Two hundred and ten.
At a small race circuit in Kildare, Ireland (around 45 minutes from Dublin’s city centre) 210 AE86s gathered last weekend. It’s a significant number, as it’s almost certainly the largest gathering of AE86s outside of Japan, and there are whispers that it might have even been a larger gathering than anything ever held previously in Japan, too.
The problem is, no one has ever formally recorded an official number, so it remains unofficial for the time being. For perspective’s sake, a cursory glance on the search engines of the world wide web reveals a Toyota UK press release from 2015 where 13 AE86s assembled at Japfest that year, while the US-based 86FEST gathered 32 examples in 2013, but has been dominated by the new ZN6 (FR-S, GT86, BRZ) ever since. Similarly, an ’86 gathering in Japan earlier this year at Fuji Speedway was also inundated with the more recent model.
We just need someone to borrow an official from the Guinness World Records office for 2020…
It’s a lot of fuss to make to for what was built as a humble, basic and affordable sports car back in 1983, but the legend of the Hachiroku is well documented both here on Speedhunters and across automotive media as a whole. Even the various AE86 sub-cultures have been explored in-depth, and it’s rare now to find an ’86 enthusiast who doesn’t have their flag nailed (metaphorically) to a particular model, be it Levin, Trueno, coupe or hatchback.
Then there’s the cars which share a lot with the AE86 both in spirit and in DNA. That simple lightweight, front-engined and rear-wheel drive recipe that’s all but impossible to beat from a driver’s perspective.
For a group of cars which all share the same chassis code, it’s impressive how much variety there is amongst them all. Okay, the ‘UK-spec’ cars all follow a similar and near identical recipe (I wonder has any owner ever tried to get into someone else’s car by mistake?). While this style isn’t for me, the cars are nearly always incredibly well cared for and mint in their condition.
It’s the Japanese variants that continue to do it for me. Whether they’re styled street cars, professional-level drift cars or circuit hacks, they all have a certain amount of charm. I guess what makes them most appealing is that they’re nearly all driven as intended.
For the first time, the annual 86Fest was held on a Saturday as opposed to its normal weekday slot. While things were a bit slower to get going in the morning, by the early afternoon the entire paddock in Mondello Park was overrun with cars. Each break between the track sessions saw more and more cars join the party, too.
At 2:00pm, almost every AE86 in the place queued three abreast on the start/finish straight for the traditional parade lap. Some 190 cars slowly toured the track, with the procession stretching back further than the eye could see. By the time the first cars returned to the paddock through the back entrance near turn 2, the tail end of the convoy was still only rounding turns 7A and 7B.
While the weather did its usual Irish trick of giving several different seasons in a single day, it didn’t seem to have much impact on the day (save for people running for shelter randomly). There were ice creams between the rain showers, so it wasn’t all bad, I suppose.
It did have the effect of all photographs looking like they were taken in different months.
The AE86 is simply a car which you either get, or you don’t. If you’re in the latter camp, that’s fine, it won’t change the owners’ enjoyment. They’ll still carry on doing what they love, oblivious to what others outside their community think.
I’d like to say that I still wouldn’t buy one, but at this stage, I don’t think I can afford one even if I wanted to.