The Toyota AE-86 Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno
The first time you drive a “Hachi Roku” (the AE-86 Toyota Sprinter Trueno / Corolla Levin) you may not like it since it feel very old school. But it will grow on you.
Some guys says: “This trans shifts like a truck!” And, in truth, the AE-86 transmission seems heavy at first and with a longer stroke than the stick shift on a more modern sports car. But it also gives you lots of feed back to let you feel just how fully you are in gear or not, as the case may be.
It’s very Old School, the AE-86, Old School in the transmission, in the heavy standard steering, in the widely spaced pedals, and even in the feel of the suspension. But give the car a chance and, if there is real motoring blood in you, you’ll bond with this car.
As the the driver you are fully involved in the experience. The Hachi Roku does not feel at all like he drives himself. You drive him. You tell him what you want (and tell him clearly, mind) and he does exactly what you want. You definitely have to be quite positive in you inputs. Talk straight and clear to the Levin / Trueno AE-86 and there will be no misunderstanding.
And it is this raw direct communication and control that makes this car one of the all time top, top drift cars available from Japan.
They are very unlike the “Heavies” that we discussed earlier: big volume turbo boosted straight sixes that will spin the rear wheels before the pedal is halfway to the floor. The little 1.6 liter 4A-G in the AE-86 doesn’t put out a great whack of power and you need to mash it to get those wheels burning rubber, but the key for a great drifting experience is here: the nose-heavy FR platform.
But what the light weight of the AE-86 allows you to do when drifting is something very special: accurate placement. Take a trip to the skid pan at Fuji Speedway on a weekend when the drifters are there and you see some amazing driving. There are guys there who can make these cars dance.
You’ll see Hachi Rokus do slalom drifts in line on the straight, flipping left / right, left / right in perfect sync the length of the track.
Let’s talk mods: Sky’s the limit. What else to say? Well, let’s talk engines at least in more detail. Looking stock, let’s take a 3 door GT-Apex: We’ve got a 940kg car with say about 130hp at 6,600rm. Torque comes in at just over 15kg/m a bit over 5,000rpm. The 4A-G is a DOHC four-valve straight four. It’s a sporty and solid engine, pretty well the closest thing Toyota in these years was making to a flat out racing engine.
But there is more fun: There is a stock supercharged version, the 4A-GZE.
This unit can be easily swapped into a Hachi Roku and now you’ve got a major bump up to 170ps and a whopping 21kg/m of torque, and all at the same 1,600cc engine size. This is a popular mod for AE-86 drift cars, but don’t think for a minute that all the drift guys are doing it without question; not at all. Most of the hot drift AE-86s in Japan are running NA with modded intake manifold and induction box and handmade exhaust headers, so NA will set you up just fine in a Japanese Levin or Trueno as a drift car.
Now a word from the trackside: If you over boost that supercharged 4A-GZE you’ll blow the bottom end. Superchargers really stress bearings. Enough said.
Or go modern: Toyota developed and refined the 4A-G through a number of generations. The later units come with variable valve timing and are putting out 165ps at 7,800rpm with 16.5kg/m of torque at 5,600rpm. (These are your famous “Black Top” 4A-GE engines with five valves per cylinder!)
You’ll see these in Hachi Rokus and in AW11 MR2s in Japan. It is an awesome mod, especially if accompanied by a lower final drive ratio.
Importing an AE-86 from Japan is definitely a good way to get one of these fantastic drift machines. But don’t think of them as only for the skid pan. Think of these cars as one of the purest, simplest, most delightful Old School sports cars ever made. Good units are still available here and we can get you one from the Japanese used car auctions or from the Japanese used car dealers or private sellers.
Now a word from the shop: Let us get the car inspected for you before you bid at the auction, and let us get lots of extra photos from the dealer before we close the deal for you. Why? Guys, these cars, although simple, strong, and well-built, are all getting a bit long in the tooth now and the key to successfully getting a good AE-86 from Japan is to weed out any cars that have had too hard a life or are experiencing more rust that is normal for cars of this age and year. We find lots of good Hachi Rokus for guys who want to import one direct from Japan, and these are certainly treasured cars now, but I just say: Let us take the time for you to get the right unit. We’ll get it checked. That’s the best way. Of course all used cars of this age are a risk and are sold without guarantee. Sure. But a good check puts the odds in your favour, and these cars are such fun to have that it is worth taking your time and getting it right. The Toyota AE-86 Corolla Levin / Sprinter Trueno in one of the cars that you can know that you’ll never regret having had.
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After ordering my minivan from Mathew and the folks at JCD, I will definetely use them again. Took three months to get the van but I am on the other side of the world. Van arrived in better condition than I expected although battery was dead and gas was extremely low. Other than that, the documents were sent to me promptly and the process of registering was seamless with the supplied documents. Thank you Matt and team and I look forward to working with you in the future!
When starting my path of importing a JDM classic Land Cruiser, I spent weeks doing research before actually committing because I’d never imported anything before. I was fortunate to come across Japan Car Direct, and that’s where I met Mathew. Wow, where do I start with Mathew..... (Just kidding Chicago!) Mathew was fantastic, from spending time on Skype answering all my questions to teaching me everything I needed to know to successfully find the truck of my dreams. Well today in fact I picked up my truck at the port, and it was in even better condition than I could have seen in the pictures and from the reports provided. Guess what, just ordered another one! You are the Master Mathew. Go Hawks!
