The gearbox is next in the cards for this hachi roku with a full TRD close-ratio gearset being fitted. Miguel is currently deciding which ratios would work best for his application; probably one of the hardest choices to make on such a well-prepared car. Pick too short a gear ratio and you will be hitting the limiter early, too tall and you will risk running out of puff at the wrong moment.
As mentioned earlier, the body is in great condition, which left Miguel the easy job of selecting body parts like the J-Blood vented carbon bonnet, the Budou Nouki front bumper, the Global FRP rear hatch, and the Jubiride rear bumper. To complement the exterior, beautifully finished, old-school 15-inch Watanabe alloy wheels with a polished lip were chosen. Sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE-01Rs give impressive grip while Federal tires are swapped on the rear for drifting sessions.
Seeing where you're going at night is extremely important and this is precisely why a bi-xenon headlight kit has found its way into the Levin's front projectors. (Although they would be of more use fitted to the front fenders, as this Levin just loves to hang the tail out!) As if these weren't enough, additional driving lights have been fitted behind the back front grille ready to provide additional illumination during those dark togue runs. The rear light cluster has been swapped with a late-model Trueno item for a more modern look.
The interior has been kept very simple with purposefully chosen parts. Hard to miss are the two red Bride Exas III racing bucket seats and the Nardi Classic steering wheel, a must on any drift car. The quick-release Rapfix II Prodrive boss lets you easily remove the steering wheel, allowing larger-than-average-framed individuals (ahem, like me) a bit more space to maneuver into the bucket seat. As we all know from experience, it takes more than a Dukes of Hazzard slide to settle into a race seat in a jiffy.
Gone are the stock instruments, replaced with a custom-made Defi cluster consisting of a large rpm center dial, oil and water temperature readouts on the right and an oil pressure gauge on the left. The center console retains the stock A/C controls and at the bottom an A'PEXi Rev/Speed Meter GP has the job of displaying speed as well as other useful ECU readouts. The GReddy multi-switcher and Defi control units are just below. An ARC titanium shift knob and carbon-colored leather complete what is a very welcoming interior.
So you may be wondering what this little beast feels like from the driver's seat. Well, nothing short of amazing would be the most condensed response one could come up with. Twist the key, give it a bit of gas, and the 4A-GE sparks into life with a race car-like bark. If you are cranking the engine while it's stone cold you have to hold the revs up a few seconds until the idle settles at an almost unbelievable 1000 rpm. As you may recall, the cams are quite extreme so the idle has that unmistakable unevenness, hinting to passers-by that this is by all means no ordinary Levin. The upgraded clutch is very easy to use and the Levin feels extremely easy to maneuver around the city.
Since everything behind the front seats has been removed there is very little in the way of noise insulation, so it can get pretty noisy in there but to put it bluntly: Who the hell cares at that point?
I will never forget the first empty stretch of road I found. I floored the loud pedal in second gear at around 3000 rpm and just let it all happen. As the rpm needle hit 4000 on the Defi gauge, the little 1.6L began to provide some decent acceleration but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. As that fast-traveling needle hit the 5000 mark the quad trumpets really started to sing away, by 6000 the motor really cleared its throat and began to pull like a train. At 7000 rpm it truly starts surfing the high power curve and propels you to the next set of traffic lights with urgency more common to turbocharged cars. I hit the 9250 rpm limiter in what seemed like a split second and was surprised to discover that the power delivery gives no signs of trailing off even above 8600 pm, where peak horsepower is developed.
The acceleration is one thing, but it's the noise that really gets you. When kept on boil this high-revving motor feels almost electric; those throttle bodies, together with the Toda Power muffler generate the most complex concoction of frequencies that are guaranteed to make every hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
The handling equally impresses, with electrifying turn-in and front end bite thanks in part to the overall light curb weight of around 900 kg, while the rear is there to be played with. There is no masking the fact that a solid rear axle lives out back as it always makes its presence known when backing off mid-corner, but get on the throttle and all can be forgiven as the rear end feels directly under the control of your right foot. You can tiptoe around and use the available grip to drive smoothly or input that extra bit of power and come out of every corner with handfuls of opposite lock.
Unlike modern machinery, this Levin makes you feel like you are part of the car, a more intense driver-machine interface, and thus a more natural feeling balance. There is no traction or stability control here, no 4WD, no ABS, nothing that would blunt what a car has to do, which, of course, is to communicate with its driver. The only aspect of this AE86 that didn't completely captivate me was the braking. It just didn't feel as reassuring as most kits now available for modern cars, but we can't have everything right? So next time you need to change cars don't automatically assume big power equals big fun, because like the old saying goes: The best things come in small packages.