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LS-powered 1978 Toyota KE30 Corolla

By Iain Kelly | Photos: Ben Hosking, 18 May 2018 Features

Toyota Corolla

Nathan Patterson transformes a nanna-spec Toyota Corolla into a fearsome tyre-scorcher

This article on Nathan's Corolla was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine

NOTHING says ‘nanna car’ quite like a stock Toyota Corolla painted plain white – except in the case of Nathan Patterson’s example. His KE30 started off exactly this way, but was turned into a 550rwhp V8-powered tyre-melting monster. And this transformation began just two months out from Summernats 31!

Toyota Corolla rearNathan’s plans for the small sedan – named THELMA after its original owner – changed radically in the lead-up to Summernats when the boys from the US-based 1320Video YouTube channel needed a car to skid at the ’Nats.

“Originally the Corolla was going to be a tough street car with the Nissan SR20 turbo four-cylinder out of my Top 60 ute LOWLUX, and I was going to turn the HiLux into a skid car,” Nathan says. “But I was mucking around with the guys from 1320Video, and they got stuck without a car for Summernats, so as a joke I said: ‘Why don’t you skid mine?’ My partner and I were due for our twins to be born and we had them in the first week of the build, so it was just an insane time; I can’t believe we did it!”

Related: Blown KE10 Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla sideNot only did Nathan and his crew build a car that blew the belts off the rears, it also landed a spot in the Summernats Top 60 Elite Hall alongside all the best show cars in Oz. This means the detailing and quality of finish is up there with the best, although there isn’t much original Toyota tin left underneath.

Fitting a 6.0-litre L98 where 1200cc lived was just part of the challenge, as much of the original floor and spindly rear end had to be relocated to the bin. Shawn from Karnge Kreations built a full ladder-bar rear end and tubs.

Related: Turbo V8-powered KE20 Corolla sleeper

Toyota Corolla wheel“We realised we needed to tub it, then Shawn started cutting, and cutting, and cutting!” Nathan laughs. “The tub work inside the car was smoothed and painted by Dapto Smash, and the trim was designed to go around the tubs. Realistically it should have been a slapped-together skid car, but I’m not that kinda guy, and neither are the people who worked on it.”

Even though THELMA has been built to skid, Nathan still had Dapto Smash Repairs paint and detail the undercarriage, smoothing it to perfection. He also had all the chrome blacked out for a more contemporary look, before Darren at Queen Street Customs took to the cabin to bring it into the 21st century.

Related: Twin-turbo LS-powered Corolla in the build

Toyota Corolla boot“Dapto Smash basically built the whole car,” Nathan explains. “The owner, Trevor, and his family were involved in so many ways to get it done, and their professionalism and workmanship is mind-blowing. Imagine if they had a year to build a car! Their attention to detail sometimes does your head in, but have a look at the end result.

“Trevor’s brother Sean runs Dapto Mechanical. He fitted the engine and running gear, and plumbed the car at Dapto Smash, plus much more – his hours in the car were massive. There was not much the Dapto Smash and Dapto Mechanical team didn’t do, and if it needed to be done, then we all got together and made it happen.

Toyota Corolla underside“I also have to thank Rohan and Scott from Rocket Industries. They played a massive part in the build and also were one of the major sponsors, so almost every part is from Rocket.”

The L98 Gen IV V8 was put together by Warspeed Industries from St Marys, Sydney, as one of their Burnout Special-spec combos. Topped with a Holley Hi-Ram intake wearing twin Aeroflow throttlebodies, the angry L98 rocks SRP pistons and Callies rods, a Comp Cam 235/243° bumpstick, and is controlled by a Haltech Elite 2500 ECU. Up top, the factory rectangle-port heads have scored stainless valves, dual valve springs, and a trunnion upgrade kit.

Toyota Corolla engine bayWhile Nathan loves the aspirated L98, he is toying with the idea of going really over the top for Summernats 32. “I reckon it’ll be blown for Summernats next year,” he says. “If it is built right, it will last. It makes massive torque now, and there’s nothing that isn’t built on it”

“I spoke to Troy at Warspeed Industries and told him I wanted to abuse the car at every event and have it hang together,” Nathan says. “I wanted it to be out there consistently. Troy knows the ins and outs of what works and doesn’t for burnout motors, as he’s proven with the LS world, so I went to him for reliability.”

