Drifting stands out from any other motorsport. Not only is the style of driving wildly different, so are the cars. Whether they’re home-built racers or manufacturer-backed track weapons, drift cars are a rare breed. And no matter who you talk to about drifting, there’s one car that stands above all others: The Toyota Corolla AE86.
Not Just Any Toyota
If someone asked you to name the top five best-selling cars of all time, which would you pick? Ford F150? Volkswagen Beetle? While both are good guesses, nothing can touch the Toyota Corolla. Since its launch in 1966, the Corolla has sold some 43 million units around the globe, outselling the second place F-Series pickup by over three million vehicles. There’s one particular model of Corolla that deserves special attention.
Also known as the Toyota Corolla Levin or Sprinter Trueno, the AE86 was a boxy sport compact produced from 1983 to 1987. The trend in compact Japanese automobiles at the time was to err on the side of caution and use front-wheel drive for improved safety. With the AE86, Toyota opted for a more performance-oriented setup: rear-wheel drive, perfect 50/50 weight distribution, a limited slip differential, and other characteristics that made it perfect for drifting.
The AE86 became an icon thanks not only to its handling and incredible racing legacy, but also its central role in the popular Japanese anime Initial D. It also inspired the modern joint sports car project between Toyota and Subaru which produced the Toyota GT86, Scion FR-S, and Subaru BRZ. All three are lightweight, rear-drive sports cars that are also fantastic drifting machines.
Why the AE86 is the Choice of Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya
If you’re unfamiliar with drifting, it’s a way of driving where drivers intentionally slide their vehicles around a course, trying to get as sideways as possible while still maintaining control. Drifting prefers style over outright speed and quick lap times, and the result is clouds of tire smoke and some of the most impressive displays of car control you’ll ever see.
One of the most famous drifters of all time is Keiichi Tsuchiya, AKA: Drift King. Hailing from Japan, Tsuchiya is quoted as saying, "I drift not because it is the quickest way around a corner, but the most exciting.” Some of his other incredible accomplishments include a class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and working on the film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift as both the stunt coordinator and a stunt man.
A heavily-modified AE86 was Tsuchiya's car of choice during his professional career. Enormously powerful and designed specifically for going sideways as fast as possible, the Drift King’s AE86 is a true legend.
Check out this video of Tsuchiya discussing the AE86 and thrashing it around a circuit.
Modifying the AE86 Race Engine
Another reason why the AE86 is such a popular choice for drifters is its easily modifiable engine. Its 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine only has 97 horsepower out of the factory, but it can be upgraded to dramatically increase its strength. Upgrades like porting and polishing the heads, regrinding cams, upgrading fuel injectors and fuel pump, and turbocharging were all key in turning the diminutive Toyota into a drift monster. When done right, you had an out-and-out AE86 race engine.
In addition, the car came with a 5-speed manual transmission, ventilated disc brakes, and performance suspension that could all be upgraded with ease.
Protecting Your Older Car
The Toyota AE86 doesn’t look like much at first glance, but thanks to creative minds and skilled drivers like Keiichi Tsuchiya, it’s had an indelible impact on the world of drifting. It’s rolling proof that huge engines and outrageous power aren’t necessary for an incredible driving experience. And, if you want to protect and prolong your vehicle’s driving experience, there’s an extended warranty plan that’s right for you.
Do you have an older car that you love to drive? If your vehicle is less than 10 years old and has over 80,000 miles, there is warranty protection available through Protect My Car.
Also, with Protect My Car, payment plans are flexible, so any budget can have access to 24/7 roadside assistance and an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. Just make sure that if driving like the Drift King fires you up, consider a performance driving course and always keep it on the track.