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Japanese Imports: The Toyota AE86

By marian on March 9th, 2016



When it comes to quality high-performance cars, nothing will ever come close to the King of all Drift Cars, the legendary Toyota AE86. While the Toyota Altis in the Philippines is aimed towards regular consumers, the AE86 had racers in mind for its innovative design. It was sleek, it was powerful and it was the result of an almost perfect attempt at innovation in Japanese engineering.

Rising Star


Popularized in the 70’s by “Drift King” Keiichi Tsuchiya, the legendary street racer turned pro perfected his drift technique by “sliding [his] car against the corners” to prevent the people watching his races to get bored. Despite Tsuchiya’s rising star, the man never stopped perfecting his craft and even approached popular car magazines and tuning companies to fund and produce a video of him drifting through the mountains to showcase his mastery over the craft. All throughout his stint as an underground racer, he rode his iconic Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno even through the now-legendary documentary “Pluspy”.

Some time passed after “Pluspy” released, Tsuchiya pioneered the progenitor of all legitimate drifting event —the D1 Grand Prix.

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It wasn’t until the year 1998 when Initial D the animation came out to widespread acclaim did the Toyota AE86 cemented its legacy as a legendary race car. The show focused on the underground racing scene reminiscent of 70s Japan ,with some changes with regards to the actual era. Takumi Fujiwara, the protagonist of the well-known show adapted from Japanese comics, was based on Tsuchiya and his stint (as well as his role in popularizing Drifting) as an underground racer whose specialty was Japan’s tricky mountain paths.

The show and its successful run resulted in numerous spin-offs, video games and other forms of adaptations which catapulted the AE86 from “awesome” to legendary in the eyes of both race car and anime enthusiasts alike.

The Car behind the legend


The Toyota AE86 is basically a super-powered RWD Corolla. It was most certainly the last of its kind. It sported 128 Horsepower in JDM form and compared to the other “super” cars of its generation, it wasn’t anything special with regards to speed —but that’s where the legend comes in.

The AE86, while not fast, was described mostly with two words “reliable” and “responsive” which are basically what drifters at the time were looking for in a car. Once more, the Drift King himself proved its might on and off track.

Despite falling short on some categories when compared to modern cars, the AE86 is still a titan in the car world with regards to sheer engineering and performance. It is generally agreed upon to be somewhat of a role model modern car makers should look up to, despite its age.


The AE86 could also be described as “bland” compared to other supercars, even for its time. Despite that preconception, its appeal was simple; back then it was a cheap alternative to RWD cars, sturdy and easily customizable —a factor which the creators of Initial D took into consideration when choosing the protagonist’s car.

The AE86 may be an old car and might fall short when compared to the cars of today, but the legacy the Trueno left behind is not something just any car manufacturer can replicate,whether intentional or not. It just goes to show that not every car should be flashy and loud, but what’s under the hood and actually loving the car is what counts.

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