Rate It: The Toyota That Gave Butterfly Doors to the (Japanese) Masses

Yes, cars like the McLaren F1 and the Enzo Ferrari are famous mainly for their performance, but they have another feature that sets them apart from the rest: butterfly doors that open up into the heavens instead of out into the car next to you like a peasant's.

What if you want the rad feeling of opening the door to a supercar but don't have supercar money lying around? Toyota had you covered, but only if you lived in Japan.

Called the Sera, the two-door coupe was based on the AXV-II concept and mechanically related to the fourth-generation Starlet (it's said that the floorplan, suspension, steering and brakes were similar). That meant a 1.5-liter Toyota 5E four-cylinder engine lived under the hood, capable of sending a little over 100 horsepower to the front wheels through a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

So maybe the Sera wasn't a blistering sports coupe, but it did have the potential to look pretty cool thanks to its butterfly doors. It's also worth noting that less than 16,000 examples of the Sera were built between 1990 and 1995.

Even though the Sera was only sold in Japan, the fact that it's now 25 years old means it's finally legal to import into the United States. In fact, there are a few outfits that currently have examples for sale stateside if you look hard enough.

Do obtainable butterfly doors from the factory make the Sera worth getting into the country, or are there other JDM cars more worthy of cutting through the red tape for?

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Comments
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mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
9/25/20 4:23 p.m.

Would love it, if it had a proper motor 

there is a reason the imported examples are so cheap, stateside 

MrChaos
MrChaos SuperDork
9/25/20 4:28 p.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

Would love it, if it had a proper motor 

there is a reason the imported examples are so cheap, stateside 

Its a toyota tercel drivetrain.

DjGreggieP
DjGreggieP Reader
9/25/20 5:01 p.m.

Mighty Car Mods just picked up a Sera as a project car, I watched the video over lunch!

 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
9/25/20 5:05 p.m.

I've seen one in the real. Blew the owners mind that I knew what it was. Totally cool styling.  Would have decimated all if it had a RWD layout.

2_3
2_3 New Reader
9/25/20 5:56 p.m.

Looks similar to a chevrolet tigra

corolla2tcte27
corolla2tcte27 New Reader
9/25/20 6:34 p.m.

Saw one of them in Westminster, Md. last year. Had to look it up to find out what it was. Cool car,I want one.

malibuguy
malibuguy Reader
9/25/20 9:43 p.m.

This is my friends car.  As the area small Toyota "specialist" Im the care taker for it.  Last year I rebuilt the entire cooling system (previous owner did some goofy stuff which also led to a blown heater core), coilovers, rebuilt the axles, fixed alot of little things.

This year I did the heater core and a auto to 5speed manual conversion.   The manual really makes these cars fun.  Running that lovely 5efhe up to 7800 is insane for me especially as Im used to my low revving 5e DIS engines.

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/26/20 10:38 a.m.

I dont know if this is crazy but that's one of the only $3000 cars i'd consider paying the $4000 import tax for.  Never met a small Toyota i didnt like, and this one is just.. real close to the top.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
9/26/20 3:01 p.m.
DjGreggieP said:

Mighty Car Mods just picked up a Sera as a project car, I watched the video over lunch!

 

Watched this the other night and have been thinking about it ever since.  This is a really cool little car. Even with FWD I bet it can be made in to somthing that scoots.  The one on MCM has a motor swap so it should be quick. 

GIRTHQUAKE
GIRTHQUAKE Dork
9/26/20 3:14 p.m.

In reply to malibuguy :

What other engines can be bolted to it? I'm pretty sure it's either the 4A-GE or the 3S-GE shares the same bolt pattern.

Scott_H
Scott_H Reader
9/26/20 5:09 p.m.

One of the challenges of the car is if you live in a hot climate.  The glass from the doors comes up over your head and it gets pretty hot being in the sun .

