We were getting some serious sideways glances when we cruised Sydney’s streets scouting for suitable locations to shoot Alfonso “Fonzy” Octaviano’s ’75 Celica. I’m not sure whether it was the car or that the driver donned an equestrian-esque helmet, complete with Rising Sun insignia. Maybe it was a bit of both. All we know is that Fonzy’s enthusiasm for Japanese shakotan (low down) car culture is as big as his old-school Toyota is tough.
Although JDM styling and tuning is as popular in this part of the world as it is in any other, rides like these are few and far between in a country like Australia. In fact, as far as Sydney (Australia’s largest populated city) is concerned, Fonzy is quite sure that it’s absolutely one of a kind. What’s hard to imagine, though, is that this car began its (second) life with an outlay of just $100. But believe it, because it’s exactly where this story begins.
“When I bought the car it was just a bare Australian-spec Celica LT shell with no windows, doors, wheels, suspension, interior, motor, or drivetrain,” Fonzy says. “The body was blue in color and although it was fairly straight, there was rust around the front and rear windows, trunk, and sills.” While it was going to be a huge task, Fonzy went into the build with clear intentions—and that wasn’t just to replicate the look of the cars he had seen in JDM magazines. Drag racing and drifting was also on the agenda, and that meant that getting the Celica to go, handle, and stop was as equally important as pulling off the authentic bosozoku look.
To set the record straight, Fonzy calls the Celica’s style zokusha—a mash-up of the shakotan, Group 5 silhouette, granchan, and kaido racer themes that have all influenced the build in some way. It’s something that was achieved through a number of means, but perhaps none more so than the rolling stock, which anyone with a passing penchant for old-school JDM rims will surely recognize as Speed Star Racing MK-IIs (front) and MK-Is (rear). In Fonzy’s case, the genuine SSR alloys measure a solid 14x10 at the pointy end and 14x11 out the back, and have all been fitted with suitably stretched Toyo Proxes T1R rubber. With such massive girth and a -38mm offset, the wheels were never going to tuck under—or at least sit flush with—the Celica’s factory fenders, but that didn’t concern Fonzy. His plan had always entailed fitting giant flares, and he found exactly what he was looking for in Toycool Garage bolt-ons. The Toyota’s presence is further enhanced through a front air dam and rear spoiler. What’s a little harder to see are the carbon-fiber doors, hood, and trunk lid from Restored.jp, which provide some subtle, but effective contrast to the car’s glossy black paintwork. Of course, no bona fide shakotan streeter is truly complete without a front-mounted oil cooler and a tsurikawa (JDM train passenger hand ring) hanging off the back end to visually illustrate the Celica’s ride height—or lack thereof. Fonzy’s ride has both. Inside is a “less is more” approach with re-trimmed factory seats, Nardi Deep Corn wheel, factory AM radio, and two more tsurikawa hangers for rear seat passenger use. Look closely and you’ll notice that the doors don’t have door panels—not because Fonzy hasn’t got around to fitting them, but rather to showcase their slick-looking carbon-fiber skeletons.
The Celica’s outward appearance might be its focal point, but underneath the beefy exterior is where most of the work has actually been performed. Fonzy built the engine himself, and although the Celica would have come factory fitted with a gutless 2T-C, these days it’s a GT-spec DOHC 2T-G that resides between the front struts. It’s far from standard, though. It all begins with the bottom end bores, which were enlarged to accommodate high-compression Arias pistons that connect to Eagle rods and a 3T-GTE 78mm crankshaft. The DOHC cylinder head was given the full performance treatment with oversized Dokuro intake and exhaust valves and Crow double valvesprings along with Australian-made Tighe cams mated to Kameari adjustable pulleys. Once Fonzy was happy with his work the head was sandwiched back to the block using a Kameari 0.8mm triple-layer metal head gasket, resulting in a compression ratio of 13.7:1.
On the intake side of the equation a pair of 45mm Weber carburetors with ram tubes and Unifilter foam filters are installed on a port-matched Redline manifold. Fuelling comes via a Facet high-flow pump and a Redline adjustable fuel pressure regulator, and suffice to say, Fonzy only pumps the high-octane stuff into the Toyota’s tank. The ignition system has been dually upgraded too, with an MSD 6AL-2 module and timing computer and Thundercords ignition wires. There’s also a launch control system that, once primed, works off the engagement (and disengagement) of the e-brake lever. It’s great for fast getaways, or simply making a bit of noise—the latter helped along by the exhaust system that is comprised of a custom-built 4-2-1 header running into a 2.5-inch diameter pipe with a 3-inch dump at the end. Loud? Yes.
