Ricky Vang has ridden that revolving project roller coaster more times than he would care to remember. As the chain clanks on the way up, it's all anticipation--a new car, new challenge, endless possibilities, and all you can see in front of you is the sky. Soon reality sets in and the coaster lurches into a downward position and plummets with no time, no parts, and no money propelling you toward abandonment and a fast sale.
Vang's past glories include a '74 Toyota Celica, '71 Toyota Corolla TE-21, '86 Toyota Corolla GT-S, '86 Toyota MR2, '85 Toyota Supra, '85 Toyota Celica GT-S convertible, and '01 Toyota Tacoma Prerunner. Yep, it's safe to say that Vang cherishes the Toyota marque. Most of Vang's rides were built quickly before fading from favor and finding themselves with a "For Sale" sign on the dash. With family obligations mounting, he knew this was his last big shot. He knew this time he was playing for keeps.
Vang, who hails from San Diego, decided on a Corolla model that he had not owned before, a Mango. The `73 was purchased from a local guy via the Internet for $3,800. Vang says the `Rolla seemed pricey, but you pay for what you want. The car came with the stock 1.6L 2T-C with dual carbs but in a matter of weeks he had hatched a plan: Mango on the cheap and on the boost.
Vang must've overdosed on Legos as a kid because his engine is pieced together with singular creativity. "A friend of mine, Ryan Carwin, hooked me up with a used motor for $600. It was originally for another project, but I sold that car, so it is now the new powerplant for the Mango. This motor was a `pusher' motor for my friend's race car. It was a 3T-GTE, but really just a mutt motor. It had a 2T-GE block, 3T-GTE internals with '82 Corolla 3T-C pistons from the junkyard, but it was turbo. So without tearing it apart, I just put it in the Corolla, got a used turbo for $300, a standalone ECU for $300, and fabricated my own pipes and exhaust," Vang says.
"After Ryan tuned the ECU, he mutt ran perfect-boosting 15 psi. This was my daily driver at the time and I drove her about 70 miles a day to and from work. While I was driving and having fun, I was also breaking things. First the clutch went out, then the tranny, and then the differential. After replacing the parts and getting the car up I decided that I needed to start getting her revamped. At this point I had owned the car for a year and a half," Vang says.
Phase two commenced, consisting of gathering parts and working on the car. It lasted two years. The engine was pulled and the Toyota was stripped down. A set of replica SR5 flares ($185) were ordered and placed on the body, the rear was axle swapped out for a stouter SR5 unit, and an SR5 gauge cluster and front sway bar were also added. Vang did most of the bodywork and modifications himself and had another friend, Bao Le, help him with the paint--a $750 homey hookup.
While the Mango was getting painted, Vang decided to tear the motor apart. He elected to keep the motor as stock as possible just because of parts accessibility, plus he was broke. It was slated to be a quick-and-easy freshening with new main bearings, rod bearings, and gasket kits for the block and the head, which had just received cleaning and mild port matching.
Although, things are rarely quick and easy. "As I tore the mutt apart," Vang says, "I noticed that the new rings would not fit the pistons because the grooves were too tight. I thought I ordered the wrong size but then I noticed that the pistons were all crushed from the pressure of boosting. After pricing out pistons and machine work, it was obviously well out of my budget. I was tapped out. So I made a junkyard run up to central California, raided some wrecking yards, tore apart a '82 Corolla, and took the pistons." He paid a whole $22.95 for a set of pistons with unknown miles and then came back home and put the new rings on the old pistons, honed the block, put in the new bearings, and secured the head.
With long-block complete, Ryan was let loose. Like the Tasmanian Devil, he fabbed up a new turbo manifold, a downpipe, intercooler pipes, and a new stainless steel log-plenum intake. He had even gone as far as getting Vang's valve cover and the turbo compressor housing polished too, all this again with the homey hookup pricing. This was followed up by the electrical system, ignition wires, trigger setup, coil mounts, installation of a Haltech E6X, also hooked up by Ryan ($600). Ryan made the harness and tuned the unit. Vang reports all the fabbing, wiring, and tuning were done in a single day!
A custom stainless steel log-plenum...
A custom stainless steel log-plenum intake manifold using a BMW throttle body feeds this hybrid motor
Boost is regulated at 15 psi...
Boost is regulated at 15 psi through a TiAL sports 38mm wastegate
A used $300 junkyard special...
A used $300 junkyard special turbo temporarily powers this Mango. Future plans include an upgraded ball-bearing turbo