Sleep-deprived, yet giddy with excitement, day one of Super Street's southern Japan blitz last October had us on the hunt for an '80s-era, AE70 Toyota Corolla. Assembled at the hands of whom many consider to be a godfather in the art of engine bay shaving, we ventured beyond the concrete confines of Osaka and deep into the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture.
Masataka Ikeda of Inazuma Worx
Master craftsman Masataka Ikeda resides in a tiny village called Inami, where he crafts custom Corollas by hand. A quick Google search revealed very little on the Toyota specialist or his brand "Inazuma Worx", and the average result of Inami highlights the town's title as the sour plum capital of Japan. Umeboshi plums may be delicious, but we were after something far more mouthwatering. We're referring to the Corolla sedan, or AE70, for all the chassis code aficionados out there. The car was once considered a commonplace commuter car, Ikeda-san likes to refer to as "a perfect fit for Japanese people" - highly undesirable to some, but for Ikeda-san, he's set out to make it one of the most remarkable Corolla builds in history.
Despite having almost two decades of aftermarket experience, airbags and shaved engine bays are a relatively recent endeavor for the Inami-town native. Since his tiny hometown of 8,000 people offers little more than sour plums and scenic mountain passes, drifting had long served as a means of slaking Ikeda-san's thirst for automotive expression and thrills.
While tuning and drifting tofu-delivery missiles was undoubtedly entertaining, it was seeing a shaved version of the AE86 in person that made Ikeda-san's shift to engine bay work an obsession. Master builder Kousuke Mori had just premiered his immaculate AE86 at a major Japanese event, and even though Ikeda-san was just another face in the crowd at the time, this car's impact on the Toyota enthusiast was inexplicable.
Destined for the AE70
Shifting to body work, fabrication, and paint, while focusing on aesthetics and OEM minimalism is what makes this particular build of his shine so bright. When asked why he chose this particular chassis, Ikeda-san laughed and said that it's because the two of them were destined for one another, as they were both born in the same year. He also tells us that finding a clean AE70 chassis was a real nightmare, as most of these Corolla sedans had either been exported or demolished decades ago.
Five years, five donor cars, and one somewhat acceptable build platform later, and Ikeda-san was finally ready to kick off a year-long build process. In award-winning fashion, he left no bolt untouched, with custom fabrication and one-off parts playing lead roles in this AE70's transformation. Ikeda-san tackled every inch of this chassis with creativity and good vibes.
Powered by 4A-GE
When he wasn't hacking-up donor cars or modding his Corolla's rear end, Ikeda-san was under the hood, perfecting the engine bay. While the inside of the 4A-GE engine relies heavily upon performance-enhancing products from Toda Racing, external upgrades are a bit more varied. Here, items like TRD spark plug wires, a Solex carburetor with 44mm horns, Greddy radiator, and a K's Works custom exhaust manifold add performance to other areas of the engine. Being that it is carbureted, Ikeda-san's Corolla relies upon an MSD 6A digital ignition control box to pluck the engine's proverbial heart strings.
Ikeda-san's line of Inazuma Worx products add further "good vibes" to the former daily commuter. These include a one-off radiator overflow tank and cap, a heat shield for the spark plug wires, various fluid lines, and every centimeter of exhaust piping from the header back.
As for the vehicle's manual gearbox and everything affixed to it, a T50 trans with a TRD single clutch and a two-way limited-slip differential tackle gears and grip, while a modified AE86 clutch master cylinder pumps fluid from a Yamaha YZF reservoir.
Custom Air Suspension and Rear-End
Suspension on this car is a bit more complex, with one-off Inazuma Worx coilovers and an Air Lift 3P bag setup being the stars of the show. Take a peek under the rear and you'll see a tricked-out double wishbone rear suspension conversion, along with one-off, fully adjustable control arms. Up front, the AE70 relies upon Inazuma Worx AE86 control arms in order to make dropping and driving a breeze.
Front brakes on this little Corolla are a concoction of Wilwood 4-pot calipers and Stoptech rotors, which clear the wheels thanks to Techno Toy Tuning adapter plates. An R32 Skyline rear brake conversion handles Dixel rotors and pads. This is all powered by a Nissan Silvia S15 master cylinder, which pumps brake juice out of yet another modified Yamaha YZF reservoir, and down Inazuma Worx custom brake lines.
Iconic SSR Wheels
Just in front of all of this upgraded stopping power are 14-inch SSR Longchamp XR4 wheels in a squared 9-inch layout. With a front offset of -15, and a rear of -27, Ikeda-san's sedan stretches its 195/45R14 Toyo Proxes T1R tires to the point where they can be neatly tucked beneath all four fenders once dropped.
Meanwhile, OEM is the name of the game for the rest of this car's exterior, with the bumper pole, rain visors, and license plate surround all being factory Toyota options.
OEM+ Interior with Custom Upholstery
This original equipment approach trickles inside, with the sedan's minty-fresh dash being the only part accented with aftermarket upgrades. These include a Nardi Classic steering wheel, various gauges, a Carrozeria head unit with iPad connectivity, Airlift controller, and a wide-angle mirror residing above it all. The rest of the fully refurbished cabin features completely reupholstered leather seats and door panels, all of which Ikeda-san did himself.
The Hardest Parts
Walkaround tour complete, I turn to Ikeda-san and ask what the toughest part of this build was for him. He grimaces and admits that while modding the rear subframe was easily the most labor-intensive area and getting the car's inner fender tubs shaved properly was a pain, it was small shit that drove him up the wall.
For instance, the typical Toyota Corolla floor mat tends to get tossed every few years, so when they aren't in production for a couple of decades, sourcing a somewhat clean set is damn near impossible. The same goes for the generation-correct bumper pole, which proved extremely challenging to locate.
Best of Show
In the end, positivity and determination prevailed, and Ikeda-san was able to debut his 1982 Toyota Corolla Sedan at Wekfest Japan last year, where it won "Best of Show" and "Car of the Festival" awards. What was once considered a boxy and bland salary man's machine, has become a real treat, especially since meticulously shaved bays are still somewhat of an anomaly in Japan. Altogether, this self-effacing showstopper features all sorts of good vibes, so get used to this feeling, because it isn't the only Inazuma Worx build we'll be featuring.