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What’s under the hood of this Lego Corolla iM Hatchback?

Nov 01, 2017

Corolla iM Made from Lego
Unless you win the lottery a few times, the odds of collecting a whole fleet of classic Toyotas is pretty slim. But could you settle for a few at 1/16 the scale?

No longer just for kids, LEGO playsets have become the building blocks of a booming new art form — everything from automobiles, to famous film scenes and prosthetic limbs have been constructed in the iconic plastic bricks. And with billions of LEGO parts in circulation and a close-knit global community of avid builders, there’s no limit to one’s creativity. After all, just six pieces of 2x4 bricks can be combined in a staggering 915,103,765 different configurations.

Lego Toyota Corolla iM with Hood Up

One of the most exciting brick builders in the game is Robert Hornberger, known online as Senator Chinchilla. Over the last few years, the Senator’s meticulous reproductions of classic and contemporary cars have garnered him an international fanbase: photos of his 200+ replicas have logged over 2.8 million Flickr views from LEGO heads and automobile aficionados alike.

After seeing the Senator’s incredible takes on the Corolla KE70, the Celica Mk1, and the 1971 Hiace, we knew he was a serious Toyota fan. And the Corolla iM Hatchback — with its sporty, streamlined look and vibrant paint colour palette — was the perfect candidate for a LEGO reinterpretation.

It’s a nice blend of visual interest and restraint. I think the whole design is rather tidy.

We reached out to ask the Senator to whip up a new ride, and to break apart his passion for the LEGO craft.

Did you rediscover this passion for Lego as an adult, or have you been a lifelong fan?

I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid. I used to stick to the official sets, but then around nine years ago I got into building my own stuff and posting it online. I spent a lot of time on [LEGO builder community] MocPages before moving to Flickr around 4 or 5 years ago. The online car community is a pretty close bunch, and I’ve had the privilege of watching a lot of talented people over the years.

What is it about a car that inspires you to build it? An interesting design? A compelling history?

The main thing that draws me is the exterior styling. Cars that are visually striking or unique in some way are compelling to build. I do tend toward the older cars, anywhere from the 60’s to the 90’s. It’s just a personal preference. Sometimes I’ll go the other route, and build a car because it was exceptionally awful. But in a way, its awfulness gives it character, and that makes it interesting.

Lego Toyota Corolla iM Interior
How long does it take you to build a unique piece?

I’ve never timed a build before, but usually it takes either a few days or several weeks — it depends on how busy I am with college or summer work. I tend to build in many small sessions as opposed to a few long ones. That way I’m always fresh, and can think of new strategies to make the car. A car’s level of detail will also make it take longer, since cars with lots of compound curves or busy styling can be tricky to replicate.

Do you keep all your finished cars in a trophy room, or do you disassemble them for parts?

I disassemble most of my models after a while. There are some I keep around either because I really like them, or because they were very hard to make. Some of my smaller models only stick around because they don’t have many pieces for me to steal.

I’d say I have about a dozen models of various sizes that I keep on the shelf. Most of these will eventually get taken apart too. For example, if I decide to build a yellow car then my white car gets left on display for a while longer. Back when I only had enough bricks for a car or two I didn’t keep them around very long at all!

What was your process like in building the Corolla iM Hatchback?

I started with a chassis, which has some suspension and poseable front wheels, and the side skirts. Then the front and rear bumpers, and the doors. When I finished the hood on my model, it really brought things together.

2017 Toyota Corolla iM in Blizzard White
After that I was sure I’d be able to finish the car. Then I put together an engine, and the whole interior. There’s a lot of detail in there, like the center console, cup holders, and glove box. And, as usual, I finished by building the roof.

Were there elements of the design that were particularly fun to put together?

The sides have a very subtle curvature to them, and I don’t think there’s a straight line on the whole car! I like how the front and the taillights both have some rather wild shapes; it’s a nice blend of visual interest and restraint. I think the whole design is rather tidy.

Learn More: Explore The Corolla iM Hatchback Here