Although known as interstate highways, the roads around Hawaii don't connect to another state. While stretches of American "superslab" roll on for what seems like an eternity, Oahu's interstate circles the island like some sort of giant racetrack. It was here on a stretch of slightly moist tarmac on the windward side of the island that Brandon Lee got a chance to toy with us in his 1984Toyota Corolla GT-S.
Lush vegetation climbed the hill to the right of us while a rocky outcrop led out to sea on the right. The Big Wave surfing competition a few days earlier had been just that, with thirty-footers pounding well past the shore and leaving a fair amount of debris across our two-lane track as it rounded it's way around the island in a series of esses.
Without warning, Brandon pulled a Scandinavian flick, weighting up the rear and sending us into a diabolical drift. Man, machine and nature came together in a fabulous triad as he clipped the foliage at the apex and got a rear wheel off at the exit.
"I have a hatchback but I find the coupe easier to control," says Brandon casually over the din of the spinning tires and force-fed inline four as we rocket toward the next curve. "I just wanted a coupe because everybody else seemed to want the hatch."
Unless you've been living in a cave the past four years, you know that vintage (pre '84) Toyota Corollas have gotten hotter than a Hawaiian golf course. Just take a look at this recent exchange from an enthusiast Web site.
Ricer 1: Man, I scored this Hachi Roku on eBay for just $5,000! And it almost runs!
Ricer 2: DAMN DAWG, you're gonna be the best drifter in Kansas!
Before we go making light of the AE86's newfound popularity, a brief history lesson is in order.
The rear-wheel drive Toyota Corolla was first introduced in Japan in 1966. Two years later it was brought to the United States to replace the unpopular and barely noticed Crown.
It lasted only two years with its original 1.1-liter engine, when a larger 1970 model appeared, powered by a "much larger" 1.2-liter engine. This new model actually became the second highest-selling import car in 1970. For 1971, the engine was pushed out to 1.6 liters to be more in tune with American tastes.
The Corolla's strongest popularity came in 1974, with the third generation, including the inexpensive Corolla Tercel. It was the best-selling vehicle in the world from 1974 to 1977. Five years later, in 1979, the fourth generation appeared, still with rear-wheel drive.
When the fifth generation Corolla appeared in 1984 it came with front-wheel drive and a coupe version, the GT-S, with a 16-valve engine. The GT-S remained in production through 1991.
It was before this FWD model that delivery drivers like the one in the anime series "Initial D" started looking for quicker routes around the corners of the various mountain passes they had to navigate. The AE86 proved to be as proficient a drifter then as it is now.
While the RWD platform stopped production in '84, Brandon acquired his first Hachi Roku around 10 years later when he first learned to drive. It was an '84 SR5 Corolla.
"I bought the GT-S (the coupe) for $500 back in '98," said Brandon. "At the time it wasn't running. It took me about a year to get it back on the road."
At first he started to build the Corolla like most others employing mostly bolt-ons such as headers, exhaust, MSD coils and bigger cams. Another bolt-on came in the form of a $600 T-25 turbo from a friend.
A risky proposition for an engine with 220,000 miles and stock blue top bottom end. The engine ran for about three weeks before the #4 piston cracked. Cylinder #1 responded to the cracking by melting. When there's a crack party like that it's time to go to rehab.
"I thought about just putting in another stock block but I decided to do it the right way. I downed the car for a year and started to buy parts like crazy," said Brandon.
One of the first parts he acquired was an AE101 block from a Japan-only FWD '91 Corolla. It is a seven-rib block with incorporated oil squirters as opposed to the USDM five-rib '84 block. The AE101 was built to handle the extra power made by the supercharger found on the aforementioned Japan-only 16-valve Corolla.
The blue-top (pre '84 Corolla) heads have better flow characteristics than those found on the AE101 so Brandon had one ported and polished before attaching it to the short block.
At this point, Brandon decided he wanted to go with individual throttle bodies. The problem was, all of the accompanying manifolds looked like crap.
This is where his friend Brandon Murikami comes into the story. Being a machinist, Murikami became a key character in the development of the Corolla's new engine. He and Brandon designed the manifold to fit the individual throttle bodies from a '91 Corolla.
To get a finished piece, the process took about three months from drawing board to CNC machine. It had to be remade a few times as it was off by a few millimeters the first few times. Of course, all of this was done in Brandon's spare time when wasn't working at Pearl Harbor.
With the manifold in place, Brandon could install the turbo. At first, he went with a T-3 J-Spec turbo from Malaysia as it was the only one he could find. This, combined with the SDS ECU, proved to be a real hassle to tune. In the end the problems they encountered appeared to be a factory glitch occurring at the same boost level and rpm on another Corolla.
