during the 1980s turbocharging craze, it seemed that every Japanese manufacturer ended up developing at least one forced-induction engine. A few of these were of the “gun” variety – boasting healthy power and big torque figures – and were ultimately slotted into highly-sought-after flagship models and top-shelf sportscars.

However for every legendary FJ20ET, G63B, 7M-GTE and 13B-Turbo pushed out to market, there existed an equal or greater number of lesser-known, lesser adored, more mundane cooking-spec engines which also happened to benefit from TEH POWAR OF BOOST. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the end result, the fruits of such labour were harnessed to power various Japanese iterations of the ’80s “hot hatch”, a market unto its own at the time.

one such example is Toyota’s 3E-TE engine.

virtually unknown outside of Japan until recent times, the 3E-TE was a 1.5 litre, SOHC 12v engine which was found in certain Corolla II and Corsa “GP-turbo” models (chassis code EL31) from 1986 through 1990. Visually these resembled a squashed-up EP71 Starlet with strong AW11 MR2 design cues and pop-up lights thrown in for good measure; perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing look in the world, but quirky nevertheless. from some accounts only around 6000 were manufactured, making the GP-turbo one of the scarcest Japanese “hot hatches” of the era, and the 3E-TE correspondingly rare. (Oddly enough its little brother the 2E-TE was far more numerous, but beyond the scope of this article…)

these days the 3E-TE remains relatively obscure thanks to limited production, the rigours of age, and its viability as an upgrade path overshadowed by the more readily available and modern 4E-FTE.


1987 EL31 Corolla II GP-turbo

anyway, back to the engine. In standard non-turbo form, the 3E put out a sweet 79ps/12.0kg-m (88ps/12.2kg-m for the injected version), fine for punting around your average grandma-spec Corolla II. But with a decrease in compression from 9.3 to 8.0, beefier conrods, better fueling and the assistance of a small CT12 turbo and top-mounted intercooler, power jumped considerably to 115ps with a peak torque figure of 17.5kg-m at a low 3200rpm, roughly equal that of a comparable 1.8 litre N/A engine; even Toyota’s sporty 4A-GE only managed 15.2kg-m, and much higher up in the rev range. Not bad when you consider the GP-turbo only weighed 890kg in manual form!

There was even a “LO” boost mode (much like that found in the later 4E-FTE powered EP82 Starlet GT) which limited output to 105ps/15.6kg-m – gimmicky perhaps, but it did help with fuel economy.


3E-TE engine

As with all small-displacement turbocharged engines of the era the emphasis was on strong low-end and midrange torque, and while there was an obvious tradeoff in top-end power the 3E-TE possessed virtually no turbo lag thanks to the diminutive CT12. Not so good for the aspiring wangan racers perhaps, but perfect for boosting around town from one set of traffic lights to the next.

Just imagine the surprise when folks in 4A-GE powered AE86s suddenly found themselves being out-accelerated by these little shopping carts!

Photos courtesy of FOREVER GPTURBO

technical specs

Toyota 3E-TE (latter-term)
Belt-driven SOHC 12 valve EFI, turbocharged with intercooler

Bore x stroke (mm): 73 x 87
Displacement: 1.5 litres (1456cc)
Compression ratio: 8.0:1
Power: 115ps/5500rpm (“HI” boost mode)
Torque: 17.5kg-m/3200rpm (“HI” boost mode)


  • Alex says:

    There is one of these wee corolla II here in CHCH. Didn’t realise they had a different motor from the starlets etc! Very tidy… Might try and buy it one day :) Good article.

  • Josh says:

    I have actually just bought one hehehehe man its pretty good with the power to weight ratio!!! Its also good for a FWD when its high reved in 1st then clutch let out for burnout then thrown into 2nd to continue. One thing tho is that the boost in first needs to be lowered to take off in HI boost mode.
    Only thing is, is that I would like to how much psi the turbo is running on ‘LOW’ boost mode and ‘HI’ boost mode.
    Any one got any ideas???

  • Zac says:

    Hi my father bought one of these in the impound lot in Dunedin about 6 years ago now, hasent been running for the last 6years Becuase of the rebuilt / recondisiond motor check my carjam report http://www.carjam.co.nz/car/?plate=ul68&search=Check in 6 Years ive only ever seen 2 of these, and these two were in the same day only last week for that matter Have rebuilt the engine, just waiting for my license only 6 more months to go!! WOOHOOO!! If you need any infomation about these cars contact me on my cellphone txt or call – 0272388202

  • Riz says:

    Hi ,

    just a small help. just bought a 1989 corsa gp turbo. The car feels good. just wanna know what engine oil should i use for the car ?


  • jiro says:

    goodday, i’ve had problems with my turbo mech. its a CT12 a, like to kow where can find one? the prob. its pushing oil to intercooler and tru carborator, think ots broken!? any tips? ive got the same engine. is there surplus or b-new i can canvass with?

  • joel says:

    hey i have had the corrolla II gp turbo for a while now and just recently got it running now i have blown the head gasket and despretly need one and a head also if thats possible i can have this one repaired though if any one knows where i can get one that would be awsome the engine is a 3ete thanks

  • jason says:

    hey just wondering if anyone would know how hard a 2e-te motor would be i have lots of questions about it etc, wondering if it would be straight bolt in to my ee80/ae82 corrolla

  • noelybhoy says:

    hey folks i just recently bought a 89 gp turbo corsa from a guy here in perth who had it lying on his front garden still licensed so i asked him to sell and he did for a reasonable price.it had been sitting for 9 months and collected some dirt apart from that we charged the battery and she started.of course she needs some work but i have plenty of time to spare but was wondering if anyone had any information on parts,servicing or a online manual who could forward it to me on noel.dunne29@hotmail.com i would be grate full and i can send pics of it throughout the revitalising of her cause she is a belter.thanks

  • cam 89 corolla 2 gp turbo says:

    I HAVE A 89 COROLLA 2 GP TURBO ALSO KNOWEN AS A CORSA IT IS A COOL CAR YOU CAN FIND YOUR CORSA OR COROLLA 2 AT “toyoDIY.com it has helped me heeps has pic’s and part numbers for every part on your car

  • Prakash akkal says:

    i recently discovered a 3ete engine and put a dohc engine head of the 4efte on it. then i put the engine in my EP82 gt starlet. the response was very good. loved mu starlet even more.

  • clint says:

    Hi I have a corolla gp import turbo and was wondering were I can get another motor from thanks if so can reply back to me on 0432804603 as IM not on the net much thankz

  • jared85 says:

    Just wondering if anyone is selling a stock turbo off a toyota corolla corsa gp (3E-TE) can u please txt me on 0479074320

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