Monday, 17 November 2008
The AE86 generation of the Toyota Corolla Levin and Toyota Sprinter Trueno is a small, lightweight coupe introduced by Toyota in 1983 as part of the fifth generation Toyota Corolla line-up. For the purpose of brevity, the insider-chassis code of "AE86" is used to describe the whole range. In classic Toyota code, the "A" represents the engine that came in the car (the 3A and 4A) and the E86 represents the 6th revision of the fifth generation (E80 series) of the E model which is the Corolla. The visual difference between the Levin and Trueno is that the former has fixed-headlights and the latter has retractable headlights. The export model name Corolla covers both variations. The AE86 (along with the lower spec 1,452 cubic centimetres (1.452 L) AE85 and 1587 cc SR5 versions) was rear wheel drive (unlike the front wheel drive CE80, EE80 and AE82 models), and is among the last rear-drive cars of its type, at a time when most passenger cars were being switched to front-drive. The AE86 was replaced in 1987 by the front wheel drive AE92 Corolla/Sprinter range. The AE86 was also known as the Hachi-Roku (ハチロク?) (after the numbers eight (ハチ hachi?) and six (ロク roku?) in Japanese)
Both the Levin and Trueno variants were offered with either a 2-door coupe or 3-door liftback (sometimes called hatchback) body style. Both the Levin and Trueno were generally identical, apart from fixed, rectangular headlights on the Levin and pop-up headlights on the Trueno. Minor bodywork changes were made in 1986 which resulted in different tail lights for both Levin and Trueno models, along with the coupe and hatchback styles. The models sold between 1983–1985 are commonly referred to as "Zenki" in Japan, and the models sold from 1986–1987 are referred to as "Kouki". The coupe version is considered to be more rigid and lighter version of the two.
The AE86 in motorsports
During its production life, the AE86 was a popular choice for showroom stock, Group A, and Group N racing, especially in rallying and circuit races. Even after production of the car was discontinued, many privateer teams still raced the AE86, and it is still a popular choice for rallying and club races today. Part of the continued appeal of the AE86 for motorsports is its rear-drive configuration, a feature not available in most newer lightweight coupes. In Group A world rally cars (1600 cc class) the 4AGZE engine was popular. In Group A touring car races, the car either dominated the lower category where eligible or fought it out with Honda Civics or the later AE92s and AE101s whilst maintaining its competitiveness. In Ireland, where rallying is considered one of the most popular forms of motorsport, as organizing regulations are more relaxed compared to that of other countries, the AE86 was popular when new, and is still so popular that teams will purchase cars from the UK due to local shortages. The AE86 is also popular for rally use in Finland, where the cars can be competitive in the F-Cup competition for naturally aspirated 2WD cars.
The semi-factory supported Kraft team entered a spaceframe Trueno at the JGTC with a 3S-GTE engine that came from a SW20 MR-2 Turbo producing about 300 hp as for the GT300 regulation in 1998. Despite being popular with the racefans, the car had minor success and was abandoned from use halfway through the 2001 season in favor of a newly delivered Toyota MR-S.
The rear wheel drive configuration, combined with the AE86's light weight (approximately 2300 lb (1043 kg) curb weight), balance and relatively powerful (and easy to tune) 4A-GEU|4A-GEC engine made it popular among the Japanese hashiriya (street racers in Japanese), many of whom raced in mountain passes (touge in Japanese) where the corners suited the AE86 best, especially on the downhill. Among those who utilized this car was Japanese racing legend Keiichi Tsuchiya, also known as the Dori-Kin ("Drift King" in Japanese). Tsuchiya helped popularize the sport of drifting, which involves taking a car on a set of controlled slides through corners. The AE86's FR (front-engined, rear-wheel drive) configuration made it well suited to this kind of cornering, and currently the car is a mainstay of drift shows and competitions.
AE86 in popular culture
The Hachi-Roku is prominently featured by manga artist Shuichi Shigeno in the manga/anime series Initial D. A panda paint-schemed Trueno with a tofu shop signage on its driver's side door is driven by lead character Takumi Fujiwara. A panda paint-schemed turbocharged (later supercharged) Levin variant is driven by one of Takumi's later rivals Wataru Akiyama. Takumi's friend Itsuki Takeuchi unintentionally buys a lower trim Corolla, a Levin AE85, thinking it is an AE86.
Some computer and video games have included the AE86, either as base model cars, or specially tuned cars. The car is featured, in stock form, in both Need For Speed Underground 2 and Need For Speed ProStreet (As the Corolla GT-S), The Fast and the Furious (video game), Project Torque (as the Corolla GT-S), Drift City (As the Panda), and in Forza Motorsport 1 and 2. The AE86 is included in all installments of Gran Turismo (besides GT5 Prologue), Tokyo Highway Battle, and Tokyo Xtreme Racer, and most recently in the TOCA Touring Car series by Codemasters, GRID. In Grand Theft Auto 4 the Karin Futo compact car bears a resemblance to the AE86
Due to the reception from video games, manga, motorsports, and aftermarket tuning, the "Hachi-Roku" has been immortalized as a cult favorite car. The AE86 garners respect as an automotive performance icon embedded within Japanese culture, comparable to the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Sierra RS Cosworth and the Porsche 911