Over the years, Toyota 1UZ-FE V8s have found there way into everything. From cars to boats and even aircraft, the 4.0L quad-cam 32-valve engine is as versatile as they come. For owners of early-to-mid-1980s Corollas, the 1UZ has become a retrofit favourite, and for good reason – they’re reliable, provide decent power for the compact rear-wheel drive chassis, and with a good exhaust system sound great.
These are all things that led Jason Vd Heever Thomas to swap Toyota’s venerable V8 into his ’84 Corolla. But then he took things a step further…
Jason was introduced to the automotive hobby at a young age. His father Piet runs PPT Pro Billet, a manufacturer of billet parts for motorsport applications, based in Gauteng, South Africa, with the wider business, PPT Manufacturing, offering a range of specialised engineering services, including CNC turning and milling. Fast cars are in the family blood.
“When I was 14, I couldn’t wait to knock off from school and watch my dad and his staff build a Corolla known as ‘Rooi Kappie’,” says Jason. “Just being around them, seeing how things are torn apart and put back together with different parts, I knew that one day I would have to save up and own a Corolla myself.”
Within a year, Jason made that happen. He sold his motorcycle and raised the extra money to purchase this TE72 Toyota Corolla from a police officer in Johannesburg. It was bone-stock and in nice condition, having recently been resprayed in its original baby blue colour.
Jason began driving the car to school and back everyday in this form, never mind the fact that he wasn’t yet of driving age. However, it didn’t take him long to decide that the humble Corolla needed something a little more powerful than the 1.8L 3T engine that Toyota had blessed it with. Jason found exactly what he was looking for in a 1UZ-FE V8 and its auto transmission pulled from a Lexus LS 400.
At the workshop, the Corolla’s 3T engine was removed and the bay shaved and resprayed before the 1UZ found its new home. “I was in heaven, 15 years old and driving to school in my V8 Corolla,” says Jason.
Not everyone shared Jason’s enthusiasm for the build, though. “I got a hard time from teachers, who wouldn’t allow me to bring the car onto school grounds because I loved doing burnouts and didn’t yet have a valid driver license. But my dad – who is a real ‘lekker toppie’ [great old man] – knew people and people knew him, so I always got off the hook.”
The Corolla, which was now also wearing 17-inch wheels and tyres, stayed this way for a couple of years. Then Jason had another itch that needed scratching; his passion for fast street cars had really grown, and adding boost into the 1UZ equation sounded like a great idea.
“Because my dad has always tended to build things differently, I decided to boost my Corolla in a different way,” says Jason. “At that time, dad was on a business trip in the United States, so I sent him some photos of me holding the turbo at the back end of the car. His response was straight to the point: ‘Have you got any idea what a kak [sh*t] job that is?’”
Despite his dad’s warning, Jason decided to go for it. No one else had built a rear-mount turbo Corolla in South Africa and Jason really liked the stealth nature of it, so he began mocking up pipes on the underside of the car to see how it could work.
Ultimately, Piet got on board with the idea, and when the country was plunged into Covid lockdown, an opportunity arose to get the job done. The engine came out and was given a full “PPT recipe” rebuild with forged pistons and rods, flowed heads and new cams.
Meanwhile, the Corolla itself was stripped right down to a bare shell and sent off to be completely resprayed, this time in Toyota Cosmic Blue – the same colour as Piet’s Hilux Legend 50. Lenso Project-D wheels also found there way onto the car via a 5x100mm stud conversion.
As you can see, there are three pipes running underneath the car – two stainless steel exhaust pipes which meet at the T67 turbocharger, and one aluminium boost pipe which returns compressed air to the engine.
A huge amount of thought went into the underside fabrication, and the quality of custom workmanship really is second to none.
Other engine modifications include a Bosch Motorsport fuel pump, Turbosmart FPR1200 fuel pressure regulator, Bosch 720cc injectors, a 76mm custom throttle body to suit the OEM intake, AEM water/methanol injection to cool the intake charge in lieu of an intercooler, an electric gear pump to return oil from the turbo to the engine, and Toyota 1NZ coil packs.
Engine management is handled by a PowerMod ECU, which with tuning at 0.8bar (11.7psi) boost pressure has revealed 350wkW (470whp) on 95RON pump gas. Considering the original 3T engine made 45wkW (60whp) and the 1UZ in naturally aspirated form 150wkW (200whp), it’s plenty of power for the lightweight Corolla.
Importantly too, the engine runs cool. If the turbo was squashed in alongside the 1UZ, it probably wouldn’t be this way.
Perhaps the best feature of all is the dummy air filter in the engine bay, which has caught a lot of people out. Look closely and you can the boost pipe beneath, which of course is the real source of air.
In order to create a complete, custom street car package, the driveline, suspension and brakes have all been modified too. There’s a Toyota M75 LSD diff with custom billet shafts, PPT Pro Billet coilovers on the front end and Gabriel shocks with Tein E36 BMW height adjustable rear springs out back, plus Porsche Brembo callipers – 6-pot and 4-pot – clamping down on E46 BMW M3 and E36 discs front and rear respectively. Jason’s love for burnouts definitely hasn’t waned, hence the mechanical front-wheel line-lock.
Inside, the Corolla has been treated to a full black leather re-trim, a dash re-coat and new carpets. There’s also a Corolla Twin Cam steering wheel, PowerMod digital dash display and a huge – but mostly hidden – Lightning Audio-based sound system.
In total, this final (for now, at least) rebuild took nine months, with Jason – to his credit – doing around 90% of the work himself.
You might be wondering how it drives, and the answer is in a completely linear fashion with no boost lag, just plenty of pull. If you want to see the Corolla in action (recommended), check out the video here.
Photography by Stefan Kotzé