For all of the incredible metal which has been imported into Ireland from Japan over the years, a lot of it has been lost.
Some cars have been carefully and brilliantly reimagined, such as the ex-BN Sports PS13. There’s a former D1GP Silvia which is still in action, an ex-Shino Kouba AE86 which is currently living its best life shredding tyres for fun, and then there’s the HKS Evolution CT200MR hidden away in a bubble in rural Ireland.
They’re the good ones though, and probably the exceptions. For all the cars which have been either preserved or considerately handled, there are countless others which aren’t so lucky. As an example, there’s the former Koguchi Power Falken D1GP JZX100 which was stripped of its iconic livery, and painted white. There were others from recognised names that have had their rare parts removed, and replaced with cheap replica items instead. It’s not all good in Ireland, I’m afraid to say. It’s depressing to think about, but for the most part, people didn’t really appreciate the history and significance of a lot of these cars at the time.
Thankfully, this is a case of the former, rather than the latter.
Built in 2006 by R.Y.O. Japan as a demo car for track, it sort of vanished for a year or two before being imported into Ireland in around 2007/2008. As is often the way, the original importer of the car took great care of it, understanding its significance as a rare build. The car was used competitively in Prodrift (and still has the scrutiny sticker on the cage) before being sold in 2015.
Again, luckily, the next owner also saw fit to preserve its history as best as possible before selling it again in 2017. This is where its current owner and custodian, Paddy Connors, enters the picture.
Having been built as a track car, it’s likely that R.Y.O. never expected the Levin to be put on the road again, but that’s where Paddy’s challenge started. While it was registered in Ireland at this point, the process of making it road legal (by passing an annual National Car Test or NCT, similar to the UK’s MOT) was a major hurdle which needed to be overcome.
We have relatively relaxed laws in Ireland, but the ones that are in place are strictly enforced. To get it through its test, the car had to be rewired for lights, as none of them were working. Washer jets were attached to the wipers so the original bonnet didn’t have to be drilled, a horn was fitted, the wheels were swapped, coilovers raised, some of the kit removed, an extra silencer for the exhaust and a GPS speedometer, that displays onto the windscreen so as not to remove any of the Defi gauges, added. Then, engineer’s reports were required for the seats, harnesses, roll cage and other chassis modifications to pass.
Only with the car fully road legal could Paddy set about enjoying it for the first time on Irish roads. During the course of his ownership to date, he’s exercised restraint in preserving the car, while allowing himself a handful of (reversible) touches. Earlier this year, he fully repainted the car himself to bring it up to the highest standard he could.
The thing is, when something is good, it doesn’t need much more than attention and care to keep it that way. As some of our UK staff would say, this AE86 has all the ‘Gucci’ bits.
Let’s start with the engine – Yamaha’s Beams 3S-GE, as originally fitted to the Toyota Altezza RS200. The 2.0-litre inline-four features a TRD inlet manifold and AE111 throttle bodies with T3 trumpets on the intake side. On the other side, there’s a TRD exhaust manifold and URAS exhaust. Engine management is performed by a HKS F-CON V Pro ECU, and temperatures are controlled with a Koyo radiator, ARC thermostat and Mocal oil cooler.
The transmission is simply the original Altezza 6-speed, with a TRD clutch and flywheel.
Underneath, the seam-welded chassis is sprung on Revolver coilovers, with pillow ball lower arms from the same outfit. There’s Ueo Style tension rods, Tokico inserts, Cusco top mounts, Ueo Style inner and outer tie-rods with Nagisa Auto fender braces at the front.
In the rear, the parts list continues with a kouki rear axle running a 4.3 ratio and a TRD 2-way LSD. There are Cusco pillow-ball adjustable rear arms, TRD shocks and TRD blue springs.
There’s bracing, too. Lots of it. Garage Shapple panhard tower brace, Ueo Style four-point rear strut brace, Garage Shapple C-pillar brace, and a four-point interior brace with a full bolt-in roll cage incorporating door bars. Like I said, lots of it.
The rest of the interior is comparatively sparse, as can probably be expected with an AE86 of this style and vintage. Paddy did add the two Bride seats – a Zeta III for himself and a recliner for a passenger – along with Sparco harnesses. There’s a host of Defi gauges which relay RPM, water and oil temperatures, and oil pressure and fuel pressure.
Another change which Paddy has allowed himself, were the Work Meister S1s. The fronts are 15×9.5-inches -25 offset, and the rears are 15×10.5-inches with the same offset. Although he does regularly swap them around with a set of equally wide SSR Longchamp XR4s.
To conclude this epic spec list rewrite, we can look to the exterior. A full complement of T&E front and rear bumpers with side skirts are accompanied by J-Blood front wings, quarter panels, bonnet, doors, boot door and carbon fibre bumper and skirt extensions. The rear window is Lexan, if you were wondering.
Considering how immaculate the car is, and that it’s driven regularly, I’m sure we can allow Paddy some leniency in adding his own touches with the wheels, seats and some extra bracing.
Considering the fate of some other Japanese icons which landed in Ireland, this was one of the lucky ones courtesy of its three custodians here. I hope that more take note.