The Toyota AE86. The definitive RWD Japanese 80s car? Too right it is...
Entrenched in Japanese car culture, this diminutive little box has a lot to answer for, yet funnily enough, non-car nerds probably won’t have any bloody idea what it is, let alone appreciate why people like us love the AE86. This is for the petrolheads.
To fully understand why this car is held in such high esteem we should probably take a minute to cover some background:
To kick things off, what does AE86 even stand for? Well…
[In Japan they know this car as the “Hachi-Roku” (ハチロク) which simply means “86”, in case you were wondering].
Now of course, we can’t really talk about this car without mentioning its place in Japanese popular culture. Many of you will know the AE86 Trueno from the anime/manga series Initial D, where main character Takumi Fujiwara uses his dad’s Trueno Apex AE86 for street racing and making tofu deliveries. Initial D is a cult classic and so too is the AE86.
For all the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cult status, put pure and simply, this car is an absolute riot to drive and that's what makes it great.
Keeping things simple with a four-part formula, the AE86 had all it needed to go on and carve out a place in Toyota motoring history:
- 1600cc twin cam engine
- Rear wheel drive
- Manual transmission
- Perfect balance and handling
The Toyota technicians were certainly having a good day developing this car. Ok, so pub ammo is poor and a stock 128bhp doesn’t exactly sound exciting, but that’s missing the point.
Be it on the rally stage, race track or touge hillclimb, the AE86 might be “underpowered” by modern standards, but boy does it go round corners well.
The AE86 is 900kg of tin can and there’s no electronic bullshit getting in the way of pure, unadulterated FUN. When the mood suits (which is obviously ALL of the time), this car slips and slides around like a tipsy mudwrestler, although it’s an AE86, you knew that already, right?
Luke Polyblank is our man in the driving seat for this one. His car is a 1984, which in JDM speak means we’re looking at an early lightweight “Zenki” model. This particular car is a Sprinter Trueno model, which decoded means:
Pretty cool, if you ask us.
Now, maybe aside from Toyota’s own heritage collection, I doubt less than 1% of the worlds remaining AE86s have stayed stock. This car just begs to be modified. Even if you didn’t follow the Manga series or the AE86s motorsport successes, it’s not hard to appreciate a well fettled AE86.
Luke’s Trueno is far from stock, with GReddy Type-S coilovers lowering the centre of gravity and GReddy adjustable top mounts, a 30mm roll centre adjustable Cuscos, alignment traction brackets, a T3 adjustable panhard rod and teamed with chunky tyres Luke's AE86 has geometry perfect for those B-road blasts.
A RWD car like this wouldn’t be a true drift weapon without a proper limited slip differential (LSD), and Luke can count on a TRD 2 way LSD with 4.7 ratio, rebuilt with thicker clutch plates when he wants to drive this car in anger. Of course, if you’re going to throw this car around, you’re going to need good steering, which is why the stock steering rack was swapped out for an MR2 manual rack rebuilt with new inner/outer rods along with a modified steering column (lengthened for use with the aforementioned MR2 rack) to give this car killer assertion around the twisties.
Inside, all the stock parts are early OE Zenki trim, which look fantastic, I mean, not everything needs to be changed. Naturally though, there’s a pair of Bride recliners and Corbeau 4-point harnesses for the driver, useful for those oversteer moments. The Cusco 7 point rollcage looks the part, helps stiffen the shell and keeps things nice and safe.
Under the bonnet, the engine bay has undergone some tweaks and upgrades, too. The bay has been totally restored with some subtle welding of engine bay holes and fixings underneath fresh paint. The wiring loom has been completely stripped, extended and tucked and along with battery relocation to the boot, the bay looks spot on. A Mishimoto radiator, fan and fan controller, along with upgraded oil cooler help this little car perform as it should, and freshens up the overall look of the bay, keeping things period correct in the process.
Luke's personality really comes through in this car, which has been built for the open road. Driver enjoyment is the focus here. Throttle response is sharpened up with a Toda flywheel and Luke has a custom stainless manifold and exhaust produce one hell of a soundtrack.
Luke tells us he bought this car for it's undeniable character and it’s not hard to understand his thought process. The AE86 Trueno has got bags of 80s charm, and is absolutely all about having fun. Having wanted one for years, Luke took his time to find the right model, in the right condition. Buying a nail in the AE86 game is a guarantee for sleepless nights and stress, so Luke definitely did the right thing in waiting as his is a peach.
Luke’s Trueno typifies what old Japanese cars are about. If you import one, chances are it will come with a few aftermarket add-ons and traces of tofu under the front seats.
AE86s are appreciating pretty damn quickly - move over Hot Wheels, this is a proper collectible. Get one while stocks last. Luke – keep on enjoying it.