Toyota Corolla's E90 generation has been popular since its release back in the early 90s. It was even considered to be Bangladesh's national car back in those days.
If not thousands, hundreds of fresh E90s can be found on the roads even to this date and enthusiasts' admiration is enough to justify the national car moniker.
Even though the E90 Corollas are stepping into their 30s, young car enthusiasts are going all out with these classics-to-be; from swapping engines to aftermarket wheels to countless other mods both in terms of performance as well as visuals.
However, the E90 Corolla being featured this week began its journey as a project car long before building project cars; E90 Corolla, or Sprinter projects to be precise, became a trend among the car enthusiasts in Bangladesh.
The journey of Syed Abrar bin Akbar's AE91 Corolla started way back in 2012 when his father handed over the E90 to him. It used to be his family's daily beater since the 90s.
"I remember the AE91 dropping me to school every day," said Abrar during an interview with team Wheels, "It was nothing more than a bone stock 1.5 litre white 90 Corolla and had the maroon interior as it is the SE limited variant."
Abrar always dreamed of working on the E90 since he was young. Now that he got the car, this was the perfect opportunity to work on it. Abrar ambitiously planned on upgrading the car's engine to 4AGE.
"I remember seeing a Toyota 100 with a 4AGE motor driven by a fellow car enthusiast way back in 2002 or 2003. That was the first time I came across a 4AGE. It was the coolest thing for a 10 or 12-year-old kid like me back then. Since then, the 4AGE is stuck on the back of my mind!"
Fast forward to 2012, Abrar finally had a car to work on. Of course, the first mods were not about performance but rather, about the visuals.
Starting with underglow lights (because that is what used to be considered "cool" back in those days thanks to the Fast and Furious) to aftermarket deep dish rims, slamming the 90 to the ground, and replacing its heart with a 7AFE engine, Abrar really went bonkers with this car.
However, as the car has been through many phases throughout the years, it evolved into a car that is completely different compared to what it used to be at the beginning, both in terms of aesthetics and performance.
It was back in 2013-14 when Abrar's 90 got its second engine swap and his dream finally came true. He replaced the 7AFE engine with a 1.6 Litre 4AGE silvertop.
If you have the slightest idea of popular JDM engines or have watched the popular Japanese anime "Initial D", then the engine name will surely ring a bell. Yes, this is the same engine that was in the Toyota AE86 Trueno – the anime's main car.
Along with gifting the 90 with a new heart, Abrar paired the 4AGE with a C52 manual transmission and painted the car with a vibrant shade of matte red.
Over the years, he further modified the 90; tuned the engine, and installed aftermarket parts such as Zerone lightweight pulley, Aerospeed plug wires, CAI system, K&N air filter, and much more (for the car nerds wanting to know!) along with strut bars to improve the handling.
Fast forward to 2020, four different colour changes and engine swaps later, the 90 now has a 3SGE motor under its hood and is painted in, what Abrar calls, "paradise blue" colour shade.
"I loved driving my 90 when it had the 4AGE. It was a fun car, however, I felt the need to go for more power," replied Abrar when asked why he ditched his dream engine for a 3SGE, "Also, my focus has now shifted more towards top speed as I am a fan of drag cars."
If you look closely, Abrar's 90 will feel slightly different compared to the shape of any other regular 90 on the road. That is because Abrar went for an AE92 Levin facelift and along with the front bumper borrowed from a 90 Sprinter. All these are paired with a beautiful set of cambered Initial D style deep dish Watanabe rims and rear bumper delete.
This 90 is not something you get to see every day. Its road presence is completely different compared to any other E90 Corolla. You can almost feel it screaming the "built, not bought" slogan right at your face as it roars through empty Dhaka streets during late Thursday nights!
Yes, a project car might seem fun but there are countless headaches that come with owning such a car.
First, there is the problem of sourcing parts. Since the E90 generation of Corollas are already about 30 years old now, it has become very difficult to find the right parts. Then there are the reliability issues you would certainly find in any project car.
What future plans do you have for the 90?
I had already planned on installing a turbo when I was putting the 3SGE motor on the 90. That was the initial plan, to be honest, but I wanted to enjoy the raw power from a naturally aspirated engine for some more time before moving to 3SGTE.
I would like to keep the 90 with me forever. Does not matter if I ever get to own the Monalisa (Nissan Silvia S15) or the Godzilla (Nissan GTR) someday, the 90 will always be my garage queen!