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LS1-powered 1994 Toyota Corolla

By Kian Heagney | Photos: Matt Everingham, 24 Jan 2020 Features

LS1-powered 1994 Toyota Corolla

This little Corolla's chest thumps with a 346ci bowtie transplant, but even that doesn't compare to the amount of heart that went into its build

THE #lstheworld phenomenon has seen LS engines slammed into the front of just about everything imaginable, and its latest victim is an innocent little AE94 Corolla that has been transformed into a track-hungry monster. And yep, it’s rear-drive!

This article was first published in Street Machine's LSX Tuner magazine #09, 2019

Toyota Corolla

The car was originally dug out of a paddock by Josh Shelley, whose idea of building a rear-drive V8 Corolla was hatched around the Bumpstop mentoring program, which he founded in 2016. Run by Fusion Australia, Bumpstop is a non-profit organisation that specialises in mentoring programs for disadvantaged young people.

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Toyota Corolla

Josh has been with Fusion Australia for over 15 years and he started Bumpstop as a means of teaching valuable life skills to teenagers (and to build some mean cars in the process). Their first project car was a Honda CR-V, but the humble Corolla quickly snowballed from a similarly simple build into the mad machine on these pages.

“The Corolla was donated to us as a paddock basher with what we were told was a bad misfire, hence the number plates,” says Josh.

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Toyota Corolla rear

The original plan involved a Commodore V6 and dirt motorkhana events… but that all changed.

“We pretty much realised that if we were going to do this, we should do it properly and put an LS1 in it,” Josh says.

Read next: Turbo LQ9-powered Toyota KE20 Corolla sleeper

Toyota Corolla engine bay

A crashed VY Commodore SS donor car was sourced, which is where the first hurdle presented itself.

“The Corolla front strut towers were 20mm further apart than the ones on the Commodore!”, Josh laughs.

Toyota Corolla engine bay

The program sees the teenagers coming in one or two days a week, while Josh works most afternoons on the various projects to keep them truckin’ along.
“We’ve probably got over 800 hours of work in this thing,” Josh estimates.

“To say it has been a big job would be an understatement.”

Toyota Corolla

The surgery is as extensive as you can imagine. The front end has the front rails from a VX Berlina grafted onto the existing Corolla rails, which means an entire Commodore sub-frame can be bolted into place. While it wasn’t difficult to align the factory struts into the front Corolla towers, the firewall did require substantial re-engineering – to the tune of a 200mm recess – to make the LS1 and 4L65E ’box fit.

Interestingly, Josh discovered that the rear floorpan only needed to be massaged slightly for the Commodore independent rear end and custom suspension set-up to fit.

Toyota Corolla

“Once we removed the factory fuel tank, we found the Commodore rear sub-frame and suspension fitted in almost perfectly,” he says.

All this over-engineering means the serviceability of the little ’Rolla is super-simple, with factory Commodore parts an easy bolt-in affair for the driveline, suspension and brakes. The stoppers are VX Commodore items with upgraded DBA T2 pads and discs front and rear, while the suspension comprises upgraded coil-overs from Maxpeedingrods in the front and American Hot Rod coil-overs out back.

Toyota Corolla

“You stand underneath the thing and it just looks like a short-wheelbase Commodore,” Josh says.

The driveline remains largely untouched and is based around a standard LS1 and shift-kitted 4L65E gearbox. The LSD was swapped for one with a more aggressive 4.10:1 ratio, and a Haltech 950 ECU was donated by the company.

Toyota Corolla

While it may seem pointless to put in all this work just to fit a standard 235kW LS, you need to remember a factory AE94 Corolla weighs just 1086kg, or 500kg less than the VY SS donor car. That weight saving is the equivalent of having a 461hp (343kW) LS in a VY Commodore!

“It’s a car that’ll kill you on any given day,” Josh laughs. “It’s a wild little thing.”

Toyota Corolla underside

But the most unique part of this car isn’t the incredible engineering or the bonkers power-to-weight ratio; it’s the purpose of the build and the people behind it. The Bumpstop program pulls in kids from all walks of life, and the goal isn’t to create a new generation of mechanics; it’s to give the kids hope for the future.

Toyota Corolla underside

“We often ask the kids what one of their highlights was for the week, and sometimes it’s as simple as being able to start the car or change a tyre,” says Josh. “It sounds simple to us, but these kids often don’t have parents or anyone to teach them stuff like this, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.

“They often get told they’re no good and they’ll never be anything, so we try to change that. It’s about teaching life skills and giving them ambitions for the future.”

Toyota Corolla interior

A good example of this philosophy is Daniel, one of the three main workers involved in the project. While school wasn’t his forte, Daniel is a gun with his hands and can make just about anything. If people tell him he’ll never be able to do anything, he simply says: “They said we couldn’t put a V8 in a Corolla, and look what I did.”

Toyota Corolla seats

The car took around 12 months to build and was completed late last year. So far it has done a dirt motorkhana and has had a shakedown at the Marulan Driver Training Centre tar circuit. The six-point ’cage has been IHRA-approved to run as deep as 10.50sec and with some R&D a time like that isn’t out of the question.

“It’s a car with a big heart that’s been built with a lot of heart,” Josh says.

Toyota Corolla


CARNAGE!

JOSH had a number of motivators to keep himself and the boys fighting through the long hours during the build process, and one of those was the potential of racing one of our very own project cars.

Our FG Falcon, aka Turbo Taxi, is a 500hp sleeper built for our Carnage YouTube show, and Josh contacted us early on in the build process to see if we’d be interested in racing the little Corolla when it was finished.

Now, at the time of writing the Corolla is yet to go drag racing, while the Turbo Taxi has a broken gearbox. While there’s no official timeline set for the race, there’s a chance you may see this little monster go head-to-head with one of our own, so be sure to keep an eye on our website, socials and YouTube channel!

FUSION AUSTRALIA
1994 TOYOTA COROLLA

Paint
Wattyl Sea Blue Hammertone

ENGINE
Brand: GM LS1
Induction: Standard
ECU: Haltech Elite 950
Heads: Standard
Camshaft: Standard
Conrods: Standard
Pistons: Standard
Crank: Standard
Oil pump: Standard
Fuel system: Bosch 044 pump
Cooling: VS Commodore V8 radiator w/ thermos
Exhaust: Pacemaker Headers, 3in side exit
Ignition: Standard
Power: 213rwkW

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox: 4L65E
Converter: 2200rpm stall
Diff: VY SS, 4.10 LSD

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Maxpeedingrods coil-overs
Rear: American Hot Rod coil-overs
Brakes: Commodore
Master cylinder: VX Commodore

WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Dynamic 18x8in D Hole 5x120 +40 offset (f & r)
Rubber: Accelera 651 Sport 235/40 R18 (f & r)

THANKS
Fusion Building & Maintenance; Penrith Auto Electrical; Primp My Ride; Jax Tyres St Marys; Pedal2 Metal Fabrications; Shelleys Prestige Cleaning; Europlaster Linings; Canterbury Concepts Grabrails; Sinclair Ford; Bond Roll Bars; Peach Tree Car Detailing; Hickeys Metal Fabrications; Christian Auto Sports Club of Australia; Custom Bugs & Busses; Signature Window Tinting & Signs; Haltech for donating the ECU and loom; and the boys, Daniel, Zac and Zeke