• Tuned engine promises high-speed thrills
• Tasteful bodywork modifications look great besides serving a purpose
• Stripped interior with rare Bride recliner seats
• A unique car which stands out for the right reasons
• The engine has recently had a full rebuild and the mileage is roughly 750 miles
• Road legal and has MOT up to 12.07.2022
When the Toyota Corolla was first launched, no one could have supposed it would ever go on to be that desirable. The first ones, which went on sale in 1966, were small, neatly styled but unexciting cars such as might appeal to the economy-minded or elderly driver. It was a hit with Japanese pensioners, but Toyota manager Geisuke Kubo wasn’t satisfied. He greatly admired the Alfa Romeo Giulia Junior, and wondered why Toyota couldn’t make its own small sporty coupé. The Corolla seemed like the ideal base, and in 1972 the Corolla Levin (an archaic English word for lightning) burst onto the scene and soon earnt the respect of Japan’s budding boy-racers. With a 1.6-litre dohc engine with twin carburettors mated to a five-speed gearbox and crammed into a tiny package, it was hot stuff.
In 1983, the fifth generation of the Corolla appeared. True to form, it was boxy, a bit dull and now featured front-wheel drive. Again, it was up to the Levin to make the Toyota name cool. The AE86-model Levin still boasted rear-wheel drive, the last Corolla to do so, and being offered only as a coupé or liftback, it was a cool ’80s wedge rather than a nondescript box. Its mechanical specification included a high-revving twin-cam engine, five-speed manual gearbox and optional limited-slip differential. It also benefited from more or less even front/rear weight distribution. Different trim levels included the GT, GT-Apex and GTV.
As it was light, affordable, quick and easy to modify, the AE86 quickly became a staple of all kinds of motorsport disciplines, including rallying, drifting and Japanese street-racing (if that may be legitimately termed a discipline). This led to it having a strong impact on popular culture, and perhaps the AE86’s most memorable rôle was in the Japanese anime comic Initial D, which ran from 1995 to 2013. Set around the illegal street-racing scene, in it an AE86 was used by the main character, 18-year-old Takumi Fujiwara, for racing and delivering tofu.
The AE86 may only have been in production for a short time, from 1984 to 1987, but it was of the same era that gave rise to the PlayStation. With its appearances in the Gran Turismo franchise, the AE86 was one of the first cars which many children of the 1990s and 2000s learnt to drive, so to speak, creating a cult following around the car which still endures today.
While we don’t know the full history of this Corolla or how it came to be turned into a track car, we do know that it was owned in 2007 and 2008 by a Mr. Nick Morley of Paignton, Devon. Mr. Morley spent a lot of money on modifications, with parts from Sumo Power, Driftworks, Fensport Performance and Demon Tweeks among other outlets, so it may be that he commenced the build, even if it has since evolved under other owners.
In 2010, the car was living in West Yorkshire, and by 2013 was with a gentleman in Kent local to the vendor. While we don’t know how much or what kind of competitive driving it might have been used for, stickers in the rear window show that it took part in the 2018 Ypres Rally Regularity.
The Corolla benefits from a very thick paperwork file, consisting mainly of invoices for parts bought and services rendered, from companies including Sumo Power, Driftworks, Fensport Performance, Rally Design, Demon Tweeks, Marsh Toyota, Storm Motorsport, Watson Engine Re-manufacturing, and Jet Wheel & Tyre.
There is, of course, a V5, plus a selection of MoT certificates, dating from 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 13th July, 2021. There is also a certificate from 13th July confirming that the vehicle has passed an emissions test. Additionally, there is a selection of papers pertaining to the Corolla’s wiring, and two handwritten sheets comprehensively detailing the car’s mechanical specifications and modifications.
The Corolla’s interior is good, but there’s not much that could be wrong with it. Stripped as far as possible for weight-saving, it’s a pretty Spartan affair but that’s not to say there’s nothing to be excited about. Anyone immersed in the tuning scene will spot the Bride recliner bucket seats, which are an expensive and desirable feature, and aftermarket performance parts, such as the steering wheel aluminium pedals, are everywhere, although the door trim still looks to be original and in good condition.
Importantly, there is a full Cusco roll-cage, which will give an extra level of protection, although we hope it will never be needed. The solitary concession to luxury is the JVC radio-CD player. As is obviously apparent, the car is not hiding any nasty surprises under the carpets; the floor is mostly all exposed and perfectly solid.
Clearly, the outward appearance of the Corolla deviates considerably from standard, but we do think all modifications have been done well and in good taste. Once you’ve got past the eye-catching sky blue paint, you can start spotting all the aftermarket parts – a fibreglass bonnet secured by pins, J-Blood body kit, wide arches made from steel, and 15-inch XXR 8J alloy wheels. The boot has been deliberately sealed and may not be opened. Underneath, the car is strengthened by Cusco braces.
There are a few chips and cracks in the paint around the car, which would suggest that it has been used as intended. A car like this shouldn’t go to waste as a trailer queen. We didn’t see anything that should be a cause for concern, though. It all appears to be resoundingly solid, although we did observe a few bubbles appearing under the paint in the door frames. All the exterior glass is in very good condition, as are the wheels and low-profile Accelera tyres.
As the car has not been used by the vendor, it had to be jump-started when we viewed it owing to a flat battery, but once it was idling it sounded very healthy, emitting a constant snarl from the exhaust pipe which hints at the available power. The current owner has advised us that the recently-built engine does need to be re-mapped, the likely cost of which, according to the vendor, is between £200 and £400.
The engine is a heavily tuned, supercharged version of Toyota’s 1.6-litre, dohc, 16-valve 4A-GEU engine. A list of mechanical modifications is as follows, although we are told there is even more that has not been documented:
- Engine fully forged
- 4A-GZE supercharger
- Driftworks 19-row oil cooler
- Cusco catch can
- TRD ignition leads
- Koyorad radiator
- TRD lightened flywheel
- TRD head gasket
- 0.5mm oversize Ross Racing pistons
- Carrillo Pro con-rods
- ARP head studs
- ACL bearings
- APEXi S-AFC II Super Airflow Converter
- TRD gearbox
- TRD clutch paddle
- TRD gear knob
- TRD two-way limited-slip differential
- Braided brake lines
- Tein coilovers with adjustable top mounts
One of the handwritten notes with the car tells us that it has had a recent full engine rebuild, and lists all the new or replacement parts fitted. We are advised that the car has only covered 750 miles since the rebuild, so the figure of 197,000 miles on the odometer, which has not been reset, gives quite the wrong impression. Again, as noted above, the vendor advises us that the newly re-built engine will require re-mapping at a cost, they estimate, of between £200 and £400.
When it was submitted for its latest MoT, three advisory points were identified, namely:
- exhaust has minor leak of exhaust gases
- oil leak but not excessive
- front registration plate deteriorated but not likely to be misread.
It’s amazing what a hot engine and a body kit can do to turn an old shopping cart into a good-looking street car with real performance credentials. What started life as cheap personal transport is seen here in its ultimate guise – a bespoke road-race missile overflowing with character.
The Corolla AE86 may be as rare as hen’s teeth in Britain, but this is not a car to be tucked away, polished and brought out only for car shows in the summer. With all the performance upgrades concealed within this car, there’s only one thing to do with it – drive it, and drive it with vigour. In something like this, track days and road rallies present endless opportunities for enjoyment, and we’ll bet that as soon as you find an empty stretch of Tarmac, you won’t be able to stop smiling.
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