It’s An ’86 World

Whilst the battle was raging on track for the 2015 Irish Drift Championship, the Mondello Park paddock was overflowing with cars for the annual Japfest show. For years previous, the show was slim pickings. The economic realities on this island meant that building cool cars would remain a distant dream for most and a fond memory for others. With the upturn in financial fortunes for some, this was the first event post-recession and the standard of cars that seemingly popped up out of nowhere was pretty damn incredible. It’s like someone flicked a switch and all of a sudden the Irish remembered what good looked like.

Unfortunately, I am but one man, so my time in the paddock amongst the show cars was limited. That said, I was able to speak to a couple of owners about their cars and have arranged to speak to others in more depth in the coming weeks. I have a few spotlights forthcoming, but I want to start with a car that’s anything but a new build.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-1

If I’m not mistaken, this isn’t the first time that Chris Gray’s Levin has appeared on Speedhunters, nor is it the first time that I’ve ever seen the car. Like all great cars, this one has been a long-term project and has slowly evolved into what I consider to be the perfect AE86 Levin. It’s also a lesson in patience and restraint. That age old mantra that ‘less is more’ couldn’t be more appropriate.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-2

I’ve known Chris for many years and consider him an authority of sorts on AE86s in Ireland. It’s no surprise then that he chose a 1985 Levin GTV imported from Japan as his base car all those years ago, as opposed to the more readily available UK-spec Corolla GT Coupé. As far as I can remember, it’s always remained its original colour too: Toyota 147 Silver Metallic.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-5

The bodywork is subtle but well attended to. The steel rear arches have been flared with the fronts being tucked and rolled. This allows the Work CR01s – measuring in at 15×8.5-inch ET13 – to sit comfortably on the car, beneath TRD coil-overs with Cusco top mounts at the front and TRD shocks and springs out back.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-8

TRD is pretty much the order of the day here, with Toyota’s own racing division having provided the N2-spec rear spoiler, anti-roll bars, engine and gearbox mounts, close-ratio gear set and 2-way LSD amongst other components.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-13

Breaking up the metallic paint finish is an original J-Blood vented carbon fibre bonnet, which ties nicely into the car’s silver-over-black theme.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-11

As with all good AE86s, the real magic is what’s under that J-Blood bonnet. The 4A-GE remains, but its standard state is only a distant memory as the 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder was fully rebuilt earlier this year.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-12

The extremely rare RS Yasu ISM cam covers are a clue that Chris’ relentless pursuit of attending to the details. On the intake side, quad throttle bodies from a AE101 20V 4A-GE are fed air through a set of SQ Engineering 50mm stacks, themselves protected with an ITG air filter box. Inside, the cylinder head has been ported and polished and fitted out with Toda Racing cams, pulleys and valves; the bottom end fully balanced and featuring Toda 82mm pistons.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-9

Inside, the almost standard GTV-spec interior remains. The rear seat has been removed and a padded half cage installed in its place. The original front seats are gone too, now replaced with a pair of matching Recaro recliners. Other details include a Momo wheel and a TRD short-shifter.

2015 Chris Gray AE86 PMCGPHOTOs-4

This is a car where the details make the build. But as is often the case, it’s these details that can take the most amount of time to address. The result is worth it however and I’m quite looking forward to catching up with Chris again to see how the car evolves in the future.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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Now, I love me an AE86, but my eye kept drifting towards that A70 Lancer. While there are some good angles on it in some of the shots to sate the appetite, I can't help but hope in the back of my mind that is one of the cars you managed to get a hold of the owner, haha.
One detail that drives me crazy about Levins, is the smoked fascia between the headlights, and this one is just done right. The attention to detail on the rest of the car is equally matched. Definitely eye candy level.


IRONWOLF RD That Lancer was on the Japanese Retro & Classics Ireland stand I organised. A few pics of it on my instagram (jayomoto). Its an unbelievably cool car, must be in Ireland just over a year now and has some genuine racing heritage in Japan. It was parked up beside an equally cool mkII GSR Lancer. Not often you see those too side-by-side
Chris Gray's 86 is out of this world though. Cars are subjective, but it is hard to think of anything I would change about Chris' 86. Real presence, too.


