"A star performer"
The Starlet is a good car to base a tuning project on.
The Starlet Turbo is a positive gem and responds very well to tuning showing what the car is capable of.
Few cars give such good handling and sharp performance rewards for so little expenditure on modifications.
The Starlet turbo is an import only model as far as the UK goes and really is the only one you want for your tuning project.
A remapped ECU will make the biggest difference overall but lets just go through the best areas to focus attention on.
Improving the handling should be your first priority in your Starlet tuning project. Drop the car by as much as 30mm and fit stiffer dampers, bigger drops will need other modifications in most instances.
Turning our attention to the Starlets 133bhp engine we need to get a bit more power out of the top end. This should really be done in stages allowing you to decide how far to go with the next level.
Sadly with smaller engine sizes you are wasting your time spending money on modifications, so if this applies to you get yourself an engine swap to the turbo and then apply the following mods.
Toyota Starlet Tuning modifications.
Fast road cams offer one of the biggest performance gains as far as a bolt on part goes. Don't forget to uprate the fuelling when you are increasing the power beyond 200bhp. Generally speaking the Starlet turbo is nicely setup and it only takes a few tweaks to make it a fun track day car.
Paying attention to the head you need to ensure good flow of air, so porting and polishing the head and getting it gas flowed provides a nice usable base to work from. Big valve conversions are another option and feed more air into the engine. You need to be careful that any head work matches your chosen cam profile.
Toyota Starlet Intake and Exhaust.
Breathing mods are usually next up. For small Starlet NASP engines go with a washable panel air filter and don't expect much if any of a power increase. On the turbo vehicles an induction kit will help increase power. Sports exhausts will certainly help air flow through the engine but do not go too large. Stick to 1.5 to 2.0 inches for best results. Rather than the decat which falls foul of most emissions regulations go with a sports cat. The sports cats give a very similar gain to the decat.
In nearly all cases of serious Starlet tuning your clutch will start to slip and this needs to be uprated - read our article on clutches for more information. NASP engines do not achieve big power gains if you remap them but with turbo engines this is another story. A remapped turbo engine will give a phenomenal power gain. If you raise the boost levels too high you might suffer from knock but this can be countered with a water injection kit.
A front mounted intercooler will further benefit the engine, cooling the heat generated by compression within the turbo.
The turbo itself can be uprated either by getting a big turbo conversion and plumbing this in yourself or by getting your OEM turbo with uprated internals (known as a hybrid). In all cases get a turbo with ball bearings rather than thrust bearings as these last longer and spool up more quickly plus they last a lot longer.
The engine should be strengthened if you want to go beyond 200bhp and we would recommend cryogenic treatments as well if you are serious about having reliable power. It is a good revvy little engine and if balanced and blueprinted you can raise the red line and create a screamer of a car.
Toyota Starlet Wheel modifications.
Because alloy wheels are lighter they improve performance and they help to cool the brake disks. The downside to large alloy wheels on your Starlet is that you alter your effective final drive ratio and this will have a detrimental effect on performance. Aim to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel the same as supplied from the factory. In all cases we do not recommend going above 16 inches.
Weight reduction also makes quite a difference to performance and handling and we have seen some Starlets stripped out for racing.
Please join us in our forum to discuss the Starlet options in more detail with our Starlet owners. It would also be worth reading our Starlet tuning articles to get a full grasp of the pros and cons of each type of modification.
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