Archive>>rear-drive Toyotas At The Circuit

After checking out Paddy McGrath's coverage of the AE86 track day in Ireland, I came away very impressed with the quality of the cars that were on the track. These days, "JDM" is  the most overused automotive term around, but lot of those Irish-built cars genuinely looked like they came straight off a Japanese racing circuit. After getting those heart-warming feelings from Paddy's post, I thought I'd answer back with some photos of rear-wheel-drive Toyotas I've captured at various events at Tsukuba Circuit. This includes not just AE86's, but MR2's and other RWD Toyotas.

I know some of you guys are thinking that we've been showing too many AE86's this month, but you just can't deny the importance of this car. The Supra might have been Toyota's flagship sports car, but it's the AE86 that symbolizes Toyota's days of building simple cars that were both affordable and extremely fun to drive. The fact that 25 year-old plus AE86's are still so common at race tracks in Japan shows the kind of lasting appeal they have.

The AW11 MR2 is another car that defines the "fun" side of Toyota. When the MR2 hit the market, it was considered to be the most ground-breaking Japanese sports car since the original Datsun 240Z. This black AW11 is one of just a few that I've seen at the track. Despite being powered by the same 4AGE engine, for some reason this car just didn't become the phenomenon that the AE86 did. Did people prefer the more traditional FR layout? Or was it the added practicality the AE86 offered?

As recently as the late '90s, Toyota was still bringing out interesting rear-drive cars to the market. For example, the MR-S and the Altezza. When it comes to tuned MR-S's, the Techno Pro Spirit 1ZZ-powered car is the one to beat. Despite being a small tuning shop, TPS has became a household name among Japanese tuning fans after the MR-S dominated Hot Version's touge competitions.

Techno Pro Spirit is also an established name in the AE86 community. Here's their race-tuned Levin running hard during a qualifying lap at Tsukuba last year.

All over Japan you will find privately-owned AE86 track cars like this black Levin. There's really no car that better represents the "works spirit" better than these AE86's. When I was at Tsukuba Circuit a few weeks ago, there was a big group of these AE86 maniacs that brought their cars out for an afternoon of thrashing.

Even though I go to Tsukuba Circuit so often that all the track workers there know me, I haven't seen more than a handful of Toyota Altezzas in all my visits. This is kind of strange to me since I regularly see SXE10 Altezzas on the street.

Maybe people use Altezzas as their daily drivers while saving their AE86's for track duty?

I'm trying to think of a proper word to describe this KP61 Starlet. How about Boro Chic? Whatever you want to call it, it looks like it would be absolute blast to drive.

The Scorch MR-S time attack car is anything but boro boro. With some graphics and sponsor decals I think a lot of people would mistake this thing for a Super GT racer.

It's not too often you see AE86's with wheels larger than 15", so I was surprised to see this big-wheeled Levin coupe at the track. I'm not sure if there's a performance benefit to this setup, but the large wheels and custom fenders definitely give this car a unique "GT" look.

How many SW20 MR2's have you seen with stance like this? The exterior suggests this car has seen lots of hard-driven laps.

Finally, an AE86 Levin riding on the zeebra strips as it takes an aggressive line down Tsukuba's front straight. This car is representing Custom Garage SPEED, a small shop located here in Ibaraki-ken. You might remember seeing their N2 AE86 project car during this year's Tokyo Auto Salon coverage.

Man, I'm REALLY missing my old AE86 right now…

-Mike Garrett



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I would say not enough 86's this month. Where's Antonio's collection of Toyotas. Come on!


The MR2 is probably my favorite modern Toyota, esp. the 1st and 2nd generations. I've always considered the SW20 to be a sort of miniature Ferarri F355.


its been a while since i have seen a Monocraft kitted MR-S


^^ agreed ^^ theres no such thing as to much 86's


Great Pics but we need more SW20s before Toyota month ends!


That Levin Coupe is HOTTT.


Fender mirrors on the KP61 are awesome


I loved the pics of all generation mr2s. We DO need more mr-2 pics!


That starlet is raw. Take a sec and really look at it. I like how high the right height is even though it has good wheel/tire to fender gap. It has side window visors, no left headlight. Is that a base hood? No front spoiler/airdam...this thing is wicked


@ bobberz: funny you should mention that about the mr2's. in the aussie leg of the top gear world tour they took some mr2's rebodied them to look like ferarri 360's and had them drifting around the arena! everyone thought they had real ferarris drifting in front of them but they were mr2's all along!

p.s we couldnt hear the engine as it was drowned out my a loud backing music track.


Any chance of sneaking in some more KP starlet stories/pics before the month is up?


im with hechtspeed, definitely not enough ae86's. there've been like ae86 2 features all month, while there were a million miata features during mazda month. WTFIU?


Lamborghini doors on an AE86? Seriously??


The TPS MR-S is my favorite kar of this post =>


Great article Mike !

I think there maybe some reasoning behind why Ireland is so full of Japanese 86's. The AE86 became hugely popular here in about 2000 / 2001 in its standard Irish / UK form, the Corolla GT Coupe. As they became more and more expensive, the obvious option was to start importing from Japan. This and the rise of the drifting scene has helped to develop a massive JDM 86 following here, it wouldn't be uncommon to see them on the roads here everyday, but even more come out at night ...


The TPS MRS runs with a 2ZZGE engine, not the factory 1ZZFE.

I'm surprised theres' not more mention of the MRS in the SuperGT. Reckless, Toy Story, APR. an MRS has finished in the GT300 top 3 for the last 2 years, and in the top 10 in 2006.


Great feature with a blend of everything (car wise, not only AE86). Keep it up !


Hi Mike, How about featuring some of not famous Toyota Corolla line up like TE37/KE30? Cheers


@ Ben, that's hilarious. Come to think of it, I've seen a lot of kits on the 'net to transform MR2s into everything from Ferarris to Carrera GTs.

This almost does seem like "AE86 Month" but I like them so I don't mind too much, but I would like to see more MR2s, Starlets, and some of the vintage '70s Corollas and Celicas.


Comparing my CRX to my AE86, cornering a shortwheel base car does get twitchy (scary). With the short wheelbase and rear-engine of the AW11, I can imagine it being quick but scary when cornering at the limit. FR, balance, and relatively longer AE86 wheelbase make it a safer, more fun car to corner with. Inexpensive, 4AG, pop-up lights, light weight, and 80's box stying...AW11's are my favorite MR2's


I love the wheels on that big wheeled levin!

That fluorescent stripe combined with the matte look really makes the car look good! :)

One of my cousins wanted to buy an MR2 back in the early 80s but he decided to buy an AE86 after all because the MR2 was more expensive but featured the same engine (he's a real Dutchman) and gave almost similar performance. What also helped was that the AE86s were actually used on the track in the Dutch Corolla Cup while the MR2 was not racing anywhere and was considered more a tourer than a sportscar.


Hey, you can never show too much of ae86 corollas!

I just love those cars. One day i buy my own corolla.


Needs MOAR AE86 ! ! !

Can't EVER have to much hachi.


Hi! Can you post more pic of that no76 matte black AE86. Thanks for great posts.


any chance of a KP61 or EP82 GT Turbo artical??