Wow... for a moment I thought the "ISM" logo on the cam cover was "NISMO". Same font!


Same! Had to double check when I first saw it.


jay8393's the same font for sure.


Beauty! Got to admit, the brown color really gives it both a classic and aggressive look about it.
These two sitting next to each other just showcase a timeless appeal for those older Japanese cars, and enthusiasts today doing right by them.


Jason Marah IRONWOLF RD Your stand was a credit to you, Jason!


Blimey, another 86.... if I didn't like these cars I might find the frequency slightly annoying!!! Tbh, the more I read and see of these cars the more I do like them.

As it goes I am on the look out for a KE70 now to join my Mini and wife is gonna kill me...... damn you Speedhunters!!!!


Paddy McGrath Jason Marah IRONWOLF RD cheers Paddy, couple of rogue cars and cuckoos in our line up, but it was a last minute thing. Hoping to organise a JRCI run sometime soon too. Should be fun!


TurboHippie You can never have too much '86. It's like a rule.


IRONWOLF RD I've got to say that it was a great event, one which I really wish I had more time to stop and talk to the owners more. I didn't get that Lancer, but I will keep an eye out for it in future.


It's not that I don't love me a nice AE86 but must every one posted on Speed Hunters be labelled as the perfect one?

turbo BEAMS ae86

DerekAlexander all ae86 is perfect

turbo BEAMS ae86

bien Chris


Paddy McGrath You know what Paddy, I'm inclined to agree. Tbh many of the 86 builds, regardless at what level they are, can be quite inspiring


Paddy McGrath IRONWOLF RD Time is definitely the enemy of the Speedhunter, that's for sure. I would look forward to the opportunity to see that Lancer up close, but you really did walk away with a winner here. I keep finding new things I love about this AE86. That clear plastic housing over the cam pulleys is killing me.


Paddy McGrath IRONWOLF RD Time is definitely the enemy of the Speedhunter, that's for sure. I would look forward to the opportunity to see that Lancer up close, but you really did walk away with a winner here. I keep finding new things I love about this AE86. That clear plastic housing over the cam pulleys is killing me.


TurboHippie Paddy McGrath It's extraordinarily rare to find two '86s alike (unless they're stock). There's always these really interesting details and nuances that set them apart.


DerekAlexander Perfect 'Levin' :-) I'll concede that it's easy to get carried away when faced with good cars though.


Paddy McGrath DerekAlexander  Like Paddy said It's an 86 world. Go on and get


Please track down that Lancer for a feature!


@guest Where?  I don't see a Lancer?


SeanStott the header image, first one in the article. It's not an Evo.


Good to see Chris's 86 on here, Its one of the best I've seen. I always thought it looked good on the Volks but those Work wheels are just perfect on it.

For sure you must have been short on time, I hardly had time to watch the track battles, get a good look at the cars and talk to owners about our builds and I didn't have to go around taking hundreds of photos like you did.


SeanStott Brown A70 Lancer on the driver's side of the AE86.


that wing definitely is not trd, is a copy though thats for sure, that bad fitment on it bugs the hell out of me... other then that okay looking 86


SeanStott I was just thinking they should feature that "brown car" in my head before I knew what it was and came to the comments, and I'm an AE owner myself. Nice to see clean AE's but also the really odd stuff you never seen in the U.S.


Speedhunters would it possible to get HD photos from the article? Really adore that toyota :) thank you


Sure RenaldasMusic, all of our images are available in high res. View the story in Presentation Mode or hover over a photo to download it!


Speedhunters Presentation button doesnt seem to work on my tablet. Or Am I doing it wrong.


RenaldasMusic do either of these icons work? You can also use the arrow keys to navigate in between images!


Speedhunters top Presentation button doesnt work, on-wallpaper buttons dont show up (if they are supposed to).


RenaldasMusic That's very strange indeed! What browser are you using?


Speedhunters Can we get to PM? I'll explain the details.


RenaldasMusic if you could send an email to, we'll have our tech team look into it. Cheers!


How is almost standard interior with removed rear seat,and half rollcage,racing buckets,shifter and steering wheel installed?


the car was very good 
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