It's 1982, a time of enlightenment in Hollywood when the movie "Gandhi" cleaned up at the box office and the Academy Awards. Come Oscar time, Gandhi nabbed Best Picture, Best Actor for Ben Kingsley and Best Director for Richard Attenborough. The Best Actress award went to Meryl Streep for her role in "Sophie's Choice."
About this time, Toyota produced a very special Corolla. After years of family service and countless hand-me-downs, the Corolla, like a multitude of its brethren, had degenerated into a salvage piece. An untarnished body was its saving grace as the commuter was transformed into a strip warrior of the "old-school."
Enter Richie Rosado, a fixture in the Florida performance tuning community ever since the Corolla was kickin' it on the dealer lot with fresh factory paint. Richie's Rosado Racing tuning shop has had a hand in many of South Florida's fastest imports, but the old-school Corolla featured here may be his crowning achievement.
"The car started out as a customer job," says Rosado. "But when it was nearly finished, he elected to go run an RX-7. We decided to finish it and do a little racing ourselves. The customer crashed his Mazda and has since come back to the Toyota camp with a drag Lexus. He's really hurting having to watch what would have been as we won a Wally and became an NHRA record holder."
We first saw the red Corolla as a blur at the 2002 NHRA season opener in Gainesville, Fla., running an 8.54 and impressively beating Stephan Papadakis. From its first qualifying run in Florida, the chase was on.
We wanted to feature the car but it took a while to capture it on film. Then it took forever and a day to get a tech sheet. This was both good and bad. As we scrambled to set up a photo shoot, the Toyota continued evolving.
At Maple Grove it charged into the NHRA record book. We had our "Kodak moment" right after the event and the data scramble ensued; but in that stretch of time, the record was broken.
An interesting sidebar at Maple Grove was the midnight thrash that Rosado Racing pulled off, converting the Corolla from a Jerico air-shifted five-speed to a five-speed G-Force transmission.
After dropping the hammer on the competition with a wicked 8.05 at 164 mph in the first round of qualifications, the tranny broke during the second round as the Toyota attempted to repeat the record.
The old-timer came out swinging on Sunday and fought its way into the winner's circle. Driver Alex Dieguez put the hurt on a full field of Modified Class racers. The new gearbox made all the late-night wrenching worth it when the Corolla unleashed an 8.13 in the first round to officially jump into the NHRA record book. After a bye in the semis, Stephan Papadakis couldn't make the show in the finals but the Rosado Racing Corolla answered the what-if question with an 8.09 at 167 mph.
The most impressive aspect of the Rosado Racing Corolla is its simplicity. No doubt the Toyota makes a strong case for the power and durability of the 3S-GTE four-cylinder MR2 powerplant. The 1994 vintage 2.0-liter engine has been punched out to 2.2 liters, fitted with a high-revving Ferrea valvetrain and put under pressure via a Turbonetics T66 hairdryer.
But it's the tuning that gets the results at the end of the strip. With 1600cc injectors on call, the four-banger pounded out 760 whp at 38 psi on alcohol, thanks to the tuning efforts of Richie Rosado.
Like a lot of the racers without a big budget and an 18-wheeler, Rosado Racing did not have the funding to follow the tour's West Coast Swing. In the middle of the season, the Corolla was fourth in the points and in the hunt. But in the interim, the class record dropped to 7.88 and Steph, Nelson Hoyos and Carlos Gonzales have pulled away, leaving the Corolla 277 points off pace.