AE86 has been a popular Toyota sports car up 'til this day, thanks to Tsuchiya Keiichi who made it famous going sideways on the mountain pass defeating others in a more powerful car. And of course, Initial D also helped to boost the popularity of AE86. The car influenced me in many ways as well. You should now know why this site has the number 'eight-six'. :D
My AE86 collection started many moons ago, and all these while, I've only able to feature the smaller scales of this brilliant little hachi and never really meet one upclose in person. When I knew Mr Joe has one, I was excited to see it personally and called him out to know more about him and his first love, AE86 Levin.
Joe's hachiroku is a 1984 Kouki facelift Toyota Corolla Levin with full GT-Apex spec. When I first lay my eyes on his Levin, I was mesmerised not only by how cool AE86 is, but also the condition of it. It was remarkably pristine for a 30 years old car and still drives well like any other modern day cars.
Many 86 owners might have undergone series of modifications to make the car faster, but the idea of tuning had never cross Joe's mind. He prefers to keep it as original as it is.
Joe isn't the first owner of this rear-wheel drive car because he's not even here in this world yet when AE86 was introduced. He's 21 btw and he bought the car just last year from a previous owner who actually did the restoration work and upkeeping. According to him, every AE86 running on Malaysian road are CBU unit imported directly from Japan. Same goes to his Levin. :D
What triggered his desire to own an 86? Well, he said it was the impact of watching Initial D since he was 12. Joe was so into the car driven by the main protagonist, Takumi Fujiwara and did endless research studying and understanding AE86. At one point of time, he decided to own Takumi's Trueno.
Yes, initially he wanted the unique pop-out lights Trueno, but one seller made an amazing offer on his stock two-tone red black Levin that no one could resist. And, Joe finally chose the Levin and had been driving it for a year without any regrets.
His parents were against it at first. In a typical family without any car background, it is quite difficult to explain to them why you want to buy a car that's older than yourself. After much persuasion, convincing and exposure from Joe, his parents now understand better and have learnt to appreciate this legendary sports car.
Now, let's dive into the Levin!
Check out the interior of this Levin. Everything inside is pretty much stock, preserved in its original red & maroon colourway, except for the steering wheel. It has been replaced with a more modern and sporty one from Nardi.
The one feature I liked most in the car is the rare AE86 digital instrument cluster. It was available to Japanese market as an option over the standard gauge cluster. It surely carries some cool factor having this 'high-tech' digital meter on your dashboard during the 80s. See how it works here.
The seats are well-maintained too, but the red colour cushion seats at the front are a bit faded due to frequent use over the years. I was surprised by the fact that you can get people sitting comfortably behind as there is decent amount of leg room at the back seats. Not for the new GT86 though.
The mint and clean element continues to the front engine bay of Joe's Levin. That is a fuel-injected 1.6L 4-cylinder Twin Cam 16valve 4A-GE 'blue top' engine, which has approximately 120hp in it. The first gen 4A-GEs have the T-VIS (Toyota Variable Induction System) installed to control the opening of intake valve across the rpm range.
Basically, Joe didn't make any changes to the already very good and reliable Toyota engine. The additional front strut bar and a new radiator were installed by the previous owner.
Since he's an Automotive Engineering student, performing DIY works on his own AE86 became much easier. Recently, he did some custom work on his OEM kouki letterbox grill to fit the original foglight nicely. The original grill set however, has the word LEVIN.
Every component in the car is kept undamaged and intact with the AE86. The rear trunk has its original lip spoiler, trunk cover, trunk mat and 1-piece spare tyre. The best thing about that car is that there wasn't any rust on it, because Joe, like the previous owner takes great effort keeping the car covered under the roof unexposed to the extreme hot & humid Malaysian weather.
Watanabe company made one of the best looking wheels in the world and they generally fit well on almost all the cars. They bring a certain sense of classic retro feeling to their ride. Joe's 86 was fitted with 14" wheels (6J in front and 6.5J plus offset at the back) wrapped in comfy and economical 185/60 Michelin Certis tyres.
IMO, Joe's ride is a perfect Levin already. But, in his eyes as a true AE86 purist, there are still some items missing, and he's searching high and low for them to complete his ideal AE86. Those items are door visors and complete 'Corolla Levin' sticker set. :D
Before parting ways with Joe, I casually asked him what's the feeling of finally owning the car of his dream. He smiled and said he was satisfied that part of his duty has been cleared off. Now, he just wants to keep the mileage as low as possible and retain the iconic tofu car in excellent condition for many years to come. :)
I was glad to meet the humble and friendly Joe, and I salute him for his undying passion for the legendary Toyota sports car, AE86. To be honest, I was inspired by him to work towards my dream of owning one too, just like him. ^^
Thank you Joe and your Levin!