Toyota Garage Project: Profile 1
The Story of Mike and his three Corolla Levins
In our first profile of the Toyota Garage Project series, we bring you the story of Mike and his three Corolla Levins. We were surprised to find not one but two Toyota New Zealand connections!
Mike is a Navigation Aid Engineer living in the lower North Island with his small collection of restored, or partially restored, Toyotas. Amongst his fleet is a TE27 Corolla Levin, one of three imported by Toyota New Zealand for a ‘Team Toyota’ entry in the 1973 Heatway Rally (a.k.a. Rally New Zealand). The three cars were registered GG41, GG42 and GG43. GG41 was driven by Colin Taylor, GG42 by Graham Carter and GG43 by Ian Pinkerton.
In 1975, GG42 was sold to Ken Kleghorn and he rallied it for two years. After another nine owners, including two more Kens, it was purchased by Mike – who admits he hasn’t had to do much to it, as a previous owner had carried out a comprehensive restoration of the car. Mike intends to tidy up some bits, get a Motorsport Authority card for GG42, and put it on the road. He's also looking to do the odd sprint event, where he’s not going to bend it - as it's too valuable now!
The Rockgas Car
Now, onto the second Levin and second connection to Toyota New Zealand! Mike’s 1977 Corolla Levin goes by the name ‘the Rockgas car’, as it once used LPG. The LPG conversion was completed by Jack, who at the time was the technical manager at Toyota and, fittingly, was to oversee the Toyota rally cars in 1974 before the fuel crisis hit – hence his interest in alternative fuels.
In 1993, the car ended up in the hands of Mike’s friend (reconverted back to petrol), who prepared it for the Wanganui Rally and on the last stage had a huge accident. His friend then left the car and went overseas. Mike, in the meantime returned from overseas, bought the car and repaired it. He raced it sporadically from about 1997 through to 2004, when the decision was made to completely rebuild the car. It was re-shelled and all the good bits were carried over to the new car. It's now a 1997cc engine and initially ran a 6-speed Altezza gearbox, but it has since gone back to a T50 5 speed close ratio gearbox. It's constantly being developed, like all race cars, and Mike will be out competing in it again, as soon as possible.
The Road Car
Mike’s third, and final, Corolla Levin is a road car that's currently being restored, but when finished will be driven very regularly. In 2011 Mike bought the car and drove it everywhere until, early in 2018, he took it off the road, and embarked on what will be an extensive restoration. Mike has spent many hours blasting, cleaning, priming and painting all the various bits and pieces, to reassemble it to be as good as new. Now that’s a big job! The differential, gearbox and steering box have been rebuilt, and all the engine machining has also been done.
As soon as the lockdown eases, Mike will be at a friend's workshop, assembling the new engine. There is still a wee-way to go, but Mike is dreaming of the day when he gets it back on the road!
Thanks Mike for sharing the story of your Corolla Levin fleet! Do you want to be our next Toyota Garage Project profile? Head to our Facebook page and message us about what you’re working on.