Toyota CorollaWarspeed modified a Moroso sump for the combo to keep the liquid gold in the right places, while three Bosch 044 pumps supply E85 to eight 2000cc injectors, with MSD coil-packs lighting the fire.

While Nathan loves the aspirated L98, he is toying with the idea of going really over the top for Summernats 32. “I reckon it’ll be blown for Summernats next year,” he says. “If it is built right, it will last. It makes massive torque now, and there’s nothing that isn’t built on it”

Toyota Corolla engineThe Warspeed L98 runs 11.5:1 compression for a crisp, high-revving donk, with SRP pistons and Callies rods, plus a Comp 235/243°cam to make 550rwhp

Cooling-wise, an SCR radiator lives up front with custom thermo fans, while Windsor Exhaust custom-made the headers and shorty pipes in just six hours!

Dave Forrester from Wired By Dave took care of getting the sparks to the right parts of the engine, before THELMA had a date with the dyno. Tuned by Dale Heiler of Castle Hill Performance, THELMA has turned the rollers to 550rwhp, which is plenty for such a light, little car.

Toyota Corolla engineThe Dellow Conversions bellhousing, ATS-built two-speed Powerglide and TCE burnout-spec 4500 converter sit behind the stout six-point-oh, pushing the grunt down a custom tailshaft to a shortened nine-inch diff with a Strange centre and 3.5:1 gears.

“We took the diff and Powerglide out of the LOWLUX ute, as we just didn’t have time to get something built,” Nathan explains.

Toyota Corolla engineOne of THELMA’s big talking points has been the rollers: massive 22x7 and 22x10 Simmons FRs, which Nathan also pinched from his other Elite-level car.

Given all the challenges faced building a car in such a short time, including the Christmas/New Year business holidays, it is a stunning result to have such a high-quality car that worked so well. And Nathan is understandably stoked with how it was received.

Toyota Corolla interiorThe seats in THELMA are modified original Corolla items, though the rears are custom, all trimmed in brown Bentley leather. Amazingly, it took Darren from Queen Street Customs just three days to knock out this killer trim job!

“For us to make Top 60 and have the car in the Elite Hall, plus be a skid car, is just amazing,” he says. “I put it on the trailer Wednesday night and the first drive of the car was the City Cruise on Thursday. Its first skid was at Summernats with Cleetus [McFarland of 1320Video], and I was thinking: ‘Please do a skid and perform.’

“I was proud to get the tyres off and drive it off the pad, although it did have a few issues. During the first skid we didn’t have any gauges as we didn’t have time to install the Haltech dash, so we didn’t know how high it turned or how hot it got. We checked it after the skid and I think we turned it to about 7800rpm, but it should last all day at 7200rpm.”

Toyota Corolla dashThe good news for Street Machine readers is that many will get to see THELMA, as Nathan plans to take the car to many events around our wide brown land, and has even been invited to chuck a skid at SEMA in Las Vegas! Hopefully someone sends the video to Thelma, the car’s original owner!

Toyota CorollaYEE-HA, GRANDMA!

Building cars takes thousands of parts, and building Elite-level cars requires so much fine-finish work. It is a stunning achievement for Nathan to land THELMA in the hall as part of the Summernats Top 60, and he knows it. “It took us eight weeks, from start to finish, and we built it from an absolute granny-spec stock-as-a-rock KE30 Corolla. I’m stoked!”

Nathan PattersonNATHAN PATTERSON
1978 TOYOTA KE30 COROLLA

Paint: Custom Bright White

ENGINE
Brand: GM 6.0L L98 Gen IV
Induction: Holley Hi-Ram, Aeroflow throttlebodies
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Heads: Factory, stainless valves
Camshaft: Comp Cam 235/243°
Conrods: Callies
Pistons: SRP
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: 2000cc injectors, three Bosch 044 pumps
Cooling: SCR radiator, custom fans
Exhaust: Custom headers and system
Ignition: MSD coils

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox: GM two-speed Powerglide
Converter: TCE 4500
Diff: 9in, Strange centre, 3.5:1 gears

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front suspension: BC coil-overs
Rear suspension: Pedders coil-overs
Brakes: S15 Nissan Silvia discs (f)
Master cylinder: S15 Nissan Silvia

WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Simmons FR; 22x7 (f), 22x10 (r)
Rubber: Pirelli; 225/30 (f), 285/30 (r)