A Brief History of the Toyota AE86 Corolla
Story by Ben Hsu // Photograpy By: Jeremy Heslup
We’re big fans of Japanese Nostalgic Car here at Petrolicious, and have decided to launch a series on historically-significant Japanese cars. For the second in this series, JNC has written a great history of the Toyota AE86, a condensed version of which is shared here.
For the uninitiated it’s “just a Corolla,” but the AE86 goes by many names. Anime star. O.G. drifter. Hachiroku. Overhyped. AE86 itself is perhaps the nerdiest of them all, named after Toyota’s internal chassis code for the model. Even as recently as a couple of years ago, one could still make the claim that the 1985-97 Toyota Corolla GT-S was unappreciated or underground for most of its life. Now, as it turns 30 years old, that’s no longer true. As if you needed another reminder that you’re getting old, the AE86 has spent more than half its existence hoarded, hooned and fanboy’ed as one of the most important cars Toyota’s ever built.
The early 1980s were a strange time. The entire Japanese auto industry had changed their minds in a pivot worthy of any fashion rag: rear-wheel-drive was out; front-wheel-drive was in. This was especially true at Toyota, where cars like the Corona, Camry and Celica all became pullers instead of pushers (that is not a typo; the Camry was once RWD).
However, there was one anomaly in the lineup. In a move that would be unthinkable today, Toyota offered two completely different versions of its Corolla, built on two completely different platforms, sold at exactly the same time. Four-door sedans and five-door hatchbacks would be FF, while sportier two-door coupes and three-door liftbacks would be FR. Got that? four body styles, two drivetrain configurations.
Ask any 86 fiend today what makes them so special, though, and it they won’t just answer with the layout. After all, the chassis was largely carried over from the previous generation, when all body styles were RWD. No, it was the addition of the legendary 4A-GE motor, a high-revving, twin-cam, fuel-injected, multivalve four. Offered only on top-shelf GT-S models, it offered a 50 percent bump in power and screamed to a 7,600 rpm redline. A tuned version of the motor was even used in the Formula Atlantic open-wheel racing series.
Read the full story at Japanese Nostalgic Car.