The Finest Lineup of SEMA 2018 Is… The Toyota Corolla Hatchback?

Toyota commissioned four groups to build special Corolla Hatchbacks for SEMA, running the gamut from rally car to hyper-hatchback drift missiles.

byJames Gilboy|
Builds photo


SEMA 2018 is afoot, with the most outlandish modified vehicles on the planet making their presence known to the world.

Toyota is again present, and has crammed almost all of its SEMA eggs into the basket that is the Corolla Hatchback by displaying four re-imaginations of the car by different groups, including modified car publication Super Street, custom car shop SoCal Kustomz, and race teams Hoonigan and Papadakis Racing. Each designed a Corolla of increasing extremity—let's have a look at all four.

Super Street's Corolla

, Super Street, Toyota

"Our Corolla Hatchback combines Japanese-inspired styling and custom-fitted parts," said Super Street editor Samuel Du. "We wanted to make it into something you might see on the floor of the Tokyo Auto Salon."

The publication did up its Corolla Hatchback with RS-R coilovers, Volk wheels, custom aero, and so-1998 underglow. It goes like it glows with an HPS intake and a titantium-tipped Apexi exhaust, and it'll stop too, courtesy of enlarged Wilwood front brakes. Its driver won't slide from its seat, either, courtesy of Corbeau bucket seats.

SoCal Kustomz's Corolla

, SoCal Kustomz/Toyota

"We have been building cars since we were teenagers, but this is our first SEMA build," said SoCal Kustomz founder Julio Ixta. "A lot of our experience is with restoring classic cars, so the brand-new Corolla Hatchback was a different kind of challenge that we were excited to undertake."

Like the Super Street car, SCK's Corolla starts out with the basics: Coilover suspension, Motegi Racing wheels, sticky tires, a custom-built intake, and an exhaust with a Borla muffler. The SCK car, however, ditches the glow for go, and uses a Nitrous Express system to funnel canned boost into the engine—presumably inspired by the same thing as the car's livery, the original Fast and the Furious film. All of the interior was reupholstered in black leather, completing the Corolla's sharp looks inside and out.

Hoonigan's Corolla

, Larry Chen/Toyota

"When I saw the new 2019 Corolla, the first thing I thought of was a rally car," said Hoonigan's project manager and photojournalist Larry Chen. "It also makes an ideal pursuit vehicle. It’s more maneuverable than traditional chase cars, which are usually bigger SUVs, and it has a smaller footprint in general."

Lifestyle brand and race team Hoonigan split the design of its Corolla between camera chase car and rally car, both roles in which it excels. For the former, it can carry a camera, collapsible crane, and gimbal, all controlled via remote LCD screens and joysticks.

Like the above, this Corolla rides on modified suspension and wheels, but it takes its philosophy in the opposite direction. RSR springs and ST Suspension spacers give the Corolla greater ground clearance, while downsized 17-inch Fifteen52 wheels increase sidewall size. An HPS Performance intake, AEM filter, and Ark Performance exhaust ease the Corolla's breathing.

Inside, passengers are ratcheted into NRG bucket seats by six-point racing harnesses, and outside, extensive body mods dress the Corolla like the junior rally car it is. The list includes Hella lights, an APR Performance lip, and a monochromatic replica of a classic rally Corolla livery.

Papadakis Racing's Corolla

, Papadakis Racing/Toyota

And the best, we must confess, we have saved for the last, for the ruler of this Corolla land has 850 horsepower and rear-wheel-drive (at least, that's what we've come to understand).

Indeed, there's little left of the original Corolla Hatchback here. It's a fully-caged drift car built for use by professional drifter Frederic Aasbo, who took the outgoing Corolla iM to a second-place finish in the 2018 Formula Drift Pro standings. Its floorpan, engine, and body panels may be derived from the production car, but almost every component of this Corolla has been custom-fabricated for motorsport use.

As such, this is a savage machine, the likes of which we can only wish Toyota would make for the road. Alas, the days of the RWD Corolla are three decades past us, so the Toyota 86 will have to do.

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