These days as soon as you drive a car out of the dealership it starts losing value, unless it’s a Toyota AE86. If you’re a drifting enthusiast or anime fan, then chances are you need no introduction to the AE86.It remains as one of the most iconic cars Toyota’s ever built with it’s impact on pop culture as a cult icon being immeasurable
Launched in 1983, the AE86 is the neat and simple little, 1600cc front-engine/rear-drive variant of the MkV Corolla. marketed by Toyota from 1983 to 1987, you could get it with the choice of two faces – a Levin (fixed headlights) or the iconic Trueno (pop-ups).
In the Toyota code, the ‘A’ represents the engine that came in the car (4A series), ‘E’ represents the Corolla, ‘8’ represents the fifth generation (E80 series) and the ‘6’ represents the variation within this generation.
What made the AE86 so special for drifting? Although the common answer is the chassis and the lightweight body, this answer by itself is often void due to the fact that the chassis was largely carried over from the previous generation when all body styles were RWD.
So what made it so special? The answer: the addition of the legendary 4A-GE motor, a high-revving, twin-cm, fuel-injected, multivalve four. How much power did this produce? The answer: a mere 112hp. Now that may not seem like not much at all until you compare it with a chassis that weighs less than a tonne. Then add four wheel disc brakes, an engine that is eager to spin all the way up to its 7600rpm redline, nimble handling and responsive steering and you can see why it has become a drift icon.
The AE86’s starring role in the ‘Initial D’ franchise is what shot the car into popularity and boosted its value. ‘Initial D’ was set in the mountainous Gunma Prefecture in Japan and followed Takumi Fujiwara, a student working at a gas station during the summer holidays. During the day Takumi would deliver tofu hops in his dad’s AE86 but once the sun goes down the AE86 becomes the ultimate racing machine. The manga was so popular that is saw numerous animated series, movies and a live-action adaptation.
The series eventually crossed over to the US in the late 90s just in time for the dawn of sanctioned drifting as a motorsport. This saw a sudden influx in demand for the long forgotten AE86. They were quickly snatched up by aspiring drifters and as a result many were destroyed, hence why they are so rare to find in good condition and why they are still increasing in price 30 years since their introduction.
These days, there are very few AE86s, with most already abused into pieces or rusting away in someone’s backyard or junkyard. However, the 86’s spirit lives on.