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  • M. Garcia

A RAD Hachi Roku: Toyota Sprinter Trueno

Updated: Jul 14



My good friend Matt has a garage lineup that at times looks like a greatest hits collection from the Toyota brand, his recently departed SW20 MR2, recently sold Caldina, and his wife's newly acquired GR86 are just part of the rotation over the past few years. However, his most prized vehicle may just be the oldest one out of the bunch; a Japanese market 1985 Toyota Sprinter Trueno GTV 3-door that he has meticulously went over to make his own. Anyone who's interested in Toyotas of any era are now very familiar with the AE86, it spawned the reintroduction of a lightweight sports car in the Scion FRS/Toyota 86, and has a cult following within the various scenes that make up car culture. Luckily, Matt is generous with sharing his own hachiroku by attending events, taking it to track days, autocross events, and even the Tail of the Dragon; he literally takes it anywhere and everywhere while being nice enough to talk about his experiences. One experience that he had yet had the privilege of enjoying was that of attending RADWood; a meeting of vehicles from the 80's and 90's that we all fawned over or owned at some point that are now gaining popularity again. With Hagerty now owning the RADWood brand along with the Amelia Concours d'Elegance, it made perfect sense to organize 75 special RAD rides in Florida for the first time ever; and Matt's Trueno was selected to be among the chosen few.



The history of Matt's AE86 goes back to Okinawa, Japan, owned by a family on the island, it would be gifted to the owner's son-in-law, an American deployed in the Air Force; his only instructions were to one day restore the car to the best of his ability and never sell it unless he spoke to the family first. The vehicle spent plenty of time having fun alongside Russ' 2-door, some drifting and autocross, cruising the island until it was time to settle back down in the United States. Unfortunately life can get in the way of some of our best plans and eventually the AE86 didn't make much sense to keep so it was quietly listed for sale in 2018 through the veterans friends, fortunately for Matt he had a strong friendship with Russ who quickly told him of this golden opportunity. Money was exchanged and a garage full of parts were loaded along with the Sprinter Trueno to make the trek from Arizona to Florida to meet its new owner. In his excitement, Matt took the car for a drive up to St. Petersburg to visit friends in his newly acquired import, but boy did he run into some issues; the starter was loosely fitted to the transmission and fell off of the bellhousing requiring a flatbed tow truck to bring it back home until he figured out what happened. From that point Matt knew it was best to go over everything before driving it again, so in he went with making the necessary next steps.



Matt spent months laboring over his newly acquired ride, the 4AGE leaked oil from every possible seal which made for numerous visits to the dealership and long nights in his garage. He had to learn all of the quirks of driving an older car and how to fix it, but this was just the results of owning an older car that needed some TLC, all was not lost. The Trueno came with some pretty rare equipment, the original owner installed a Crystal Body Yokohama fiberglass hatch with a Lexan rear glass, also a set of 14 x 6.5 +0 front and 14 x 7 -3 rear SSR Star Sharks wheels were refinished and placed at each corner of the two-tone hatch. Along with the exterior parts, an ultra rare C's short shifter was installed, this coupled with a TRD shift knob is what old Club4AG members searched wide and far to purchase. The second owner who was tasked with restoring his in-law's eight six, purchased numerous NOS (new old stock) parts directly from a Toyota dealership in Japan while deployed, this included most of the interior that is installed today; door cards, a new dashboard, seats, plastic panels, everything that makes these cars feel whole to the diehard fan. Some things were still missing by the time it reached the western coast of Florida, Matt purchased some OEM rain visors from Yahoo Japan with the remnants of the old embossed Trueno decals still intact, he also purchased reproduction Sprinter Trueno GTV decals to adorn the body; a touch that goes along way in presentation. Although the wheels were immaculate, they didn't come with center caps, but through the help of some friends in Japan, Matt was able to also snag a set of original Star Shark caps noted by the gold emblems. Slowly, Matt was building the car of his dreams and there was still some way to go.



The engine was in good working order, everything was where it was supposed to be; except maybe for cakes of oil. The 4AGE drove normally but Matt noticed a seriously dirty engine bay when he first acquired the car so after spending a few hours cleaning and degreasing everything he started to plan out his next mods. Matt was told about how "overrated" the AE86 was; slow and not as a great of a handling car compared to the hype that surrounds it, but he wasn't dissuaded to get the truth himself. Imagining a high revving 4AGE screaming to a 9,000 RPM redline through a set of ITBs was enough to get him to remove the working drivetrain and overhaul it top to bottom. The head received a refresh and upgrade by the way of Toda Racing's 288 duration/ 8.5mm lift intake and exhaust camshafts, this matched well with the Toda adjustable cam gears and uprated valve springs inside of the free flowing "big port" head. The bottom end received plenty of attention as well, with Arias 81.5mm 10.7:1 compression pistons, billet Manon Racing Product's custom rods and ACL racing bearings. For reliability full ARP hardware was installed along with a Toda Racing upgraded oil pump gear to ensure proper lubrication at high rpm, the deal is all sealed by a TRD 0.08mm head gasket. This overhaul also received the aforementioned set of individual throttle bodies from a 20V Blacktop 4AGE was fitted with Manon Racing Product's 70mm stacks and Pipercross 100mm filters to prevent sucking in foreign elements. On the other side of the engine are Big Corner 4-1 headers, custom test pipe, and Brave catback exhaust which provides just the right tone, not too loud but let's out a strong growl (and sometimes flames).



