Not everybody was champing at the bit to get their hands on the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback. It wasn't rear-wheel-drive or boosted, which made it an immediate turnoff for many enthusiasts; however, the Corolla still had some potential. As the successor to the Scion iM/Corolla iM, we felt the styling was headed in a better, sportier direction. It also came with the option for a six-speed manual and power was bumped up 31 hp and 25 lb-ft of torque to 168hp and 151 lb-ft. With a starting MSRP under $20K, it checked off all of the boxes for an affordable, entry-level commuter car, and while most car guys felt it wasn't anything to write home about, we saw some promise—enough promise to build one just in time for the 2018 SEMA Show.
We faced three main challenges to get it ready for SEMA: timing, support, and budget. Timing was bad as we picked up this Corolla XSE Hatchback just two months before our deadline. As for support, there wasn't much aftermarket movement out there as this was a brand new platform with essentially no parts available. Lastly, budget...Well, it was limited. Wish we had a blank check to make that 2J swap and custom widebody happen, but our build needed to be realistic, relatable, and regulated in our spending. So, with the help of Auto Tuned as our build partner and illustrator Jon Sibal as our visionary, we built the Super Street Corolla in ten (somewhat) easy steps:
1. Set It and Forget It. Two days after we took delivery of our Corolla, it was already under the knife at Auto Tuned. First order of business was installing RS-R coilovers developed specifically for the U.S. model Corolla. After dialing in the perfect ride height, the RS-R coils proved to be a sweet setup for daily driving-not too bouncy or stiff but still providing the handling improvements we expect from a sport-tuned suspension.
2. Shoe Game Strong. We are obsessed with TE37s...Can you blame us? They look good on everything! Exclusive U.S. RAYS distributor Mackin Industries came to our aid with a set of 18x9.5-inch TE37SAGA wheels in a throwback Time Attack finish - black faces with red "racing" stripe on the lips. To our surprise, we were actually the first car in the world to rock the new Time Attacks! Wrapped around the TE37s are Falken's latest FK510 UHP tire. We admit, it's a lot of tire for our low-powered Corolla, but at least we won't have any excuses about grip when we hit the canyons or test the car on a short and technical road course. Stay tuned for that!
3. Made from Scratch. Things like wheels and suspension can often be adjusted or modified to adapt to new cars like the Corolla. Add a wheel spacer here, change spring rates there, you catch our drift... Aero, on the other hand, typically doesn't work out like that, and most of the time, has to be made from scratch. As our two-month window ticked away, we were in contact with a company in Japan in hopes of sourcing a body kit that was already under development. Time was against us and with less than a month to go, we made an executive decision to pull the plug. What next? Auto Tuned was tasked to fabricate a one-off lip kit for our hatch!
The overall concept was to still model the kit as if a high-end Japanese company would have manufactured it, ensuring it would use high quality materials and have an OEM fit and finish. The kit would also need to accentuate the vehicle's original styling, making it look lower and more aggressive. Most importantly, we didn't want it to look like we were just throwing shit on there just to say we did. It had to flow, and Auto Tuned delivered. They even went to the lengths of producing the lip kit in carbon-fiber! Note: For Corolla owners out there, the kit will be available for sale in early 2019 via Auto Tuned.
4. Wrap It Up. The original paint on our Corolla was Bronze Oxide. It was a very unique brownish color, but it didn't have a hot hatch, street performance feel. Since we knew we wanted to go with a color that wasn't offered by Toyota, this left us with deep shades of red and blue, two colors we knew would look great and almost reminded us of the tones offered in the FK8 Civic Type R. After a public poll on social media, red took home the most votes. Service Group Distribution helped us with enough sheets of Avery Dennison vinyl for a full vehicle wrap. Also take note that we wrapped sections of the Corolla black such as the roof, front grille and side mirrors for improved contrast and definition.
5. Vroom Vroom. One of our least favorite things about the new Corolla Hatchback is the faux exhaust in the back. Shiny plastic inserts are integrated into the rear bumper to simulate an exhaust look, while the functioning exhaust is hidden behind. This had to go, and A'PEXi answered our call with a gorgeous quad system finished with titanium tips. After bolting it up and blacking out those fake exhaust inserts, we had ourselves a sexier rear end.
6. Boom Boom. With a crazy engine swap and wild bodywork out of the equation, our overall goal was to address every aspect of the Corolla. And since we'd be sitting in plenty of L.A. traffic after the SEMA Show, having a proper sound system was in order; we're not talking four 12-inch subs in the trunk, but replacing the factory speakers with proper components and adding much needed bass to the equation. We spec'd out a budget-friendly system through Pioneer using their D Series speakers and a 10-inch sub. While not their top-of-the-line stuff, it allowed for a crisper sound, much more volume and hard-hitting bass. Auto Tuned installed the sub snuggly in the spare tire well along with the amplifier to ensure we still had cargo space. Pioneer also supplied us with their latest DSP sound processor which allows us to fine tune the audio via our smart phones. It's next level shit and we'll have more on that in a future story!
7. Pulling Out All the Stops. The stock brakes on the Corolla aren't terrible but we were going to SEMA and we had to look the part. There was nothing off-the-shelf in terms of brake solutions, so with the help of Fastbrakes, they prototyped a front big brake kit for us designing custom brackets that allowed for 13-inch drilled and slotted rotors and six-piston Wilwood calipers. We can attest, these brakes are mega good and the Corolla can now stop on a dime!
9. Play Toy. While they're more commonly found on higher profile VIP and drift builds, we thought it would be funny to add a bubble shift knob (aka dildo shift knob) to the interior. Truth be told, we understand our Corolla wasn't going to win any awards or races, and we simply wanted to have some fun with it where we could. Huge thanks to Razo for supplying us the custom knob, and putting a smirk on our faces every time we shift.
10. Red Light Special. Speaking of having fun, it was only a couple days before deadline and we kept looking at the nearly completed Corolla to see what else we could add. It already checked all the boxes and we were out of money and time...but was there something else? It was at that moment that Auto Tuned brought out a LED light kit that had been sitting in their office for months, untouched and hidden from sight. We laughed and thought, "Why the hell not?!" We cringe at the idea of underglow 99 percent of the time but for some odd reason it didn't look all that bad when we finally flipped the switch and the red LED lights turned on. Queue JA Rule playlist...
Welp, there you have it! As you can see, our intention was never to build a ten-second car or to win the next AutoCon, but to use inspiration from Super Street car culture to create a cool hatch that looks sportier and drives better than what Toyota offered from the factory. Mission accomplished? We think so, all thanks to Auto Tuned, our partners, and those ten easy steps.