An AE86 On A Carbs-Only Diet
Clutch Kicking At Nikko

When I heard we were running a Carbs Only theme this month, I knew that for my contribution from Japan I would have to come out with something indicative of the local scene. And what could be more JDM than a drift car, or to be more specific, a drift-oriented AE86 – one that has ditched fuel injection for the rawer, more responsive feel of carburetors.

There seems to be a universal acceptance that if you can drift an AE86 well, you are, without any doubt, a serious driver. After all, getting the most out of the lightweight and underpowered Hachiroku takes serious skill. You need to be proficient with managing the momentum of the car and using weight transfers to your advantage, while at the same time keeping the rev-happy little 4A-G on the boil with continuous up and downshifts and the odd clutch kick. On a recent outing to Nikko for a drift event, I came across this kouki Corolla Levin.


It’s not often that you see TRD’s iconic N2 overfenders fitted to a drift-spec 86, so you can imagine how it instantly stood out to me. But it wasn’t only that aspect that piqued my interest…


The driver obviously knew what he was doing, and on the day it was probably the best driven Hachiroku cutting sideways laps of the circuit. Then there was the sound of the engine. It had a different buzz to the rest – a more intense concoction of mechanical sounds. The revs seemed to rise faster too, and they were put to good use keeping the back end out for pretty much the entire lap of the Nikko course. On the straight sections the car was swung left to right in a series of perfectly executed manjis - the final one always perfectly timed to set the car up for a smooth entry into the next corner.


That was it – I was sold. I had to see more. As the first session ended I walked up to the car and the guy that popped out was none other than Takahashi-san from the N-Style crew. Taku, as his friends call him, is as devoted to the AE86 platform as anyone could possibly be, and owns a few other cars including a super-clean AE85 Levin notchback that I featured in 2013. While that car continues to evolve – now running a shaved engine bay along with a few other additions – the need to build a proper drift car for circuit duty was an obvious progression.


That’s exactly what he’s done with this car. Thankfully, there was enough time before Taku-san’s next session to quickly take the Levin outside the circuit and grab some shots of it under a warm-toned Japanese winter sun.


No matter how you approach this car, you will always come to the fenders first. TRD developed and manufactured these fenders for the N2-spec AE86 that raced in Japan back in the car’s heyday, so as far as overfenders go you really can’t get any more legit.


Hiding under the front flarings are a set of SSR MkIIs -13-inch beauties that measure 9-inch across, complete with all the scuffs and patina you’d expect to see on well-used vintage wheels. They’re mated to stretched 195-wide Toyo Proxes R888 semi slicks, which provide the sort of feel and response that Taku likes. Given the 86’s light weight, it takes a while to put some temperature into the tyres, but once they are hot they grip hard and allow for the crazy angles Taku holds through the corners at Nikko.


Speedhunters love – thank you Taku!


Seeing Taku did away with the rear bumper – and in fact some of the rear lower panel too – there are some mismatches along the trailing edge of the overfenders, but to me that just adds to the purposeful feel of this car. Different wheels are used at the rear, but at the time of the shoot the Levin was wearing a pair of 14×9.5-inch black RS Watanabes shod with narrow 185/55R14 Kenda Komets.


It all makes for a very fresh looking car – one that fuses period-correct touches with a contemporary style. In other words, it’s all sorts of badass!


The N2 look is carried through to the rear with a lightweight FRP tailgate onto which a TRD type rear spoiler has be riveted. The matte white really accentuates the body additions, and as Taku says, it weighs less than a conventional paint job and is easy to get freshened up too. Talk about being function oriented!


Of course, you have to give props and support to all your friends in the scene, right?

Built For Fun

Having already established a pretty good looking exterior it was on to the engine. Taku has no idea how much power the 1.6L four-cylinder 4A-G makes, and he doesn’t really care – all he knows is that he’s used the right base for the build in an AE92 small-port engine, and that it feels just right out on track when he leans on it continually for an entire 15 to 20-minute-long session.


