Celebrating 86 day at the 7th Annual Retro Toyota Gathering

A true legend can almost never be intentionally created. To set down the path will surely result in failure; in so many cases there is no way a simple car could ever live up to some of the marketing department spun hype we see. BMW M4, anyone? It is the cars that promise so little, yet deliver so much and surprise so many, that create legend and form dedicated groups of followers decades after their discontinuation.

And it is through the kindness of a tight-knit group of English based followers of a small Japanese coupe that AGR was invited to the Driftworks facility in Birmingham for a gathering to celebrate 86 day – August 6th, which rather miraculously managed to fall on a Sunday. Whilst the Toyota AE86 in its various forms would be the focal point, The Corolla Brotherhood’s 7th Annual Retro Toyota Gathering would celebrate all things vintage Toyota.

AE86’s in Sprinter, Levin and Trueno guise. Corolla’s from KE70 and AE92 generations. The classic Celica, Supra and Cresta were welcomed and present, too.

The opportunity to enjoy these small Japanese machines was only further enhanced by the location – a private industrial dead-end filled with the echoes of discussion and tales of driving misadventure, of good music and a plentiful supply of pizza. I just loved the red brick backdrop, too. A fair proportion of England seems to be constructed of red brick so the lustre is likely lost on everyone else long ago, but they’re still an excellent aesthetic novelty to me.

Most of the Corolla’s were modified with an authentic Japanese style in mind, representing that long gone time in the late eighties and early/mid nineties when drifting was in its infancy. It was a time when the line between grip and drift was blurred, and the style of the cars were not particularly biased toward one discipline or another. Remember, drifting grew out of circuit racing and it was these cars that were at that flashpoint as their drivers tried anything they could think of to find an extra tenth or two around a circuit. It just so happened that going sideways was kind of fun, and it took off from there.

It’s that spirit of fun that sticks with these cars, and makes The Corolla Brotherhood such an awesome group. The AE86 (and its earlier KE forefather) is not the fastest, and without significant and character altering modifications they just can’t keep up today. They traditionally haven’t been hugely expensive (although that is quickly changing) and they have been relatively plentiful (that, too, is rapidly changing). You don’t buy an AE86 to impress people, to go the fastest or make the most power. You buy one because they remain one of the rawest driving experiences available, and you build one for the driving satisfaction it will reward you with. That character and strength of spirit tends to weed out the types of people who sometimes have cars for the wrong reasons, distilling it down to a group of genuine enthusiasts who love their cars and love to drive.

There were some beautifully built and fastidiously maintained Corolla’s, but it was rather telling that none of them were trailer queens. They were all built to be driven and the only cars that arrived on trailers were dedicated track cars; even several of those were given quick squirts around the industrial complex. The whole thing was in stark contrast to the FittedUK show I’d attended the previous Sunday, where some of those cars were probably incapable of a spirited block lap let alone a hills run.

Chaydon takes care of running The Corolla Brotherhood, a group of diehard Toyota nuts who are responsible for keeping the spirit of these hilariously chuckable cars alive and well in ‘ol Blighty, and who has been an absolute legend in welcoming Any Given Reason to the English scene. These guys have no real club or constitution or anything like that, it’s about mutual support and a shared passion for their cars. They go to track days together, they go to drift days and they meet up at the pub. And as it turns out, they’re very welcoming to lanky Aussie’s who’ve never driven an AE86 let alone owned one.

The crew from the Corolla Brotherhood are completely committed to the cause, and several members had come from far away for the day. One Corolla sedan had driven down from Ireland, and the red rally style AE86 on the right had driven down from Inverness in the far north of Scotland. He left mid-afternoon to head back that same day, making for an incredible 16 hour, 1,440km round trip!

It was a day for spotting rare and unusual parts, and almost every car present featured a treasure trove of JDM goodness.

Bride x Takata – a classic combination. Takata has had a bit of a bad run lately, what with all the airbags spraying shrapnel at unsuspecting drivers, but lets keep remembering it for all the good things the company has produced.

That Levin Apex Rally Version model, though! So cool.

It wouldn’t be a proper Japanese car meet without a little bit of Anime/Manga on subtle display.

