A few years ago, I saw this little Finnish Toyota Starlet run at the Mt. Washington hillclimb. I don’t think my ears have stopped ringing.
I loved the car so much that I still check up on it every so often, making a note to check in on Mikko Kataja and his Starlet. Here he is at Mt. Washington back in 2017:
That is a tight, tight little one-and-a-quarter lane road, and this Starlet makes it look like a highway. It doesn’t exactly hide the bumps, though. That is a rough, rough course, and I don’t know how Kataja made it out of the car with all of his teeth intact.
And here he is claiming the fastest time at the Empire Hill Climb a few years back as well. Keep an eye on that rev counter:
It’s well and good to see interior footage of this car, but somehow the camera audio just doesn’t do the 10,000 RPM justice. Though it might sound like a motorcycle engine, this is a 16-valve Toyota 4A-GE Toyota, the same kind of thing you find in AE86s.
Here, then, is some footage of the car on a recent test out in the open. The fresh, cool air lets the sound of this car really travel:
God, it sounds so good. That intake noise is so rich, so all-consuming.
I do adore these Starlets. Like the AE86 being the last rear-wheel-drive Corolla, these were the last rear-wheel-drive Starlets, as small and compact as Toyota’s RWD economy cars ever ended up before everything switched over to FWD.
Not that there’s anything wrong with fun-wheel drive, but these final rear-drivers do have a particular underdog charm. You still see them pop up at rallies all over the globe, buzzing and sliding their way around courses. Drift events used to see them with a bit more regularity as well, though the days of the Drift King himself running one are long gone.