February 01, 2010 By Francis G. Pallarco

1981 Toyota Starlet Drag Car


Here’s a drag car with wretched excess as its main goal

Words: Francis G. Pallarco
Photos: Bert Casal

Wretched excess is a quality that should only be measured by an enthusiast’s personal taste when it comes to cars. Having said that, take a look at this plain Jane, old school, Starlet. To the non-enthusiast, this car definitely doesn’t appeal to them. After all, it doesn’t have fuel economy, comfort and modernism written all over it. To the octane-trained eye though, what it has underneath its stock exterior is a full race engine, driveline, and chassis. Such traits enable it to accelerate like a startled Hyena and go fast in a straight line. Specialized traits, vital in the competitive sport of drag racing. But what really makes it one of a kind is the fact that all the chassis work on this drag Starlet was custom fabricated. It’s definitely not a weekend project car, as one could just visualize the amount of man-hours that went into transforming this once fully restored old school car into a well-engineered drag car.



This once restored Starlet, took owner Alvin Gorayeb two years to finish. But according to him, deep inside he really wanted to build was a full-on drag race car. During its restoration period, Alvin came across noted drag race engine builder Ricky de Leon’s “Monster Starlet” which is a back half tube chassied drag car. What this means is that the front portion of the uni-body which cradles the engine and the front suspension has been kept stock while the rear portion which starts from the firewall and towards the back now consists of a custom tube frame chassis with a ladder bar or a four link rear suspension which are both suited for drag racing. After the build, Alvin paid a visit to Ricky’s shop where according to him, “I was only after some race parts when he unselfishly asked if I wanted to duplicate his chassis design”. “Right away I took out my measuring tape and camera and the rest was history as they say”. Alvin’s Starlet utilizes a custom ladder bar type rear suspension. This is a rigid, bridge-type tubular truss that locates the rear axle housing directly to the chassis. With the axle housing firmly in place, the torque applied to the differential is now instantly transferred through the ladder bars and the chassis. As the front of the car travels upward, rapid weight transfer is created which “plants” the rear slick tires and propels the car forward.



Propulsion comes from a T-Series pushrod engine from Toyota. Famous for its hemispherical combustion chamber design, which coincidentally resembles Chrysler’s legendary 426 “Hemi” V-8 engine. Alvin turned to none other than his godfather who happens to be race engine builder Mr. Carlos Fernando from Bulacan. “His conservative manners in building old-school Toyota race engines have paid off and some of his head designs have reached as far as the East Coast in the States”. As such, Mr. Fernando had the stock block bored out to accept a set of JE forged pistons (90mm) with a high compression ratio of 13.5. This is normal for most drag race set-ups as they utilize high duration camshaft profiles. In this case, a drag spec Schneider camshaft was used to motivate the bigger intake and exhaust valves with dual TRD valve springs on the ported and polished cylinder head. Speaking about drag cams, similar race cam profiles that I recall which can also be used for this setup are Isky’s wild TH99+ with 310 degrees of duration, TRD’s X42B or a mild C46 rally cam. Aside from the two Weber (45mm) sidedraft carburetors, another eye-grabbing feature of the engine is the TOSCO-style (bundle of snakes) stainless steel header made by Fremuff. While it has yet to be dyno tested, Alvin guesstimates it to be making around 160-180 horsepower and adds, “While we haven’t measured HP yet, I would rather focus on high torque”. “The engine can still be upgraded but will entail more serious internal mods”.


While the engine was being built up north, Alvin was also busy supervising the fabrication of the back half tube frame chassis as well as the ladder bar suspension. When the time came to unite the engine with the newly reconfigured tube chassis, Alvin ordered the massive wheel and drag slicks from Summit Racing, which is an integral component for drag cars. When they finally made their initial shakedown runs it proved to be overwhelming as Alvin explains, “When we finally got to test the “little monster” in a quiet street in Bulacan, the result was… Well, you try to imagine. The sad part is that we haven’t actually clocked the car yet, but we’ve done several test runs and it went straight as an arrow”. “Launching it is even better”. “There’s a little amount of squatting just enough to keep the drag slicks planted to the ground so it should have good reaction times”. “That is if the driver’s mind does not wander around, as the beastly 2-liter engine is already a handful”. The competition should be on the lookout for I’m sure they’ll going to’ hate it once they get beaten on the track. Them and Alvin’s neighbors for the absence of mufflers gives them another reason to hate it even more.


Tuner Mods
1980 Toyota Starlet (KP61)
Alvin Gorayeb

Engine- 2.0 Liter, Inline-4, OHV, 8-valve,
Internal Mods- 90mm JE forged (dome) pistons, SCE copper head gasket,
45mm intake valves, 48mm exhaust valves,
TRD dual valve springs and retainers,
Schneider (340-degrees duration) race camshaft,
Custom Cylinder head works by Mang Lito
External Mods- Custom 4-1 stainless steel exhaust header by
Freemuff, MSD 6AL, Nology plug wires,
Accel ignition coil,
Induction- Weber 45 DCOE carburetors (twin) with TRD intake manifold,
Engine Builder- Carlos Fernando
Estimated HP- 160-180 Horsepower
Best E.T.- To be tested
Suspension- Front: McPherson struts, lower arm and anti-roll bar
Rear: Solid diff with custom ladder bars with coil springs and
shock absorbers tuned by Ricky de Leon
Differential- Custom narrowed solid diff with 4.8 final drive ratio
Vehicle Weight- 650 Kilos
Interior- Autometer monster tachometer, VDO gauges,
Sparco 4-point harness, fiberglass bucket seat
Other Stuff- JAZ 3-gallon fuel cell, Custom (6-pt) roll cage
Custom back half tube frame with aluminum panels
Rollers- Front- 13-inch steel rims with Yokohama A539 tires
Rear- Center Line aluminum drag wheels 15”x8”
Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks 26”x10”
Kudos To- Ricky de Leon for race parts and allowing me to duplicate the back half chassis design,
Lito Fernando for building the engine

© C! 2003-2022. All Rights Reserved. Designed by