The Starlet was Toyota’s small/medium hatchback and was introduced at a time when the Japanese manufacturer was expanding globally, as well as domestically.
The Starlet went on sale in 1973 as the Publica Starlet and was intended to appeal to the younger market. The original used the tried and tested front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout and was powered by 1000cc or 1200cc engines and four or five-speed manual transmissions or a two-speed automatic.
Five years later, in 1978, the second-generation Starlet was launched, dropping the ‘Publica’ element of the name but the internal chassis code retained the ‘P’ designation. This was a more rounded hatchback design and indeed, the front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout made the car particularly popular with hot-rod racers and on the rally and circuits in the late 1970s and 80s. This was also due to the chassis, which used McPherson struts at the front but on the second-gen car, the rear leaf springs were changed to coils with a four-link location – much like the performance conversions for Ford Escorts of the day, for example.
The second-generation car underwent a couple of facelifts in its life but it was well-received. It was replaced by the third-generation car – the EP70 model – in 1985 in the UK and this saw the layout switch to front-wheel drive, as was now the norm for that class of hatchback. The styling changed too, with the exterior becoming more angular with hard edges and it was wider and shorter than its predecessor, offering more interior room.
Other innovations included revised rear suspension that gave excellent handling and the new E-series engine offered remarkable economy. There was a minor facelift in 1987 before the fourth-generation Starlet was introduced in 1990. The model continued through another iteration before the Starlet name was retired in 1999, when it was replaced by the Yaris.
However, it was the third generation model that saw the beginnings of performance-orientated versions with the introduction of the turbocharger Starlet Turbo S, with the designation EP71. This featured a turbocharged 1300cc version of the 12-valve engine, driving the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. It featured a two-stage boost-pressure setting, allowing low-pressure for cruising applications but full boost when performance was required and was the first car to use Toyota Electronic Modulated Suspension (TEMS) semi-active damping.
The Turbo S also featured a bonnet-mounted air scoop for the intercooler, double rear spoilers, a lighted front grille insert and supportive front seats. It was a Japanese-specific model and none were officially brought into the UK by Toyota GB.
This Starlet Turbo S was brought into the UK from Japan by the seller, who specialises in rare imports. As such, very little is known about its history prior to arriving in the UK, other than it was part of a collection owned by an enthusiast and it has reasonably low mileage – less than 115,000 kilometres or 71500 miles. Its wonderful condition would appear commensurate to its mileage and its rarity is further notable as it is a manual model – the majority of Japanese examples were manufactured with an automatic transmission.
The seller confirms there are very few examples in the UK, all of which have been imported from Japan and this model is highly coveted in Southern Ireland.
As a Japanese import, there is no paperwork from the vehicle’s previous life prior to it arriving in the UK. Therefore, it is presented for auction with its UK V5 registration document, which confirms the necessary import duties have been paid and the NOVA (Notification of Vehicle Arrival) certification is complete. It also has confirmation of a complete mechanical service by the seller and it has an MoT test pass valid until October 2021.
The interior of the car is in excellent condition. The front seats are near-original, with no wear or sagging in any areas, according to the seller. The velour upholstery is not worn or damaged, though it appears to require a clean. The rear seats appear not to have been used and there are two lap-straps in the rear and two three-point seat-belts in the front.
Floor mats protect the front carpets and the seller confirms that the carpets are in excellent condition under the mats, with no wear or damage. The headlining is unmarked and while there appears to be some age-related wear to the top of the gear knob, the steering wheel seems to be in excellent condition.
The switchgear all works correctly, both in its operation and the function it switches. The two-stage boost control works and illuminates the relevant lights on the dashboard and all gauges work, as does the ventilation and heating, the air conditioning and the electrically-operated door mirrors.
The car is presented with no audio equipment, though there is what appears to be a mounting cage for a double-DIN head unit in the centre console. There is also a pair of large, 1980s-style speakers on the rear shelf but the seller confirms that there are simply placed on the shelf and that the shelf itself has not been damaged by their location and they could easily be removed if the new owner wishes.
