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Simple joys: A no-frills Toyota Starlet


Think of a car that’s had several generations of existence, a car that’s been around for at least a couple decades. (Off the top of my head, let’s say we’re talking about a Porsche 911) You’ll notice that as the years go by, that said car has grown more powerful and refined, yet has put on some weight and keeps getting further and further from being fixed with an italian tune-up.


With the rise in safety features, creature comforts, and modern road standards, cars over the past couple decades have found themselves fatter and heavier in general. It appears then that this is the sign of the times, that cars have to be heavier to be more appealing to the motoring public. In a world where big horsepower and plushy interiors are trending however, it’s quite refreshing to see a street car that’s stayed down to earth with modest horsepower, light weight, and proper streetability.


Such is the case with Marco Palinar and his 1996 Toyota Starlet Glanza; a car that finds itself to be a featherweight amongst the sea of beige and white in traffic yet keeps all the necessary bits that make up a properly fun daily driver.


The Toyota Starlet is already a rare car on our shores to begin with, this last iteration EP91 Glanza even more so as it’s been only produced in japan. That said, sourcing all the necessary parts and getting the car to Manila has actually had its fair share of luck and perfect timing to get the ball rolling on the whole build.


A build that finds itself at around four and a half years in the making, this car was acquired by Marco three years before it found its way to Manila. Plenty of difficulties with logistics of getting the vehicle to the capital as well as getting it properly registered prevented any serious attempts at actually building the car ground up. Once it got to Manila however, the teardown went into full swing.


Once there, another year and a half found this red hatch sitting on a rotisserie where its chassis was reconditioned. Alongside that, the search for all the necessary parts to get the conversion done properly began. As if by fate, Marco found a friend selling a full 1998 Glanza V halfcut from japan to use as a parts bin. Items like the facelifted bumpers, the motor, and even the Blitz ZZ-r Coilovers that this car finds itself sitting on came as a result of that.


Such is the stroke of luck that surrounds this build that even if it took that long, it seemed like things just fell into the right place. And with the goal to build a proper street car it had to be so because little things like the interior trim and how well it all fits together as one whole package will matter once the car is out being driven. Certainly this Starlet was done in such a way that it will cover all the bases.


Of course, the powerplant itself wasn’t spared from the idea of keeping to a proper street setup. What you see here is a modestly done 4E-FTE with what is essentially stock internals. A set of ARP Head Bolts ensures that the engine will not suffer from Head Lift*, but other than that the motor has been refreshed to factory specs and is making somewhat close to stock power levels.

*Head lifting is a condition wherein the motor’s cylinder head shears its threads from the cylinder block due to excessive cylinder pressure. This causes the head of the motor to lift and cause compression and/or oil leaks. A set of aftermarket head bolts that are built with higher tolerances than factory will help alleviate this issue in most engines.

Just because the Starlet is making stock power doesn’t mean reliability cannot be improved. One trick that’s been used to improve overall cooling and ensure consistent power is to have the intercooler ends wrapped in gold foil*. Gold wrap is efficient at reflecting radiated heat while being lightweight and flexible. A custom Aluminum Airbox ensures that the air filter gets nothing but cool air and is isolated from all the heat coming from the motor.

*This is the same trick McLaren used on the McLaren F1’s engine bay back in the ‘90’s, so it’s proven to work just as well for any cooling-related materials in the engine bay.


Not all that is good in life comes with big numbers and fancy toys, in fact it’s often easy to forget that simplicity and modesty has a certain charm all on its own. When it comes to some good honest fun from an all-rounder daily, building a Starlet like this one would certainly make for a compelling argument.


1996 Toyota Starlet Glanza V


Engine and driveline

OEM 4E-FTE 1.3L Turbo
Full refresh with Toyota OEM Overhaul kit by Autotech
ARP Head Bolts
Gold Wrapped OEM Top Mount Intercooler
Roose Motorsport ancillary hose kit
Custom engine and dashboard harness
Ported intake and exhaust manifold
Custom Aluminum Airbox with Pod filter
Walbro 255lph fuel pump
Fujitsubo Catback Exhaust with muffler delete


Brakes, Wheels & Tires

Ferodo Formula front brake pads
Dixcel Type ES rear brake pads
Rays Engineering Volk TE37 V 15×7.5 +25
Achilles 123S 195/50/15


Chassis and Suspension

Full teardown rotisserie prep work by WRG
Full reworked RHD to LHD Conversion (Dash, steering, brakes, firewall, etc.) by WRG
Mitsubishi Pajero Mini Rack and Pinion
All suspension parts repainted with VHT Epoxy paint
Blitz Damper ZZ-r Coilovers (6kg Front, 4kg Rear)
Spats Front Strut Tower Bar
Cusco Rear Strut Bar
Cusco Lower Arm Bar
Cusco Front Sway Bar
Custom B-Pillar Harness Bar



1998 Starlet Glanza V Facelift
Toyota Super Red II



Sparco Sprint V Bucket Seats
4-point racing harnesses
All new Weather strips and rubber seals
Battery Relocation to rear trunk area


Future plans

Apex’I AVCR Boost Controller
Greddy E-Manage Ultimate
GT Radial SX-2 195/50/15

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