Updated September 2020: Embracing Japanese car culture necessarily means loving its automotive icons, and that includes the enduring AE86. Who knew the economical mid-'80s Toyota—which was offered as the Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno in Japan and simply a Corolla in the U.S.—would become legendary in the sport compact segment and remain a popular tuning platform for decades? It's strong enough for rally racing, nimble enough for drifting and time attack, and an all-around fun car to drive (still).
We've featured a good amount of AE86s throughout the years, and since we're quickly approaching the Hachiroku's 35th anniversary we figured, why not round up a list of all our popular AE86 stories? We've got a few from Japan (including Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya's Sprinter) and even more that are engine swapped, a couple of them running Nissan SR20 power. Scroll down to see which original 86 got on our list, and make sure to hit the links to get the complete story on each build.
- Billy Edmonds's Hasselgren 1.9L 4A-GE 1986 Corolla GT-S
- Dino Hilario's SR20DET 1987 Corolla SR5
- Masataka Ikeda's Inazuma Worx 1983 Sprinter Trueno
- Ron Ng's AE111 20-valve Black Top 1986 Corolla GT-S
- Miles Shinneman's BEAMS 3S-GE 1986 Corolla
- Keiichi "Drift King" Tsuchiya's 1986 Sprinter Trueno
- Eiji Daito's E. Prime 1986 Corolla Levin
- Daniel Lynch's SR20DET 1986 Corolla
- Allen Lugue's Run Free 1986 Corolla GT-S
- Landin Williams's Squeeze AE86 1985 Corolla GTS
AE86 Aren't the Only Corolla Worth Swooning Over
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2019 Toyota Corolla XSE - Red Light Special
Reimaging A Forgotten Corolla Chassis - 1987 Toyota FX16 GT-S
1986 Toyota Corolla GT-S with a Formula Atlantic Motor
To say Billy Edmonds's daily-driven AE86 is unusual may be underselling it a bit; this thing is deceptively wild. He was inspired to get the car because of his affinity for rally racing and, in particular, the platform's competition history in the sport, and his approach to the build has been more in line with the UK's finest rally machines rather than creating a JDM showpiece.
Behind that Levin front end is the hatch's crown jewel, a rare Hasselgren-spec 4A-GE engine for the Formula Atlantic series. But this is no run-of-the-mill racing power plant; Hasselgren dropped in a one-off crank that increased stroke and pushed displacement up to 1.9L from the 4A's native 1.6L, making the 4-banger the only one of its kind. In addition to an engine that screams past the 10k-rpm mark, Billy's hachi features racecar things like an interior festooned in carbon-fiber panels and a pilot's seat that comes from Tillet Racing. Don't expect to ever see this Corolla at a car show, though—Billy prefers to drive his black beauty and skip all that mess.
1987 Toyota Corolla SR5 - Go Hard
We're a little amazed by the fact that Dino Hilario drifts his AE86, considering how clean he keeps it. His dad—an old-school Toyota fan—hooked him up with the SR5, and since then Dino has given the coupe a bit more grunt thanks to a SR20DET swap from Nissan's JDM S14 Silvia. "The SR is a good value for the power it offers and has plenty of aftermarket and OEM support in comparison to seeking out 16V/20V 4AG parts," he explains.
The exterior look is what has us transfixed, however, a brilliant blend of mostly JDM parts that elevate this hachi. The list includes a GP Sports/Chockets front bumper, CBY side skirts, JDM Kouki rear bumper with JBlood valances, Runfree front fenders and rear flares, and DMAX hood with Battlecraft vents. Work Equip 03 wheels at the corners are the perfect complement for a build we'd swear came straight from Japan.
Toyota Corolla AE86: Built 20v 4A-GE Sits Inside the Most Perfectly Shaved Engine Bay Ever
Masataka Ikeda is turning the shaved and tucked engine compartment into an artform. That may not sound like such a big deal to American enthusiasts, who might be used to seeing super manicured bays at any number of shows over the course of a year. But Masataka is from Japan, where the trend hasn't caught on the same way it has here, making his Corolla Trueno all the more extraordinary.
Learning every craft it takes to create an awesome build from the ground up, Masataka's AE86 is mostly just a very clean hatch that's relatively untouched—until you pop the hood. Seemingly levitating in a smoothed-out compartment that appears nearly free of engine harnesses and plumbing is a highly customized 20-valve 4A-GE outfitted with Keihin FCR 41 downdraft carbs and Yoshimura dual-stack intake funnel system on one side, and a custom Car Peace header on the other. Even the mounts and handmade radiator are barely perceptible—Masataka's hachi is a legit masterpiece, and it's all because of the engine bay.
1986 Toyota Corolla GT-S - Pursuit of Perfection
If anyone ever questions Ron Ng's commitment to the AE86, he just has to fire back with one indisputable fact: he's owned 11 of them. The VANS footwear engineer is about as diehard as they come, and like many fans it took just one drive to get past any reservations he had about the modest Toyota compact and become a lifelong disciple.
Ron's GT-S was originally getting prepped for track work before he decided to make the ride more bearable, returning to a full interior after initially stripping it down and installing just Bride Zeta 3 seats, a Safety 21 /Cusco 12-point roll cage and a Personal steering wheel. He also upgraded the power plant, ditching the 16-valve 4A-GE that originally came with the car for a newer AE111 20-valve 4A-GE Black Top, which came with variable valve timing and a higher compression ratio.
