ragged ends, the Ricoh opted for a custom header and exhaust system built by the tried-and-true Beams 3SGE and Marcus Fry Racing, along with a 20V individual throttle body. The idea was to create a driver’s car and one that leans towards subtlety to highlight the car’s sleek underpinnings rather than its brute power. You won’t find much beyond the engine and its bolt-ons because the greatest effort was made to hide or eliminate everything from the firewall and shock tower sheet metal — including any trace of wiring.
With the sort of attention to detail you’d find on a competitive show car, Ricoh explains that it wasn’t a matter of “we might as well do it because we’re here,” but was carefully planned from the get-go. He added, “The car cost a lot to build but any race car project at this level would. I wanted to bring that level of quality that I see in professional race cars to this car to show people that you can apply them too. This old Japanese Car policy.”
With little more than the OEM chassis and front subframe left, not much left from the Toyota. “I like old cars but don’t like dealing with hunting for old wiring or classic parts or suspension,” he notes. “I find it more reliable to just redo everything and keep the spirit of the car but bring it up to date.”
As low as it goes towards the engine bay, it moves into the cabin where all the factory panels and carpets, door cards and dashes have been lengthened, exposing all the intricate roll cage extensions. The original gauge cluster was replaced with a Link display strapped to the custom, extended steering column, the factory footwork was switched out for a Tilton pedal box, and all of the car’s power and accessory controls are housed in a single aluminum box near the shifter, with the only exception being an adjustable brake bias knob. Mounted just behind. To gain some much-needed headroom for his 6’2 frame, Ricoh opted to cut and lower the floor pans, bringing the Bride Zetta 3 much lower than stock. Those fancy buckets have also been pushed back quite a bit for extra leg room.
After appearing at SEMA a few years ago, the Corolla has been tuned and refined and hit the track a few times this year—an important factor for Rico, who says he’s noticed a huge gap at the track between high-dollar exotics and budget grassroots enthusiasts. How can I help?” she asked the question. “Taking a car that looks like a hot version and driving it around the track. It makes people laugh and I’m always asked, ‘Are you really going to track it today?’ Hell yeah, that was the whole point. I was once watching that kid hot version and dreaming of driving a fully built dream car on the track, and now I’m doing it. That’s my message and it can be done. It’ll take a lot more track days and impact. Track events to watch, but this is my next area to challenge my efforts.” That’s Rico’s way.
the owner Richard (Rico) Gutierrez
the engine Beams 3SGE; Excessive engineering mounts; 20V ITBs; SQ Engineering Mounting Plate, Velocity Stack, Alternator Kit, Rear Housing, Pull Down Throttle Linkage, Exhaust Flange; Marcus Frye Racing custom headers, radiator, chassis harness; Exhaust system with spall fan, Magnaflow muffler, resonator; Radium fuel pump, filter, 10.5 gallon fuel cell, surge tank system; Link the ECU
drivetrain J160 6-speed transmission; JSP fab short shifter; Toda clutch, flywheel; OS GKen LSD; Custom gold driveshaft by South Bay Driveline
Suspension Annex Pro Road coilovers; Swift Springs; Cusco rocking bar; T3 Techno Toy Tuning Bushings, Alignment Kit, Chassis Bracing, Equal Length Four-Link Kit w/Box Kit, Panhard Bar, Front LCA, Knuckles, Outer Tie Rods, Rear Sway Bar Control Bracket and Bar Drop Mount; Marcus Fry Racing Roll Cage; Ford 8.8 rear axle; Stitched cast chassis
break Techno Toy Tuning Big Daddy Front Brake Kit, Slotted Rotor; Wilwood calipers, pads; Wilwood Ford 8.8 T3 Rear Kit; Tilton paddle box, reservoir; Marcus Frye Racing Custom Brake Line
Wheels and tires Works equipped 40 15×9.5 -35 front, 15×10.5 -47 rear; Toyo Proxes R888R 225/45 front, 235/50 rear
outside paint and body by 24/7 Auto Body; Custom Garage Speed N3 Widebody Kit; TRD rear spoiler; JDM Levin Front End; JDM headlights w/fog lights, AE86 Sprinter taillights; Craft carbon fiber mirrors; Marcus Frye Racing Polycarbonate Windows
internal Bride Jetta 3 XL seats; Takata racing harness; Illest x hundreds of special edition Renown USA steering wheels; Link digital display; Techno Toy Tuning Race floor plate; rear interior aluminum panel; The driver’s floor pan is cut into the lower seat; Marcus Frye Racing Control Panel Box and Wiring
thank you Illust – Work Wheels – Marcus Frye Racing – 24/7 Autobody – Battle Garage RS – Annex Suspension – Toyota Tires