There are two types of people in this world. Those who live the mediocre lifestyle, content with getting by with the bare necessities and then there are those of us who strive for the finer things in life. P.J. Bonifacio is definitely part of the latter group. Bonifacio, chief proprietor of P.J. Bonifacio Paint and Autobody Inc., located in City of Industry, Calif, has built his automotive reputation by seeing beyond the sheetmetal and executing a project with a high degree of quality. Coming from a background in automotive bodywork and collision repairs, this stern-faced, yet compassionate individual has been in the import game for well over 20 years, specializing in "Old Skool" Toyotas, such as the AE86/Trueno/Levin/Corolla, and Starlet. When rumors began spreading of Bonifacio rebuilding his personal AE86 Levin to turbocharged status, we jumped at the opportunity to be the first to expose this high-horsepower beast, knowing full well the vehicle would be a one of a kind executed to a very high standard.
The rejuvenation began in 2003 for Bonifacio as his AE86 Toyota Levin's factory engine was plucked from the engine bay. Out with the old and in with the new; the underpowered 115-hp 4AG engine was replaced with a 210-hp 3S-GE, 2.0-liter powerplant imported from Japan. Heading up all aspects of the engine buildup, fabrication and installation was Dan Quiambao of Danstoy, located in Norwalk, Calif. With motor in hand, the internals were gutted and plans to fortify the 3S for forced induction were in full effect. The factory engine received 1mm oversized 9.0:1 JE pistons while the crank was knife-edged and mated to a set of shot-peened and polished factory rods. A set of HKS adjustable cam gears were bolted to HKS racing spec cams (10mm lift / 272 degree duration). Titanium retainers, HKS double valve springs and stainless-steel valves keep the 3S-GE engine humming contently at stratospheric engine speeds.
Prior to reassembly, Able's Machine Shop performed a full blueprint of the engine while Danstoy executed a custom port and polish job on the head. A unique feature of the engine is the set of individual throttle bodies extracted from a 20-valve Corolla engine and enclosed in a custom plenum box. The ITBs are mounted to the head using a custom designed intake manifold. Danstoy, known for its custom exhaust manifold designs, fabricated a stainless-steel exhaust manifold in 1-5/8-inch diameter tubing in preparation for a Garrett dual ball-bearing turbocharger. Sporting a .70 A/R compressor housing and a .68 A/R turbine housing, turbo lag was kept to a minimum as spent gases are vacated through a custom flared 2.5-inch into three-inch downpipe that exits out the rear through a three-inch Flowmaster exhaust. With a punch of the throttle, the engine comes to life as a TiAL wastegate and TiAL blow-off valve scream to life with every shift.
With so many stand-alone fuel management systems to choose from today it can be a daunting task to make the final decision. Bonifacio opted to use an Electromotive TEC-3 system. Implementing a direct-fire set-up and Long Acre ignition, the engine runs flawlessly without a hiccup when speeding past its original redline.
To keep the intake charge ice cold, an XS Engineering front-mount intercooler with 2.75-inch charge pipes enables the engine to boost at a friendly 15 psi for street usage. With a simple turn of the boost controller, this mild mannered old skooler can be turned up to 28 psi when called for.
In a quest to minimize weight, the Levin's factory fuel tank was discarded in favor of a 10-gallon aluminum fuel cell. Sufficient fuel is delivered by a Bosch pump and sent through upgraded fuel lines to a set of RC Engineering 650cc injectors. Fuel distribution is regulated via a Nippondenso fuel pressure regulator.
With so much attention to engine detail, its no wonder Bonifacio addressed his suspension upgrades with the same love and attention. Sitting up front is a combination of TEIN adjustable camber plates in conjunction with Bilstein dampers. Eibach 500-lb/in springs and Cusco negative-roll blocks improve stability through the turns. Out back reside Eibach 325-lb/in springs and AGX eight-way adjustable dampers. A T3 adjustable four-link suspension and T3 panhard rods replace the factory set-up while a complete makeover of Energy Suspension bushings and TRD sway bars keep the Levin firmly planted at all times. Adding rigidity to the chassis is a GAB strut bar and custom four-point roll cage.
Transferring the newfound horsepower the ground is accomplished though a Toyota six-speed transmission, spinning though a Quiafe limited slip differential with a 4.3:1 ratio final drive. In order to mount the engine to the tranny, a custom bellhousing and crossmember was fabricated by Danstoy.
To quote Leonardo da Vinci: "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." In the eyes of Bonifacio, the interior of his car serves da Vinci's quote to a tee. Remnants of the factory dash remain as a set of Stack meters, enclosed in a custom carbon fiber paneling, come face-to-face with the driver. Switches of every assortment control the lighting, radiator fans and ignition. Enshrined within the Bride Ergo seat, Bonifacio keeps his posterior snug as he straps himself in with Takata harnesses and grips his Nardi steering wheel as the Levin barrels down the highway or drifts through apexes.
For those of you who might be curious as to what that long lever is residing next to the shift knob... No - it isn't for a parachute, but is actually used to help control the upgraded rear Rotora brakes during autocross competitions.
Adding the final touch to the vehicle is a set of 15x9 inch Watanabe rims with a -2 offset on all four corners. This old-time wheels flex a lot of lip and really drive home the old skool look.
Bonifacio's Bona Fide Badass Levin is indeed a vivid illustration of how the sparks can really fly when old skool cool meets new skool technology. The detailed execution of the engine swap by Danstoy, the pristine paint and the overall aura given off by the Toyota make it a standout where ever it goes.