February 02, 2021 By Francis G. Pallarco Photos: Ardie O. Lopez

Tuner: Family Affair

Here’s a perfect melding of a classic old school sedan with a modern engine and driveline built by a father and son tandem.

I have encountered a lot of stories about how a particular project car came into the possession of the owner. More often than not, their story starts with how they went to great lengths just to acquire a particular car, chasing leads and such. But just like the chances of having EDSA devoid of traffic on a Monday morning, there have been exceptions. Particularly these are rare instances in which the acquisition simply came naturally as if fate had something to do with it. Such is the case with this ’68 Toyota Corona sedan owned by Alex Lim and his son Sonson Lim.

Being into cars, racing and engine modification from way back, Alex Lim of Aerohead Performance Tuning (APT) knew about the well-kept Corona as it belonged to a friend. But in 1981 when his friend became too old to take care of the car, they decided to acquire it. Alex adds, “The car was really in mint condition, so since Sonson also liked cars we didn’t have any second thoughts when we acquired it”. After fixing some minor issues, they only used the car for about two years and kept it hidden in a garage to preserve its condition. It was only in 2006 when Sonson kept bugging his dad to turn it into a resto-mod project just like the popular trend in Japan. This entails keeping the stock body all original but swapping the stock engine, suspension and driveline with more modern units. It was easier said than done for modifying a car this old wasn’t easy. It required a lot of parts sourcing and mechanical work. So much in fact that the entire build was finished only a couple of months ago. Aside from its ultra-clean resto-mod build quality, what’s really great about this build is that Alex Lim personally built the modified engine along with the mechanicals through his shop Aerohead performance Tuning while Sonson Lim of ECW Performance conceptualized the entire build making it a father and son project.

Initially introduced in 1964, the third generation Toyota Corona came in variety of body styles with the 4-door sedan and 2-door coupe being the most popular. During its time these cars were aplenty on our streets as they were even used as taxicabs during the sixties. Our featured Corona originally came with a 1.5-liter 2R engine with a column mounted 3-speed according to Alex. Speaking of engines, since this was going to be a resto-mod project, they swapped a 4AGE, 20-valve, “Blacktop” engine instead of a more period correct and finicky 2TG or 18RG engines. Aside from succeeding the 4AGE “Silvertop” engine and offering slightly more power, the “Blacktop” came with lighter internal components. In terms of cylinder head design is really where the 20-valve engine really shines for theoretically and geometrically, the 5-valve design reigns supreme in terms of maximum valve to surface area. To make even more power they outfitted the “Blacktop” with Toda forged pistons, camshafts and valve springs while the head was treated to an even more aggressive porting job. The four individual throttle bodies’ gets its orders from a rare TRD ECU to keep the juices flowing. Power is then sent through a clickety-click T50 trans that spins an LSD equipped diff. Future plans call for a proper dyno tuning session but for now they guesstimate it to be capable of 187 whp.

To match the newfound power the stock suspension was replaced with stiffer TRD struts and lowering springs while the rear got TRD dampers and a custom Dynamics rear strut bar. The front brakes were also upgraded to a cross drilled disc with a custom mounted brake master with hydrovac. Custom mounted because these cars didn’t come with power-assisted brakes back then which shows how simpler cars really were back then. Aside from the challenge of custom mounting a modern engine and driveline into a sixties era automobile, they also had to source hard to find trim parts. Sonson notes that the most difficult and costly ones were the brand new windshield washer bag, taillight lens, door channels, door strips, signal light, and plate light that they had to acquire from as far as Australia, Japan and the States. As for the body and paint, having gotten such a pristine car only meant minimal body work and changing its original light blue color to the subdued off white color it proudly wears now. Its only exterior mod would have to be the front period era correct spoiler that looks just right. Of the several sets of wheel and tire combos they have for this Corona, they showed up for the shoot with this lightweight, 15-inch, Black Racing wheels that feature gold colored center spokes with its highly polished lip on Bridgestone tires.

Aside from being a father and son project that will definitely stay within the family, what’s really admirable here is that it represents a perfect melding of a classic old school body that hasn’t been altered in any way with a modern engine and driveline that’s far from stock. Classic looks with modern all-around performance indeed. Now what more could you ask for? A lonely stretch of tarmac or a twisty uphill mountain road perhaps?

Did you know?

The word “Toyopet” was the result of a naming contest the Toyota Company organized in 1947 and was used on a number of its vehicles.

Tuner Mods

’68 Toyota Corona “Toyopet”

Alex Lim/Sonson Lim

Aerohead Performance Tuning/ECW Performance

Engine: 4AGE “Blacktop”

Engine Type: 1587cc, Inline-4, DOHC, 20v, with Variable valve timing

Engine Mods: Toda forged pistons, Toda camshafts, Toda valvesprings, Custom cylinder porting, Dynamics Oil Cooler, Custom headers by Dynamics performance engineering, Dynamics silicone radiator hose, Cusco Oil Catch Can, Tomei fuel pressure gauge and regulator, Dynamics vacuum hoses, Oil filter relocation kit, Stainless steel braided oil lines and AN fittings,

Engine Management: TRD ECUEngine Builder/Tuner: Alex Lim of Aerohead Performance Tuning (APT)

Horsepower: 187 WHP (est.)

Transmission: 5-speed manual T-50 with custom gear ratio Toda flywheel, Exedy clutch,

Rearend: Solid differential with TRD Limited Slip Differential

Suspension Mods: Front/TRD Sport struts with custom TRD lowering springs Rear/TRD Sports (gas type) shock absorber Dynamics custom rear strut bar

Brake Mods: Front/Single pot with 8″ solid disc cross drilled Rear/Drums Custom brake master w/hydrovac

Body & Paint: Aerohead Performance Tuning (APT)

Kudos To: APT, ECW Performance, Dynamics Performance Engineering, JDMunderground, H3 autoworks,

Check out our Cars Casually video on this very same car: Cars Casually (29) Tuner: ’68 Toyota Corona | C! Magazine (c-magazine.com)


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