The engine has been built to take the abuse, and after some honing and boring of the block it was fitted with 82mm forged pistons, strong H-section connecting rods and an AE111 crankshaft. To make the most of the rev-happy nature of these engines, Taku fitted a wild 312-degree cam on the intake and a 304-degree cam on the exhaust side, which make the best of the fuel and air mixture that the Weber carburetors flow in. Mid-length velocity stacks provide good response throughout the rev range, and the sound, well, you just have to go to Nikko and hear it for yourselves!


The mechanical music also comes courtesy of the wild exhaust manifold that Garage Tomita custom fabricated for the application. The race-inspired design helps maximize power at the top end, which is pretty much where this engine spends most of its time.


The overall theme of purposefulness is carried out in the rest of the engine bay too. Details like the Braille Lithium-ion battery that weighs next to nothing, the lightweight FRP bonnet and that little liquid-filled fuel pressure gauge for an old school touch.


Cooling is important too, so Taku runs a large-core radiator complete with electric fans borrowed from a Prius.


Mounted in the back of the hatch are a pair of electric fuel pumps to keep the necessary pressure constant as the car gets violently drifted around Nikko.

Making The AE86 Slide

The last step on the road to creating the perfect drift Hachiroku is of course the suspension. Taku went straight to the best and the Levin now benefits from a full Tec Art’s spec Aragosta adjustable coilover setup, which gives him the adjustability he needs to fine tune the car for a variety of drift circuits.


Making sure he has enough steering lock to hold long drifts and pull himself out of trouble when the time comes is a set of SNR knuckles along with 40mm extended lower front arms. With Taku’s fancy footwork and wheel skills, it all comes together to make the 86 dance though the corners.


Keeping weight in check was an important aspect of the build, and for that reason the entire interior was stripped back to metal – save for the door cards and the top section of the dashboard.


It all feels pretty spartan, but then again this car has only one objective to fulfill: be the best possible drift car. Job done I’d say. I personally like the Mooneyes antenna stopper applied to the indicator stalk and the perfectly positioned solar-powered illuminated ashtray – a must have accessory if you like to drift with a cigarette in your mouth.


With all the factory instruments and electronic equipment removed, Taku took advantage of the space to create his own custom meter panel. Here he’s added a pair of Defi gauges and a Defi Advance ZD Club Sport Package – the latter able to display the readings from as many sensors as you care to add through a nice LCD display unit.


A bolt in half-cage adds a bit of rigidity to the 30-year old chassis, and just in case he rolls over there’s a little more protection there too. Taku runs a fixed Bride Low Max bucket for himself, while those lucky enough to ride with him have an old school Bride recliner to get comfy in.


And behind that is where the water tank has been fitted. This comes in handy during the blisteringly-hot Japanese summers, and holds enough water to satisfy a couple of spray jets on the front bumper that mist water onto the oil cooler.


As I grabbed my final few pictures the time came for Taku to head back to the paddock and prepare for his next outing – there was still lot of fun to have.

With this story we wrap up The Carbs Only Theme, but if you like what you’ve just seen in this AE86 you’ll be happy to hear that Larry and I shot quite a few features that day. And that said, this definitely isn’t the last JDM grassroots drift build you will be seeing from us over the next short while…

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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Okay, this is now my most loved car feature of the year so far. I think it'll be hard to beat. 
There's something lovely, and so beautiful about the 86, and that its carb'd. Its not a powerhouse like we are spoiled with these days. 
Actually this can be said for any 4AG powered 86, and BDA escorts. 
Well done and a great way to end this theme.


@zz Thanks zz :D

turbo BEAMS ae86

AE86 is the legend..
enjoy it men..(and childs, and wemon)


This post is amazing, grassroot drift builds out of japan are tons of fun to read about! Great post Dino!!


Great article Dino!
You probably have a heap of stuff going on right now but there is something I really need to ask you... HKS Premium Day?