Before all of this balderdash, Brandon drove an SR5 with no intercooler and piping of no more than a foot and a half from the intake to the turbo manifold.
"I loved that setup," said Brandon. "That thing spooled up at like 2000 rpm. It was after that that I decided I had to go turbo."
Presently, the engine is running a Garrett T-28 ball-bearing turbo with a few other custom parts like the downpipe and custom manifold. A 264-degree cam is used at the intake while a 258-degree bumpstick is employed at the exhaust. These Kamikazee units are meant for mid-range power in an N/A motor but they seem to suit the forced-inducted setup quite well.
Currently, the car is running an Autronic ECU with an accompanying wiring harness. Purportedly, this Australian-based company is run by the main designer of Motec.
"This system that Justin Izumi installed for me along with the new harness is amazing," says Brandon. "You can do just about anything with it."
As of press time, the Corolla has yet to be dynoed with the new Autronic. But with the SDS and 6 psi, it made 200 hp at the wheels. By the time this issue hits the newsstands, Brandon and Co. will have run the engine at 1 bar, considered the point to which the T-28 is reliable. Should everything fall into place, the engine should churn out close to 300 hp.
Hawaii is replete with awesome forces. From potentially powerful volcanoes to monster swells that can churn a man like a sock in a washing machine. Brandon's AE86 personifies the rugged side of the islands with big power, an excess of JDM styling goodies and a high degree of attention to detail and it's easy to see how he owns the islands, either going straight or sliding sideways.
Garrett T-28 ball-bearing turbo
Custom stainless steal turbo manifold 4-1
TiAL blow-off valve
Turbo intake horn
DEI heat wrap
DEI tunnel shield
GReddy oil catch can
Custom intercooler piping
Permacool oil filter relocation kit and cooler
Magnaflow fuel regulator
Custom polished fuel rail
550cc RC injectors
Walbro turbo fuel pump
20v individual throttle bodies
CNC throttle body manifold
CNC distributor plug
Blue pearl valve covers
TRD valve springs
Kamikazee Kams (264 intake/ 258 exhaust)
HKS cam gears
AE101 supercharged block (7 ribs)
Ross forged pistons (8.9:1)
ARP head studs
'85 head w/ mild porting
Autronic ECU and wiring harness
MSD Blaster SS coils (x4)
MR-2 cam dist.
MSD spark plug wires
One piece aluminum intake manifold
w/custom blue pearl paint
GReddy DD exhaust
TRD radiator cap (13 lbs)
Custom water inlet and outlet for turbo cooling
FAL electric fan
Turbo air funnel
Earl fittings and braided lines
Air Equip fittings and braided lines
20v TRD three-puck pressure plate
20v TRD street disc
Steel braided clutch line
Lighting Audio power blocks
Optima red-top battery
Ground Control wires
Brembo cross-drilled front rotors
Brandi cross-drilled rear rotors
Battle Version steel braided brake lines
SSR rear spacers (offset to -13)
Battle Version front coil-over kit
Battle Version adjustable camber kit
Battle Version adjustable negative roll blocks
Battle Version adjustable rear traction brackets
Battle Version adjustable traction bars & lateral bar
Weapon-R 6kg (front) and 4kg (rear) springs
Cusco front and rear stress bars (rear adjustable)
Cusco tri-piece front add-on bar (adjustable)
Cusco 2-way differential
Suspension Technique bushings
Suspension Technique front and rear sway bars
J-Spec rear coil-over kit
Tokico 45-way adjustable shocks and struts
Jubiride (Japan) bumpers
Jubiride (Japan) side skirts
Jubiride (Japan) over fenders
J-blood (Japan) vented fiberglass hood
Custom rear hood vent spacers
Crystel body Yokohama (Japan) side mirrors
JDM front and rear bumper supports
JDM front corner lights
JDM rear taillights
JDM front grille
Shaved locks and side markers
H4 crystal headlight housing
Custom paint (2003 Nissan 350Z blue w/ purple pearl)
Race Pak digital gauge cluster
Auto Meter Lunar gauges
Auto Meter roll cage pods
Custom gauge pods
Sparco seats, harnesses, steering
wheel, pedals and shift knob
Custom seat rail (Tech One)
TRD (Japan) short shifter
Endless Garage custom chrome-moly roll
cage (custom blue pearl paint)
HKS turbo timer
JDM drift e-brake button
Custom black interior
Custom speaker pod
MB Quartz 5 1/2-inch separates
MB Quartz 5 1/2-inch coaxials
Brandon would like to thank everyone at:
Endless Garage: Marcus, Arron, Justin, Mike, Barry, Brandon F, Brandon M. Ryan and Jay at Tech One Customs. Grant at FateImports.com. Scott, for all the parts I got from you over the years. My Mom, Dad and Christina for putting up with everything.