Notchback Love
Judging One By One

Don’t, for one second, assume that Speedhunters is only after the craziest builds with boast-worthy sets of figures. Sure, those type of cars will always be interesting for the way in which they push the envelope, but there are many other ways that we source cars that merit a feature. We look at the car as a whole and the way in which its been personalised, but sometimes it’s more about the back story and the relationship the owner has with their ride.


This year my GT-R will be 16 years old. I’ve had a very long relationship with the car, as I long ago decided that I was probably never going to part with it.


And at times like these, when people develop this sort of bond to that hunk of metal on four wheels sitting outside on their driveway, well, let’s just say we judge them one by one.


And it was out of pure coincidence that I came across Kobayashi-san’s AE86 Trueno notchback. Just as Larry and I were packing up from a full day’s shooting at a drift event in Nikko, we spotted a pair of Hachirokus parked up in a gravel lot just outside the circuit’s gate. We were blown away, and we didn’t even know what they were running engine-wise.


And the thing is, we didn’t really care. Both AE86s exhibited the sort of attention to detail that would lead anyone to believe that their owners had decided that they had found ‘their’ car. It’s once you have made that decision that you begin to do things well. You don’t cut corners, but rather embark on a gradual build that may take a good chunk of your lifetime to complete.


This was precisely the case with Kobayashi-san, who originally picked up the car from a friend of his. It had been looked after well, but like any modern vintage car from the ’80s, exhibited all the tell-tale signs of a long life of use. So the first thing to do was to make it look better.


It all started off with a Run Free aero kit; a series of exterior additions that would help transform the looks of the notchback that Kobayashi had quickly fallen in love with. The fitting of the kit was completed with a few choice additions, including a carbon fiber bonnet and trunk lid for a modern touch. Fogged up and just plain old looking head and taillights were replaced with fresh items, as were the door and trunk seals – things you do on this sort of long-term build. A lot of the work was carried out at Garage Infinity; the shop’s sticker proudly on show next to the Saitama Soul car club logo.


But before the body kit was pieced together time was taken to prep the entire chassis – both inside and out. It was sanded, rid of rust spots and other imperfections and then sent away to be painted along with the body panels. When it came back it was looking positively freshened up and glistening thanks to the multiple coats of Hinomaru (Japanese flag) red that had been laid down.


Kobayashi might be in the process of doing all sorts of wonderful things with his notchback, but it sure doesn’t mean the car is spared proper usage and kept in the garage all the time. As the stone chips it has accumulated as well as a few battle scars here and there – not to mention the ‘drift-spec’ way in which the front bumper has been secured to the fenders – all suggest, it gets used and abused. As it should.

One Small Touch At A Time

If things get scratched up and broken they get fixed – pretty simple. It’s a car that gets driven, and while it wasn’t actually out drifting that day at Nikko, it sees a lot of touge action as well as the occasional track day.


The car sits low; Cusco adjustable coilovers at the front helping inject modern day type handling composure, while also allowing the 15-inch RS Watanabes to fill up the slightly wider fenders. Mind you, the 8.5-inch-wide wheels needed a little help to sit just right, so Kobayashi added 15mm spacers both front and rear.


The rear has been dropped on a set of lower springs, and together it makes for a well-sorted AE86 that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to looks and presence.


When I spotted this car in the car park I did the typical car nerd thing and cupped my hands around my eyes and brought my head close to the driver’s side window to shade reflections and take a look inside. And I was pleasantly surprised too. It made a lot of sense, as we’re beginning to see a lot of more of this attention to detail in Japan when it comes to older cars that are entering the ‘collectable’ category, if you want to call it that.


Kobayashi made sure that everything was just like he wanted in here, starting off with the Bee-R carbon fiber door cards which add a nice and very racecar-oriented feel to the whole cabin. The 911 RS red pull strap is a superb touch too.


There’s a nice, simple feel about it all; the stock analogue dash joined by a pair of Omori gauges and a thick-rim Momo steering wheel.


It’s not often that you come across an AE86 with a interior this clean; the plastic beautifully preserved and even a factory automatic A/C unit fitted in there too. It’s all completed with a modern headunit, pop-out navigation screen and a TRD shift knob. Those with keen eyes will have already spotted the fly-off button on the handbrake.


