Spend enough time featuring and driving modern performance cars and you begin to develop a somewhat skewed outlook on things. This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, we can't really complain about either how fast and effectively the automobile is evolving, or how the aftermarket scene is currently flourishing. Sit your butt down in a car from the 1980s and the general ambience will further emphasize what a big jump has occurred in the last twenty years. So what the hell am I talking about? Well, if that aforementioned derriere happens to land in a Toyota AE86 Levin, like the one seen here, a few definite characteristics will not only shine through but really make you wonder. Are 600-plus horses, so commonly found in tuned cars today, really necessary to have fun behind the wheel?
We met up with Miguel Varella-Cid of New EraImports.com and NewEraParts.com, which specialize in selling cars and parts straight out of Japan. He is, without question, car crazy and has recently finished building one of the most complete street-going hachi rokus we have come across. As Miguel explains, he wanted to create the ultimate AE86 that would have to impress equally on the street, on the circuit, and on the occasional drift day. Not an easy task to say the least, but with these objectives in mind he went straight to Techno Pro Spirits in Japan, a shop with plenty of experience tuning these little Toyotas.
It was decided to spec the engine up to 200 hp (remember this is a 1.6L engine), which would guarantee ample performance for the 900kg-or-so hatchback. The first-generation engine the car came with was already fitted with some high performance carbs but this didn't fit in with Miguel's plans so it was replaced with a 4A-GE engine from a later model AE92. Techno Pro Spirits paid a lot of attention to the head, which was gas-flowed and fitted with a race-spec valvetrain in the form of TRD N2 springs and Toyota Yaris (yes, the tiny city car) one-piece bucket shims. Wild 304-degree Tomei cams are used, which allow for a maximum 11mm lift, perfect for getting as much air and fuel as possible into the cylinders. The crankshaft is taken from the five-valve A111 engine and is mated to AE101 connecting rods, which in turn are connected to 82mm special high-compression Techno Pro Spirits pistons. An 0.8mm thick head gasket is used to raise compression to the staggering 11.5:1 needed to develop the 125 hp/liter required to reach the horsepower goal.
AE101 individual throttle bodies are used with aluminum trumpets to make sure every cylinder gets an equal amount of air. A special baffling system makes sure hot air stays away from the intake, but for the time being no form of air filter is used. The cam covers (both left-units with individual oil caps) are painted in an eye-catching red crackle finish matching the hue of the high-performance ignition leads. An SW20 MR-2 fuel pump feeds the four 327cc/min Denso injectors while fuel and ignition maps are managed by the Freedom ECU, which is set to cut the engine out at 9250 rpm.
Chassis rigidity isn't much of a selling point for these hachi rokus, especially the hatchbacks, which do away with a closed rear structure. As such, Miguel was very happy that his car was already fitted with a Cusco bolt-in roll cage, which is padded in soft foam. For a car that is over 20 years old this Levin is in outstanding condition with hardly any rust spots and exceptionally sound bodywork.
The suspension consists of special TRD adjustable dampers tuned to offer the best possible performance when pushing hard. Also from TRD are the bushes, while Cusco adjustable pillow-ball tie-rods, rear anti-roll bar, and strut bar keep things nice and tight. The Nobby Booth front strut bar deserves special mention as it not only looks superb with its carbon main bar, but with three fixing points it really stiffens up the front structure.
Since Miguel loves to drift, his Levin is fitted with steering knuckles from a GT-V, which add a little bit more lock to the steering, helping place the car in more extreme and controlled slides. A TRD two-way LSD (with 4.778:1 final) has been specially shimmed to lock earlier and makes sure the perfect amount of traction is shared between the rear wheels for optimum performance and, of course, lurid power slides.