• Dec 12, 2006
Four-wheel fun on a budget is one of our favorite topics and is a philosophy dear to the heart of Flickr member buddyjsupra. His name would imply a different means of transportation, but instead he's the proud owner of this 1987 Toyota Tercel.

The EL31 chassis provided the perfect opportunity for buddy to swap out the feeble 3E motor and swap in a 135 HP, 1.3-liter 4E-FTE turbo mill, complete with five-speed cog swapper. Although it doesn't sound like much in the performance department, buddy insists that it's a fun daily driver and considering that the Tercel weighs just over a ton or so, we believe him.

A full account of the Tercel's transformation is posted after the jump, along with an engine bay shot and instructions on how to submit your own RR of the Day to our Flickr account.



This is an '87 Toyota Tercel EL31 with a 4e-fte engine swap from the JDM Toyota Starlet EP82. It was the first car I ever owned and I drove it all through high school and college before selling it to my roommate for a grand. I got it with 32k original miles on it. I sold it to him with 120k.

After a few years of driving it with the stock, anemic 3E carbed motor and automatic, the car's current owner saved up enough cash to turn it into a fun daily driver. DeathJester, the owner, sent it from Oklahoma all the way to Miami to Back Yard Productions where Trevor "GT Reva" and his shop handled the swap. Out came the crap 3E and auto, and in went the 1.3L 4e-fte turbo and 5-speed tranny. The swap is largely a bolt-in affair, but the conversion to EFI and wiring were complicated.

It went from the stock 78hp to a much more fun 135hp. Since the car's return home, it has been treated to a HKS Super Mega Flow Reloaded intake system, 3" downpipe back exhaust with a JIC muffler to replace the factory scooter choker system, and a few odds and ends. The factory steelies were replaced by 15x7 Buddy Club P1 Racing SF rims in the limited edition matte black finish and it now sports inexpensive but effective Fuzion ZRi rubber.

Not yet installed is a KSport full coil-over suspension, bigger brakes from a first generation Toyota Paseo, and an HKS adjustable wastegate actuator. A JAM Racing cast manifold is on order from Japan and future plans include an ARC top mount intercooler, HKS Super Sequential Blow-off Valve, and a Roadrunner Fabrications divorced downpipe from Down Under.

The car needs a respray and a subtle hood scoop molded into the hood for the TMIC, but for now, it's a fun daily driver and a bit of a sleeper to boot.

How to submit to RR of the Day:
Create a
Flickr account if you don't already have one. Search for and join the group called 'Autoblog RR of the Day'. Upload up to three photos of your ride to your own account at a size no larger than 450 pixels wide if possible and include as much information about it and yourself as possible. Even if your ride is sweet, it will not be chosen if there's not a lot of info accompanying it. Click on each photo and just above the picture it will say "Send to group". Click that and select the Autoblog group. You're done, that's it!


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 30 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Well said, PJ. Autoblog is a place for automobile enthusiasts, not car snobs.

      And compression, if you know of better ways to get a Tercel to go fast for 4k, you might want to tell the guys who wrote the guide I've linked below. You know, the guide that basically says this engine swap is your best bet for Tercels.

      http://www.tercelclub.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=50
      • 8 Years Ago
      why you would spend $4000 on a car worth about $85 is beyond me........ICK.
      • 8 Years Ago
      p.s. this has inspired me to put up my Tercel on the flickr group, i just need to wash it so it shines a little bit more... the only upgrades it's got are a bunch of cosmetic changes (full interior, badging, tinting) and auido system. all custom, so I think it's got a chance. 91 blue tercel! look out RR.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I find cars like these more interesting than some of the money-no-object stuff of dreams. These are regular folks doing what they enjoy doing, not out of reach of those who are still wondering if they should get into what they assume a very expensive hobby.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I had a '91 Tercel that I loved. I later had a '92 Sentra (B13, but not the SE-R) and besides the (really bad) engine, the Tercel was much better. The interior, the NVH, the steering, the fun feeling... all better in the Tercel. I know that's not saying much, but I would take this car over a Sentra SE-R in a heartbeat.

      As a tuner car yes, the Tercel is terrible. This swap is really all there is, and the guy in Florida that Peter mentioned is the only source that I know of. But if you've come to love your car and only have $4k, I think it's a logical enough choice.

      You're a different kind of enthusiast if you don't know that feeling.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Nice little sleeper, but it's a little on the expensive side. All 91+ Tercels were EFI right? So that would have made things much more straight forward from what I can tell. Perhaps even one of the 1st generation Paseos which I believe shared a similar if not identical platform and seem much more sporty. Having had a manual tranny from the start would have helped with the cost a bit as well in my opinion. That should run low 15's high 14's if my math is right. Again nice to see something different, probably could outrun some newer sport compacts.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Nice old car.

      BTW - RR of the day is going to be better :-)
      • 8 Years Ago
      Nice little conversion, I have a GP Turbo with a 4efte so I know how much fun it is driving these pocket rockets. I didn't know toyota made that shape in the tercel range, looks different.
      :)
      • 8 Years Ago
      The guys who are crapping on this swap should stop and think. Plenty of sport bikes on the road have tiny HP but can completely destroy expensive high HP cars in a race. 135HP in a 2000lb car makes for a pretty quick ride. Not to mention that the stock 9psi boost on that motor can be easily cranked close to 20psi on stock internals with a turbo upgrade. A great base to build on if its not enough for you stock.

      And saying that it still looks like a turd??? Great I think. No one will want to steal it or give it a second look, cops think its slow, and you'll surprise the hell out of a lot of cars when they get a faceful of your taillights.

      A big thumbs up to the owner of this car, I'll bet you have a lot of fun with it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Sweet, maybe I should put up my blue 91 Tercel.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ok. So i have this 89 tercel. I am looking into to doing the same thing you have done. I'm not too fancy when it comes to the wiring. So i was wondering if you could give some pointers on how to do it correctly.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I'll disagree and play devil's advocate.

      The EL31 platform is a great platform to work off of if you want to tune; much like the B13. It was the basis for one of Toyota's original hot hatches, the extremely limited production GP Turbo. Think of it as an 88 Tercel hatch with AW11 MR2 pop-up headlights and an ever-so-80s set of side skirts. It was powered by the 3E-TE and made 113hp stock.

      This car shares an overwhelming majority of its mechanical components with all later Tercels, Paseos, EP-series Starlets and the Sera. Engines, suspension and the trannies all interchange. Had it not been for the EFI conversion and extra work in converting it from an auto to stick, the swap could have been done for much less without complications. There are guys who do harness conversions to make it plug-n-go for $350. It's not rocket science.

      Thanks to the Internet, tuners from around the world share info about these cars and have created a vast knowledge base. You just have to look outside the US. Same goes for parts. Everything you can get for the Honda or Nissan is available for the Starlet and can swap into a Tercel with minimal if any work. The only downside with the Tercel is the high cost of buying JDM parts and the car's non-IRS rear.

      http://hardcore.ep91.com is a great site showing what you can do with an open mind.

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