First Blood: 1978 Toyota KE30 Corolla Sedan

Photography and Interview: Luke Ray.

I spotted this very clean Corolla at the last few Fuel Magazine Coffee & Classics events and it always drew glances from the crowd. So, at the most recent event I plucked up the courage to pull the owner Matt aside and ask a few questions.

Who are you and what do you do for a living?

Matthew Guastella, full time qualified mechanic and full time car nut.

Tell us about your first love for cars.. right back when you were young. What inspired you?

Cars are in my blood, but according to my parents I pursued cars from the moment I developed some motor skills. My dad had a Vermillion Fire XY GT up until I was six years old and I can still see the shaker moving from side to side under the lumpy idle and the way it used to shake and vibrate everything in the garage when he fired it up. I was always allowed to hang around cars and get involved with whatever dad was doing. So I guess my dad is mainly to blame!

What was your first car?

You're looking at it!

How many cars have you had? List a few.

About eight or nine old Corollas, I still have three of them. I've had a couple of Holdens (old and new), a very clean S15, numerous non-descript daily drivers and fixer-uppers. I also have two old Alfa GTVs which always seem to require something!

Why Japanese cars specifically? Are you into other genres?

I've always loved old Japanese cars for the simplicity, reliability and compactness. A lot of them have some really nice designs and shapes and they are generally easy to work on. That really appeals to me as a mechanic. I like almost anything from most genres but especially the classic European stuff. I'm a diehard Ferrari fan too. I keep my fingers in all the pies.

What are we looking at here?

A 1978 Toyota KE30 Corolla.

When and how did you come to own it?

My dad bought it for me when I was 15 so that I could learn to drive.  But I think it might of been so that I could learn to work on cars too.

In what condition was it when you bought it?

100% original, complete with 120,000kms and mustard (baby poo) paintwork. It had the usual touches, scratches and bumps but it was mostly rust free.

What were your intentions back then? Stay stock? Modify? What was your vision?

It started with lowering and a basic stereo system, I was young so I had a lot to learn in both style and skill. But it quickly snowballed when Dad bought a bigger motor...

Tell me about the modifications that have been done, including any interesting facts and/or stories to go with them:

Body + Paint

Resprayed in Toyota Aurora Gold with side badges deleted, a couple of seams and spot welds smoothed over. A later model (KE55) front grille makes it look a bit more aggressive and different to your everyday KE30 sedan.


Largely stock, only the bases of the front seats were re-trimmed and perfectly matched to the original cream vinyl and new black carpet that replaced the original faded brown one. It has a map pocket from a top of the range hardtop coupe 'XX' model. A leather sports steering wheel that cost me every cent I had when I was 16! There is a sneaky tacho in place of the factory clock and of course the cue ball shift knob which I made with the old man.


1.8L 7K motor from a Townace with twin dellorto sidedraft carbies from an Alfa. It's mostly stock but has electronic ignition, extractors and a thermo fan to try and maximise horsepower from a basic little standard motor. It has a 5 speed W-Series with an Extreme Heavy Duty organic clutch. Fitting this gearbox also involved converting to hydraulic clutch from cable. Custom tailshaft to an R31 Skyline diff with 3.9 LSD.


15x7 Performance Superlites with custom billet center caps and Bridgestone Adrenalin tyres.


Custom made front springs with T3 camber tops, whiteline sway bar and strut brace. Rear leaf springs reset with an extra leaf added.


None, besides a stereo that receives FM and plays CDs. But that’s usually switched off.

You said you're a mechanic. How did you get into that? Do you have your own business?

My Dad and Grandad are both mechanics and run their own mechanical workshop. After finishing school and trying my hand at University I followed my calling and started my apprenticeship. I haven't turned back since. The shop has been around for over thirty years with my grandfather running a service station prior to that. There is so much experience within the shop to draw from and it's a very interesting, fast paced place in which to work. I'm very fortunate to be in this position and we can fix almost anything.

Do you take the car to events? How is the social scene that goes along with owning a classic?

Of course! There is a really good classic car and classic Japanese movement in Melbourne and there is always something to go to. Fuel Magazine’s ‘Coffee & Classics’ is my favourite because of the laid back atmosphere, the huge variety of cars and the people that go along with them. I like events where everyone is welcome and everything is appreciated.

What’s next? Future plans?

I really want to rebuild the motor as it's a bit tired from all the hard work it did when I first got my licence! I want to make it a bit more rev-happy as it's a torquey long-stroke van motor. So a bit of balancing, blueprinting, head and cam work and 'squaring' up of the bore/stroke would really give it a kick in the pants. I also have another project, it's a rarer variant of a KE30 so I'm pretty excited to get stuck into that. There are a couple of odds and ends to do on the Alfa, then there's the race car too...

Follow Matt: @matt_gua.