Operative Word, Custom: N-Style Levin
Grassroots at its best

Living by the simple rule that anything is possible, Nagahama-san of N-style has developed quite the following in his rural village in Gunma prefecture.  When Larry was in Japan earlier in the year, I planned for us to go there. I was actually waiting for Larry or some other Speedhunter to join me as Nagahama-san kept saying he would arrange ten or more cars for me to shoot when I visited.


While that is beyond cool, there is only so much a lonely Speedhunter like myself can do in one day, hence me waiting for Mr. Chen…


… to come over so we could tag team this shoot and come away with some awesome feature cars. One whole day and much sweating later we had bagged an unprecedented number of cars and I want to start things off by showing you the first one I shot: the ‘Takahashi-spec’ AE85.


This little AE85 Levin is one of the fastest evolving hachirokus, ah wait… hachigos, I know of right now. Since shooting it, I have met Takahashi-san a bunch of times at events like Slammed Society and Stance Nation and his ride continues to change. I guess whenever he feels it’s done, I can think about reshooting it but for now let’s concentrate on how it looked when I saw it in Gunma that hot and humid afternoon. As you’ve probably guessed, there isn’t much that remains from the base AE85; everything that could have been swapped over has been and what wasn’t has been made custom.


The additions start up front with a zenki front lip spoiler section. This adds some continuity and depth to the AE86 bumper, while the Levin grille has been replaced in favor of simpler plastic louvers with the set of auxiliary lights hiding behind it. Takahashi-san likes to drive this car a lot, as well as drift it so it had to check a lot of boxes if it was going to satisfy all he wanted to do with it. The looks, while simple, needed to give the car a presence…


… and this is where Nagahama-san stepped in creating a set of bespoke blistered front metal fenders. You can see how the front bumper has been widened too on its extremities so it lines up with the new wheel arch dimension.


This has allowed for the perfectly matched and aggressively sized SSR Longchamps to sit just right, the extended lower arms pushing out the wheels with a lot of negative camber, and coupled with the modified knuckles to allow for an optimal drift set-up. The wheels measure 9 inches by 15 at the front and are wrapped in 195/45 section rubber. A set of specially valved Bilstein N2 race suspension takes care of damping duties up front…


… while at the rear a set of custom built dampers and lowered springs allow for that well-balanced hachiroku stance, wheels sitting square…


… and the wide custom flares millimeters from the stretched sidewall. The rear Longchamps measure 10 inches across and are shod with slightly wider 205/45 tires – cheap stuff as it gets shredded at the track or up on the touge pretty often!


The N-style touch might be simple, but the result is undeniably effective, oozing presence no matter if it’s parked up or rolling down empty Gunma-ken roads!

The N-style way

The work of course continues inside the cabin…


… where a bolt-in roll cage has been fitted to take care of one of the AE85s biggest drawbacks: structural rigidity. While any car from the eighties isn’t going to have much torsional strength, the Okuyama cage definitely helps keep things a bit tighter and adds some extra passive safety at the same time.


Upgrades are kept minimal with a vintage look steering wheel mounted on a Works Bell snap off boss stacked onto a second boss to get the right sort of position that Takahashi likes.


Defi gauges have been strategically placed for easy consultation; three slightly rotated ones in the center console showing oil pressure, oil temperature and water temp and a fourth showing intake manifold pressure inside the left-hand binnacle vent. These, along with the larger RPM meter are all plugged up to the Defi Control Unit that manages each instrument.


In true grassroots drift style, the driver gets the nice Bride bucket, while the passenger has to do with a slightly tatty reclinable model; unmatched in color too for that extra JDM feel!


This is a nice place to be in!


With the shoot almost wrapped up I handed Takahashi-san one of our #FEATURECAR badges which he promptly applied onto his side glass.


Only the cars we dedicate full features to merit such a sign of recognition!

