Toyota Transplants A GR Corolla Heart Into Its GR86 For SEMA

This SEMA special GR86 channels the spirit of its WRC-dominating Celica GT-Four forefather. 

Every year for SEMA, Toyota will without fail bring something rather cool to the party. 

Two years ago for instance, the Japanese automaker showcased a targa-topped version of its Supra. Last year meanwhile, it stuffed a 725 hp V8 from one of its Nascar cup cars into an FJ40 Land Cruiser to create what it dubbed the FJ Bruiser. 

Though while a open-top Supra and a Nascar V8 FJ is certainly cool, this year’s SEMA show-stopper from Toyota is probably one that will see many enthusiasts actually beg the Japanese automaker to sell them a production version of it. Such is as likely in channeling the Celica GT-Four rally hero of the 90s, what is to be shown off at Las Vegas is a GR86 that has all the rally-licious running gear from a GR Corolla transplanted into it. 

For all full juicy details regarding this one-off drivetrain swap (that many will undoubtably have dreamed that Toyota will do one day for real), it is highly recommended to watch pro photographer and YouTuber Larry Chen’s excellent YouTube video that provides a run through of the current build in progress. Though for those without 38 minutes to spare, here below instead is a very shortened summary of the proceedings. 

Now as seems to be tradition these days with anything fun taking place at Toyota, the Japanese automaker has partnered with Evasive Motorsports for this particular GR 86/GR Corolla heart transplant for the SEMA show. And the overall takeaway from this build is for it not to exactly be the most straightforward in the world, with a comprehensive overhaul of the engine bay and front subframe required for the GR 86’s rear wheel drive chassis to accept the GR Corolla’s all-wheel drive drivetrain. 

Eimer Engineering was enlisted to assist helping out with the various fabrication work required on this mammoth build, among which included custom building all the mounts that hold the 300 horsepower three-pot and six-speed manual gearbox in place within the car. Some rather significant modifications was also performed on frame to make sure the front driveshafts will clear, with this one-off’s suspension also featuring custom hubs to ensure the four half-shafts of the rally-inspired hatch doesn’t mess up too much with the street-spec coupe’s original geometry. 

Other miscellaneous work left to do includes validating that the proper functioning of the driveline, before eventually adding a full roll cage within. A trip to the paint booth is also in order for what will likely be a rally-inspired custom livery, before it is to be fully unveiled at SEMA 2024 come this November. 

The thought of 300 boosted horsepower being channeled through all four wheels in this lightweight sports car certainly sounds like a hoot and a half to drive. Though given the masses of work that is required to transplant the GR Corolla’s heart and soul into the GR 86, it is unfortunately all but certain that this one-off rally homage will remain as such for the foreseeable future (in spite of how Toyota is currently looking like it wants to throw that rally-bred triple into anything and everything).

Handily though, that kind of power can actually be gained already by the various forced induction kits out there available for the GR86.

Oh, it is worth highlighting too that for those who prefer something a slightly more old school body with their rally-bred heart, there was actually someone in Japan who was working on transplanting a GR Yaris drivetrain into an AE86. The story about this amazing build is to be linked here.

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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