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1970 Toyota Corolla (KE25) - Recycled Rotary

One man's trash is another's treasure

Aaron Bonk
Feb 19, 2018
Photographer: Chad Burdette

While Mazda RX-7 owners worldwide are abandoning their 13Bs and anything that's got to do with apex seals and eccentric shafts for things like Chevy V-8s, there's at least one guy who's gone and swooped up at least one of those sidelined rotaries. Pruk Pruksathorn isn't going around rescuing any RX-7s, though. For him, it's the second-generation Corolla's 76hp lump that doesn't cut it and got the boot for Mazda's turbocharged 1.3L can of rotary bits. It's the engine swap you never expected, stuffed into the '70 Toyota you never saw coming, and it's exactly what you didn't know you were waiting for.

1970 toyota corolla custom widebody kit Photo 2/28   |   1970 Toyota Corolla Custom Widebody Kit

That is, if you're Pruk—an Italian restaurant owner from Thailand who's down with vintage RWD commuters most of the world's forgotten about and the rotary mills some Mazda owners would just as soon never hear from again. And, as it turns out, you care about this whole mash-up for the same reason Pruk makes a living selling pepperoni pizzas right outside of Bangkok—it's all very much at odds with the eight-valve, twin-cam engine you think he would've swapped into place. Or the Pad Thai joint you think he's supposed to own.

Being different for the sake of being different doesn't always work out. Your Integra really wants you to put its hood back on. And you look just as lame wearing that llama sweater while picking bits of avocado toast out of that handlebar mustache of yours as it sounds reading about it. But for Pruk, different works. That's because the only thing wrong with Mazda's 13B are the chumps who've failed to properly care for them over the years.

1970 toyota corolla mazda 13B swap Photo 6/28   |   1970 Toyota Corolla Mazda 13B Swap

But Pruk is no chump. He knows the inner workings of the 13B and what it takes to keep himself from wanting something else. The swap's controlled by the engine's native ECU, so tweaking things like air/fuel ratios and ignition timing are non-issues. As such, horsepower remains conservative; Pruk estimates it's somewhere in the 280hp range. And yet for everything he knows about Mazda's 13B, he knows zilch about the one he's got in particular. That's because, according to Pruk, he's got no idea whether or not that 13B of his has been overhauled. It's a mystery many JDM engine buyers have been faced with for about as long as used Japanese engines have been a thing. Did whoever owned that decades-old B16A of yours before you put Type R cams in it? You swear it feels faster than your homie's B16A. You hope.

Whether or not Pruk's 13B has or hasn't been overhauled isn't as important as you might think. Bridge porting is in the engine's future regardless, but not before the rest of the car was gone over. And by gone over we're talking about the one-off widebody panels nearby TU Painting covered with a beautiful orange-ish hue. According to Pruk, it's that aero that makes this Corolla unique; without it, he says, it'd look just plain old.

1970 toyota corolla recaro SPG seats Photo 10/28   |   1970 Toyota Corolla Recaro SPG Seats

The merger of unrelated Japanese car companies' parts bins continues underneath the chassis where TEIN coilovers meant for an S13 sit behind brakes taken from an R32 GT-R up front and those from an FD RX-7 in the rear. It all makes about as much sense as that Mazda engine underneath the hood that sends all the right feels to those Falkens out back by way of the RX-7's gearbox and rear differential. It was all very much a custom affair, one that didn't come easy, and one that took Pruk five years to complete. Go ahead and ask him and he'll tell you that if it could've gone wrong, it did. Plans even changed midway through the build, like that moment he realized Thailand's streets and a low ride height wouldn't bode well for those fiberglass fenders he had made up.

All of this matters because Pruk actually drives this here Corolla—at least a few times each week to his restaurant, which means it starts, it runs, and it's every bit as functional as you thought it wasn't. It's also different, which was what he wanted from the beginning. According to Pruk, deviating from Thailand's automotive norms wasn't terribly hard. There, retro cars like the Corolla just aren't all that popular. And there, at least according to Pruk, lingering within the automotive equivalent of a college campus safe space means deviating from things like new-car buildups and mass-approved engine swaps doesn't happen often. This car, if you ask Pruk, goes against all of that, proving to the rest of Thailand that it's OK to be different. And to think twice before chucking that rotary of yours.

1970 toyota corolla SSR formula mesh wheels Photo 17/28   |   1970 Toyota Corolla SSR Formula Mesh Wheels
1970 toyota corolla mazda 13B swap Photo 21/28   |   1970 Toyota Corolla Mazda 13B Swap
1970 toyota corolla custom widebody fenders Photo 25/28   |   1970 Toyota Corolla Custom Widebody Fenders
By Aaron Bonk
401 Articles
1970 Toyota Corolla (KE25) - Recycled Rotary
Tuning Menu
Owner: Pruk Pruksathorn
Hometown: Bang Saen, Thailand
Occupation: Italian restaurant owner
Engine: Mazda 13B rotary engine and drivetrain transplant; custom engine and drivetrain brackets, exhaust, fuel cell, intercooler, piping; HKS blow-off valve; dual Bosch inline fuel pumps
Drivetrain: Exedy clutch and flywheel
Engine Management: Mazda 13B ECU
Footwork & Chassis: TEIN Nissan S13-spec coilovers; custom antiroll bars
Brakes: Nissan R32 GT-R front brakes; Mazda FD3S RX-7 rear brakes
Wheels & Tires: 15x9" front, 15x11" rear SSR Formula Mesh wheels; 205/50R15 front, 225/50R15 rear Falken Ziex ZE912 tires
Exterior: custom Retro Speed fiberglass widebody panels, front and rear spoilers, canards; TU Painting paint and bodywork
Interior: custom rollcage; Mazda FD3S RX-7 instrument cluster; Recaro SPG seats; Takata harnesses; MOMO V35 steering wheel; alcantara upholstery; Dragon Ball shift knob
Thanks You: Por for helping me build this car from the beginning; LK for helping take pictures of the car and making it well known; Mark for all of the bodywork and paintwork

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