The year is 1985. Michael J. Fox revolutionized the Delorian in Back to the Future, Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen made us laugh with his infamous "Truffle Shuffle" dance in the movie Goonies, and the makers of Toyota released a sleek, sporty vehicle in the U.S. named the Corolla GT-S . It can be argued, debated, and even criticized, but the truth of the matter is the Hachiroku (AE86) was the last affordable RWD sub-compact car released by Toyota to date, leaving much to be desired for Toyota enthusiasts continually looking for an economical, yet affordable vehicle since the AE86's demise in 1987. With the 1985 Corolla celebrating its 19th year since its inaugural presence to the U.S. market, its popularity has rekindled over the past year as drifting and circuit racing has jumped to new levels among import car enthusiasts.
With any project car comes the determination and willingness to create a one-off vehicle that best expresses the owner's personality. Brandon Lee of Aiea, Hawaii, is no exception to the rules as this Hachi-Go GT-S ('85 in Japanese) has been four painstaking years in the making, evolving into arguably one of the best Hachi's'-in my opinion-to grace U.S. soil this side of Japan. No stranger to the Corolla lineup, Lee currently owns two '85 Coupes and one '85 Hatchback. A Corolla obsession you ask? Quite possibly the case as the love for the Corolla is even prevalent with his mom; she drives an '85 Hatchback complete with SSR Super Fins and suspension, courtesy of Lee. Now how cool is that?
In the summer of 1999 Lee came across a Hachi-Go sold by a local Filipino man for a mere 500 dollars. With cash in hand and transfer of ownership complete, Lee was able to drive the rusted and badly dented AE85 back home, to begin the long and tedious restoration process.
Content with the high-spirited and responsive 4AG-E motor, thoughts of altering the engine's internals were the last thing on Lee's mind. Combining regular maintenance and purchasing every imaginable aftermarket bolt on product kept Lee and his '85 running problem free on the streets for two years until one day a friend came across a 600 dollar turbo kit. The deal was too good to pass up as the kit was purchased and bolted on his 220,000-mile engine. Within a mere three weeks of street driving with the new turbo kit, the inevitable happened. Lean fuel conditions and turbine failure caused the number one piston to ultimately melt while number four piston suffered massive pressure cracks. Not to be discouraged from engine failure, Lee decided to remove the engine and strip the car down to its bare shell to begin a complete overhaul process.
With Japanese magazines and a number of friends helping to source out hard-to-find products, the first call was made to Japan in search of the highly sought after Jubiride body kit. Jubiride Factory resides in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, and is known for producing high quality fiberglass body kits and aftermarket parts for the Hachiroku. Interestingly enough, the body kit was hand carried on a chartered flight by one of Lee's girlfriends who was luckily returning back from an overseas trip in Japan. Jubiride front and rear bumper, Jubiride side skirts, and Jubiride over fenders, transform the once subtle looking commuter car into full-blown race appeal look. A J-Blood vented carbon-fiber hood supplied by Monkey Garage of Iwale Hawaii, replaces the paint-faded factory unit while Crystal Body Yokohama (CBY) side mirrors contour to the cars overall design. After all the body kit components were collected and mounted on the car, Mike of GX Auto located in Mapunapua Hawaii, replaced the rusted fenders and added the finishing touches with multiple layers of Nissan 350Z blue to the Corollas skin. Rounding out the exterior amenities includes a set of JDM front and rear lights, shaved door locks and shaved side marker lights.
With the car in the body shop, plans on devising a completely new engine assembly were in the works. The factory engine was discarded in favor of the higher compression 8.9:1 AE101 block from a '92 JDM supercharged Corolla and a big port AE86 head. HKS 264/265 intake and exhaust cams riding on a pair of Jubiride cam gears extract additional horsepower through the custom ported 4AGE head. On the hot side, a custom 4-to-1 exhaust turbo manifold was fabricated by Toni Martinez of J-Spec Automotive located in Washington D.C. The manifold is mated to a Garrett T/3 turbo with a custom front mount Spearco intercooler keeping intake levels ice cold. Spent gases are expelled through the rear of the car by a prefabricated 2.5-inch GReddy DD dual canister exhaust. Rather than opting to use the conventional factory intake manifold, Lee decided upon using the 20-valve individual throttle body setup found on the AE101 for his turbo application. Lee enlisted the help of a friend to fabricate and build a custom one-piece intake plentium to house the individual throttle bodies. The fabrication process began as a blank piece of aluminum that was CNC machined over a three-month period before the final product was complete. "I believe the 20-valve throttle bodies offer a quicker throttle response which work in favor with my turbo kit," says Lee.