20-valve concerto

If I had to take a wild guess I’d have to assume that there was no way in hell the stock 3A-U was still under the AE85’s hood…


… and I was of course right. Making sure that this car delivers decent performance is a 20-valve silver top 4AG from an AE101 donor car. It’s mostly in its stock configuration breathing in through a set of velocity stacks…


… and dumping gasses into the custom exhaust system through these stainless steel headers. A Freedom ECU has been added to make full use of these upgrades.


The big aluminum radiator makes sure the engine never overheats even when put through its paces at the track…


… helped along by the grille-mounted Trust oil cooler. A 10.5:1 compression ratio means the engine does throw out its fair share of blow by…


… which is collected up in a little catch slash breather can. With probably a whisker over 160hp, it keeps Takahashi-san entertained and provides that unmistakable 4AG-scream and decent midrange grunt thanks to the 20-valve head and VVt.


So there you have it: an impossibly JDM grassroots street drift car that manages to tick all the boxes. To finish things off, after all of the one-off body upgrades were completed, N-Style painted the car in a custom color which they have named bachan – or granny – brown. I didn’t even want to ask where they came up with the idea for that!


Since the shoot, the car has been treated to quite the clean up under the hood, Takahashi giving it a showcar-like shaved engine bay with a contrasting color and fitting some seriously impressive custom made takoashi (octopus legs) headers. Nagahama told me this is how he and his customers do things: they continue to modify and refine, improving and making their cars that little bit better every step of the way. It is, in their words, the N-Style way!



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bolt-in cage... why


one day my car shall also wear the blue badge of honour!


aussieANON because racecar...sorry i couldnt help myself! :p


thats perfection


i want to see a speed hunters post displaying each photographers speedhunting stance.. Mr. Chen has my vote for most variations!
Maybe a nice "meet the speed hunters" article?


aussieANON  some people believe that the chassis acts as a stressed suspension member its self, therefore allowing a certain amount of movement in the cage is desired... that could be why... 
i like how the a pillars of the cage have been covered and are tucked up tight to the body


aussieANON This. While a cage does add some structural rigidity, that's not it's ultimate purpose nor does it add as much rigidity as some people believe.  To me, this cage appears to be nothing more than for looks--it sure as hell wouldn't do very much in the event of an accident.


@driveCircles aussieANON
"it sure as hell wouldn't do very much in the event of an accident."
not true, it depends on how the accident happens, the A pillars are welded into the main hoop and every bolt on joint seems to be a double shear joint with an appropriate grade bolt on it. so for a rollover or side impact at the B-pillar it will most likely help quite a bit. given the Young's Modulus for chromoly, anything in there in terms of a cage will help absorb the energy from an accident.
the bolt on cages dont help in an accident ethos is a myth, one that was probably started by the failure of a cage made from sub standard materials and practices. yes a fully welded in cage will provide more protection in the case of an accident, but a bolt in one will help and quite often more than you think.


@Mike aussieANON The purpose of a cage first and foremost is to provide protection to the occupants in the case of a crash, most likely a rollover. A bolt in cage severely sacrifices that protection.
The only time a bolt in cage is acceptable is when all of the members are welded together, and the cage itself is bolted into the car.
That one looks a lot like it would do pretty much nothing in the event of a crash.


@Mike aussieANON Hooray for Young's Modulus (and physics).


Been waiting for this feature for ages awesome car looks even better with the newly painted engine bay.
p.s when will the next project gtr post be its been well over a month since the last update.


@Mike But we could never beat Larry's floating in the air one!

Seeking Perfection

SuzyWallace  I bet all my pokemon cards he is copying Lihnbergh who was pulling of some crazy acrobatics. If you want to beat someone, then trying beating the master.


Why oh why can't more feature cars run air filters. It ruins the whole engine bay for me. Sure, it looks great, but I like keeping my engines running in top shape.
Do any of these guys showing off stacks have some sort of filter to cover them that they just remove for shows and shoots?

Seeking Perfection

@Mike There has already been a post when SH visited Famoso where the majority of the SH crew was showcasing their speedhunting stance. Like the editor in chief would say, ''we want to explore new territories and not repeat ourselves''. You need to study harder the SH history, young pup.