That car ran the exact same set of Rays Volk Racing 3-piece meshies that I have at home in Australia waiting to go on my Fiat, in 4×98 stud pattern. Seeing them on this 86 gave me fresh resolve to finally get mine fitted up.

I found this Sprinter to be one of the standout cars.

I don’t know a huge amount about old Toyota’s and exactly what the various versions of the 4AGE/20V/Beams engines always look like, so I didn’t pick it at first. I thought it was a nicely presented engine bay so I snapped a picture and moved on.

It wasn’t until a while later that I spotted the dash – a dead giveaway. A closer inspection of the engine revealed an F20C stamping on the block – ah ha! Well played, Sir. A complete engine and transmission swap from a Honda S2000, with a modified cam cover to fool the casual observer.

It’s the perfect swap. The F20C is one of the all-time great engines, a bulletproof powerhouse that screams to 9000rpm and sounds nothing short of glorious in the process. It perfectly preserves the character of the 86 while making it faster than it ever could be in period. The best of both worlds?

There were times when you could have been fooled into thinking that this was somewhere in Osaka, hiding away before the cover of darkness arrives. Instead, it’s a Sunday afternoon in suburban Birmingham.

 The gathering was held at Driftworks HQ, run by a bunch of seriously knowledgable and friendly guys who were at the forefront of bringing drifting to Europe. They have some of the most famous cars in the world, manufacture some of the most respected parts for drifting, run a massive online store, make some of the most entertaining drifting Vlog’s and distribute Work wheels in the UK and Europe.

What an inventory!

The hardcopy printed Work catalogue is a thing of beauty, a glossy tome detailing every possible available option and photos of the wheels and finishes on different cars. Gold dust!

The Corolla connection comes with founder Phil Morrison’s professional drift car, an AE86 Sprinter, which he uses in the national British Drift Championship.

 Mind you, there’s not much AE86 remaining. An injected Nascar V8 runs through a sequential dog box to a Winter’s Quick Change rear end, making for an almost indestructible drivetrain package and a huge amount of reliable horsepower.

It does muck with the AE86 ethos a little bit, but that isn’t the point of this car. And as someone pointed out, the two valve per cylinder V8 is still technically a 16V engine.

And it’ll lay a mean burnout, too.

The day wasn’t just limited to Corolla’s, or even retro Toyota’s. In the spirit of inclusion, all was welcome. Phil rolled out some of his other toys for us to check out, like his Murcielago LP640 looking stunning on those ADV.1 rims.

His 991 GT3 RS is kept on hand for circuit pursuits that are a little less sideways…

… and the pair of American’s highlight that it’s sometimes good to go slow. His Impala SS has a lowrider vibe, and that Chevy van has just been pulled out of rural Texas and is being mechanically updated for use a second tow vehicle. That beautifully patina’d body will be left just as it is.

There was plenty of other non-Corolla based machinery to keep almost anyone interested.

LS the world!

Kouki perfection.

Everything was welcome to find a spot between the Corolla’s, even the latest hybrid hypercars. Sort of.

It’s a testament to the fun and quality of these little cars that there still remains such a loyal group keeping the spirit alive, on the other side of the world from Japan. It just proves that all a manufacturer needs to do to build a legend is to just get the basics right. Minimal weight, a revvy engine that begs to be worked hard, a communicative chassis and enough build quality and engineering integrity to keep it all together over the long term. Get it right and the legend will follow.

Happy 86 day!

Words and photos by Andrew Coles


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  1. Richard Warland August 13, 2017 Reply

    This is great Andrew! I have sent a link to my good friends, the McClintock family in Sydney. Son Justin, of my good mate and former competitor, Graeme, was the NSW under 2 Litre Champion in Sedan car racing in his Toyota Sprinter. Wish I could post a pic - but don't know how on this website.

    • Andrew Coles August 13, 2017 Reply

      I'm not sure that you can post a picture to the comments, to be honest I've never tried. Flick it across to andrew@anygivenreason.com and I'll see if I can do it.

  2. Tom Gilbert August 14, 2017 Reply

    Great blog Andrew and terrific to see an 86 scene over there.. Love the detective work on the AE86 with the S2000 donl. Im sure it would have been lost on most people, just not you.

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