Supplying the proper fuel/air ratio for a turbo car can mean the difference between life and death for any high horsepower engine. Lee, being all too familiar with the previous mishaps of his old engine, took nothing for granted the second time around when building up his new engine. A set of Supra 440cc injectors, and Magna Flow fuel pressure regulator are under the steady command of a Simple Digital Systems (SDS) EM-4F stand alone ECU. The SDS unit is programmed through a LCD programmer, which fully monitors all air temp, water temp, fuel applications and direct fire ignition sequences. To keep water and oil temps in running in optimal condition, a Koyo radiator, dual FAL fans, and Perm-a-Cool oil cooler was installed as added insurance. Earl's steel braided lines, GReddy catch can, Hyper Ground Control Wires, and a custom crank pulley finish off the engine upgrades.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Lee's Hachi-Go is the work and effort that went into the suspension work alone. With over a full page of upgraded modifications dedicated to suspension tuning, it's my guess that this sick ass ride is any Hachiroku owners dream come true. On all four corners reside Tokico 45-way adjustable dampers are sleeved with Battle Version coilovers. Battle Version negative roll blocks, Battle Version rear traction brackets, and Battle Version adjustable traction bars with lateral adjustments, ensure the rear wheels are firmly planted to the twisting Tantalus roads at all times. Negative camber, otherwise known as "Demon Camber" has been a longtime trend for drifters in Japan. Although "Demon Camber" doesn't improve the handling characteristics of a car, adjustments on the Battle Version front and rear camber plates enable Lee's Hachi to possess the ever popular J-style drift look. A rarity in itself, the rear suspension has been modified to accept a set of full coilovers. Martinez of J-Spec fabricated a set of brackets to accept the new coilover suspension setup, enabling Lee to discard the old independent spring and shock configuration. Lee states "the rear J-Spec coilover modifications have made a night and day difference on the cars handling characteristics."
The ability to efficiently transfer power to the rear wheels becomes crucial in any drift-spec vehicle. Lee opted to go with a TRD 3-puck clutch mated to a 20-valve flywheel, and a set of steel braided Battle Version transmission lines. In the traction department a Cusco 2-way limited slip differential is spun through a set of 15x8 (-13 offset) and 15X9 (+0 offset) SSR Mk III rims wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza's, ensuring full contact is made to the tarmac. Overall braking characteristics are improved using front and rear Brembo cross-drilled rotors with semi metallic brake pads.
Open the doors and you're in for a gauge lover's treat. The overwhelming amount of Autometer gauges covering the custom fabricated dash would make NASA proud of this Hachi-GO. Autometer tachometer, speedo, EGT, boost, voltmeter, oil pressure and modified AF meter sit tightly clustered together as Lee can closely monitor all the vital characteristics of his engine from the confines of his interior. Sparco Torino seats attached to a pair of Sparco harnesses ensure driver and passenger posteriors are securely fastened to the seat while Lee grips his 330mm Sparco steering wheel and shift through his TRD short stroke shifter at high rated speeds through the drifts. Adding additional structural integrity to the car is a Cusco three point stress bar and custom seven point chromoly roll cage fabricated professionally by Endless Garage of Hawaii.
Three days prior to Streetcar Showoff 5.0 at the Blasdell Center, Lee and his friends wrenched on the Hachi for 72 hours straight to prep and assemble the vehicle before its grand debut. All the hard work paid off as Lee took first place honors in the Performance Category. "All the time, effort, and money, I put into the car was well worth it, but I couldn't have done it without my friends and family who put up with all the madness and long hours" states Lee. Special thanks go out to Brandon Murakami, Jason Mehelua, Christina Yamamoto, G.X. Auto, the crew at Endless Garage, my understanding parents and everyone else who helped along the way to get the car to where is today. It's hard to believe this car is a daily driver to and from work, but even more amazing is the car is a regular at drift shows and Touge (mountain) runs. "What's the point of building a car if your not going to drive it? That defeats the purpose," says Lee. We couldn't have said it any better.