Experiencing A Car From the 80s - Hayashi86’s Toyota Corolla AE86
I must first start by thanking Lim (hayashi86.com) for this rare opportunity to be up close with a car that I’ve only seen on TV before (almost). He was very kind to even let me drive the AE86 for a bit. Lim, if you’re reading this, thank you very much for the opportunity.
Visit hayashi86.com to learn more on the AE86 and some JDM culture.
Before we go on, it is important to note that the AE86 that Lim drives is NOT the same car that Takumi Fujiwara drives in Initial D. This is a ‘Kouki’ AE86 whereas the Initial D car is a ‘Zenki’ AE86. I watched a little Initial D when I was younger because they aired it on TV3 during the weekends and it was one of the few car-related programs besides Top Gear which was on NTV7. My biggest surprise when I got married was to discover that my wife also used to watch Initial D when she was a teenager.
Why Does One Drive an AE86?
We can’t deny the influence of Initial D here. The majority of AE86 owners own AE86s because they got hooked on it through the fictional story. But the fictional story leads you to discover a real story with real people and real events. If you’re reading this article, you most probably already know who Keiichi Tsuchiya is. He is the Drift King, or to be more accurate, the Dorifto Kingu who inspired the Initial D story because he used to practise on the mountain pass (or ‘Touge’) and beat other racers (on track) with his less powerful AE86. Mr. Tsuchiya, or Dori Dori-san also made a cameo in “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006).
Is the AE86 a great car? Well it’s no supercar, I can guarantee you that. It’s not loud or flashy, it’s not fast when compared to sports cars of the same era, and it doesn’t have any computers interfering with the steering or braking as you go. However, what I can confidently say… is that the AE86 is an underdog. That’s how it is portrayed in Initial D. And everybody loves an underdog story. Underdog stories are relatable and they give you hope. Being an underdog teaches you to be humble. For a car enthusiast, a car is an extension of yourself and I can clearly see that connection here.
You don’t buy an AE86 to be driven daily. This AE86 is a weekend car. With the JDM Icon status that it has, the value of the AE86 is appreciating. The more original the AE86 is, the higher its value. Some AE86 owners even go to the extent of not driving during the rain because turning on the windscreen wipers would scratch the windscreen. If the chassis number and colour code match, you’ve just won the AE86 lottery. But Lim goes with the philosophy of modernizing what needs to be done underneath (for reliability’s sake) whilst maintaining an original 80s look on the outside. The AE86 also attracts thieves so one should take all necessary precautions to guard their precious Hachiroku.
The AE86 is a collectors’ car. There are track/drift prepped AE86s (In Japan and US) but it’s probably rare for someone to risk crashing their beloved AE86.
The Story of hayashi86.com
Lim, or Hayashi, learned about the AE86 through Initial D. One of the early memories he has of the AE86 was way back when he was 14. He saw an orange AE86, rushed home to get a camera, cycled back to the same spot and snapped a picture of the orange machine. He even specially requested for this particular picture to be printed in 5R rather than the regular 3R just for the sake of it. I was honoured when he even brought along this picture just so he could show it to me.
On the day that this picture was taken, he knew right there and then that one day, he had to have an AE86. So, he slowly worked his way to finally be able to afford one. The AE86 that he drives now was purchased in 2015, which is really not that long ago. His website, hayashi86.com was started in 2012 where he shares beautiful photos and interesting articles on cars, build progress on the AE86, local car events, and even some trips to Japan (I am extremely impressed by Nissan Heritage Collection).
As all old cars go, the AE86 required some work to be done. When he purchased the AE86, it was selling in the RM40k region. Some were even selling in the RM50K region and even they needed work to be done. So, that’s a few more thousand to be added to the budget. Before finally purchasing the AE86, he even considered a 180SX or an AE85. But driving an AE85 converted to an AE86 would go against what he dreamed of in the beginning.
Living with An AE86
Rust is an inevitable problem for old cars. If you have the money, the first thing you should do is get the car stripped down and sent in for a rust treatment procedure. But for most of us ordinary people, builds or restorations happen very slowly according to available budget. Ironically this usually costs much more in the end. Corners and edges seem to be favourite spots for rust. The trunk is rusted and will soon be replaced with a new one. This means saying goodbye to the ducktail spoiler that the car came with when purchased in 2015.
The 4A-GE 16-valve engine has not been touched. The only customized things I noticed in the engine bay was a custom intake filter, a strut bar, and a custom exhaust. It is an old engine and there are plans of rebuilding it one day. One issue faced by Lim previously, was the distributor being melted by the heat from the exhaust manifold. It is a custom exhaust so some things may have been overlooked during the installation. To solve this, a custom heat shield has been installed between the distributor and the exhaust manifold.
