Today, August 6, we celebrate the legendary Toyota AE86, a humble car that, in the hands of talented tuners and drivers, is capable of some pretty remarkable things.
Hundreds of thousands of AE86s rolled off the Toyota production line in Japan between 1983 and 1987, and this particular car, a 1986 Levin GT, has been in the possession of Eiji Daito of Total Create E.Prime for nearly 20 years. With so many shared memories, the car is basically part of the family, and the extended AE86 family is a big one.
Everyone knows the story…Cult classic, motorsports underdog, unbeatable tofu delivery vehicle, old school strong the holy grail of the bum and the delight of the DIY modifier; The AE86 in all its forms – Corolla Levin or Sprinter Trueno, 3-door hatchback or 2-door coupe/notchback – is a true legend in the world of modern high-performance classic cars.
It’s a wonderfully simple little car that totally deserves the love and respect it gets around the world. From Ireland to New Zealand and everywhere in between, enthusiasts have been building, racing and refining this car in unique ways since its inception 40 years ago.
Perhaps the AE86’s straight edges and uncomplicated design lend itself to open interpretation for cosmetic customization, but one thing’s for sure: collecting rare body parts is a cult obsession in itself, and there’s a huge market for it. aftermarket production.
And it’s not just the cosmetic elements that people are obsessed with. The best attributes of the AE86 – its factory-installed 4A-GE engine and beautifully balanced, lightweight rear-wheel drive chassis – are easily tuned and modified, meaning these cars are ideal for a variety of different motorsports disciplines.
When new, the AE86 was entered in the European Touring Car Championship and took victory over the mighty BMW M6. It even beat the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in the British Touring Car Championship, not bad for a Japanese Joe Average coupe.
But despite his circuit (and rally) racing pedigree, when the ‘Hachiroku’ comes up in conversation, drift is what usually comes to mind, and for good reason, too.
While Daito-san definitely doesn’t shy away from cutting the rear of his Levin when the occasion allows, that’s not what this car is about. It was during a brief foray into the world of Japanese drift in the late 1990s that Daito-san first experienced the gripping potential of the AE86 chassis, leading him to build this car for circuit-based racing.
So what better place to photograph this AE86 than the track, specifically a small circuit called Sports Land Tamada in the mountains north of Hiroshima.
When it comes to modding Levins and Thunders, Daito-san and E.Prime are right up there with the best in Japan. And as you’ll soon see, this AE86 is not only tuned for maximum performance, but the workmanship and finish are also spectacular.
Amazingly, Daito-san assembled the car (and others) in a workshop no bigger than a corner store, and made many of the parts himself.
These include the half-cut rear bumper, hood, trunk, doors, FRP front and rear fenders, and custom carbon front diffuser and canards. I love how the side exit exhaust sprouts from the left side fender and the tip is contoured by the three rib lines.
In addition to Daito-san’s handwork, the Levin also features a front bumper from NA Works, an Osaka-based company synonymous with the AE86, custom-modified Mercury side steps, HPI acrylic side and rear windows, EC Works mirrors, and a Garage BB’s huge rear wing, albeit with custom carbon fiber brackets and side plates. The paint is Subaru’s Violet Blue Mica.
The Levin typically rolls on Work Equip40 wheels, 15 × 9.5 inches front and rear (with -9 and -40 offsets respectively) wrapped in 225/50R15 Yokohama Advan A050 semi-slicks, but Daito-san wasn’t going to miss it. chance to wear a pair of Work Meister CR01s on cheap street rubber and throw the car around a few corners.
That combination of blue and gold is quite nice, but it may be a bit biased…
The interior of the AE86 shows the refinement of decades of ownership. Everything is clear, simple and well designed, and there is no unnecessary clutter or unwanted weight. Highlights include a custom 16-point roll cage, Bride Zeta III solo bucket seat, custom aluminum dash, ATC Rallye steering wheel, and a 10,000-rpm Ultra tachometer. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper JDM race car without some Defi gauges either.
Under the vented hood you’ll still find an iconic 4A-GE, but with an additional letter added…
The engine is built around a 4A-GZE block from a supercharged AE92 GT-Z from the factory, but is now fitted with a Toda Racing crankshaft and pistons and AE101 connecting rods. For added strength, Daito-san has installed an engine ladder frame (also known as a block girdle). On top sits a stock AE86 big-port cylinder head with custom-painted HKS cams and Toda adjustable gears, which is secured with a Kameari Engine Works metal gasket.
All of this work is to help the real power-generating puzzle piece: a Mitsubishi TD05-20G turbocharger in a custom E.Prime manifold, with boost control via an HKS wastegate and intake charge cooling from a Trust FD3S RX-7 intercooler.
There’s also a custom intake manifold, an FD3S RX-7 aluminum Koyo radiator, a Setrab engine oil cooler, a modified oil pan, and a Link G4+ Atom engine management system.
With far more power than the original Levin engine could generate, the stock T50 5-speed drivetrain and transmission were never going to be enough. Surprisingly though, Daito-san didn’t opt for a Toyota parts bin upgrade. He took a darker route and eventually found a solution in an R32 Nissan Skyline GTS-t 5-speed gearbox with a naturally aspirated Silvia gearset and the hard work of Takata Techno Service. The revised driveline also features a Giken OS clutch and Cusco bi-directional LSD on a 7.5-inch MA46/47 rear end.
For suspension, the Levin benefits from Bilstein springs and TRD arms, while the brakes feature Endless 4-piston calipers and 294mm discs up front, and a 270mm disc rear setup with Endless pads. around the perimeter.
Remember that cool looking side pipe? Well, to get there, the custom exhaust system is routed through the firewall and into the cabin. I’m not exactly sure why the large pipe isn’t encased with some kind of thermal cover, but if the oven-like temperatures reported by Daito-san after a few laps of the circuit are anything to go by, I’m sure. . that’s now on the to-do list.
And that’s the beauty of the AE86: like any modern classic, there’s always something to improve, refine and update. The amazing thing is, as the technology and racing experience continue to develop, these old cars will only get better.
Nearly four decades after the AE86 first hit showrooms, the tuning community continues to embrace this die-hard little car with pure joy and admiration. For another 40 years of the legendary Hachiroku.
Oh, and stay tuned for our Following E.Prime feature car, a very special machine that you can read all about later this month…