I hinted at this in my column a couple of months ago and now it'is official: Our precious Trueno is back in our loving arms, well OK, in our garage. After having missed it dearly, the hatchback was finally up for grabs again from our friend that we sold it to way back when. Sans the Japanese bumpers we had on it our AE86 looks about the same. It's sporting some dents from a few drifting mishaps and a very worn looking Sparco race seat, but that's all par for the course with a Corolla. They're like fine wines that only improve with age (speaking of Halle Berry, she's looking hotter than ever).
Gunning it all the way home we quickly remembered how fun it is to drive a hachi roku. If you ever have the opportunity, definitely compare back to back a 300hp sport compact and a mildly tuned AE86. There's no comparison, as they have very different driving feels. Our AE86 feels like a go-kart that's careening out of control. It also has a sound-splitting, ear-deafening Toda exhaust system that you can hear for miles. You don't even have to phone ahead, your compadres will know you're on your way over.
Buying a car from a friend has its advantages. Fortunately for us, the partner in crime who sold us the vehicle decided to leave all the performance components on the vehicle. These included: TRD coilovers, Cusco sway bars, Cusco front strut tower bar, Cusco lower tie bar, TRD LSD, stainless steel brake lines, Cusco pillow ball mounts, TRD header and a bunch of other stuff. It was a steal of a deal.
Our first work of order was to fix the headlights that intermittently go out, a common problem with most AE86's. This problem occurs in the headlight switch located on the dash. No cars are meant to last forever, not even our beloved AE's. The easy way out would have been to purchase a brand new switch from the dealer, but that would be too easy. Also, it wouldn't stay true to what a Corolla should be: a budget beater (more on this later).
Having already owned two other AE86's in the past I knew exactly what had to be done. I disassembled the light switch to the bare contacts and cleaned each contact before re-soldering the switch together. And, just like the previous two hachi rokus, it worked perfectly afterwards.
The second item that needed fixing was the driver side window. It would roll down but not up. Unless you were willing to give it some assistance. This involved pulling the window up with one hand and cranking the window lever with your other hand. Yes, this is what owning a hachi roku is all about. Fortunately, I was able to locate a used window regulator from the friend of every hachi roku owner: Pick-A-Part. Although Pick-A-Part is a great place to find AE86 parts, their available selection is random. Sometimes you might make a trek over to Pick-A-Part and there might not be any Corollas around. It's a crapshoot.
Next up, we gave the worn Sparco race seat to Turbo's intern (I guess we pay in used car parts instead of cash), who happily strapped it into his Civic. Then we swapped in a barely used set of Sparco Torinos that we acquired for $300. The seats are ultra comfortable, especially compared to the Sparco bucket seat or to the extremely worn factory GT-S seats. The only drawback to the Torinos is that the seats sit slightly higher than the factory GT-S seats due to the extra cushioning on the seats. Trying to wear a helmet for track events will be rather difficult.
The most exciting edition to the AE86 is the Miracle Cross Brace straight off the plane from Japan. One of Turbo's Japanese correspondents was lucky enough to acquire a set for us in Japan and shipped it out to our offices. A highly sought after part in Japan, we were more than stoked to get this rare part for our vehicle in the U.S. This is the sickest of all rear braces out there. This is like the shiny glory of our hachi roku. We have yet to see a Corolla owner with one of these bars installed. Granted this bar cost more money than what most Corolla owner is willing to spend. Only fools like us are willing to blow a wad of dough on a bar like this.
We have several upgrades planned for the hachi. We already ordered the GReddy coilovers for the vehicle and also a complete Origin body kit, which includes the wider front fenders and rear fender flares. Also a surprise powerplant upgrade is in store. What normally aspirated engine is able to rev to 10,000 rpm and generates 300 horsepower? Stay tuned to find out.