Alright so this is an interesting one. The Toyota AE86 isn’t totally uncommon here in America. You still see a few old of these old Corollas at car shows and drift meets here, same as you do in other foreign markets. But what you don’t realize is Japan got probably something like TEN TIMES AS MANY of these things as the rest of the world.
I know, I know. Deep breaths here. Everything is going to be OK. Just calm down. I know this is a big development.
It come to us from the nerds at JuiceboxForYou, strong contenders for the most obsessive AE86-knowers on the English-speaking internet. They are out of Ireland, a hub for AE86 imports from the UK, the rest of Europe, and Japan. They did a fair bit of digging and came up with a few nearly-lost-to-the-internet forum posts detailing production figures for the AE86. The full thing gets a breakdown in this video:
Juicebox isn’t totally sure on any of its numbers exactly, as varying sources differ, and other go so far as to claim that original records from Toyota don’t even exist anymore. Apparently they were all kept on paper and thrown out at some point.
This is the kind of rabbit hole that I used to love diving down into, and I’m sure I myself could go running through dusty copies of Japanese Motor Business to see if I can double-check sales figures. But I don’t have the energy anymore. Not after the Amati project.
In any case, Juicebox figured something around 18,000 of these Corollas came to North America out of a production run somewhere north of 360,000. Even if these numbers are off by the thousand in the case of North America, or even the tens of thousands for the global stats, we are looking at an order of magnitude more of these rear-drive cars in Japan versus what we got. A full 20 goddamn times more.
The AE86 is an interesting car because it is still a go-to choice for any enthusiast looking to get into drifting, rally, track racing, autocross, whatever. It was just the last of the rear-wheel-Corollas, but it still stands as a global icon nearly four decades after it came out.
The design isn’t all that groundbreaking, really. Toyota basically just made a low-cost Alfa Romeo Alfetta.
But the scale of production is what makes it so incredible. There are so, so, so, so many more AE86s (and lower-spec AE85s) than anyone outside of Japan might ever imagine.