All of the engine mods wouldn't amount to much if the car didn't have a stout enough drivetrain to take the power generated by the upgraded powerplant at elevated rotational speed. The standard T-50 transmission is in place but the back of the engine was fitted with a Toda Racing lightweight flywheel with ARP bolts, a TRD clutch, and TRD pressure plate for much needed clamping force. The newly built 4AGE engine spins faster than before, this is translated all the way to the rear tires that are connected by the original solid rear axle, albeit with some upgrades. Matt received the car with a TRD 2-way differential and a 4.3 final drive, it pulls fast in both a straight line and through corners due to the right hardware.



Keeping a high strung engine happy requires more than just maintenance and a proper break-in cycle; you need to keep things cool, lubricated and dialed in. Matt took the time with the engine out for its build to get the bay freshly painted, he also routed a new Panic Made harness to connect his newly acquired Link G4 MonsoonX standalone ECU. The new ECU handles everything from the fuel provided by the 525cc Xsport/Bosch fuel injectors, the coil on pack conversion for increased spark efficiency, as well as monitoring and logging every temperature and position sensor to optimize power and prevent failure. A highly tuned machine, Matt's AE86 uses a Koyo Aluminum radiator with Mishimoto electric fans to keep things cool, he also keeps a Cusco oil catch can in the engine bay to prevent intake build up on spirited drives and track/autocross days.



As a spirited driver, Matt didn't neglect the points that make the AE86 chassis a cult favorite on or off the track. At each corner the rubber was upgraded to 195/60-14 Falken Azenis RT660 which is basically a DOT legal track tire, this car is setup for gripping corners as opposed to drifting. Behind each wheel is an upgraded brake system consisting of Stop Tech rotors, Project Mu B-spec brake pads, and stock calipers connected to BF Goodrich stainless braided lines. The rest of the brake lines were converted to Chase Bays stainless steel lines with a proportioning valve and high temperature resistant ATE Type 200 DOT4 fluid. The suspension setup also reads like a greatest hits list, Matt is a huge fan of Fortune Auto and he uses a set of the 500 series coil overs with 7K/4.5K Swift springs for ultimate feedback and comfort. The front suspension has GAB Sports sway bars to reduce roll and help with turn-in, Silk Road lower control arms and a Cusco front strut tower bar. The rear uses a Cusco panhard bar along with a Cusco rear strut tower bar to help tie things together.



Having a fully equipped cockpit is essential for an elevated driving experience which is a lesson many of us learn the hard way, but for Matt he had a plan to upgrade a few pieces of his interior to make it more comfortable and get more feedback. A Greddy 330mm steering wheel was purchased as the main point of contact between driver and rubber. While the interior was restored and in near immaculate condition, Matt couldn't pass up an original TRD racing bucket seat with a Recaro slider and Planted frame which helps him sit a bit lower than stock; a must for taller drivers. To pair up with the modernity of an ECU that can do it all in the Link G4 MonsoonX, he also wanted all the information he could have that the stock gauge cluster simply cannot provide, so behind the steering wheel is a Defi ZD Advance Digi meter to display all of his vitals.



The result of all of the work put into Matt's AE86 is a high-revving 150 wheel horsepower vehicle that handles like an extra limb, an automotive extension to Matt; or anyone who can learn the intricate details that make this not just any ol' hachi. At home, Matt also has a brand new Toyota GR86 parked in his driveway that belongs to his wife Jessica, it's a modern take to the recipe of the original Trueno and Levin twins. The features on the GR86 make it seem like a luxury car compared to the hachiroku, it is also much easier to control at its limits; it is capable and rewarding...but maybe lacking the essence of the OG 86. This AE86 is the culmination of patience, care, and a plan being put to work, every single modification has been tailored to provide an experience that is one of a kind and true to the mantra shouted so loud by those who follow this chassis. Matt isn't finished improving his experience behind the wheel, with a track day on the horizon he plans on adding a Setrab oil cooler, an MRP oil filter relocation kit, and a Chase Bays brake booster delete setup; in the midst of change he has maintained his form as he pursues perpetually rewarding time in the cockpit of his 1985 Toyota Sprinter Trueno GTV.