The AE86-generation Toyota Corolla is a highly desirable car nowadays, thanks to its starring role in Initial D, the rise of drifting in America and a general renewed interest in good ’80s cars. Colin Frost’s 1987 AE86 looks like the ultimate track weapon now, so you might not expect part of his build to include filling in goat hoof-marks on the roof with bondo. Here’s how Frost’s Toyota was brought back from life on the farm.
Colin bought the car from his friend Chris, who built the car for light track use with a carbureted 16-valve 4AGE engine but eventually let it go. The AE86 was parked outside in an arid Palmdale, California, backyard, that was also home to a family of goats.
“These goat bastards would always climb up on the top of the car and stomp around,” Frost told Jalopnik via email. “When I bought it in 2011, it had goat hooves all over it, junky paint, a Trueno hood, and a lot of missing pieces.”
It wasn’t all bad, though. Buying the car from a friend meant that he knew the car’s history well and had good memories of spending time with the car. It deserved to come back, and be better than ever!
With the help of some friends, John rid the car of spiders, dust and the goats’ favorite food, alfalfa, and got the car running again just a couple of months after Colin bought it. So, he added a conservative tune through a GReddy E-Manage ECU, which made exactly 100.3 (don’t forget the .3!) wheel horsepower.
Mind you, this is an older Corolla coupe, so triple digits are respectable! Frost said that his final AE86 build only weighed 2,116 pounds, so that doesn’t hurt, either.
“With Corollas, I think of horsepower like you do with age in dogs/dog years. 100 whp in Corolla-powers is pretty good,” wrote Colin.
Colin used this newfound incredible power wisely that weekend: to get breakfast burritos. So, he drove it to work the next Monday, which proved to be a step too far as it destroyed two rod bearings and a head gasket on the drive home. I can’t say I blame that engine!
Out went the 16-valve 4AGE for a more powerful 20-valve “black top” 4AGE from a AE111-generation Corolla, which was roughly the same price as a 16-valve or 20-valve 4AGE that would have been more of a direct fit. The AE111, however, was a front-wheel-drive car, which meant that a number of items had to be reconfigured to use it in an AE86.
The distributor was moved to the front of the new engine using an SQ Engineering kit, several coolant lines were re-routed using a Techno Toy Tuning kit and Samco hoses, and some additional holes had to be drilled to make the swap work. It’s common enough that there’s a decent knowledge base of people who’ve made this swap before out there who can help along the way.
Colin enlisted the help of his friends Andrew, Danny and Hiro’s Garage to get his new black top 4AGE running as well as he could. In what he described as his “dimly-lit one-car garage” (hey, the work space struggle is real), and over about five years of fiddling, they managed to make it feel like the more advanced 20-valve engine came in the car stock.
He noted that everything has to be just right to avoid having strange behavior at low RPM and other problems with the swap, so this feat didn’t come without “struggle, agony, threatening to part it out, complete loss of hope, and small moments of victory late at night.” Sounds like fun!
The end result left the black top engine’s stock internals and ECU intact, but added a DNA Motoring aluminum radiator, individual throttle bodies with Techno Toy Tuning velocity stacks and an ITG filter. It feeds into a Silk Road header. An Exedy clutch sends the power where it needs to go.
The new engine now happily revs up to 8,000 RPM and makes a glorious noise, as you can hear in this clip of the AE86 on track.
Over the years, the look of the car also got polished from a goat-pounded beater into a seriously cool looking machine. The front end was swapped for that of a Kouki Levin, a DMAX fiberglass hood was installed, and a huge 1700-millimeter GT Wing with Street Uprights from Colin’s company Big Country Labs was added atop the trunk.
Fiberglass front fenders were also added to shed weight, and Modiride rear fender flares and a CBY front bumper were added to complete the look. Devil Ride bash bars were also added for drift duty. The exterior got a fresh coat of Bentley Barnato Green paint to pull it all together.
The interior was also freshened up with a classic Nardi wheel, four-point Takata street harnesses, a Bride Zeta III driver’s seat, and Techno Toy Tuning aluminum door cars with RSR-style door pulls.
Frost didn’t get serious about making it into a hardcore time attack build until the idea of going head-to-head against a Ferrari 348 came up.
“Going against a mid-engine V8-powered bad boy was the perfect David-and-Goliath story for this car,” Frost wrote. “I’ll let you in on something: Most Corolla owners you see out at the track really enjoy being the underdog. We make low power and try to do big things with it. That’s the mystique for this car for me, it can actually pull it off in some situations.”
I couldn’t agree more with the joy of being the underdog. My most powerful car only has 168 horsepower, so I’m all about learning to be the better driver instead of relying on a powerful car to get around the track faster. That’s the dream and the goal as a track nut all wrapped up into one must-do thing.
I even watched an entire anime about this phenomenon once. There was even an AE86 in it! Thankfully, I got that required reference out at the top of this page, so I’m not going to name-check the series again.
To start cranking out Ferrari-irritating lap times, a custom coilover setup (valved to matched the car, its wheels and its tires) from BC Racing was added to the car, along with suspension arms from Battle Version.
Fifteen-inch, seven-inch-wide Konig Rewind wheels with 205/50/15 Nitto NT01 track tires get swapped onto the AE86 for track use as well. To handed the extra abuse of track time, Techno Toy Tuning braided steel brake lines, Motul RBF660 brake fluid, StopTech slotted rotors and metallic track-worthy Winmax W5 brake pads were added.
The last mod he made was to the car’s gearing, which wasn’t quite right for Frost’s local tracks when he got it. A Weir Performance 4.77 final drive was installed into the AE86's differential carrier. A Kaaz two-way limited-slip differential was also put in the car two days before its first track day, which helped it put more of the Corolla’s modest horsepower to the ground.
Frost’s humble AE86 didn’t ultimately beat the Ferrari, but it was only half a second behind the mid-engine V8 supercar’s time around Willow Springs Raceway. Not bad for a humble Toyota!
After spending seven years building and polishing the car into a true work of beauty, he has a car that he can daily drive, track and drift to his heart’s content. He already has a set of 15x9 RS Watanabe wheels with stretched 195/50/15 tires for drift and street use. The next step will be the addition of a hydraulic e-brake for maximum sideways fun. Eventually, he’d also like to try a hillclimb with it and “not fly off a cliff.”
There’s still a couple minor things he’d like to fix, like the fact that heat from the header melts his right shoe on longer drives, but overall, he’s enamored with his car.
“I love love love love this car and I slap the dashboard and tell it that each time I get in,” Frost wrote. As he should!
We’re featuring the coolest project cars from across the internet on Build of the Week. What insane build have you been wrenching on lately? Drop me a line at stef dot schrader at jalopnik dot com (yes, the email still works and while we’re at it, the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated) with “Build of the Week” somewhere in the subject line if you’d like to be featured here.