Car Feature>> Unearthing The Spa 24h Ae86!!!

In the past few weeks, we’ve been in Japan, so the Speedhunters website has been going crazy with photos and stories from our trip. As you can imagine, I have a million more photos dealing with legendary Japanese drifters and street drifting style… but we just thought we’d break things up a bit and show off some more scenes from our trip to Europe a few weeks ago. Rod was telling me last night, “hmmm it might be good to show something other than drifting m8, some people are saying we’re overloading the site with Japanese drifting content.” While I certainly don’t think it’s possible to have too much content dealing with drifting and Japanese street car style… I know not everyone is as into it as I am. So here we go. I thought I’d tell you all a story about the car in the photos above.

While we were walking around the booth area at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit, Rod and I found a booth selling die cast cars. You may have already read Rod’s story about buying the JUN SA22C RX7 – but what we didn’t previously tell you is that I also found an amazing scale model… of an AE86 Corolla Levin 2 door! AE86 toys mostly come from Japan, but this AE86 model was from Europe… it was a perfect, hand built to scale, white AE86 Levin. I was asking the owner of the model shop about it, and he said that the car was famous in Europe in the 80s and 90s for winning its class several times at the legendary Spa Francorchamps race. Looking into it further, Rod told me that back in the day, the Spa 24H race was more about touring style cars, rather than the crazy FIA GT style cars that run today… and there were a few AE86s that ran in the famous Spa 24 hour race! Wow… I had no idea!

Fast forward a couple days… we met a great new friend named Patrick, who we met through a Porsche driving instructor named Mike, who showed me how to launch the Porsche 911 GT2 when I drove it at the Leipzig test track. Patrick runs a European racing series called the Fun Cup, and he grew up in the area around Spa-Francorchamps, so he knows quite a bit about the history of Spa and the areas surrounding it. So when I mentioned to Patrick that I was a devoted AE86 owner, and I was excited to see the scale-built AE86 model, he said, “Oh… do you want to see the real car?”

You can imagine my response to that question. “Whaaaaat??? You know where the actual car is???” Patrick just laughed and said “Come on, let’s go!”

So we excused ourselves from shooting the on-track action at the Spa race, and drove through the twisty, tree filled back section of the old Spa circuit (it’s no longer in use) until we arrived at a very charming little hillside town which looked like it was straight out of a European travel magazine – complete with cobblestone roads, a river running alongside the lush green  grass of the Belgian hills, quaint old world stone-and-wood European storefronts, and locals leisurely enjoying their coffee in the middle of the afternoon.

We approached a stone stairway that led to a big brick building with huge, oversized chess pieces in front of it. Patrick explained that this big brick building used to be an old abbey. For those who don’t know, an abbey is a building where monks live, study, and do monk-type things.  Patrick told me the town was in the process of renovating it; several years prior, they apparently began some sort of building development project at that site, but when they started excavating (digging up the ground on the premises), they ran into a bunch of big bricks and stuff like that… they discovered the remnants of this old church!

So we entered the old abbey, and Patrick led us downstairs, into what he said was the crypt – where they used to store dead people! Kinda creepy… but when we got to the bottom of the stairs and turned the corner, I was completely floored. Actually, Rod and Patrick were walking in front of me, because I stopped to take a photo of the stairway… and then I heard Rod say, “Wow. Antonio’s going to completely freak out.”

So I followed them around the corner, and just as Rod said, I freaked the hell out. All sorts of WTFs and expletives filled my mind (or maybe I said them out loud, I don’t remember), because sitting right in front of me was the very AE86, painted in white, that I was admiring previously (in scale model format)… AMAZING! What the!!! And what the hell is it doing in the bottom of an old abbey in the Belgian countryside?!

Apparently, this Group A AE86 endurance racer is part of an entire collection of vintage race cars that are being put together for a museum near the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. I thought it was extremely cool to see an AE86 in Belgium; most of the magazines and videos I own profile AE86s in Japan (or in the USA), but hardly any English media exists containing photos and stories about AE86s from Europe! This white AE86 won its class several times at the 24H of Spa Francorchamps, and numberous other races. In fact, here’s one of the trophies the car won.

It was extremely dark underneath the abbey, so it would have been difficult to show off the details on this AE86 with the available light there. So I went back to the car and grabbed an extra flash, calculated the proper exposure, and voila! There you have it – a dramatic light portrait of a vintage European AE86 race car, with help from our trusty colleague Jeroen, who agreed to act the part of a light stand while I was taking the photo.

And check out those Renova (or was it Renoma?) wheels that the car is sitting on. I don’t know the size for sure, but just by looking at the photo, I’d say 15×6.5, or 15×7 with a very positive offset.

Now there’s a familiar sight! A normal looking 4AGE 16 valve engine, with the rare, vintage and discontinued clear type TRD sparkplug wires. From what I can see in this photo, the car’s ignitor has been changed for a different unit (it’s the square thing that’s located on top of the ignition coil), and there’s some sort of heat shield covering the brake and clutch master cylinders – by the way, the OEM brake booster has been either removed or relocated, because if you notice, the big round brake booster is nowhere to be found on the firewall! I think they’re probably using a smaller aftermarket brake master cylinder, which doesn’t need a booster.

From this photo, you can also notice the battery has an aluminum cover, and has some custom bracketry. The car has adjustable camber plates (I wonder what brand they are???) which don’t look like they were Japanese-made, and it also has a Cusco OS-style strut bar, but I doubt it was made by Cusco because I don’t think Cusco parts were readily available in Europe at the time this car was racing.

On the intake side, you will notice some special ducting going to the throttle body, and a customized airbox behind the headlight drawing cold air from somewhere, presumable underneath the car. Also notice, there’s no AFM, so this is a MAP sensored AE86, just like the ones in Japan. Very cool.

In Japan and Europe, AE86s did not come with factory oil coolers (only US models did), so an aftermarket oil cooler was added, as you can see from the photo. The holes drilled in the front bumper are probably for foglights that the team used during night time endurance racing.

Check out the steering wheel! It’s made by Formuling France. Back in the day when I was buying and selling old school Corollas right and left, we used to laugh at people who had Formuling steering wheels. Whenever I bought a car that had a Formuling steering wheel, I used to remove it right away, and throw or give it away to someone because I hated the style of these wheels – I thought they were cheap. However, now that I’m a bit older, and not as “too cool for school” as I used to be, I think that the Formuling wheel actually fits this car well – after all, it does live in the French speaking part of Belgium. It’s only fitting that it would have a French steering wheel!

Also check out the rollcage and gauges… not sure who makes that cage, but the gauges are almost certainly made by VDO.

More European car parts… OMP racing seat and Luke seatbelts. Pretty cool!

Check out the back of the car, it was backed into a glass window, so you could see it from a different room. You’ll notice the car is an early model (zenki) and you can tell by the rear bumper’s single line on top. You might also notice that this AE86 has the Euro-spec number plate lights… they’re on the bumper, and shine the light upwards. In Japan and the USA, the lights for the number plates are in between the license plate and the taillights, but in Europe, they have super incredibly long license plates, so Toyota had to relocate the lights to the bumper.

I didn’t really ask anyone if I could do this… but nobody was looking at the time… so I popped the trunk so I could see the fast-filling fuel system and fuel cell. Since I took a photo, you can see it too, just don’t tell anyone. It’s not like I’m gonna post it on the internet or something.

I thought this AE86 was a very cool find, because it had completely different style from the Japanese 86s that I’m normally into! However, I definitely prefer the style of the Japanese drifting style AE86s. What do you guys think… do you prefer Euro, USDM, or JDM AE86s?

-Antonio Alvendia


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