As we mentioned in the track gallery/wrap-up post from the recent V 4&Rotary Nationals South Island Champs, the south has a firm grip on the older-generation Toyotas and they know how to build ‘em well. We stumbled across this particular KP61 Starlet in the grounds of the track.

Owned by Jamie Hodgins, the KP caught our attention thanks to the iconic TRD flares, big aero pieces, and the loud ’80s-style livery that adorned the paintwork. The longer we looked at it, the more we wanted to know, and with Jamie pottering around setting it up for the next circuit session, we sparked up a yarn. 

He told us that he’s been building it for over 24 years, and although that may seem a long time, it’s seen a considerable amount of development from it’s road-going days. Off the bat and easily the crown jewel of the entire thing is it’s heart and running gear; a Formula Atlantic 4A-GE backed by a six-speed Elite sequential dogbox. 

The box has a micro switch fitted to the gear lever to allow for flat shifting thanks to the Haltech ECU, and a mechanical throttle ‘blipper’ takes care of downshifting, all without the need to use the clutch — understandably then, that the sound that the combination produces while screaming down the back straight needs to be heard in person to be appreciated.

Previously running a Quaife five-speed dogbox, the upgrade to a six-speed Elite sequential example saw the car set a new lap record at Teretonga raceway, Invercargill, in the 1600cc class, taking just 1:06.521s to complete the 2.62km-long track.

The car has a Nascar Dry Break fuel system installed to allow for better performances at endurance series’, reducing the number of pitstops previously required on the old system. A new fuel cell cover was fabricated to accept the female receptacle, with a big ol’ hole cut in the tailgate to take the male probe. Upon testing, Jamie noticed a fluctuation in fuel pressure via the Racepak data logger and the issue was traced back to the lift pumps being too small for supply. They were ripped out in favor of an in-house built high-pressure system that used two Deatschwerks DW200 fuel pumps instead.

Fuel ain’t the only thing that has been touched, naturally, with the oiling also a critical component addressed. The Atlantic 4A-GE runs a dry sump system that is mounted in place of a passenger seat inside the cabin. It also has a pretty trick cooling system too, with bonnet negative-air- and front bumper positive-air-sucking vents which feed the radiator with cool flow. 

Complementing the previously mentioned TRD flares and  ’80s-style livery is a bunch of alloy sheet aero that Jamie has pieced together himself. From the front side-fins and splitter that has under-lip channels to help recirculate the air and prevent it getting trapped in the wheel well (slowing the car down), to the massive rear diffuser.

Jamie makes sure the ol' girl gets a good workout regularly and can be found at most local track days, race series, and hill climbs with the KP singing the sweet song of N/A goodness. Check out his run at Coronet Peak from last year (turn the volume right up):

This is one KP Starlet we rate highly and wouldn’t mind getting behind the wheel at a local hill climb. With no intention of parting ways with the car, we can’t wait to see what he does next.

Here's a full gallery of all the special bits:

Jaden Martin

Growing up inhaling paint fumes and bog dust at his old man's panel shop, Jaden is a qualified word bender that has obtained a 'brofessional' diploma in car building from years of trial and error. He's currently trying to finish his creation of Australian-based debauchery crammed with Japanese- and Euro-inspired goodness. You'll find him writing for NZ Performance Car and producing content online.

Instagram — @jaden_nzpcmagazine