Option13 nope that's how he runs it


v8 guy Soon! :)


Nikhil_P :)

turbo BEAMS ae86

Option13 Lol are u new to 4AGE?  most ppl run blacktop and silvertop open filters.  If the car doesnt see much dusty conditions, and u change the oil every 2000km or so, itll last quite long time.  
Also most filters are pretty restrictive, u need a real plenum but then it doesnt sound nearly as cool :)


Too much horny!


Seriously Dino, do you ever sleep?


Hipster kids just want to sound smart, and look for something to pick on. Lots of very strong structures are held together with bolts. The bolt-in in my Miata was strong enough to pick up the entire car with it. I've seen a bolt-in cage save a guy's life at Laguna seca too.


@turbo BEAMS ae86 Option13 No, and there are plenty of other people using plenty of other engines with stacks. Changing the oil just gets rid of the dirt after it has already made it past the piston rings and the bore, doing damage along the way. Something fly into your stack? best hope it doesn't get under a valve or between the head and the piston.
If an air filter is that restrictive, you need a bigger air filter. Sealing a box around the velocity stacks and putting a large panel filter in isn't that difficult.


Ben Chandler Not this week!

turbo BEAMS ae86

Option13 I run stack filter on mine but just saying lot of ppl in the AE86 scene just use none..specially cali and japan..


Gimme a break, the items you can't see like where the cage is anchored to the chassis will be more important than if its a bolted together cage vs welded. Too many builders use the bare minimum plates sandwiching the chassis floor ending up with a cage that can't survive a rollover as it just drops thru the floor or wheel well. No need to bash the cage here, you can't know enough by the pics.
Awesome car and pics, I love it! Nicely fine, this is a prime example of why speedhunters is always my top choice for web content!


I love this car!


baachan brown - rad name for a colour (regardless of whatever inspired it) ;)


bakayaru Ummm....what mike is talking about is actually real stuff that exists. Just because we use technical words that we actually know about doesn't mean we are trying to sound smart.
Young's Modulus in a really basic definition is the measure of tensile strength of an object before it breaks or snaps.
Its very sad a lot of people her pass of actual technical engineering knowledge as just trying to sound smart.
Without engineering and such concepts that mike has explained, then none of this would exist and you'd be ending up in a tree at 120 mph.


bakayaru I would also like to say that there are actually a good amount of readers here who like myself either are doing a degree in mechanical engineering or have one. 
When you got knowledge, use it!


bakayaru Hipster kids... Really? You know nothing about me, so it would look better on you if you didn't make baseless assumptions.
Don't get me wrong, bolt in cage in most cases is much better than not having one at all, but if you're going to go to the effort of fabricating a cage you may as well weld it all and make properly sure.


speedhunters_dino Ben Chandler you've been pumping out alot of content ;)


i always hated the coupe. in the US we dont have the levin front end, we
only have the popup headlights. seeing the tureno with the levin front
is always cool for me. i love the style of this car n the looooong list of mods. i still want this as a project car no matter how old this car is


d_rav speedhunters_dino Ben Chandler Yeah and I'm not done yet!


azmedaj lol these guys are hilarious


I'm the one who taught Linhbergh photo stance. I've been shooting longer than him. Although him rising up the ranks forced me to become a better photographer. Now we are the best of friends and he was even my best man. A little lin and Larry history for you guys.


Larry Chen The entire team is banned from doing jumping shots... So 2009.


@zz bakayaru I don't think the remark was aimed at Mike but more to the people saying a bolted cage does nothing ;)


Larry Chen We need a stance-off to decide it.


When i saw the engine bay i thought, damn that needs some cleaning up! But it seems he already did that, looks really tidy. :) The interior needs some serious work though..


