Eric Bizek, co-founder of , is a legend in his own right. Known for his passion and dedication in importing classic Japanese cars, Eric doesn’t stop at just the Hakosukas and Celicas that roll through his shop. This passion has led him to his current project, a 1982 Toyota Starlet.
Q: How did you find the car?
A: A friend, that I used to autocross with, picked it up in California and brought it to Utah, where it passed through a few friends. I don’t know how it came to my hands, but by the time it did, the guy who owned it at the time had two Starlets. One had been rear ended, and the other one didn’t run; I basically built the car out of two Starlets and made one good car out of it. I actually traded a bicycle for the Starlet’s 4AGE engine.
Q: Why did you choose the Starlet?
A: It’s a bit more challenging to make something that’s unique and cool, and I wanted a car I could do that with. I have always been a fan of Corollas, and the Starlet is sort of the smaller, lighter hatchback version of it. You don’t see many around—they’re kind of rare. This Starlet was never meant to be performance oriented or fast, and it was a challenge to make this car fast and fun to drive. I have always been a Volkwagen Golf Mk1 fan and love that body style—the Starlet has always reminded me of a rear-wheel drive version of that.
Q: Why do you love Japanese cars so much?
A: I don’t know what turned me on to Japanese cars. I’ve always been a Formula 1 fan and was always surrounded by motorsports. For me, it’s all about small-displacement, high-revving motors. The Japanese cars sort of fit better in my mind because they focus on a more well-rounded, well-handling car versus the American high-horsepower cars that were focused more on straight line speed.
Q: What do you love about the Starlet?
A: I love the uniqueness of the Starlet, because no one has any idea what kind of car it is. It really is all about it being lightweight and rear-wheel drive with little power that makes it a ton of fun to drive. Also, I wanted something that I could take to the track that was reliable and cheaper on tires, gas, and brakes than my AWD turbocharged Subaru.
Q: How often does this car get driven?
A: I drive it as much as I can really. Although it is one of those cars when it is 110º outside, it isn’t the best to drive, but I drive it whenever there is no salt or snow on the roads. It gets 36mpg, so it gets great gas mileage.
Q: What is unique to the Starlet, and what modifications have you done to the car?
A: What makes mine different from a lot of Starlets out there is that I went with a lot more handmade parts instead of something you can pick up off the shelf. Not that there are a whole lot of parts you can get for them, but I was going for things that I hadn’t seen on a Starlet yet. I did the little bumperettes, the filler panels, the whole exhaust, the dash and is made from aluminum pieces that I cut out. I did the whole oil cooler setup myself, and I shaved the side markers and door mirrors. I made the whole shifter setup and the shifter itself, which I bent and welded together so it is closer to the steering wheel.
The biggest modification I did was the drivetrain. It was converting from 62hp carbureted engine to a 4age fuel injected engine which was a little bit of a challenge. Everything else is focused on the suspension with Tokico HTS shocks with Techno Toy tuning coilovers and camber plates. The wheels are Work Excels and are 13×6.5 which makes finding a performance 13″ tire tough, it is darn near impossible.
Q: Describe your favorite drive in the Starlet:
A: I would say Big Cottonwood Canyon (in Salt Lake City, Utah) since it is closer to me, but East Canyon is my favorite. I just like a good combination of switchbacks and sweepers, which East Canyon has a lot of. It is a great road that doesn’t have much traffic and is close by.
Q: With this car, is it a fling, or are you in it for the long haul?
A: I feel like I’m at a point with this car that I might be ready to let it go. I’ll never be happy with any car, and I’ll never be finished with any car—that is just the way I am—but I had a great time building the Starlet. Unless you’re a millionaire, unfortunately you need to sell your current project to move on to the next. For my next project I’m looking to do an early S30 240Z (’70-’73) or maybe a Datsun 510.
Q: What other cars do you own?
A: I have a 2001 Lexus IS300, which is also kind of a daily driver. I also have a 1999 Subaru 2.5RS coupe. All of my cars are sort of daily drivers, and I don’t really need one car to be a specific track car or weekend warrior car. All of my cars are built to be well rounded and be able to do as much as possible. I don’t have the resources for all of those cars, so they all get used as much as possible.