Just this week, UNESCO went ahead and published a list. As the arm of the United Nations tasked with covering education, science and cultural issues, such a thing is standard enough practice. Boffins spending time creating lists, compiling a report and thus gaining a few headlines. It’s a regular thing, and findings continually pop into our lives often with little, if any thought before drifting into the dark recesses of our memory. This was different though, as the report granted ‘protection’ to recognised ‘cultural activities’ from local sports to musical genres.
There was an obvious omission, though: Irelands love affair with the ‘Twincam’.
Argue against its cultural significance in any way and you will be defeated. A unique style found only in a small corner of the world? Check. A cult-like following with adulation and celebration? Check. A community actively engaged in the upkeep of traditions? Yes, sir!
Born from a different time in Irish history, the Twincam scene is kept alive by a tight-knit group of owners, although today I am with the real veterans, more concerned with keeping up the true traditions of the car rather than the new direction. Namely, doing smokey donuts at every crossroad rather than keeping a now appreciating classic tucked up in a shed under a layer of polish.
With time passing by and parts becoming rarer all the time, Twincam values in Ireland are growing all the time. More and more cars that could tell plenty of stories are being stripped for long and costly restorations, with the then pristine cars taken out occasionally for shows or for a spin to Donegal.
When a post went up on a private owners group about a ‘spin’, you could tell this was not going to be any show ‘n’ shine, but an ever-increasingly rare opportunity to catch real Irish Twincam culture in its rawest form. Rings Laaaaaaaaad.
Getting away with anything in public is a difficult task in this modern world. The freedom that surrounded the Twincam’s lawless heyday is long since evaporated, and being caught in the act of doing a donut is grounds for a dangerous driving conviction, a fine, and a high likeliness of losing your license.
That’s why guys like the ‘Twincam Veterans’ want to keep the spirit alive with days like this. Go, do your thing away from as many people as possible and have a laugh with mates. It’s how it was, and how many still want it to be.
The convoy this afternoon is large in a Twincam sense. I’ve tried before to track a group to see the spectacle of open road ‘messing’, but never tailed more than a single car or two. The stakes are high, so discretion is often king.
On a crisp November morning though, the crew numbers near 15. Out in as rural a part of the country as you could envision, the line pulls off into the mid-day sun. This is no late-night blast.
I have a driver today, a local who knows the route. Finding the meeting point was hard enough; finding a random intersection would have proved impossible. At the location the rumble of four cylinder Toyotas come into earshot.
A quick scan for oncoming traffic and we’re clear: roll-in, dump the clutch and away you go.
Some hold the car on a path that would convince you the front wheel was a fixed fulcrum point, while others take the wide line, rubbing 30-year-old quarter panels off grass verges and ditches. Quick blast and gone, one after another. The asphalt soon becomes a squiggle of tyre marks as the air fills with smoke. A lone local in a van looks bemused at the sight met on the road ahead, but is on their way again within a minute or two. This is the only vehicle met all day. I did say rural…
The day passes quickly. Like following a rally, we jump from junction to junction, each with only minutes to spare before the convoy would arrive. Rings, tyre smoke, and smiles. Simple pleasures. Everything felt old school, as this was the stuff that was talked about in stories and grainy VHS videos. Fellas swapping tyres on the side of a country road to keep going. There is a respect within the group of the risks being taken, as very few record video or take pictures.
Now, I know there are some reading this with a perplexed look thinking ‘WTF is a Twincam? That’s an AE86, dude!’ Well, I suppose you’re right, but I was in my mid-teens when I found out about that mythical Toyota chassis code, yet I could spot a Corolla, a GT Coupe (pronounced as ‘Coop’ due to our propensity to butcher the French language) or a ‘Cam from a distance. The Toyota Corolla GT Coupe was what the AE86 was sold as in Ireland and the UK, and the name stuck.
The ‘Twincam’ title? Well, the wonderful 4A-GE is to blame there.
The unique style side of things is often seen as a stick to beat the Twincam scene with, as all the cars sort of looking the same is the done thing. But not unlike the LA lowrider scene, a style can become so iconic and timeless that to go against the grain just doesn’t fit into the whole aura of the scene.
Heavily influenced from the Irish rally scene, Corollas have had a near defined rulebook look that has been stuck to for nearly 30 years. Genuinely, I could sneak in photos from the ’80s or ’90s here with no issue. Drift scene guys are always trying to get back to the look and stance of the grassroots Japanese cars of that era, but the Twincam men have stayed true.
I must make an admission here, as there is a huge difference of opinion on this subject in Ireland between the UK-spec or JDM-influenced AE86s. That is that I absolutely adore the proper UK style of things. I grew up around rallying, and seeing Corollas rolling around Letterkenny, Killarney or Cork over event weekends was an iconic part of the scenery.
Rally weekends and Twincams just go hand in hand, and the rural nature of the events and the owners is likely a huge contribution to the division. You’ll not find many UK-spec cars out drifting at Mondello, and likewise you don’t find many JDM-spec cars out doing a lash of ‘rings’.
The style, as I said, is fairly set in stone at this stage that you could very easily sell a ‘Twincam Pack’. Wheel options are fairly open: go with 13-inch multi-spoke Superlites or the four-spoke Revolite. Engines are left standard, but that iconic 4A-GE note has got to flow through a Janspeed exhaust, with suspension taken care of with a set of Cobra lowering springs. After that, there is room for a bit of personal style, with either a half-moon bracket of rally spot lights, or no spot lights. Why mess with something so spot on?
As a single vehicle, the Twincam is held up as an idol to many, but is also the epitome of the antichrist to others due to the reputation. It says a lot for a car to be celebrated in song, but in Ireland we have country ditties celebrating both the Twincam and its real forbearer, the Mk2 Ford Escort.
The Ford was the car of its time in the 1970s, with many current owners having grown up in that era, whereas the Corolla took on the mantle through the 1980s and 1990s as nothing came to claim its place as a cheap, affordable RWD vehicle until the influx of JDM metal in the early 2000s.
As time continues to tick by, with AE86 production having ended over 30 years ago, it’s hard to imagine seeing a day like this anymore. While events like Ireland’s 86 Fest continue to prosper due to our national love affair with the platform, finding a group keeping things real and using their cars as a means of fun and excitement is becoming rarer by the day.
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