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
Additional Images: Larry Chen