Here is a typical ’80s Toyota Corona ‘Wedge’ in royal blue. I learned how to drive in one of these things so I’m very familiar with it.

It was very under powered (but I was young so everything was under powered). But most of all I remember it to be the perfect example of the word ‘unremarkable’. It’s the type of car that would disappear in a parking lot, something you would drive if you don’t want attention.

It was however, a Toyota, and was therefore reliable. For years everything worked. Parts and maintenance were affordable and lots of mechanics knew how to fix it. It’s cars like these that made Toyota synonymous with dependability and value for money. You didn’t like it for its looks. You liked it because it kept running no matter what.

And when I say you don’t like it for its looks, I’m not kidding. Looking at it below, you wouldn’t give it a second, third, fourth or any look. Even the owner called it a ‘lolo car’.

The interior is stock. The plastic where the a/c controls are have not been punched in, and that super slippery steering wheel is still there (note: I know it’s dirty, but car guys know how nice it would look when cleaned up, so there).

So why am I writing about a car I’ve just described as the most boring, most unremarkable thing, and an old dirty one at that?

Because when you open the hood, it has this:

That is a Chevy 327 small block from a Camaro. Do I have your attention now? Here is my interview with the owner, Rod Cantada of Caigarage. While he had already sold the engine, he still had pictures, and was very kind to share this with me:

  1. Please Tell Me About The Toyota
    The Corona was the car my dad bought when I was coming into the world. When he passed away when I was 10, this naturally became my first car. I had the paint done, (It used to be off white) had a sound system put in and eventually yanked out the 12r engine and stuck a full race 18rg in it, lowered TRD shocks all round. Typical young driver thing.
    Eventually, I grew out of it and started driving our Gen1 Pajero and found my off road calling. The Corona was left in one side. Decided one day to take it out but I didn’t make it back. The engine had seized. Sometime after, I yanked out the engine with the intent of rebuilding but that never materialized. Ended up scrapping the engine. Corona sat for about a decade in one corner of the garage.
    I was already doing restorations when the Corona came back into the picture. I took a running 327 manual out of a ’68 camaro and mated it with a newer 350 automatic. So I had a car with no engine and an engine with no car… Thats where it started.
    I would say that this is one of the more unique projects but I really wouldn’t look at it as a project. It was done because it was there and its easier to move a running car and having the engine on the car saved garage space.
  2. About The Engine
    The engine is a stock 327 with an Edelbrock intake and Carb. It has a floor shift 3 speed manual trans. No mods other than engine mounts were done to the Corona. The 327 oil pan was heavily massaged to fit and avoid the steering center link. A mini high torque starter was used because the idle arm and stock starter were being too friendly with each other.
    The 327 was not a special engine but since it was limited to a few cars, its rare now. Well compared to the 350 which can be found in cars vans trucks from then till now.
  3. What Needed To Be Done
    The propeller shaft was shortened slightly but not by much. Exact numbers, I don’t remember. I used the stock 12r radiator and installed a pusher fan from a Peugeot. Didn’t have overheating problems.
    The hardest to do was getting the steering to work with the oil pan.
  4. How much would you charge to make one for a client?
    Depends largely on the engine and transmission that will go in. Given the chance, I would have done some things differently. But that would add to the cost. Ball park id say 20 to 40k not including the price of the engine itself.
  5. Where is it now? Will you make another one?
    I used it but sold (the engine). (I have) no plans to make another at the moment. Although I have a Ford 4.6 lying around. (exped, e150, F150, Mustang, and so many other cars) it is a fuel injected engine with a computer controlled transmission so its much more work than what I may have in my free time.

Why I Like It

A ‘Sleeper’ is a unique category among car modifiers. It essentially means that while the car looks stock on the outside, it can be a total beast inside. This is light years away from 90% of car modifications out there, which is to make cars look fast but are usually disappointing performance wise.

This appeals to a unique minority of car guys. The ones who avoid attention while still wanting to squeeze as much performance from their wheels.

I like it even more so because it’s a Corona. You can stick a bigger engine into a sports car and also call it a Sleeper, but that’s making a fast – looking car go faster.

A Corona though is a completely unexciting ‘LOLO’s Car’. Something you will never pay attention to – until it passes other cars on the highway at 180 kph (Yes yes, I know there would have to be suspension and brake upgrades for it to safely go that fast, but you get my point). The only hint it gives you is a tiny badge on the front:

Do note though, that I get excited at projects like this not necessarily because I want to go 180 kph but because it also adds so much more horsepower to a car that needs it so very badly.

According to Wikipedia the 327 produced 210 – 375 hp, while the stock Toyota 12R probably produced 65 – 70 hp. That makes it jump from a reliable daily driver to an extremely fun and enjoyable car to drive. Of course you will be visiting gas stations very often because that thing is probably 10x thirstier, but it may be worth it to see the confused look on sports car owners’ faces when you blast along the highway.

But most of all these projects are the ones that get people’s imagination going, and makes modifying cars fun and worthwhile. All car modders are inspired by ideas about improving their cars in many exciting and unique ways, and this is a clear example of one.

About the 327

The Chevrolet small block 327 cu. in. is approximately 5.35 liters, (the Toyota 12R is 1.5+li if I recall). It was used in a variety of cars and trucks in different forms, and is one of the most popular among the small block family of Chevrolet engines displacing 262 to 400 cu. in. It is revered among hot rodders as a reliable and easily modifiable US engine, and is one of the ‘top ten best engines of the world‘.

About Caigarage

Caigarage is 35 y/o ADMU grad and avid 4×4 off roader Rod Cantada, who describes himself as self taught thru books and experience. Caigarage specializes in 4×4 builds, Euro and American cars repair, restoration etc.

It is located at Bautista St. Makati, but is in the process of moving to a larger location in Muntinlupa. You can contact him via, landline (632) 5877784 or via his FB account. Here are other pictures of their projects: