Saving The Bride AE86
A Brief History Lesson

I guess it comes down to what sort of person you are.

Some people are nostalgic and find it hard to look past the good ol’ days and the original icons that inspired them to follow a certain path. Others are happy to appreciate what came before, but are more focused on what’s coming next. I appreciate both ways of looking at things, but usually sit somewhere in the middle.

In the early 2000s, Ireland was flooded with rare Japanese imports. Honestly, I don’t think anyone at the time really appreciated what was coming into the country. While there was no shortage of interesting road cars, there were also ex-demo and competition cars arriving here. In the following weeks, months and years, a lot of them were ruined, destroyed, parted out or simply vanished into the ether.

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There was Koguchi’s D1 Grand Prix PS13 and Falken-liveried JZX100 competition cars. The one-of-one HKS CT200MR Evolution IX road car, built to celebrate the company’s lap record at Tsukuba lives here (and is thankfully still in one piece). And cars from companies like Cruise, BN Sports, Sun Garage and Good Road amongst thousands of others arriving into Ireland on a weekly basis.

Then, in 2006, the Bride-liveried, AE86 Toyota Corolla Levin coupe of D1 Grand Prix ‘Crash King’ Ryoto Yuasa landed here. The photograph above is of the car competing at its first event in Ireland, still wearing the Bride livery and being guest driven by Norwegian drifting legend Kenneth Moen.

Yuasa-san’s AE86 had earned its infamy by appearing regularly on bootleg Video Option DVDs, usually removing all of its aero in stylish and creative ways.

I’m not going to say that Irish car culture came to a standstill when the Levin arrived here, but it was at least noticed before it was put to work competing in the then Prodrift Series.

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It campaigned the 2007 series with relative success, albeit with a different livery and kit. The car never won an event here, but it usually made the main show in the hands of Dennis Healy (who has had a couple of previous Speedhunters features) and was generally quite competitive.

It did, however, meet an untimely demise when it tried to move the concrete wall at an event in Northern Ireland. Naturally enough, the wall won that particular argument.

Around this time, drifting in Ireland was evolving rapidly. Drift cars were being built from the ground up to compete, and those that were basically still full interior road cars with bolt-in cages were no longer competitive or desired. I didn’t think at the time that the photo of the Levin being unceremoniously towed off the track would be the last time I’d see the car for well over a decade.

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The following year saw Healy return to competition in another SR20-powered AE86. It’s often thought that this was the green Bride car, but in fact it was a completely different Corolla.

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At one of its first events (if I remember rightly, a demonstration in Denmark), Healy again lost an argument with an immovable piece of concrete. For the record, he was actually a very good driver even though this story so far might paint him as a bit of a ‘crash king’ himself.


Luckily for Healy, he was able to ‘borrow’ a corner from the original D1GP car and graft it onto his then current purple competition car. The green Levin then sat in this ditch for a long time.


very long time.


Until one day, someone decided that this was a car still worth rescuing. Seriously.

The Glow Up

The man who still believed that this car was salvageable was Paddy Connors, who seems to be on a crusade to save some of the most famous Corollas in history. His other ‘rescue’ was thankfully a lot more straightforward than this.

I’m not really sure what possessed Paddy to take this challenge on, or why he set himself an arbitrary deadline of his own wedding day to get it done, but that’s exactly what he did.

Did he succeed?

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F**king spectacularly, I would say. This is the Bride D1 Grand Prix car of Ryoto Yuasa, still alive in 2022.

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As you can imagine, it wasn’t exactly a straightforward recovery or restoration. Paddy is quick share the credit with the people who helped him with the project, and in particular Eddie Quirke of Garage Q.

“We used as much of the original car as we could,” Paddy told me.

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When people heard what Paddy was trying to achieve, they were keen to get involved. Alan Sinnott, another former Prodrift competitor, donated the original spoiler, bonnet, BN Sports door blades and even the petrol cap to the cause.

The front and rear bumpers were recreated from moulds taken off the car when it originally arrived in Ireland in 2006.

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Paddy himself painted the car, and was able to get a close-as-possible colour match by having some of the original paintwork scanned before they started the fabrication process.

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The livery was recreated by studying a small selection of low-resolution, 20-year-old photographs and applying the graphics in layers (as opposed to a single printed piece of vinyl) which is how it would have been done in the early 2000s.

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The wheels are the same – and iconic – SSR Dori Dori Mesh, measuring 15×7.5-inch up front and 15×8.5-inch at the rear.

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To emulate the car’s look in Japan, Paddy chose to fit actual headlight blanks. This is in contrast to Yuasa-san’s method of just spraying the original headlights black.

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The interior, by Paddy’s own admission, is still a work in progress. “The original car had a full interior, so I’m trying to put as much back into it as I can,” he told me.

Coincidentally, the original interior from this car now lives in another car within the locality, one which was featured just last year on Speedhunters.

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At its heart is once again a turbocharged SR20DET with an uprated exhaust manifold and down-pipe, a custom 3-inch stainless exhaust system, a Mishimoto front-mount intercooler, radiator and fans, along with a Walbro fuel pump.

Paddy made the decision to use the original fuel tank with the intention of getting the car registered for the road at some point in the future.

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While the Levin wasn’t fitted with this strut-top towing eye when in Japan, it’s a small part of the car’s history in Ireland which has also been retained.

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TRD coilovers with TRD anti-roll bars front and rear have been utilised, along with a custom extra lock steering kit. This isn’t a car from the Wisefab era of professional drift cars, so Paddy was keen to keep it simple and period correct.

The SR20 gearbox, mated to the engine with an Exedy Racing clutch, sends power rearwards through a custom prop-shaft and TRD differential.

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Paddy completed the Levin ahead of his wedding, and has been taking the time to appreciate the car since, while still working on it here and there.

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Perhaps the most significant part of the car was Yuasa-san’s approval of the rescue and rebuild. He sent Paddy a selection of paperwork from the car when it competed in D1 Grand Prix, including his own D1GP license.

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There are plans to have Yuasa-san come to Ireland in the future to drive the car again, although Paddy will need to get a few extra sets of bumpers and skirts made ahead of any Crash King visit. Just because he’s saved the car once, doesn’t mean he wants to do it again.

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I’m sure some might argue that this isn’t really the original Bride AE86 anymore, but considering the alternative was to let it turn into dust, it’s very much the best possible outcome for such a famous car.

That so much passion and love has gone into rescuing it, is testament to the car’s status as one of the original Japanese D1GP drift icons.

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It’s a car with undeniable history and soul, and I for one am grateful that it continues to exist in a tangible way that so many can appreciate.

Now I’m just curious as to which Corolla Paddy is going to save next…

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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Great story, Paddy


Cheers, Simon!


What a story! what a car...brilliant pics Paddy!


Thank you, Toby!


Now that AE86 looks so damn good
Definitely looks the part when it's going sideways


Sometimes we make commitments that even most of car enthusiasts can't understand; put it in any logical scenario, on papers this car should never been resurected yet someone took the challenge and a lot were happy to help him.
Great work both Paddy.


It's the best side of the car community when everyone pitches in together.


Dear Paddy, can we get a feature on the CT200MR? It's been more than a decade since most people has ever seen that thing.


I'm sure it wouldn't be an issue, but it's *exactly* the same as when it was imported here.


When this era of drifting ended I really lost interest in the sport. Watched a lot of V-Option stuff and remember seeing this car among many others that left an impression as a kid.

What annoys me about the sport now is the pseudo-performance modifications and philosophy of tuning. Wings are not necessary to drift--I don't give a crap what anyone tells me. I have spoken to aerodynamicists with world titles who say it's nonsense.

I have even been told they "have to run huge horsepower because of how much grip they produce" by journalists. Odd, I thought those big wings were making downforce right?

The whole sport has really become a joke where the drivers try to act like what they do takes as much skill as other forms of motorsport which it just doesn't. This AE86 represents a simpler time when drifting was more honest to what it is imo:

a bunch of people just trying to have fun. Awesome feature dude! Great photos.


Cheers, mate.

To be fair, any serious drivers / engineers involved with drifting will tell you that the wings etc. are purely decorative. I don't think I've ever met anyone whom has claimed that they offer any aero benefit.

The pro class cars today *do* have fairly wild levels of mechanical grip though, and some of the new tyres that they're running are unlike anything I've ever seen in person before. I do think they're at a point of diminishing returns now, however.


Unless in RedBull CPD (a nice event here in the middle east similar to the Shifters but in form of qualifications not invitation) the wing can help with the clipping points; plus a part of the score goes to the car's look (can't tell if it's still the case been a while didn't follow the full event).


To be clear... the photo shown of the shell on the forklift... THAT was used as the base for the restoration? This isn't a case where the vin and surviving parts were grafted onto a new donor shell? If so, that is awesome. Huge props to Mr. Paddy.

Those were heady times.


Yes, that was the base they worked with. It would have been infinitely easier to move the VIN and leftover parts to another shell (despite being pretty illegal here).


What a journey! This car has a story, and it's mirrors many competition cars' fates over the decades. I have a Great Uncle who back in 1980 bought a '29 Ford roadster that had been built into a Bonneville land speed car in the early 1950's. It was a beautiful thing, but to my uncle it was just an old race car and he cut it up and modified it to keep up with ever-changing regs and tech. After failing to take any records, he moved on to a different chassis that was more modern and safer at 180MPH+ and sold the old Ford. The new owners recognized it as a historically important hot rod and restored it to the original specs. Your passion for old racers that others might have deemed irretrievable is shared by many and the dedication needed to see the project through is remarkable! Well done.

I remember this car from old Option Videos that my brothers and I would sit around watching, We would be so hyped, yelling at the TV playing videos that had been recorded years earlier as if they were live sporting events... fond memories and it makes my heart happy that this Bride Corolla that has a small place in my own life, lives on.


I always HATED Yuasa, and Fukuda. EVERY EVENT, they would destroy 2-3 BRAND NEW BN kits, and next round would have more brand new, freshly painted ones ready to go. SO JEALOUS!!! At that time (2003ish) even having ANY body kit on a s13 or ae86 was an unusual sight to see, even in socal.
Glad to see this 86 in the hands of someone who appreciates the history of Crash King Yuasa!!!


Hi Paddy, this is a wonderful write-up! I actually got chills when I saw the damaged shell being lifted. It's amazing that some people have the dedication to preserve these pieces of history. For lack of a better word, these cars really have a soul.


These vignettes that marry the past to the present using the glue of the car community are my favorite types of articles. Thanks for digging through the history Paddy!


Not one mention of the ship of Theseus?

I feel like this settles the question for me. This is the Bride AE86, and it was rescued from as close to the brink of death as possible.

Datsun Restomods

EPIC story. Really nice to read survival stories including JDM icons.