Sometimes, the simplest ingredients are all you need to build the tastiest concoction. Too many components can complicate the flavor, rendering the sweetest bites seemingly ordinary, and can create a jumbled mess that’s far too busy for its own good. The straightforward honesty of a few well-chosen ingredients can arouse the palate, and the flavors are allowed to show off their inherent goodness. Getting your hands on those elements may be another thing entirely, when your local supermarkets don’t carry the ingredients you’re looking for. It makes the resulting dish all the tastier for it.
And so we come to Lance Harano of Waipahu, Hawaii (on the Island of O’ahu, within the city and county of Honolulu), and his JDM ’73 Sprinter Trueno. His recipe seems easy enough to wrap your head around... if only it were that simple to get his hands on the ingredients in the first place. The guys at TR Trading were advertising it for sale on the Club 4AG message board, Lance admits. I took a gamble. Lance was forwarded a set of detailed photographs letting him know just what it was he was in for. One $1,500 non-refundable deposit to start the paperwork later, the Mango was on a train to the port of Yokohama, then on a boat to Cerritos, California, where Lance flew to meet his new baby. Yes, Lance flew to LA. Yes, we’re aware that the boat chugged right on by his house on the way, and that there was a whole lot of wasted back-and-forth going on. Ssshhh.
It was a factory 2TG machine and had all of the Japan-spec stuff on it, like the sheetmetal and bumpers. The badges were gone, though. So most of the tasty JDM stuff was already there; Lance didn’t have to worry about things like swapping out fat American bumpers with rubber over-riders, because this one didn’t have any of that. It had also been lowered, rode a set of 13x8" Watanabes, and sported the AE86 front strut/disc brake conversion he was planning on doing anyway. The odometer read just over 50,000 kilometers (barely 30,000 miles). Barely broken in. And it had also been painted; more on this crime anon.
And yet, Lance is considered the first owner. How? TR Trading took care of customs, taxes, duty fees, whatever it took to get it out of Yokohama and into the US as a new citizen. That includes an export certificate; it’s like a green card. The certificate is created as it leaves port in Japan, and the original title is terminated. So I’m the original owner of this car now, even though I was three years old when it was built and rolled onto a new-car lot in Japan. He giggles at the ridiculousness of it.
Once home, Lance rolled up his sleeves started poking around the bodywork, and discovered rot beneath the repairs. Yokohama must salt their roads; the rear quarters and rocker panels looked like they were rusted from salt spray, not rainwater. Salt isn’t a helpful ingredient in this particular recipe. I started knocking Bondo out, and I discovered that the previous repairs didn’t cut out the rust, they just covered it up with new steel. It was a weird repair. And one that didn’t really solve the structural rot that was slowly expanding.
The answer, of course, was to section the affected areas and graft in all-new metal. I’d done this once before with another car, but not to this extreme. Still, Lance (a mechanic by trade) is humble about his good work. Getting in there and doing it is the only way to learn how to do it. A lot of it I just had to eyeball and make. (All the great chefs do this... sprinkle an ingredient in to see how it tastes.) In theory, Lance used scrapmetal to execute the repairs, but he managed to find the truffle oil of scrapmetal. I used pieces of an AE86 to put everything back together, he confesses. There’s an awkward pause as the unspoken question marks come barreling down the satellite signal on the other end of the phone. The guy that sprayed the car had cut up some Hachis in the past, he says to our unasked question, and had some parts on the side. I used some of that to graft in to the Mango. I had to tweak it to make it fit, but it works. At long last, a tangy, pearlescent shade of orange, using only Glasurit 55 pigments, was applied.
Lance also scoured the world (wide web) for the missing factory-correct badging and some other extra ingredients, I mean, parts. I got some extra grilles, headlight bezels, taillights and I took the best of what I got and put em on the car. Same thing with the chromed pot-metal scripts and badging: seek out two sets, put the better of the two on the car. Some serendipitous American connections, plus Yahoo Japan auctions, got Lance everything he needed to put the factory bling back where it belonged.
The driveline, which was built entirely by Lance in his own garage, is a little more straightforward. The recipe is tried-and-true: an early 80s-era 3T-C 1.8L block (bored from 1770cc to 1855cc, or 1.9L) and utilizing an early 2TG twin-cam head, built by Yamaha in the era before compression drops, leaner carbs, fuel injection and emissions-related crap. (The stock ’73-spec 2TG engine, yanked from the Sprinter’s engine bay like a pit pulled from a cherry, lives un-rebuilt in a corner of Lance’s garage.) Stir in a header, some cams and a set of carburetors that will let the whole combustible mix breathe deeply, and you’ve got simplicity with all of the factory-built reliability you could want.
