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1986 Corolla GTS Engine Shopping - Question It

Eric Hsu
Apr 26, 2011

Fact: Eric Hsu will be picking his favorite tech question for each installment of Question IT over the next few months, and we’ll be hooking up whoever submitted it with some new threads from our go-fast homies at Eat Sleep Race. Russell Sims takes top honors this month, with his ADD-infused inquiry regarding which engine he should swap into his Hachi, which internals he should use, how it should be aspirated, which cams/EMS/mounts would be best for each variation, and what the compression should be. We’re confused, but Eric likes itand that’s all that counts.

Send good questions; get free gear.

This Month’s Winning Letter

Engine Shopping
I own an ’86 Corolla GTS and know that you (Eric) are not a fan of the 4AGE engine, and that is understandable as it really produces no torque and is gutless below 4K rpm. I came up with two different engine build scenarios for my daily driver and as much fun as it is revving to redline, I know redlining is not good for my 4AG. The first option would be to build a 4AGE by using the 7AFE crank. I want to maintain the high-revving nature of the 4AG so I plan to balance and knife edge the crank, drop in some 10.5:1-compression pistons and run some mild cams—nothing bigger than 264-degree duration. To keep costs in check, I plan to run a Mega Squirt engine management. I like this engine combination idea, but don’t know how well it would rev and if it could sustain rpm similar to the 4AGE. My second option is to run the supercharged 4AGZE with a larger crank pulley and use a piggyback engine management to fine-tune it. I like this idea as well, but am afraid it will lose the revability of the engine. I have also considered a 20-valve engine but would like to keep the build rather simple and cost effective without having to source parts for the 20-valve, which is a huge pain in the ass. My goal is to build a fun, 150hp daily driver with no intentions of participating in track events. I’m not worried about the degree of difficulty to make things happen since I’m pretty decent at turning a wrench.

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I also thought about doing an SR20VE swap. The motors are pretty cheap and I know of a few shops that make bolt-in kits for the AE86. I figured this way it would keep the soul and spirit of the original AE86 intact by providing excellent revs as well as decent power. I just don’t know if the SR20 will clear the firewall, which is a common AE86 problem.

-Russell Sims

Keeping the build simple is important in any project. Oftentimes, inexperienced builders or DIY enthusiasts go too far by adding parts or performing modifications based on speculation without good old engineering. That’s fine if you have more time than money or just a shitload of money, but I’m guessing in your situation, that’s not the case. With that said, I’d recommend simple, proven modifications that can be done on a relatively small budget: Arias 11.5:1 pistons (off-the-shelf for a standard-stroke 4AG), shot-peened stock rods, a ported and polished cylinder head (from a trusted shop like Port Flow Design in San Pedro, CA, or Technosquare in Torrance, CA), enlarged factory throttle body from RC Engineering, and a 4-into-1 header. Be sure to have both the header and exhaust manifold port matched to the intake and exhaust ports. If your budget allows, the 7AFE crank and billet connecting rods are nice, but will add considerable expense to the build. As for the ECU, I’ve only ever had experience with the Apexi Power FC on the 4AG. I know for a fact it controlled the 4AG very well, including idle, boost, etc. Unfortunately, it was an AP Engineering special which means it may not be available any longer and difficult to find—try checking Yahoo Auctions Japan, or contacting Apexi for more information. The Power FC would be the easiest way to have absolute control of the 4AG with only a distributor change (the PFC uses the JDM 4AG distributor). The included adapter harness allows the PFC to directly plug into the Corolla’s engine harness. An SR20VE swap would probably be the easier way to attain your power goals. All in all, the SR20VE swap would probably be similar in cost, but you would end up with significantly more power and reliability. Sometimes you just can’t get around newer technology and designs. I’ve had a couple of friends swap SR engines into AE86s so I can tell you it does fit. If somebody took the time to make a mount kit, then I’m sure they also took into account the firewall clearance (or I should hope so!).

Buyer’s Dream
The time has come for me to purchase my first car. My dad is going to loan me $25,000, which I plan to pay him back over time. My new car interests include the Pontiac GTO (domestic, I know), Mazda6 Sport six-speed manual, and Accord V-6 manual; while used cars would either be a Mitsubishi EVO IV MR or a Subaru WRX STI. I don’t know which vehicle would be better for crappy Pennsylvania roads, but I would like to build any of the cars I previously mentioned to race weekend events around the area. With all that said, which one would you recommend that I build up nicely while I attend UTI in Exton, PA? Or what models do you think I overlooked that you would recommend? I’m looking for a good balance between speed and handling and want to make sure I pick the right car.

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The GTO, Mazda6, Accord, EVO IX, and STI are all quite different vehicles in terms of performance. If your goal is to go fast and do some racing, then go ahead and delete the Mazda6 and Accord from your list. While they are great passenger cars, they were never designed to go fast. Sure, you can make them faster, but you’d be hard-pressed to race them against the GTO, EVO, or STI even after dropping $15K into the Mazda6 or Accord. As for the GTO, EVO, or STI, they can all go pretty damn fast. The GTO does it with cubic inches and bolt-on superchargers, but its 4,000-pound curb weight makes it sluggish against the EVO and STI when considering your requirement of balance between speed and handling. Other cars you may want to consider are the JZA80 twin-turbo Supra, FD3S Mazda RX-7, or 350Z, but all of these cars will require slicks at the dragstrip to keep up with any lightly modified EVO or STI. In a road racing situation, these rear-wheel-drive cars with suspension mods can keep up with lightly modified EVOs and STIs. To keep up with highly modified EVO and STIs you’ll basically need a highly modified ____ (fill in the blank with the car of your choice) and a shit ton of money because the EVO and STI are the do it all platforms. They can kick ass at the drags, smoke plenty of competitors at the track, and then go kill at the autocross. The only thing they can’t do is impress a chick like the Skyline GT-R can, which are the bigger do it all platforms. But then again, that just depends on your taste in chicks.