Take a step back and you can marvel at the glossy red paint that dresses up the entirety of the interior. Like I mentioned earlier, the chassis was completely stripped down and rid of its undercoat and sound deadening before being painted in the deep, rising sun red hue. There are no longer rear seats or much of anything for that matter, save for a 5-point half cage that’s been padded with some foam.


The Recaro buckets are fitted with leather side protectors so that you don’t wear the fabric down as you slide in and out of them over time. See – simple but very well thought out touches.

The Next Step

Knowing what this car went through to look this good makes it even more special than we initially thought, which brings us to the engine.


The 4A-G that powers this AE86 is pretty much in a stock state; unmolested and well looked after. It’s joined by a few minor and basic upgrades, including a 5Zigen stainless steel exhaust that gets it to sound just right, and an A’PEXi Power Intake air filter.


Kobayashi-san will be spending some more time in engine bay in due course, telling us that it does need a bit more performance despite the fact that he’s quite content with what the naturally aspirated 1.6L delivers. He’s added a Cusco oil catch tank to collect blow-by that the engine churns out now that it’s approaching the 150,000km mark.


When the little four-pot is eventually pulled out for a refresh, the engine bay will also be cleaned up and painted to match the rest of the build.


There’s no timeline on it though, and that’s something I’m sure anyone that has owned a car for a long time or plans not to part with it, can relate to. I should know, as I’ve taken pretty much every upgrade to my GT-R slowly and enjoyed the subtle difference it brought to the car.


I guess it’s a pretty unique way to go about personalising a car, but then again, what’s the rush when you are sure that you have found the right one…


The fact of the matter is, as time goes by AE86s will become harder to find. Owners will look after them better; they will invest more time and money into perfecting them, and before you know it the humble Hachiroku will have become another prohibitively expensive collector car.


So if, like Kobayashi-san, you have a thing for the Hachiroku – whether it be hatchback or a notchback, a Levin or a Trueno – get out there and find one, and start off the sort of relationship that only a true car guy or girl can justify and comprehend.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino

Additional Images: Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto



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The bad thing is I can't think of a single enthusiast car over 10 years old that isn't at least holding steady in value. Most are rising in price it seems.
Really, if you want anything vintage, it seems that the sooner you buy, the better.


Lovely.. i'd paint this one white, but lovely.
Too bad the exterior shows much more grunt than the engine bay..


such a nice clean car and even with just over a stock engine state that's pretty sick. Plus reading the article i saw "You don’t cut corners" and that made me remember Keita Kikuchi’s S15 i read on stancenation a while ago which i have to be honest Kikuchi’s S15 is probably the coolest car i've seen in a long time weather it's in japan or anywhere else.


I've got the same problem. I'd love to buy a vintage Jap car, but i still have to wait 1 1/2 years 'till i get my license. I've been looking on some sites but all i could find that was not rising in price was a brown 1992 Subaru SVX for 5000 Euro. Oh, how i wish i could buy that car right now. All i can do is hope it doesn't rise in price until i can get it :)


so beauteous..sometime simple is best


so clean.. the want is strong


Love the golden "Watas" on red and black!


i want one soooooooooooooooooooooooo bad =(


i have one and its for sale


This has to be the best 86 i have ever seen, just stunning in every way!


I think Takumi just got jealous XD AWESOME BUILD!!!


Never seen a notch back 86 before.
Thanks SH,everyday is a school day...


maxvr6 Aesthetically, maybe.. But mechanically this is nothing special at all - the engine, suspension, brakes and driveline (i.e. all the things that really matter to a driving enthusiast) are all pretty much stock. Don't get me wrong its a very pretty little car but it can't be the best 86 you've ever seen!


Loved the intro, good response to some comment in the Nstyle supra !


I couldn't agree more about finding "the car". The one you fall in love with and spend a long time carefully planning and building. I am onto my 3rd Trueno and I think I've found the one! Great article Dino. I feel inspired to stay the course and build my dream.


