Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Legendary Toyota AE86

Perhaps the most popular 1980s sports car to come out of Japan was the Toyota AE86. Often known as the Hachi-Roku, which means eight-six in Japanese, the sports car became incredibly well liked especially after its appearances in the Japanese manga and anime series called Initial D. The Toyota AE86, which was first introduced in 1983, is also famous for being the last small, rear wheel drive coupe.

The car came in two different body styles, the Levin and the Trueno. They were essentially the same thing, with the only difference coming in the shape of its headlights. More variations between the two models later came in 1986, when Toyota changed the tail lights and hatchback styles as well. The cars produced before this change were commonly called "Zenki", which is Japanese for "early period". Toyota AE86 cars made with the new changes were called "Kouki", which unsurprisingly means "latter period" in Japanese.

The sports car was also very popular at car shows and was used in various racing sports, particularly circuit racing and rally driving. Even now, after it has been discontinued, the car remains popular in rally circles and club races. The car was particularly adept at cornering, especially when it was going downhill. As a result, this made it a very common car for mountain pass street races in Japan, known as hashiriyas. The sports car was light, quite powerful, easily modifiable and balanced very well. Keiichi Tsuchiya, the legendary racer in Japan known as Dori-Kin, or "drift king", had also used the car. In fact, with the Toyota AE86, Keiichi Tsuchiya popularized the sport of drifting. To this day it is still popular in drifting competitions because of its fantastic cornering and early association with the sport.

The Japanese manga and anime series, Initial D, also sparked a new interest in the car among automobile and drifting fans all over the world. The car remains so well received that it has been featured in the high-selling, realistic videogame racing series Gran Turismo. Because of its recent attention, the resale value of the car has increased.

The car was originally released in North America under the Corolla name, which stood for "crown of a flower" and came out in 3 different versions. It was also fairly popular in North America, as one version known as the GT-S stayed in production until 1991. The AE86 sports car was also released in Australia under the name Sprinter, but unfortunately, it did not sell so well because the stock engine was poor. However, many Australian car enthusiasts switched the engine and it has been stayed popular for rally and track racing due to its good handling.

Even though it has been over twenty years since its release, the legendary car is still highly regarded among car enthusiasts due to its wonderful handling and drifting abilities. It continues to gain fame years later since it has been featured in many different car shows, cartoons, games and television series. Since it was also the last of its kind and was used by the legendary drift king, Keiichi Tsuchiya, it looks like the Toyota AE86 is here to stay and drift for years to come.

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