What’s the Secret Recipe?
I own a ’95 Mitsubishi Eclipse non-turbo and want to add a little more juice to it. I’m thinking about upgrading the header, intake, adding a throttle body spacer and underdrive crank pulley, and porting and polishing the cylinder head. The car originally makes 140 hp and I’m trying to squeeze 200+ hp out of it if possible. My question is what would be the best nitrous kit to obtain 200 hp at a safe level? I don’t want to blow my engine or damage parts, including my transmission.

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-Scott Durand

If you’re set on hitting the 200hp mark with nitrous then I’d recommend only upgrading the exhaust, header, and intake, and letting the nitrous system do the rest. Since your car has a fuel pressure regulator under the hood and is normally aspirated, you can use one of the dry systems from any of the popular nitrous kit manufacturers such as NOS, NX, ZEX, and Nitrous Direct. For some degree of reliability, it would be wise to use the highest octane fuel available at the gas station and keep the nitrous system’s power adding to under 75 hp. For consistent as possible power output on nitrous and to use as much of the bottle as possible per fill, make sure you use a bottle blanket to heat the bottle and regulate the nitrous pressure. Once installed and dialed in, make sure you hold on because there’s no experience quite like the hit of torque from nitrous. I used to laugh my ass off from how fun it was to hit the nitrous . . . button of course.

Old-School with New-School Problems
I am running a Haltech E11V2 stand-alone engine management in my ’76 Datsun 280Z with an ’82 280ZX turbo swap. I recently purchased an MSD-6A ignition box and was curious if I can run the unit with my Haltech E11V2 engine management since I am getting mixed opinions on the subject matter. Also, will it make any difference in increasing my spark output?

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Engine Upgrades:
1982 280ZX P90 cylinder head; ’75 280Z N42 short block (0.30 overbore); ARP head studs, rod bolts; 240SX 60mm throttle body; RX-7 550cc/min injectors, oil cooler; custom front-mount intercooler, 2.5-inch intercooler piping; HKS blow-off valve; Haltech E11V2 w/ Flying Lead harness; Palnet fuel rail, fuel pressure gauge; Tial wastegate w/ 17psi spring; Garrett GT3076R ball-bearing turbo; DynoMax 2.5-inch exhaust; Maxima alternator; Zeitronics wideband with EGT sensor; Walbro 255lph fuel pump; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator

-Berk Piccirilli

I’m not sure how you have the Haltech E11 wired in, but you would only be able to use the MSD-6A if the distributor and a single ignition coil are still being used. You did not mention if there are current ignition related issues, but if there are, the MSD-6A can provide some assistance. It provides hotter, multiple sparks with the idea of each combustion event being more complete due to the hotter multi-strike sparks. The MSD-6A will work independently of the E11. If you are having spark related issues, you’ll want to make sure the cap, rotor, and spark plug wires are in good shape before throwing parts at the problem. Also, you’ll want to make sure that you have the E11 configured with enough coil charge time to charge the coil adequately. Having too much charge time can also be detrimental if the coil is run saturated and running too hot. Since your E11 has 14 pwm outputs (pulse-width modulation) it can also support six individual coils for the ultimate spark energy. This would probably eliminate any spark related issues you may be having. Otherwise it looks like you got yourself a pretty well set-up 280Z. The only thing I’d change might be the exhaust. Engine power output will definitely benefit from a straight-through muffler and reduced exhaust backpressure.

Impp_1105_08_z+question_it+engine_bay Photo 9/10   |   1986 Corolla GTS Engine Shopping - Question It

Home-Built Subaru
I recently purchased a ’99 Impreza RS with an aftermarket intake, header, exhaust, cams and suspension parts. I was considering turbocharging the car and building a home-brew 22B STI. I’ve read that the factory EJ251 in my car will only handle around 6 psi of boost safely. If so, can I find a wrecked STI and swap in the whole motor and drivetrain? Also, will an aftermarket standalone run the setup properly, or do I need the complete harness out of an STI as well?

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-Frank V

The RS engine can handle 5 to 8 psi of boost depending on quality of fuel, intercooling efficiency, exhaust flow, and turbo size, assuming the ECU tune is perfect. But your best bet is to obtain a complete front clip from a JDM GC8 STI to gather the necessary harnesses, ECU, sensors, etc. Certain year GC8 STIs also came with forged pistons and limited-slip differentials as a bonus. Even if you were able to locate a complete swap without the clip, the swaps usually include the JDM front subframe that includes a notch for downpipe clearance. The newer the year in GC8 front clip you can afford the better, since the engines, turbos, and electronics evolved considerably throughout the 10 years of production from 1991 to 2001. Whichever setup you end up with, I’d recommend an Apexi Power FC ECU for the best engine control management system and bang-for-the-buck standalone ECU available on the tuner market.

By Eric Hsu
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