When one mention about Kyoto, images of old temples, shrines and geisha girls would probably cross your mind. For me, the only thing I could think of is Carland, a workshop that specialises in nothing but AE86. Almost all of Japan's best AE86 came from this small little workshop. As a hachiroku enthusiast, this place is a paradise!
To get there, I boarded the JR Tokaido high-speed Shinkansen (Hikari) from Tokyo. The 450km journey to Kyoto took only about 2.5 hours, and I even got the chance to meet Mr Fuji along the way. :D
Once arrived to Kyoto Station, switch to Kintetsu Kyoto Line and take 3 quick stops to Kamitobaguchi Station. From there, walk towards West direction (along Kuzebashi Street) until you find the easily recognisable shop on your right.
Welcome to Carland! It has always been my dream to visit this place since I began loving the AE86s in early 2000. Admiring from websites and magazines to seeing it in real life, the feeling was unexplainable, of course in a good way - Happy, enthralled & contented. The workshop was as humble as the cars parked in front.
When I stepped foot into Carland, I was greeted by Mr Tokuchi Masahito, the man who has contributed tremendously to the AE86 world, keeping the popular Toyota examples alive 'till this current day. Tokuchi-san was kind enough to have me around, despite him being busy with his passion.
The pictures you've seen online in Carland website under the for-sale list actually taken by Tokuchi-san himself using a reliable Canon camera within his work compound.
According to Tokuchi-san, Carland has been around for 30 years. He dedicates his life to this modest Toyota sports car by restoring them from zero to hero, and sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow AE86 community in Japan through the famous 'Toyota Levin and Trueno Magazine' published by Tatsumi Publishing.
Carland also offers services from used car sales and purchase, engine tuning to parts manufacturing, refurbishment and sales. Lucky for hachiroku owners living in Japan because they can get parts ordered directly from Carland and sent to their door step.
Here is a Levin in the process of being brought back to life under the careful hands of Carland.
This small workshop at the back is where Tokuchi-san and his team spend most of the time at, from carrying out simple services and maintenance to big restoration projects.
Tons of hachiroku-related parts and components were lying tidily around the workshop to help making their work easier. No worries if you can’t find parts for your 86, Carland has it all.
Tokuchi-san and his workforce were working on putting a new 4A-GE heart into his customer's Trueno, and it was my first time witnessing the process of heart transplant surgery into a car. :)
Apart from restoration works and sales, Carland is also known for building Initial D replicas and they looked 100% alike because Tokuchi-san follows the details meticulously from the manga. Most of his builds are displayed in road shows and events, to date he had made about 20 of them. He is also actively involved in 86 events like the popular 'AE86 Festival' organised annually in Okayama.
There were 11 pristine AE86s of Trueno and Levin combination awaiting for new owners to come pick them up. All were priced differently depending on how much restoration/tuning work have been done. Mr T's Trueno which I posted earlier was from Carland.
The zenki dated Trueno GT-Apex at the front of Carland compound was selling at ¥2,380,000 with mileage clocked at 141000km. If you convert the currency, you'd probably be surprised and wonder whether it's simply just a body rework to make it look new. The answer is no, not at all!
Everything became clear when you popped open the door. It revealed a fully reconditioned red zenki interior which made the car so brand new!
Not only that, the engine bay was also a master piece. The engine has been rebuilt with new parts to ensure excellent driving pleasure for many years to come. It was pleasant to see there weren't any rust and messy cables in this Trueno.
Tokuchi-san shared that the original decals on the car are extremely valuable and should be handled with care since the production of these decals has long been discontinued. It's impossible to find the originals now and most of them you see in the market these days are replica stickers. Therefore when he is repainting the car during restoration work, he took great care to mask the decals and paint around them instead.
During the release of AE86 in 1983, Toyota offered two different specs for each body styles: GT-Apex & GTV for 3-door hatchback and GT-Apex & GT for 2-door coupe. Basically the GTV & GT specs were pure sports model without those luxurious components which will only add weights to the car. GT- Apex was more for the comfort drive with more options like digital meter, power steering, sunroof, power mirrors and etc.
The top range GT-Apex has radio antenna line running on the rear window. However, the track base GTV has radio antenna at the front right section of the car, which requires the driver to operate manually.
I questioned Tokuchi-san, between Levin and Trueno which AE86 model he prefers most. He easily answered "I like both!" But if he had to choose one, he'd go with the Levin. That's because when hachiroku was introduced, Levin was a better choice for racing (Rally/N2 Cup) among the car enthusiasts due to its aerodynamics, and at one point of time, Levin was twice more expensive than Trueno!
Early zenki (1983 - 1985) and late kouki (1986 - 1987) models have distinct features between them. Not only is the front bumper and rear headlights differs, all kouki models had black seats rather than the red zenki seats, and the useful power windows too. Check here to know more.
Decal printouts were different as well. Another less known fact Tokuchi-san shared was zenki has brown windows, while kouki AE86 has blue windows.
The 'Black Limited' was introduced in 1987 as the limited edition model before the end of AE86 production life. Only 400 were made, so they are pretty rare. Carland had one in their sales list before but due to unpopular demand locally and difficulty in finding parts (orange interior/gauge cluster) Carland focuses on standard 86 models instead.
Of all the common white pandas on sale, the most stood out one was this bright yellow Levin sitting in the corner. It was Carland's own purpose built track machine.
This track car has undergone a complete diet program shaving off lots of weight and increased chassis rigidity to avoid car roll, while keeping the essential dashboard on.
I wasn't sure how much power it has under the hood, but the engine bay was amazing. So neat and clean like it had never been raced before.
The cold winter weather was an inconvenient to people like me who came from country that's summer whole year around. Therefore, I got into the office for a short break to find only more AE86 wonders!
You can't really call him a true 86 lover until you see his collections of 'toys'. Tokuchi-san has model cars, diecasts, ChoroQs, comic books, videotapes, magazines, trophies and awards related to AE86.
Tons of AE86 photos, calendars, clock, and even signatures of famous Japanese celebrities who visited Carland were hanging across the walls. The sign and picture on the right was Tokuchi-san and Shinichirou Miki, the voice actor of Takumi Fujiwara. Carland built an exact Initial D Trueno for him previously.
Carland isn't just any simple tuner shop, they are a genuine AE86 specialist that restores and keeps the little hachiroku spirit going on. We still want to see these legendary Toyotas cruising on the streets for many years to come.
Tokuchi-san is not only humble but is also enthusiastic to share his passion and dedication towards the AE86 with me. I really appreciate his time having me around. This special visit motivated me to strive harder in driving one near future. So dear friends, you know what to look for in your next stop to Kyoto. :D
Thank you Tokuchi-san & Carland.