1986 Toyota Corolla - Baller Hauler & Co.
We still remember vividly seeing Miles Shinneman's JDM-bedazzled AE86 and its matchy-matchy Isuzu NPR flatbed at the 2017 SEMA Show and getting all giddy. Never mind that neither was the cleanest we'd ever seen—this duo was straight up the coolest display we saw at the show that year, period.
As it turns out, both vehicles have many a story to tell—like the one where Miles rescues the $500 coupe from a creek bed filled with some 50 pounds of mud. He would toss the original mill for a coveted 3S-GE BEAMS swap, while all the aero on the car is fabbed from steel because he was tired of fixing fiberglass like he did on his last drift car. The so-called "Baller Hauler" has its own history, too, receiving an LS V-8 swap and an Air Lift-managed airbag suspension setup.
1986 Toyota Sprinter Trueno - Original Gangsta'
In this deceivingly simple-looking Hachiroku, we have an owner who matches the platform in legend. This Trueno belongs to none other than the great Keiichi "Drift King" Tsuchiya—pro drifting forefather, D1 GP co-founder, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift fisherman, et al. He's owned it for years, and when he's not whipping it around a circuit, the hatchback lives at TEC-ART'S AE86 shop in Yoshio, Saitama, Japan.
While it may look unassuming, dig a little deeper and the car is very much engineered for the track. For one, the chassis has been fortified with thousands of spot welds and the coilover suspension was codeveloped by Aragosta. The mill is also pretty unique, a TEC-ART'S "7AG" special, poaching the bottom end from a greater displacing 7A-FE (which seems like basically a stroker version of the 4A) and topping it with the head from a later model 20-valve AE111 4A-GE.
1986 Toyota Corolla (AE86) - Prime Time
From one Japanese AE86 shop to another, we come to E. Prime and owner Eiji Daito's Levin, a build that went from street to track to now being a demo car that illustrates the fabricator's abilities. And E. Prime's fab game is strong, with this Hachi far exceeding most show cars in quality and visual luster.
The engine bay sports a turbo 4AG setup that makes an estimated 300hp, which is a little much for the three-decades-old compact, so it forced Eiji to develop many custom parts and chassis mods to deal with the added power, including a custom transmission bellhousing to fit a Skyline 71C transmission and a 7.5-in. rear end. The AE86 is also much lighter than it used to be, due obviously to the gutted interior but also because Eiji went with fiberglass NA Works front bumper cover and custom fenders. The Work Equip 40 wheels add a cool modern-retro look with ultra-wide offsets.
1986 Toyota Corolla AE86 with Nissan SR20DET Power
Dylan Lynch has a background tinkering on Japanese sports cars and sport compacts and traded a clutch job for this Hachi, kicking off an entirely new love affair. He drove it hard until the original 4A-GE gave up, but instead of picking up another he opted instead for turbo Nissan SR power, upgrading to a Garrett snail in the process for even more good times.
The Corolla stayed like that for 18 months until a driveline failure sidelined the coupe, but like any tuner worth his salt he used the opportunity to take even bigger steps toward creating his ideal of an AE86. That included doing the Levin front end conversion; swapping in an independent-rear suspension using custom S13 bits; and a bump in power thanks to UMS Tuning's Tony Szirka. Future Fab's John Owens took charge of all the fab work on the car, while Elevens Paint and Fiber's Dylan Bedore heavily modded the Origin Lab rear fenders as well as took care of the Sage Green metallic paint.
1986 Toyota Corolla GT-S - The Golden Child
Allen Lugue's Corolla build is literally from another era—as in, it was modded in the early 2000s, put away for roughly a decade, then resurfaced at car shows in the mid-2010s pretty much in the same form as it was when he first put together. Of its reemergence, Allen notes, "I brought it out because the newer and younger generation of car enthusiasts should be able to see and appreciate a piece of tuning history," and we couldn't agree more.
What makes this AE86 historical? In short, the Run Free aero. See, the body kit brand is held in the highest regard among Hachiroku aficionados for its connection to the respected Koichi Yamashita and the Running Free drift crew in Japan. The Run Free kit is Koichi's creation, and in 2004 Allen was looking to cop a different JDM kit, but one thing led to another and he ended up with the Run Free body parts—provided he could flex them at that year's SEMA Show. It was an unexpected twist, but one that was incredibly lucky, and shortly after introducing the aftermarket world to his Run Free AE86 Allen retired his car from shows until recently.
1985 Toyota Corolla GTS - Not Just a Game
In case you ever wondered if racing video game makers employed actual car people, wonder no more; Landin Williams, owner of this AE86, was for a time an editor and cinematic director at Turn 10 Studios, makers of the Forza Motorsports series for the Xbox. In fact, were it not for Landin, the drifting parts of Forza might not look and feel the way they do today.
Like a few cars on this list, Landin honors the Japanese traditions of both the platform and drifting by keeping things fairly straightforward on his Corolla. He still employs the factory 4A-GE (albeit in 20-valve Black Top form); he prefers it low and wide, like a proper JDM drift Hachi. But we are enamored with the exterior, a mix of elements like the knockoff Run Free body kit, Crystal Body Yokohama over-fender kit, and one of the dopest liveries we've ever seen, dreamed up by Factory 83 design. Drifting may have become a big-time motorsport in this day and age, but for Landin it's still all about the grassroots—"I don't care about winning, just about looking cool." And there ain't nothing wrong with that.