Got the same feeling for my ma70 Supra. So much sweat and tears in that car. The car had rusty wheel arches at the rear and everybody told me to get a new body, but I saved it with new sheetmetal. I was to attached to this car. Everyday I think of new upgrades/mods which I can buy after a month of hard work. Did a r154 manual swap this winter, next winter jz time :)


To the builder: thank you thank you thank you for not having stupid camber on your wheels.  This car looks great.


Awesome looking AE86, and love the progressive build and approach to the upgrades. Definitely still looking for that car myself that will inspire to me begin a long term journey/project, but articles like this are always a great inspiration. Props to the owner on this great build, and thanks SH for the read!


Great looking car! I want the same kind of relationship with my Evo as you with your GTR Dino!


Another Month , Another Supra , Another GTR , Another AE86 ! 
I love Japanese cars but sorry I'm getting tired of this loop. please review something different ! Maybe German cars !?


MOU89 The problem is... german cars are not too photogenic.


Whats the problem with those? I can see pretty BMWs anywhere but only SH brings us these ricerockets.


True that one could say there are not enough german cars posted on here, I for one have only owned bmw all of which are pre- 90's (exception of one e36). I do believe that there are many worthy bimmers or other german cars out there waiting to be featured so maybe we can find some more Speedhunters? 

But this is Dino's article and he has the opportunity to find all these sweet JDM cars out there in Japan so I enjoy what comes my way from him.


Kidargok What the hell are you talking about?


Unless you lived in Japan with 10 of your friends all with 86's working on them to get them ready to drift every night, repair something , Junkyard hunting or just get together to put the car back together to pass  JCI (Japanese Car Inspection) You could never understand how this car with such a little engine is soo special. It was way before Inital D or any stupid Formula D comps in Japan or America. The competition was on the street to hit 8 corners back to back tandem until the JP's (Japanese Police) came busted it out and went to another place . This car and drifting was always about the street and nothing to do with any sponsors movies or money.


ryukyustriker Grassroots FTW!


BlackMesa533i My next feature car is a Benz!  And my new project car is a BMW. It's all about balance my friend ;)


AdamBezzegh Problem? Those? What?


MOU89 Like I said above, there is much Teutonic stuff coming ;)


LukeEVOVIII haha just don't sell it


matthewyaa My pleasure!


JohnCulbert lol


qaped Nice! Any pix?


@panda trueno Great to hear that! Share some pix of you car if you have some handy :)


CharlesSangollo :)


jacobherman14 haha,he does look peed off


JoeWhaler maxvr6 Let's revisit this car in a few years and see how it will evolve ....


koko san Classic combo!


@turbo BEAMS ae86 Always is!


AdamBezzegh That will eventually come too...


Option13 Yep, the time is now


speedhunters_dino qaped. I'm more into engine mods. The exterior is mostly stock...


JoeWhaler Ok let me rephrase that, aesthetically the best 86 i have ever seen!  I personally wouldnt change it at all as a street car... ok maybe a 20v head and some ITB's revving up to 10-11k might change my mind lol


Hiding the rust behind my friends VW. :-p


Daaamn,this is such a beast!


speedhunters_dino qaped
you'll get there my friend.. just like the friendly old hachi Dino posted above, they just require more love but they certainly give it back more and more over time. dont stop dreaming either; the day you stop fantasizing about what you can make the car into is the day the passion dies.


qaped speedhunters_dino Superb, keep it that way my friend! Simple is always best :)


DylanKetarou speedhunters_dino qaped Very nice, I ike the crackle finish on the piping!


@panda trueno haha, very cool! Nice rims


maxvr6 JoeWhaler :)


Great looking car!
signature: |


Pop up lights all the way! My kind of ride, notchback or otherwise. 
Great post! Tip of the hat to the owner.


speedhunters_dino DylanKetarou qaped 
thanks, dino! I follow your R34 and Aki's R33 on FB, and I'm a fan of both so I appreciate it.


speedhunters_dino AdamBezzegh wanted to reply to MOU89 just before my comment, sorry sir. :)


Love it!


qaped Can definitely recommend the JZ swap! Don't get tempted by the VVTI JZs like I did though, it makes the swap so much harder and for not really much benefit at all.