A Piece Of 1980s Neon Radness Lives On In This Toyota Carina GT
Photography by Andrey Smazhilo
You don’t fall in love with some cars at first sight, but for one reason or another you like the car despite what it may lack in traditional beauty standards, so you decide to give it a go. Eventually your love for the car, and maybe even for the marque, grows through years of ownership. But you have to start somewhere, and usually this is where friends step in, giving you a nudge to buy the car that will come to form your passion in the future. And that’s exactly how it went for Sergey, who today proudly owns this 1983 Toyota Carina GT. But the Toyota love began several years earlier.
As it usually is for many young gentlemen in Russia—and let me be honest in saying that I’m no exception in this—Sergey’s first car was a Lada. Ladas in Russia are dirt cheap, need TLC on a daily basis, and have successfully been turning their owners into amateur (and sometimes professional) mechanics since 1970 when they started rolling off the factory line in Togliatti. Sergey bought his first car at the age of 16, played with it for some time, sold it to buy another one, and then another, and another, you know this slippery slope I’m sure. It might have been an eternity of Lada ownership, but fortunately for today’s protagonist things went the other way.
Back in the day, a neighbor of Sergey’s had owned an A70-generation Toyota Supra with a 2JZ-GTE straight-six in it. 2JZ swaps were not so popular back then as they are today, so it was a really unique and fast car for its time. Inspired by that Supra, Sergey decided to break up with Lada, looked the other way, and bought himself a Toyota. No, it wasn’t that Supra. It wasn’t even a coupe. And no, it wasn’t fast.
It was a 1980-something Toyota Carina, factory-coded CA67V, a slow, diesel-powered wagon. Later Sergey sold it to buy a Toyota Corona Wagon, which was technically almost the same car as the Carina but a bit different on the outside. Japanese engineers didn’t bother to build brand new cars in the 1980s it seems, so the Corona and Carina shared lots and lots of parts between themselves.
I first met Sergey in 2014 when I was helping a friend of mine, who was in the army back then, sell his 1982 BMW 520i; Sergey wanted to exchange his Corona Wagon for it. Nevertheless, the deal went south, and later on Sergey would sell that Corona to buy a DC6 Honda Integra, which was also fortunately sold. That was probably the moment when the stars aligned. We might all be superstitious sometimes, but definitely not Sergey, for whom this Toyota Carina GT became his 13th car.
We don’t cover cars produced for Japanese domestic markets here on Petrolicious as much as we tend to lean European, so let me explain why this one is special to everyone out there who thinks we’ve made a blind turn here. Thanks to Keiichi Tsuchiya, also known as Dorikin or “Drift King,” and his “Drift Bible,” the prices for Toyota Corolla/Levin AE86 cars—usually simply called hachi-roku or “eight-six,” are skyrocketing these days compared to what they were selling for ten years ago. But for those who fancy a light, RWD, and fun-to-drive Japanese car for a reasonable price, there are still ways to own one.
The not-so-popular Toyota Carina GT, factory-coded AA63, shared its 4A-GE heart with the AE86. It also weighs around one metric ton, or just about 2,200lbs. Unlike the AE86 though, it has four doors, which some of you might consider to be a flaw in comparison, but the car is obviously much more practical in everyday use because of the extra set of hinges, and it happens to come with an independent rear suspension instead of the dated beam axle found in the AE86.
The story with Sergey’s Carina goes six years back, when he and his friend Max were surfing the classifieds and stumbled upon the little Toyota sedan. Turns out some guy had bought a garage near Moscow and found this car inside of it. As the story goes, a family living in Barnaul, a city in the west of Siberia and more than 2,000 miles away from Moscow, had earlier inherited the garage but wasn’t aware of the car’s existence, so Max had to make a diplomacy miracle happen and became the Carina’s new owner. He started the restoration process on the car, however, a little bit more than a year ago, he decided to sell it. Sergey was more than ready to take over.
He took on the remaining pieces of the restoration project, got the car repainted during the winter months, gave the interior a thorough cleanup, put on a set of original Japanese SSR Mk3s wrapped in sticky Yokohama Advan A048 rubber, and rolled the completed Carina out of his garage in the spring. After his first road trip in it, Sergey realized that the engine was in a condition far from perfect and needed a rebuild, which took some time to complete as all the necessary parts needed to come directly from Japan. Afterwards the road trips continued on worry-free until the end of summer, and he racked up over 10,000 miles without any unpleasantries to note.
We met in person recently, and I asked Sergey how he might describe himself for Petrolicious readers, and due to his English not being very good he replied with something along the lines of: “My name is Sergey. I have a Toyota Carina. It’s white with red lines on its sides.” Not one to mince words! We had a good laugh together, I enjoyed shooting his car in an interesting setting, and I hope that you like looking at something a bit different today.