1SlowVW
1SlowVW HalfDork
9/26/20 7:51 p.m.
GIRTHQUAKE said:

In reply to malibuguy :

What other engines can be bolted to it? I'm pretty sure it's either the 4A-GE or the 3S-GE shares the same bolt pattern.

I've gone 98mph in the quarter spinning through first on a stock motor and saab turbo. 

malibuguy
malibuguy Reader
9/26/20 8:35 p.m.

In reply to GIRTHQUAKE :

Only E series engines interchange.  You can make an A work with the matching bell (or transmission but you would need to drill and tap for the E chassis left mount) then you would have to notch the frame to clear the engine and then make a engine side mount.  Seras and Starlets have small engine bays and Terseos have a bit more room.

People have done S engine swaps too (I havent seen in a Sera but in other E chassis') but that requires extensive work to fit.  Then I believe custom axles are needed then.

Really the easiest way to get more power and then go further is a 4efte swap or turbo the existing 5efhe.  Its high compression responds very well to boost but the tuning needs to be SPOT on.  The very low compression of the 4efte is a little more forgiving.

 

 

malibuguy
malibuguy Reader
9/26/20 8:37 p.m.

In reply to 1SlowVW :

Dustins car is a freak that shouldnt still be running LOL

Carsandbikes
Carsandbikes Reader
9/27/20 8:25 a.m.

To me it just looks like a Diamond Star coupe that is both better and worse resolved, stylewise.  

Add in that the engines in the Diamond Star cars were available with factory turbos and some models had AWD these just strike me as a better resolved Paseo. 

Woody
Woody MegaDork
9/27/20 8:29 a.m.

I took a close look at one of these a few years ago. I liked it and I don’t even mind that it has a boring engine, but I just don’t really want to deal with a right hand drive vehicle. 

dxman92
dxman92 Dork
9/27/20 2:03 p.m.

Looks to me like a Paseo with gullwing doors.

Mndsm
Mndsm MegaDork
9/27/20 3:04 p.m.

I just watched the mcm where they got one of these. I need one. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/1/20 9:59 a.m.
Appleseed said:

I've seen one in the real. Blew the owners mind that I knew what it was. Totally cool styling.  Would have decimated all if it had a RWD layout.

I don't mind the FWD layout at all but, yeah, a more fun drivetrain would have been nice. 

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/1/20 11:12 a.m.

Only vaguely related and with no special doors but this also reminds me that i want a Mazda 323F 

iansane (Forum Supporter)
iansane (Forum Supporter) Reader
10/1/20 11:33 a.m.

I saw one of these a few years ago. A girl had just imported it. Rolled in on e30 bottlecaps. 


Really cool little cars. Would definitely have been more "fun" in a rwd configuration but still cool.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/1/20 11:46 a.m.

Bottle caps totally work. Props to her. 

iansane (Forum Supporter)
iansane (Forum Supporter) Reader
10/1/20 12:16 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I think she was confused. She was so excited to have a quirky new (to her) car and I was almost equally excited just to SEE a quirky little car!

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
10/1/20 4:58 p.m.
GIRTHQUAKE said:

In reply to malibuguy :

What other engines can be bolted to it? I'm pretty sure it's either the 4A-GE or the 3S-GE shares the same bolt pattern.

The MCM car (video above) has a swapped Starlet (?) motor in, with a turbo of course.

aw614
aw614 Reader
10/2/20 8:40 a.m.

There is a guy in Tampa that has this and an old mini cooper. I would see him on my morning commute in either of those cars pre-covid19  work from home. Pretty cool and in the 90s teal color

GIRTHQUAKE
GIRTHQUAKE Dork
10/2/20 8:42 a.m.
aw614 said:

There is a guy in Tampa that has this and an old mini cooper. I would see him on my morning commute in either of those cars pre-covid19  work from home. Pretty cool and in the 90s teal color

Oh, that guy was at radwood! The Teal he used is the Ford Tempo Teal, arguably the most 90s of colors.

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