I think that I saw this car on noriyaro!


Hands down best looking N2 fitted AE86.


Great post Dino.
The AE86 never gets old...its amazing that it is such a simple design car and yet so clever and look so good with so little and handles like a dam go cart....and thats why I have one.
One thing I love about the AE86 is his universal hability to accept parts from any manufacture on the planet specially the oems. Like my hachiroku for example has mazda front fc brake calipers with mini cooper discs, on the rear it have mustang discs and calipers. Mazda 13BT engine from the FC, Ford Rear End, custome drive shaft. Static headlight convertion from nissan 180sx modified to fit. Honda S2000 seats... thats 5 manufacture there....i know I have more stuff from other cars I just don't remember.
And there are way more parts from other cars that fit with very little modification it so weird...but so much need it.


This is awesome! Anything N-style touches is damn near perfection in my opinion.


WOW! So the front tyres are really wider than the rear?


jay8393 yup


EhruMejil Thanks!


MikeYee That's what I thought


sonic2896 It's coming ;)


rv_zenki Thx man!


@turbo BEAMS ae86 LOL


Ok Dino, I'll bite... What's the story on the Florida plate?


Longshot, but do you know what he's running for alignment?


"Prius electric extractor fans"

I'm surprised a Prius parts would be somehow useful in drifting . XD


This is literally my favorite incarnation of the hachiroku - Levin nose, N2 fenders and TRD spoiler on a hatchback body. I know I'm not the first, or only, one to make that statement, but it's true.

But be it hatch or coupe, I always thought that the Levin nose was a better fit for the chunky AE86 body than the sleeker Trueno with its pop-up headlights. 

Because of the Levin nose's greater visual mass, it looks more "at home" on the car and better balances the vehicle's aesthetics front-to-rear.

I wish that Toyota and Subaru had kept that aspect of the car's design when they developed the current version - less of sleek, pure sports car and more of a practical, small, light runabout that just happened to have rear wheel drive and a manual transmission.

Still, I love how this thing proves that you don't need two-and-a-half tons of car wrapped around twelve hundred horsepower and twenty inches of rolling stock to have a good time.


A carb'd, n2 fitted ae86 on carbs. How could you go wrong?


Wait, is he rocking a Florida license plate?


AirLift_Lucas Florida plate, did you say?

Pete the perfect pilot

What, no mention of any mazda rotarys running Webber idas and the like?


Skinnier tires in the back are easier to break loose if you don't have a ton of power


AaronVenable In japan alot of our influence has carried over there as well as their influence over here. Some choose U.S. plates as temp drift plates etc. sorry if that was vague


Pete the perfect pilot It was a shame we couldn't feature more rotary content in the theme, but we have some seriously awesome rotary goodness coming up very soon in our V 4 & Rotary Nationals coverage. Stay tuned :)


Wicked car, tidy and simple. '....swung left to right in a series of perfectly executed manjis - the final one always perfectly timed to set the car up for a smooth entry into the next corner.' - and video taken, some footage would be awesome?


Top work Dino! Love your articles


willis85 Glad to be of service:)


loslogo I'm sure there is plenty of it on youtube, just search for Hardcore Nikko Drift or something


AirLift_Lucas Guess he likes Florida lol


RDS lol


MikeYee No sorry


AaronVenable It's just cool, anything from the US is super cool


xrockonx Plus R888 vs


Thanks. Yeah I was more less


(cont.)... pointing out how it went without being noted, but I guess it's a household thing. (General usdm items in jp, not just plates)


Oh found this if anyone wants Video. Its not in Car of this N2 fendered beauty but you can definitely see some good footage of it.


I'm an ae86 fan for sure but those overfenders are hideous.


AaronVenable Not mentioned in the article but; he's also running USDM rear tail lights


I like this. It's different in a way.


who likes cars pledge this game we need this to happen only for pc and mac its a amazing game please support us if you are interested


Great post Dino.
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