The T-50 5-speed trans was new-old stock and in a buddy’s shop for years, although something was installed backwards was all Lance would say about what he had to fix to make it right, and he set the factory 10-bolt rear with 5.38 gears spinning madly in the TRD limited-slip. The factory offered 4.10 gears, which seem plenty stout for all that new power. Really, Lance? 5.38s? 30mph is at 3000rpm, and 50mph is at 5000rpm. In Overdrive Fifth, presumably. If I’m on the freeway, I’m screaming at 70mph. The best way around that? I try to stay off the freeway.
The AE86 strut conversion was re-done to Lance’s satisfaction, and the four-pound monoleaf springs are trick (and reduce unsprung weight besides), but we had to ask: how on Earth do you turn a car with nine-inch-wide wheels in front and no power steering? The tires are only 175/50-13s, stretched on to fit. They’re not fat tires, just fat rims. You’ll want to be rolling when you turn, though; I haven’t driven it enough to parallel park it anywhere yet. A pause. Man, I haven’t even done a burnout yet. No need, Lance. There need not be tire smoke to prove that your Sprinter is sizzlin’.
It would be easy to over-season a machine like this--add some boost, for example, or some fuel injection. Do this, and you end up changing the very character of an E20; frankly, finding the right components to get the clean, desired flavor the owner sought was challenge enough. Lance Harano’s Mango proves that simplicity is its own reward; atop a healthy dollop of elbow grease, the light flavors presented here offer a sweet, cool and refreshing package.
OK, now we’re hungry. Who wants a smoothie?
1973 Toyota Sprinter Trueno
Owner Lance Harano
Hometown Waipahu, Hi
Occupation Marine Mechanic
Engine 1980 Toyota 3TC block, displacing 1855cc (87mm bore, 77.98mm stroke); TRD .320 intake/.340 exhaust cams; Kameari adjustable slide-style cam gears and timing belt; Arias 11:1 pistons; Eagle H-beam rods; knife-edged 3TC crankshaft; Cometic head gasket; block machining and casting-flash grinding by Pelebug; MSD Digital 6 ignition; Nippondenso Platinum plugs; Odyssey battery; Holley fuel pump and 1-4psi pressure regulator; TWM rolled stacks intake; Dellorto 48 DHLA twin side-draft carburetors; posted and polished TRD intake manifold; Kameari high-rise stainless header; 2 1/2-inch 304 stainless, pie-cut, tig-welded exhaust; Dynomax Ultraflow/aero resonator muffler; Moroso aluminum 6-quart oil pan; 160-degree thermostat; Toyota red coolant; owner-hidden wiring harness; Cusco motor mounts
Drivetrain Fidanza flywheel; Toyota T50 5-speed gearbox; TRD two-way rear differential with 5.38 gears, Superior clutch
Footwork & chassis Owner-cut front coilover casings (40mm lower); TRD short-stroke 5-way adjustable front struts; 6kg Ground Control front springs; Cusco camber/caster plate; Flex-a-Form monoleaf rear springs; TRD 8-way-adjustable rear shocks; ADDCO sway bars (25mm front, 16mm rear); Cusco aluminum front strut bar; Super Pro polyurethane bushings; Techno Toy Tuning (T3) roll center adjusters and adjustable tension rods
Brakes Toyota AE86 stock rotors and calipers front; stock E20 drum brakes rear; stainless front brake lines; Racing Store master cylinder; Bel Ray DOT5 silicone brake fluid
Wheels & Tires 13x9" -16-offset Hayashi Street alloys; 175/50R13 Sumitomo HTR200 tires
Exterior stock 1973 Sprinter Trueno, with custom Glasurit 55 orange/orange pearl paint by Hiroshi Performance and Raybrig headlights
Interior stock with Bride Brix II leather front seats and RO rails and brackets; Sabelt harnesses; JDM 330mm white steering wheel on a Nardi hub
Thanks you I would like to thank: God; Mom; my family; and my friends Jason K, Mike L, Randy N, Daniel S, Daniel M, Mark K, Mike W, Ted D; Hiroshi Performance for bodywork and paint; Rad Motorsport for the exhaust; MOD Industries; all of the enthusiasts I’ve met and communicated with in-person and online who helped source hard-to-find parts; everyone who gave support.