My Importing experience with Japan Car Direct was unbelievably smooth. What I feared would be a complex process became far simpler than ever imagined. From the very beginning I worked with Mathew, who provided excellent communication. I always felt informed on all costs and the vehicle’s condition. My van has arrived in the US and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you for all the help! I hope to work with JCD again soon.
Had a great experience finding and importing a classic car. Worked with Mathew Matusiak and guided me all throughout the process. Would highly recommend Japan Car Direct.
This was my first experience importing any vehicle. The team at JCD, specifically Mathew, made the process exciting and fun. The information provided from the how to video’s, the explanation of ALL the costs and even helping me choose an import broker that made the experience easy and understandable for this first time customer. Thank you for answering my every question providing guidance through my first purchase. I look forward to buying my next vehicle from you too! Patrick – North Texas
I'm giving Mathew and his crew five stars for excellent service, and for delivering what they promised. I am a first-time importer for a van I will use myself (no resale). Mathew took me through the selection process, helped steer me away from potentially bad deals, and communicated regularly once I had selected my vehicle. He took me through the export process, and recommended Armin at EasyISF to help with the import process. I was able to track my van across the ocean, and Armin helped me work through customs clearance up through the day I picked up my tiny van. Sometimes you have to trust people and this time I picked the correct people to trust; both with my funds being wired to Japan and with trusting that Mathew and his crew had my best interests in mind. I am a very satisfied customer and I strongly recommend Japan Car Direct for your import experience. They delivered exactly what they promised.
This was my first time importing a vehicle for my personal use and naturally I was leary about who to go through. After looking through a few other places and after getting in touch with a longtime customer of theirs I decided to try these guys out. I can say without a doubt I'm glad I did. They are definitely professional and know their craft when it comes to getting you your dream car. Everything from getting cars inspected and bidding was completely transparent and went smoothly. I couldn't be happier with the car I bought and I hope down the line I'll be able to purchase another using these guys!! Thanks for all you guys do!!! 11/7/19 Still have my MR2 and loving it everyday!! I'm going to Japan next month and hopefully I can find something fun for my car to bring back! Just re-read my review and I can still say my car has been nothing but great along with my experience with Yoshi and his team! Thanks again!
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A few months ago I set out on my goal of importing a vehicle from Japan through an auction. After tons and TONs of research and countless emails, I decided to use Japan Car Direct as my exporter in Japan. From the beginning of my interactions with JCD, I was thoroughly impressed. My contact, Yoshi, was amazing...definitely a huge asset to the JCD team. He answered all of my questions promptly, translated dozens of auction sheets for me, and advised me of what to watch out for when looking for a vehicle. He was beyond helpful! I picked up my Kei truck at the port in Newport News a few weeks ago and couldn't be more pleased. Since then, the truck has made it to its final home in Charlottesville, VA on my farm. Yoshi and the other guys at JCD are now my go to team for more of these soon. Thanks again JCD and keep doing what you guys do! You all are the real deal.
Since a kid the FD RX7 has always been a dream car but i didn't pursue it till i graduated high school but the prices just for the shell over here in california was over 15k!! I kept looking around until I decided i would just import one. I found JCD while looking for the top 5 importers you could trust and they stood out more than all the other ones, and for a couple months of more research on their page until I ultimately decided I would go through them. Although this was my first time getting a car from Japan and having an endless amount questions spanning a couple hundred emails until it would freeze up and i had to make a new email thread .. Mathew always answered every question and helped me though every step. I didn't have all the funds in the beginning but they were very patient with it until i was fully ready, then after a month of having Matt give his thought on some of the FDs i was looking at we finally won the auction for a 94 Efini type R Fd3s. As we picked it up from Long Beach till the drive home I couldn't believe that it was here and soo much better just looking at the picture but i defiantly would recommend JCD to anyone looking to import their dream car too and and want to thank matt and the whole team with getting me my RX7.
I'd been looking to buy an RF series Honda Stepwagon to convert into a mini camper for a while but the UK prices always seemed too high. I had joined a few JDM import sites to get an idea of auction prices and costs (including Japan Car Direct) but just couldn't bring myself to take the next step, it seemed such a risk ! Finally after reading so many good reviews for JCD (and Mathew in particular) I took the plunge and contacted Mathew. After he answered my many questions regarding costs, fees etc I felt confident enough to pay the deposit and start hunting the Japanese auctions for my Steppy. My budget for the Steppy was pretty low (pathetic even !) but I felt Mat still put the same effort into replying to my questions and queries as he would have done if my budget had been into the tens of thousands. The result was I now have a very tidy Stepwagon with lower mileage than any vehicle I've ever owned, I've paid far less for it then I would have done buying in the UK and I've got a bigger budget now for the camper conversion. I wouldn't hesitate to buy through them again, and hope to do so soon.
5 star experience from start to finish. Transparent and easy process, and Mat was very patient to answer plenty of questions I had during the purchase! Can’t wait to do it again because the Japanese cars from this era are pure automotive art and these guys hold the keys to the museum!
After an initial inquiry several years ago, I still wanted to get a Japanese Delica or Hiace. Matthew was immediately in contact and helped with all the details. His videos were perfect for my search. Matthew was able to answer all of my questions and my wife and I were able to make decisions based on the great information he provided. I would recommend Japan Car Direct to anyone interested in getting the right car at the best price.
The staff at Japan Car Direct made what I thought would a a difficult process very easy. Matt explained every step thoroughly and his advice on details of cars was spot on.