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The Pocket Rocket: The Classic Balls Out Hatchback

Back about 20-30 years ago, a lot of makes came up with their sport compact models that was simple, straight forward and despite the size, it packed quite a punch when it comes to its performance. One time before, these types of cars have been all the rage ranging from the cute and cheerful Kei cars to something more beefy like a Pulsar GTiR. Now in the year 2015, these types of cars are still a fun platform to play with. One reason for this is nowadays, nobody makes cars that can be considered a pocket rocket anymore. Nowadays, cars are too heavy, big and just isn’t as simple and fun as the sport compacts of the 80s and 90s.


The Toyota Starlet started production back in April 1973 replacing the Toyota Publica in the subcompact category. Of course, back then it didn’t came out as a hatchback. Instead, it came out as either a 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan or a 3-door wagon. It was only later on in 1978 is when the 60 series came out and the Starlet started to take shape as the hatchback we all know today. At the time, the 60 series Starlet came out with 3 different motors which is the 2K (993cc), the 3K (1166cc) and the 4K (1290cc). All models came out in the FR layout. However, when the 70 series came out in 1984, the Starlet started adopting the front wheel drive layout with a new E-series motor. The Toyota starlet was later replaced with the Toyota Yaris in mid 1999.


Today, there are a number of enthusiast that still enjoy tuning and modifying the Toyota Starlet. Some even still race them on track as a serious sport. A workshop called KLG Auto that was also responsible for the time attack 180SX decided to build one KP61 Toyota Starlet of their own. This Toyota Starlet was originally built to enter the Hong Kong Classic Car race in the Sepang International Circuit. In stock form, the KP61 only came with a straight 4 1290cc 4K engine.


For prepping the Starlet for the race, KLG Auto first swapped the 4K with a bigger, slightly more powerful 1.6L 4AGZE 4 cylinder engine. Reason for this swap is because the 4AGZE is known to have higher tuning and power potential and easier to tune up due to the availability of parts compared to the 4K. A new FRP turbo and intercooler is fitted on the 4AGZE to push out a decent 282whp at 1.5 bar of boost. For a hatchback that only weighs 750kg, it would be an understatement to call it a hot hatch since it packs a huge surge of power in a light package.


Of course with all that power, the driver will go nowhere if the Starlet isn’t able to put the power down. For that, a lot of custom work is down for a better and more durable powertrain which was custom work done by KLG Auto. New monotube suspension and an FIA competition spec roll cage is fitted on the car to improve the chassis rigidity and handling on the 30 year old chassis which should be just enough to make the KP61 Starlet racing fit for the Sepang Circuit. Bride Low Max bucket seats and Takata harnesses were also included in the package for the safety of the driver while on track.


All that power made must be able to stop to if one wants to take this hatchback down the track. So just for the job, 4 pot brakes with 320 mm rotors in the front and a 2 pot with 300 mm rotors in the back were fitted for better stopping power. Last but not least, the Starlet is driven on the track with 17 inch full slicks with a wider width. Even in 2015, sport compacts like the Toyota Starlet is still a relevant car to competitively race with. Truly a pocket rocket that’s just fun shakedown on track.

Model: Toyota Starlet KP61

1.6L 4AGZE
Toda high cam 256/264
Toda valve spring
Cosmetic metal gasket
ARP head stub
King bearing
FRP T04B Turbo
Tial 38mm Wastegate
FRP Intercooler
Calsonic Oil Cooler
Haltech S500

Custom rear axle,
Transmission cooler,
Axle cooler,

Monotube with inverted
FIA spec Roll Cage
4-pot with 320mm rotors (front)
2-pot with 300mm rotors (rear)

17 inch wheels, Full Slicks

Custom wide body

Bride Low Max Bucket Seats,
Takata Quick Release Harnesses,

KLG Auto