Thomas takes customising to a new level

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 13 May 2017 | Latest News
| Image 1 of 1 |
Otago Sports Car Club vice president Jake Thomas and his Toyota Levin A85 rally car in the making. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON

Otago Sports Car Club (OSCC) vice-president Jake Thomas, of Mosgiel, has a long list of people to thank as he nears the completion of his Toyota Levin AE85 build.

At the top of it is his profession. It turns out being an engineer is a handy qualification when you have a budget for parts, but want to get the maximum bang for your buck. 

He kept the 1600cc, 4-AGE engine from his Toyota Corolla DX to help keep costs down and bought some MCA suspension from Australia.

Other purchases were a Toyota Altezza gearbox and a Toyota Crown diff, which ‘‘took a fair bit of modification to fit'', Thomas (24) said. 

‘‘I purchased the bare minimum and manufactured the rest myself.'' 

This is where working for Scott Technology had its advantages, as his employer allowed him the use of the company's machinery after hours for his rally car project.

‘‘I wouldn't have been able to do it without work,'' he said.

His aim was to build the new car to be faster than his old car but he ‘‘quickly learned the only way to go faster is to spend more money''.

Thomas bought club president Daniel Cresswell's Toyota Levin about a year ago as a bare shell with a roll cage. Six months later he sold his old car with the intention of freeing up some time.

‘‘It was a bit tough trying to run one and build one.''

Thomas had ambitions to have the Toyota ready for April's Rally of Otago but ran out of time. However, a test drive of his dad Ian Thomas' rally car around the block, before the Dunedin-based event, reaffirmed his desire to be back getting sideways on gravel.

‘‘Rallying is addictive, Once you have had a taste, it leaves you wanting more,'' Thomas said.

Eager to get his fix, he has been spending long hours in the garage and has had a couple of keen assistants, including his Mosgiel-based co-driver Braden Palmer, often at his side.

‘‘I also have to say a big thanks to my old man, he's helped me a hell of a lot. It's what the sport is all about really.'' 

Thomas hopes to have his Toyota ready for the OSCC's Circle Hill Rally Sprint on June 17.

Club captain Steven Thompson said membership ‘‘is certainly growing'' with the tarmac events attracting more than 30 cars and the gravel hill climbs seeing between 20 to 30 cars entered.

Past members were returning and there was a ‘‘heap of new members'' joining up, he said.