Nagahama-san! Only a man that wears bright orange jump-suit trousers, a bandanna, and holding a pick umbrella - can ask you to come and shoot not one, not two, but ten cars... this is the mental picture I have of him from when we met at Nikko in September.. Guy is a legend :) Nice shoot Dino, I hope you have the N-Style S15 covered at some time..


That's *Pink* umbrella for those of us who may have had coffee thus far - I have not....


SuzyWallace Larry Chen ''Oop, oop, oop Chen-gam style''


aussieANON bakayaru 
well that's what i was trying to point out, that some people have a theory that treating the chassis like a stressed flexible member of the suspension can provide better benefit than a stiff chassis. unfortunately this isn't a subject i have studied yet so i cant tell you if it is or not, but it is the reason that some companies will go through the trouble of fabricating a cage that has some bolt in elements. 
the reality is that we cant actually see the mounting points in the picture so we don't know how the cage is attached to the chassis which is the most important part of cage design.
im not hating on you, just providing a possible explanation as to why the cage has some bolt in elements.


you have that backwards, the only time a bolt in cage is acceptable is when the main hoop and the a pillars are firmly welded to the chassis the cage is supposed to supplement the crash structure that is in the car (think about all the gusseting that happens in race cars to the chassis). like i said in my other post, some of the bolt in members are there to allow some flex in the cage. cages that are not welded to the chassis can detach from the chassis and then you have two bodies bouncing around for the rest of the crash providing a huge danger to the occupants.
please also understand that sometimes cage designs are meant to bend in the terms of an accident allowing for energy absorption much like the crash structure of any road driven vehicle.
also what type of crash are you referring to, because there are many different types of crashes and cages designs to deal with them. (rally vs touring car vs nascar)


@Seeking Perfection ahh must have missed that article, i wasn't really interested in Famoso, not my thing.


SuzyWallace Larry Chen this! and a vote!


@Seeking Perfection plus with all the new blood to SH you never know there might be something we haven't seen before, but thanks for trolling!


I'm sure they're aware of the risks, just as you are and they'll enjoy it how ever they like.


Crap this thing is awesome. Good style.


This site needs more corollas!!!


This is exactly how I'd picture my ae85 if i'd have one. Wonderful car, great shoot. No complaints here :)


wow a corolla with longchamps. how exciting.


ughhhhh137 Profound comment there, thanks for the feedback ;)


otar :)


TheRobotCow Yeah but when we put more we get complaints that there are too many lol


TheRobotCow Yeah but when we put more we get complaints that there are too many lol


HLB Custom metal blistered fenders FTW!


Roughsmoke They are all coming LOL


Ewottaja He sure did, and then some!


@Mike SuzyWallace Larry Chen lol


I've always liked the coupe better than the hatch, and the Levin front more than the Trueno one. So for me, this is the best of both worlds! Nice to see a simple, old school build like this sometimes. If I owned an AE85, this would be pretty damn close to what I'd do.


speedhunters_dino That's a bummer :/


i saw the vid that was posted on the recent work done to his car. the engine bay look amazing! and id kill to get a set of the new headers he has in there now....seriously though...id kill. lol
very nice, i hope to see more awesome 86's on here, i know there is already a few articles, but more is always better =P


Any idea of offset's on those Longchamps?


@Mike econti bakayaru Hahah this old thread just popped into my email.  Yes Mike.  EXACTLY that. 

Welding a cage into a corolla gives you about a year of racing before the chassis is JUNK.  Then you'll have to start over.  If you ever cut your rear fenders for flares, separating the 2 metal layers, you'll be shocked to find you can bend the entire chassis by hand.  Just get 2 strong guys to push on the B-Pillars, and watch the roof crease.  A welded cage will punch right through that flimsy floor, unless it's boxed/plated properly.  

  I've been paid quite well for a few years for design (mostly composites), and I always have to laugh when some ignorant kid says "welding is always better".  Military aircraft (no expense spared) choose mechanical fastening for hard-points - for a reason.  

  Any force strong enough to destroy a properly boxed and mounted bolted-cage made of decent material, would kill you anyway.  Corollas are made of tin-foil.