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1981 Toyota Starlet - A Starlet Is Reborn

Toyota's Rarest Breed Of The Old School Crew Makes A Cameo Appearance (In Chi-Town Of All Places)

Charles Trieu
Dec 1, 2009
Photographer: Sean Klingelhoefer
1981 toyota starlet

One of the few rear wheel driven hatchbacks, the KP61 Toyota Starlet is definitely my favorite hatchback of all time. These are pretty rare here and I wouldn't blame you if you haven't ever seen one. Only the second generation Starlet made it to the States, and only from the years 1981 to 1984. But if you have seen a modified one in person, up or even just lowered, you'd know this car is incredibly small. To give you an idea of how small this is, in stock form (before removing any unnecessary weight), Starlets weigh less than 1700 pounds. Starlets aren't ridiculously small like a Mini Cooper and they're not as large as the newer MINI. And it definitely doesn't have the feminine clout that the MINI does.

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Muhammad's Starlet project started three years ago when he found this car in San Diego, 2000 miles away from his beloved Chicago. The car basically limped to his friend's place in Los Angeles, shipped to Illinois and then limped again to Muhammad's place. A bad motor wasn't even a concern for him as he knew a 4AG motor was coming his way. With Ace Engineering motor mounts and a custom wiring harness, the 16-valve AE86 4AG motor swap was no problem. Muhammad chose the 16-valve over the 20-valve 4AG so he wouldn't have to cut or modify the firewall. But to give it that screaming sound, a set of AE111 individual throttle-bodies was adapted to the 16-valve head.

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On the outside the car was kept simple. Shorter, smaller JDM '79-80 bumpers were sourced from overseas and along with that came the JDM side mirrors for the fenders. These are the two JDM parts that every Starlet should have. The only aftermarket body part on the car is a rare old school Foha front spoiler. With no compromise to the firewall for a 20-valve 4AG and no cutting of the fenders for flares, it's a dead give away that Muhammad is a die-hard Starlet owner. You can tell he wasn't about to do anything that involved hacking up one of the few Starlets in the states.

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Inside the car things also stay simple and clean. Rear seats, headliner, carpet and most unnecessary interior has been removed showing off the newly-painted chassis. An Autopower rollbar, rare Tom's steering wheel, vintage TRD bucket seats and harnesses add to the old school flavor.

Simple is not just a look, it's a philosophy when building a car. Muhammad's Starlet has tons of mods, OEM, JDM and aftermarket, but he manages to keep everything flowing smoothly. From the exterior to the interior, you can tell he hasn't taken away from what the Starlet's spirit is.

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Fast Facts
1981 Toyota Starlet
Owner Muhammad Akbar
Hometown Chicago, IL
Daily Grind programmer

Under The Hood 16valve 4A-GE; HKS cam gears; 20V AE111 individual throttle-bodies; custom velocity stacks; Ace Engineering motor mounts; custom equal length header Drivetrain T50 transmission; short-throw shifter; custom tranny mount; custom driveshaft

Brains custom harness with OEM Toyota ECU

Stiff Stuff TRD adjustable struts, shocks and springs; custom sway bar

Stoppers stock with Hawk pads

Rollers 13x7" RS Watanabe R-Type rims; Sumitomo tires 175/50R13

Outside JDM side mirrors, JDM S grille and '78-79 JDM short bumpers; Foha front lip; shaved front and rear sidemarkers; Hella fog lights

Inside Bride Tom's steering wheel; old school TRD race seats and harnesses; Autopower rollbar

Props Arfana, MPH Motorsports, Dave, JJ, KP61.net, Tauseef, Monazzah, Naveed, Amel, Nabeel and all my old school friends who helped out. www aceengineering.ca, autopowerindustries.com, hksusa.com, kp61.net, mphmotorsports-skokie.com, tomsracing.co.jp, trdusa.com, watanabewheel.com

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By Charles Trieu
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