There's no shortage of AE86 Toyota Corolla fans in our scene, thanks in no small part to Formula D driver Taka Aono and the Drift King himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya. But even without the popularity of drifting and Tsuchiya's Hot Version Hachiroku video antics, the AE86 would still have a special allure all its own, perhaps because it's an analog driving machine in an increasingly digital world, or maybe it's more a case of nostalgia and affordability in an increasingly bankrupt world.
Whatever the case may be, it's hard not to fall in love with Luis Colon's '85 GTS hatchback, thanks to its impeccably clean presentation and perfect blend of period-correct modifications along with a few more modern touches. To build an AE86 this true to its roots, it should come as no surprise that Luis has a lifelong appreciation for these '80s classics.
"My love for Toyotas started as a child at the age of 7 or 8, when I was introduced to my first 1980 Toyota Corolla SR5 by the man who raised me as a father. I grew up helping him fix his Corolla, just like you'd expect in Puerto Rican culture. As I grew older, my mind was set on an old-school Toyota, and at the age of 13, believe it or not, I came into possession of my first Toyota, an '81 Corolla four-door given to me as a gift by my parents. This car turned my childhood/teenage years around."
Raised in Chicago's Humboldt Park area, which is, as Luis put it, "where Puerto Ricans be at," it would have been easy for him to have run wild on the streets and gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd. But thanks to his '80 Corolla and his group of friends that shared his passion for old-school Toyotas, Luis instead directed his energy into cars, including buying his first AE86.
"I've owned about a total of 12 Corollas, but one always stayed by my side, this '85 GTS. I built a relationship with this car, and she did what I knew she would, keeping me off the streets and out of trouble. A friend and I even started a car club here in Chicago called Team_Nostalgic. We are about 14 cars deep now, mostly AE86s and other older Corollas [plus a Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V], and we're all family in this game. This is where my Hachi caught the nickname the Silver Surfer. I love it and it fits her look."
Hard to argue with the nickname, given just how sharp Luis' Corolla looks in Silver, especially with a spotless set of period-correct SSR Mk II wheels wrapped in Falken rubber. The ride height is aggressively functional thanks to Techno Toy Tuning rear coilovers and an eBay coilover setup up front, plus its ground clearance has been visually dropped by the addition of a Blood Line body kit. As Luis jokingly told us, "This suspension setup rides better than a 2012 Corolla!"
What isn't a joke, though, is the significant weight reduction of the Seibon carbon-fiber hood and rear hatch, a very modern material that looks surprisingly at home on this 28-year-old classic hunk of J-tin. The Trueno front badge and Sprinter taillights may be relatively minor details, but they represent a meaningful link to the car's JDM roots.
The interior of this timeless little Corolla features a similarly subtle and tasteful blend of new and old, including the spotless black and gray seats and interior trim out of an '86 GTS. As Luis pointed out, the pattern on the OE seat fabric looks a bit like carbon fiber, perhaps another reason the Seibon hood and trunk suit the car so well. A deep-dish MOMO steering wheel takes center stage in an otherwise stock-looking cockpit, a couple of A-pillar-mounted Auto Meter gauges being just about the only giveaway that this Corolla has something tasty under the hood.
Not that there's anything wrong with a 16V 4A-GE engine like this AE86 was originally equipped with, but for a solid bump in horsepower without upsetting the high-revving, naturally aspirated character of the car, Luis and his crew swapped in a higher-compression silver-top 20V 4A-GE, to which they added a black-top wiring harness, ECU, and individual throttle-bodies. This 20V hybrid should be good for at least 50 hp more than the original 16V motor, not to mention a screaming 8,200-rpm redline and the sensational induction noise of those 47mm black-top ITBs.
Luis and his homies have also made some clever upgrades to the drivetrain by raiding the Toyota parts bin, swapping in the much beefier rearend off an '86 Toyovan (strong enough to hold the power of a 10-second 2JZ-swapped Corolla) as well as a Mk II Supra LSD-equipped pumpkin. The original T50 transmission still calls Luis' Hachi home, but he has added a TRD short shifter for improved precision and speed while banging through the gears.
Sure, we've featured more powerful and more radically modified AE86s before, but there's an undeniable appeal to a clean and simple approach like Luis', which has stayed true to his Corolla's roots. Not that Luis considers his AE86 anywhere near complete, but what he does know is this: "I was told when I was younger, 'Never involve yourself with cars-they are a waste of time,' but my Corolla has kept me out of gangs and away from drugs. It's not just a car to me. It's a part of me. It's a lifestyle."
Specs & Details
'85 Toyota Corolla GTS
Engine 1.6L 4A-GE inline-4
Engine Modifications 20V silver-top 4A-GE engine swap; black-top wiring harness and ITBs; OBX Racing header; Megan Racing exhaust system
Engine Management Black-top 4A-GE ECU and Apexi S-AFC
Drivetrain TRD short shifter; Toyovan driveshafts; Mk II Supra LSD pumpkin
Wheels, Tires & Brakes SSR MK II 15x7'' (f) and 15x7.5 (r) wheels; Falken 195/50R15 Ziex ZE-502 tires; rear disc conversion; cross-drilled rotors (f/r)
Suspension eBay coilovers (f); Techno Toy Tuning coilovers (r) and Panhard bar (r); Toyovan rearend conversion; rear floor bar and C-pillar strut tower bar
Exterior Andy's Auto Blood Line body kit; Seibon carbon-fiber hood and rear hatch; Trueno front grille badge; JDM Sprinter taillights
Interior '86 Corolla GTS black and gray interior; MOMO steering wheel and quick-release hub; Auto Meter Pro-Comp Ultralite voltage and vacuum gauges
Special Thanks To my wife for supporting me in my expensive hobby, and my friends and team members at Team_Nostalgic.