Like the engine, the driveline went under the knife, too. To get as much of the power to the rear wheels, Fonzy hooked up a 2T-C spec T50 five-speed gearbox running through an Agawa Racing 9.5-pound flywheel and a BRD Racing clutch. Out back is a TRD two-way limited-slip differential, which in fitting necessitated shortening of the axles. Finding their way to the ground via the Celica’s rear treads are 166 whp. That might not sound like a whole lot in this day and age, but it’s enough to have motivated the machine to a 14.2-second quarter-mile, running 95 mph through the trap.
The Celica’s straight line potential is complemented by a well-thought-out suspension setup. That, along with allowing the car to corner quickly, has chopped a massive 6 inches out of its ride height. The front struts are borrowed from a Toyota Corona XT130 and have been retrofitted with height adjustable platforms holding King 225-pound springs, and housing KYB AGX four-way adjustable short-stroke dampers. At the rear is an Otomoto coilover kit that features King 500-pound springs and JIN 11-way adjustable short-stroke dampers.
SuperPro bushes are fitted throughout, as are upgraded front and rear sway bars. In the brake department Peugeot 604 rotors are employed on the front and matched to Toyota Hilux (Tundra) four-pot calipers. At the rear it’s standard drum fare—albeit improved upon with Bendix shoes. To get the front/rear brake split right an adjustable bias valve is used. Braided lines have been installed to promote a firm pedal feel.
So what did it take to turn a single-note investment into one of the sweetest low-down–styled rides outside of Tokyo’s automotive underground? In Fonzy’s case, seven long hard years and an outlay of $20 grand all told, begging the question: Would he do it all over again if he had the chance? Looks-wise, Fonzy says that he wouldn’t have it any other way, but mechanically he’d ditch the 2T-G idea for a Toyota BEAMS 3S-GE running quad throttle bodies and open trumpets, and retrofitting a Silvia S13 independent rearend with matching Nissan suspension and brakes on all four corners. That can wait, though; there’s another Celica vying for Fonzy’s attention. It might be his stock daily driver right now, but if the crazed Aussie has his way, this particular old-school Toy will soon be beating to the sound of a big 2JZ drum. Watch this space.
Behind the Build
Alfonso “Fonzy” Octaviano
Photography, calligraphy, electronics
To build something different that I could drive daily, as well as take to events to race, drag, circuit, and drift
1975 Toyota Celica
Output: 166 whp
Engine Toyota 2T-G 1.6L four-cylinder block; 2T-G 88222 DOHC cylinder head; Arias forged pistons; Eagle connecting rods; 3T-GTE crankshaft; Tighe cams (280 degrees/0.399-inch intake, 270 degrees/0.394-inch exhaust); Dokuro valves; Crow double valvesprings; Kameari cam pulleys, three-layer 0.8mm metal head gasket, oil filter sandwich plate, timing gears; Redline intake manifold, fuel pressure regulator; Weber twin 45mm carburetors; ram tubes; Unifilter sock air filters; Facet fuel pump; MSD 6AL 2 ignition with two-step limiter, timing computer; custom 4-2-1 headers, 2.5-inch straight-through exhaust system, 3-inch dump tip; baffle plate; Moroso windage tray; BRD high-volume oil pump; triple-core radiator; Earl’s 13-row oil cooler with -10 rubber lines; secondary Mazda RX-7 FC3S oil cooler (show only)
Driveline Toyota T50 five-speed gearbox, two-way limited-slip differential, 4.3:1 final drive; BRD Racing pressure plate and brass button clutch plate; Agawa Racing 9.5-pound flywheel; shortened axles
Suspension Toyota Corona XT130 coilover-modified front struts; KYB AGX four-way adjustable short-stroke front dampers; 225-pound King front springs; Selby front sway bar; Otomoto rear coilover kit; JIN 11-way adjustable short-stroke rear dampers; 500-pound King springs; Pedders rear sway bar; SuperPro bushes
Front: 14x10 -38mm offset SSR MK-II wheels;
Rear: 14x11 -38mm offset SSR MK-I wheels; 225/40-14 Toyo Proxes T1R tires
Brakes Peugeot 604 front rotors; Toyota Hilux four-pot front calipers, OEM front brake pads, and rear drums; Bendix rear shoes; adjustable bias valve; Earl’s braided lines
Exterior Toycool Garage bolt-on fender flares; GT bonnet flutes; Restored.jp carbon-fiber doors, hood, and trunk lid; tsurikawa handle
Interior Black vinyl re-trimmed OEM TA22 seats; Nardi Torini Deep Corn 350mm steering wheel, perforated leather 350mm with red stitching; TA22 GT speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure, oil temperature, and ammeter gauges; OEM AM radio; two white handle tsurikawa handles in rear and glitter red handle for front passenger
Gratitude mom and dad; Vinny at MK Sandblasting; Brendan at Bullet Towing; Ben and Andrew at Arthur Johnston Engineering; Terry Edwards at TE Engineering; Dave and Bob at Action Crank; Jesse Streeter; Stewart Wilkins Motorsports; Toymods; Auszoku; JDMstyling