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  • M. Garcia

A Custodian to His AE86


Today is 8/6/2021 and for some it's just Friday, but for others it's 86 day...or AE86 day. Every year enthusiasts around the world gather and share photos, memories, and physical space with pop-up car meets to celebrate the venerable Toyota Trueno/Levin/Corolla GTS/SR5 of the mid 1980's. Behind the wheel of every hachi roku of course is a person who must be celebrated for their dedication to the platform and community that surrounds it, today we give kudos to Russ. A retired officer in the United States Airforce, Russ has owned his own JDM right hand drive Toyota Trueno zenki coupe for many years all whilst maintaining what makes this particular car special to him.



As a child Russ's father owned an early 80's hatchback Toyota Corolla in red, out of the many vehicles he would purchase over the years to haul his family around, it was that little red hatch that stuck in his memories for many years. In his own early adulthood he would finally get his own red Toyota, this time a zenki Corolla SR5 coupe that he owned for a few years but didn't necessarily feel a strong connection to. Fast forward many years later and Russ found himself stationed in Okinawa and getting the itch to purchase another AE86, this time a real 4AGE powered example from the motherland, so the search begun.





Okinawa has a tightknit car community so when Russ was in search of this particular vehicle he was put into contact with a Marine who was looking to sell a two tone Trueno coupe on 13 inch Advan A3A wheels, Russ had to see it. On a rainy Wednesday he headed to American Village to test drive it and upon entering the two tone, well kept maroon interior; he fell in love. Some money was exchanged and Russ was the proud owner of a well-cared for AE86, something that evaded him for years while living in the states but finally his dream had come true.



Upon bringing it home his wife told him he shouldn't modify it, at least not to the point where it looked like other cars on the island with wild body kits, crazy colors, stripped out interiors, and engines that screamed like they were going to die... no, this particular example had to remain intact. Of course, Russ had no intention of going beyond some basic modifications, the car wasn't exactly OEM throughout, but it was a prime example of a well styled hachi roku. The first part of the plan was to sort out the stance, up front are a pair of 32 way adjustable Nissan R32 GTR HKS Hipermax coilovers with modified top hats and out back a set of adjustable KYB struts and TRD springs for a compliant ride and proper drop in height. At each corner Russ eventually found a set of beautiful wheels that he could not identify the manufacturer of, they are period correct replicas made in Japan of the Weds Albino Fins in 14 x 7 0 offset, he refers to them as the "JDM rotas." For tires he went with a slight stretch of 185/55/14 Federals that are good enough to get him to and from various events without any issues.



The interior of his relatively high mileage AE86 is what really gravitated Russ to his car initially, and he has kept it mostly stock. On most days he has a JDM original steering wheel, a beautiful 3-spoke design that has held up after many years of use without any apparent flaws. Other days he has a Nardi steering wheel with a Boss hub kit when maybe his personal or driving style changes. The real focal point of his interior is the very retro OEM Toyota radio that was sourced by his buddy Shaun at Stay Tuned in Okinawa, Japan. The radio has a fully functional equalizer with a bluetooth adapter installed behind it to keep up with technology, a fusion of old and new.



Performance-wise Russ has kept things reliable yet fun with the addition of a few parts that add to the sensory experience when behind the wheel. A Tomei titanium cat delete was installed just before an HKS Sports exhaust system, for Russ it adds a throaty roar on hard throttle while keeping it civil at lower speeds or when cruising. The engine bay is relatively stock, and clean with the addition of a Flos brake master cylinder and brake booster combo that is more compact and adds to a better brake feel for the driver. Finally, an MR2 rack with a Techno Toy Tuning spacer gives a light, yet direct steering feel to the AE86 but not just for a boost in performance but out of necessity. Just while he was getting ready to leave Japan to move back to the United States the AE86's power steering rack had an aggravating leak that simply could not be fixed in time, so off to Okinawa's Typhoon Motors he went to find a stripped out AW11 with the rack still intact. After installing the rack he was able to ship the car home safely as the car no longer leaked, rules state that if your vehicle leaks it will cause you to be fined or worse...it won't ship.



The Toyota AE86 is a special car, it's not the fastest and due to it's age probably not as useable as it once was in its' heyday, but the community of owners surrounding them have helped generate real appreciation. Russ considers himself a custodian to his AE86, he intends to continue preserving it relative to its current state, not straying too far from the light mods it currently has. When asked about what he has in store for the future he couldn't go further than just maintaining his ride and enjoying the drive wherever he goes, his purpose for sharing his cars with others is to inspire that "love at first sight" experience he himself had all those years ago. As a part of the community, Russ continues to interact with other owners and shoot cars on his free time; he also builds very accurate replica scale models, check them out on his IG: Crumptography , I'd like to applaud him for his inspiring effort in keeping true to his ethos.


Words: M.Garcia

Photos: J.Reyes