Back in the day, Toyota seemed to have the ‘Midas Touch’ when it came to creating truly special cars. While they might have appeared to experience a lull in the past decade, the future looks very bright for Toyota enthusiasts – especially with a new Supra on the horizon. One such car that has reached immortality status is the iconic Toyota Corolla GLi Twincam 16.
While the GLi originally launched with the 4A-GE TVIS (Toyota Variable Induction System) motor, Toyota South Africa dropped it in 1990 because of the immense cost. They did revise the motor however, which resulted in a power and torque increase from 89kw to 96kw, and 141nm to 145nm respectively.
The main factor behind the increase was a lift in compression ratio from 9.4 to 10.3:1, which in turn called for some other tweaks. Chief among them was the addition of a knock sensor to the existing EFI setup and a revised cylinder head, as well as the inlet and exhaust manifolds. The lack of TVIS did affect driveability though.
There was slightly slower engine response and a little less urge from low engine speeds. But once it got going, the 4A-GE revved smooth all the way to its 7,600rpm redline. And despite producing its maximum torque at a peaky 6,000rpm, the 4A-GE demonstrated tremendous range across its rev band.
The 1,058kg Twincam 16 was nippy too. 0-100kph took 9.44 seconds, while it needed 31.38 seconds to complete the standing kilometre at which it was travelling at 164.3kph. It eventually maxed out at 197kph, even though the speedometer was over reading at a ridiculous 218kph. Toyota bored-out the motor back then, creating a torquey 1.7-litre version for rally purposes. That said, the 4A-GE motor went on to become a household name in modification circles and is still used in a number of the countries quickest drag cars.
The Corolla GLi was available in two guises, Twincam 16 and Twincam 16 Exec. The regular model featured decent specification, but the Exec model added leather upholstery, air-conditioning, power steering and electric windows. The difference is specification was clearly evident as represented by the stark variance in pricing in 1991, with the Twincam 16 priced at R55 970 and the Twincam 16 Exec coming in at R66 440.
Interior specification aside, both however sported the same exterior featuring an integrated front bumper with a front skirt, body striping, body protector strips, moulded mudflaps, and boot spoiler and attractive 14-inch alloy wheels. Handling was decent too, thanks to front and rear independent suspension. Many might have forgotten, but the sixth-generation Corolla GLi won the 1989 SA Car of the Year award.
It’s hard to believe that the Twincam 16 is 29 years old, yet even today, in a world of high-tech turbocharged hatchbacks, it might not be able to keep up in any form of race, but a clean example will still turn heads. After all, only those who don’t understand what heritage is, wouldn't respect one of the most legendary Toyota's ever made.