There appears to be some form of residue at the bottom of the centre console – the seller suggests perhaps a sweet was left in the car – and there is evidence of adhesive on the dashboard where something was stuck on in the past.
The vehicle retains its original toolkit in the boot alongside the – steel - spare wheel, including jack, wheel brace, wheel chock, pliers and two spanners. Like the road wheels, the seller suggests the spare tyre is also changed.
The exterior of this car is in generally excellent condition. It features extensive JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) styling, with double tailgate spoilers, extended sill panels and the lighted panel in-filling the front grille. These are all part of the original specification of the vehicle, as it was supplied in the Japanese market.
The bright white paintwork is in excellent condition, with a deep shine and no areas of apparent damage or dulling. The panel gaps and door shuts are all even, suggesting it has never been involved in an accident requiring repairs nor does it appear to have sustained any single panel damage. There are one or two small scuffs on the front bumper, particularly on the driver’s side but none appear to be particularly deep nor difficult to remedy.
The door handles are in good condition, as are the door mirrors though the glass on the passenger side item is cracked and will require replacing by the new owner. The seller has had the original graphics on the bottom of the doors and across the boot replicated and refreshed in modern material and the car wears wind deflectors on the front windows – another JDM-style addition.
The bonnet scoop directs air to the air-to-air intercooler mounted horizontally in the engine bay and the unusual-shaped rear number plate has been used to match what would have been the original-sized Japanese version to make sure the rear of the car looks correct. The rear-screen wiper arm is missing and the seller states that he has not been able to find a replacement but feels that a standard third-generation Starlet example should work.
The twin exhaust tips appear to be original and fit the aperture in the rear bumper spoiler perfectly. The wheels are aftermarket examples, using again the JDM style of hard-edged spokes. The tyres appear to be in reasonable condition but their age is indeterminate and two are mis-matched manufacturers, so the seller suggests the new owner should replace them as a matter of urgency.
According to the seller, the car is also in excellent mechanical condition and drivers nicely – “Nippy” is the word he chooses to describe it. The engine starts and runs well and the turbocharger spools up and produces the necessary levels of boost efficiently on both settings and with no smoking. The seller states though that the car will require a replacement Idle Air Control Valve – this controls the air flow when the engine is idling and its failure is a common fault with these engines. The engine performs perfectly during driving but once warm, when the car comes to a stop and neutral is selected, the engine speed hunts up and down rather than setting to a steady idle. This does not affect the car’s drivability.
The seller also confirms that the gearbox operates as intended, as does the suspension with no untoward noises or handling issues and the brakes work efficiently. However, this vehicle does not appear to be fitted with Toyota’s TEMS semi-active suspension system, which other Toyota models used.
The engine bay appears to need a good detailing session but all the components appear in good condition. Some of the aluminium components – the camshaft cover, the intake plenum – appear to have suffered surface corrosion but the new owner could easily rectify this. There are also very slight traces of surface rust on the wings where they are bolted on but similarly, this should be easily remedied.
The seller has carried out an extensive service on the vehicle, changing fluids and filters and refurbishing the brake system, including painting the callipers and rear drums. The vehicle also benefits from a fresh MoT test, which is valid until October 2021.
The underside of the vehicle – famously devoid of under-seal in Japan – was treated with sprayed-on protection prior to the car being loaded into its container for travel to the UK. As such, the underside has been protected with a product that the owner suggests is part-way between ordinary paint and under-seal and should be ready for use on British roads.
There are many reasons that this vehicle will be popular. As a domestic model, it was never available officially in the UK and while a handful of examples exist, few are likely to be in this good condition and with such low mileage. It is the first high-performance variant in the Starlet range and the styling, while undoubtedly 1980s JDM, doesn't look out of place today.
It is a great driving machine, according to the owner and he reports he has already had considerable interest in the car simply through social media exposure. It is likely that it will also attract interest at auction, as he intends to present it with no reserve so that it achieves what is likely to be a representative price for such a unique and attractive vehicle.
** The photos in this listing have been provided to us by the seller **
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