I'm super excited to share the first (of hopefully many) guest articles by fellow media nerd and up-and-coming driver Jordan Harmon:
What's it like to drive and own a Toyota AE86?
By Jordan Harmon
First and foremost, what makes this car what it is is the car scene. From the mountains of Japan, driven by the Godfather of drifting, Keiichi Tsuchiya, to a highschooler delivering tofu in a 90s anime, this humble chassis has made its way into the car culture hall of fame. The car also had its own touring series, the N2 cup, so the rich motorsports history of this little car extends beyond drifting.
I’ve been lucky enough to own two of these cars. My first was an all-original, pristine Trueno GTS hatch. It was red and black panda style from the factory. With a few tasteful exhaust mods it was a dream to own. Unforeseen circumstances led to me no longer owning it made me not want another for a while but there was still an itch, like I didn’t get the closure I needed so I decided it was time for another.
My second is what everyone knows me for: a grey Trueno hatch, but this time a real piece of work (and not in a good way). The body is rusted, it’s got ugly overfenders, the paint’s faded and so on.
I complain about this one so much because I’ve had the worst luck with this thing since day one. I’ve gone through the headache of trying to source parts and repair existing ones. The price of owning this is like owning 3 normal cars, but there’s still something about it that I can’t let go of. Half of me wants to crush it and the other half wants to see it for what I want it to be.
What’s it like driving this car?
When you sit in it and just hold the wheel and look straight ahead there is a different feeling for sure. What’s so great about this car that makes people want to spend 10-20k on a 40 year old corolla?
As soon as you start it, the legendary 4age 16v purring sounds so good that it is almost soothing, but as soon as you go to floor it you realize: this thing is terrible.
It’s so underwhelming it’s laughable. On a good day its got 100hp, but there is something about it that makes you want to keep it and drive it. What are the redeeming qualities for this engine you may ask? It’s an absolute tank. Like, good God once you get it into its power band around 4 grand, it screams.
There’s a certain rush watching the cluster climb to 8k, and she likes it. You wouldn’t believe how much she loves the 6-8k range.
This car makes you drive it. For instance, when learning to drift, I thought I could be a little easy on it and work my way into it. WRONG! You have to be ready to meet Jesus when driving this thing. A lot of clutch kicking, full throttle the whole lap or you lose all momentum, and yet it really does train you to drive.
I have so much more to learn, but man is it so much fun. I’ve never had a bigger smile on my face than after doing some laps and driving it.
Along with blasting Eurobeat like I’m driving in Mt. Akina at 4 am, I don’t think I’ve ever had a smile so big on my face. I always say I want to drive something with more power but at the same time there is a saying that is the epitome of this car:
“It’s better to drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow.”
The other part of owning an 86 is the people you attract and what they do, act, or say. Honestly, I don’t care. The clout of my car means nothing to me but because of what it is, it gets so much attention. Honestly, it’s overload. People coming up talking about it or saying something about how they want one or if they had one they would do such and such.
Then you get the ones who are like, “Oh, it’s not a real 86, it’s a USDM ae88,” (US version of 86) or “you only got this car because of an anime!”
And If I did or didn’t, why does it matter?
In retrospect, the Corolla is a great car. It’s slow and underwhelming at times, but when driven the way it should, there is no other car I’d rather own or beat the piss out of.
To those who think these cars are just for clout, find me at the next event (here’s hoping I find parts) and I will let you drive it for a couple of laps. The car itself will show you why it’s so much fun to drive.
It might be cliché to say, but I honestly don't think there's any other car that would make me feel the way this one does.