What Is It Like to Drive an AE86?
After shooting some pictures, Lim gave me chance to have a go in the AE86. I was scared. The first reason being I’ve never driven a Rear-Wheel-Drive car. Secondly, I’ve never driven a car made before 1990. In one word, it was hard. The clutch was harder than my Axia’s clutch, the gear shifter was hard and it had ‘click’ stops when travelling through the H-pattern. First gear to second gear was ‘click’ ‘click’ down. Second to third was ‘click’ up and ‘click’ up again.
The gear shifter is also angled towards you when in Neutral (look at the picture of the interior). That takes some getting used to. The steering is hydraulic, the suspension is set to be a bit stiff, and the car sits low. The exhaust sound was great and the 4A-GE seemed pretty rev happy.
The 4A-GE is equipped with Toyota’s T-VIS (Toyota Variable Induction System). This compensated the low air speed at low RPMs. It had dual intake runners and the butterfly valves open at 4,200rpm, opening all eight runners. At low RPMs, only four of the eight runners are used, forcing the engine to draw in all its air through half the runners. This increases the airspeed, improves cylinder filling, and improves fuel atomization (due to an asymmetrical airflow, a swirl is created). Proton’s IAFM is something like this. It’s not like VTEC or VVT-I where the valve timing is changed.
This car is from the 80s so interior design is still very bare and simple. The dashboard is less ‘puffy’ than modern dashboards. There’s definitely no soft touch plastic, the door trims are thin with bolt on accessories like the door handle, the power window switch, and the armrest. Some controls are a bit quirky. The wipers, for example, don’t have a stalk. Instead, there is a knob on the left of the gauges for you can twist to adjust the wiper speed. On the right side of the gauges, you get a knob to operate the pop-up headlights.
The car is fitted with bucket seats (for the driver only) and the dash is decorated with signatures from icons in the Japanese car scene such as the RWB mastermind himself, Mr. Akira Nakai. AE86s are infamous for their cracked dashboards, but with the signature of those legends, this dashboard is here to stay. The steering didn’t rattle like the steering in the 2007 Proton Persona. If there were any rattles at all, they would have been immediately muffled by the sound of the aftermarket exhaust.
The hood is long, like most front engine, rear-wheel-drive cars. This set-up gives a 50-50 weight distribution to the front and rear. Visibility is decent, since the A, B, and C pillars are thin, like every other 80s car. The windows are huge, just look at the side profile of this thing. Space in the back isn’t great, but the AE86 isn’t a family car so it doesn’t matter. The sloping roofline doesn’t help with headspace for the rear passenger. The driver and front passenger are positioned right in the middle of the wheelbase, so you’re in the middle of all the action. It’s long and low, very different than what I’m used to in my little Axia (E).
Talking about my Axia(E), I think having a manual transmission alongside modern features is pretty great. In the Axia(E), you get electronic power steering, airbags, and a more modern & rigid chassis. I shall be practising my driving skills in my Axia for now. It was actually pretty good fun driving a small-modern-manual car the day after driving the AE86. I actually appreciate the lighter clutch, lighter gear shift throws, and electronic power steering. It’s also easier to manoeuvre and park.
A lot of effort has been done by Lim to own this AE86. From saving up, looking for a good deal (there’s a very interesting story to this), fixing it up, and solving unexpected problems with the car. There’s also a lot of true passion that goes into a project like this. Seriously, you could afford a brand-new Honda City with all that money. Heck, you’d even have some money left if you bought a Honda City. But it wouldn’t be as fun as an AE86.
A project car would definitely cut a hole in your wallet, but so does cycling, golf, rock climbing, dancing, a gym membership, joining social clubs, or playing any sport. They’re all hobbies and we do them to express ourselves, socialise, and build strong relationships. And I’m proud to say being a car enthusiast provides a great opportunity for you to build connections, just like all those alternative past times I’ve just mentioned.
Always make it a point to make a clear distinction between your project car and your daily driver. Having a broken-down project car which is also your daily driver would make you desperate to get it fixed immediately despite your financial situation. When you have a reliable daily, you could take your time with the project car and not make hasty decisions.
Would I buy an AE86?
No. I’m more of a station wagon 90s Impreza kind of guy when it comes to older JDM cars.
Thank you once again to Hayashi for the opportunity.
(Visit hayashi86.com to learn more)