20-Valves & An LSD: Does It Get Any Better?

It’s typical when writing about a white and black AE86, to apply Initial D references liberally and with a heavy brush.

But I have what is perhaps an embarrassing admission to make; I am not much of an Initial D fan. I somehow managed to completely miss the first North American wave of popularity for the series, and when the show landed on Netflix, I repeatedly found myself drifting (sorry) to sleep at the precise moment the euro beats intensified.

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As a result my knowledge of the series is cursory at best, so I was quite relieved when Lester admitted that Initial D actually had very little influence on his own AE86.

According to Lester, who actually goes by Chester to his friends, any similarities come from the fact that Takumi also had good taste.

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The Family Influence

Chester’s love for the AE86 was family born, not media born. His uncle in Guatemala owned one and watching him have fun behind the wheel, while bouncing around the rear seat was enough to plant the seed. At driving age, when his uncle passed away, Chester did try and buy that exact inspirational car for himself.

Unfortunately the car changed hands quickly after his uncle’s passing and when finally found, it was little more than a shell. After running the numbers the conclusion was drawn that starting from a bare shell in Guatemala, when his ultimate goal was to drive the car in the United States, didn’t make a lot of sense.

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I don’t think there’s an AE86 owner out there that would say restoring one of these cars is the wisest of financial decisions but, as far as burning money goes, Chester’s would disappear slightly slower stateside.

Chassishunter 

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Becoming only more desirable as the years pass, clean AE86 chassis’ don’t stay on the market very long. Before purchasing this car, several other incomplete and complete cars were considered. Some were in too poor condition to be bothered with, while others were in exceptional condition and carried the price tag to match.

Any that landed in a workable sweet spot managed to disappear two phone calls before Chester’s own.

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When this car came up for sale it was priced just outside Chester’s ideal budget, and located out of state, but Chester opted to inquire anyway. His intent wasn’t to low ball the seller, but instead get a better idea of what the car had should they be able to strike a deal.

The running car was already fit with a 20-valve blacktop, fender flares, and period correct wheels. Inside, the interior was nearly all gone, but the chassis had been stitch welded and undergone a mild body restoration. In a nutshell the car wasn’t flawless, but presented itself as a solid starting point.

Chester respectfully let the owner know the price he’d be interested at and kept an eye on the for sale ad in the mean time.

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Shoot your shot as they say, and after circling the rim for a very long time, Chester’s did eventually land. Dealing with tire kickers and dreamers can be quite draining and eventually the owner relented and called Chester back.

After a bit more of the customary car buying banter, a tentative deal was stuck with a slight stipulation. Chester would agree to bring up his offer if the seller agreed that any unmentioned blemishes would take $100 off the price.

It’s important to note that the $100 deductions would be cumulative, per item found.

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In a rare case of the owner actually knowing what they have once the car arrived, no deductions were subtracted.

Where to Begin?

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If this car was to have a theme, that theme would be simplicity.

Chester wasn’t looking to recreate the Watanabe look with this car, instead his sights were set on a clean, street worthy Corolla that could also be shown without looking out of place.

Of course, the car also needed to get itself to and from each show, no matter the distance, and without even the slightest objection.

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Working from the inside out, the interior is a thoughtful blend of classic and modern. The front seats are borrowed from the Corolla’s much younger brother, the Scion FRS, and between the red stitched seats is a Retro-Spec carbon fiber center console.

Atop the era correct accordion booted shifter, is a Nostalgic Grains shift knob.

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A full GTS black cloth interior sets off the rest of the occupant’s quarters, along with Bride fabric inserts which now reside where the original Toyota trimming would have been.

Chester’s favorite feature of the interior is the authentic TRD Nardi steering wheel. He managed to grab that little item from a Toyota Cressida.

The resulting package is, as Chester had hoped, neat and tidy.

Let the Brass Section Play

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Under the hood, what the car may lack in sheer power it makes up with sound and presentation. As mentioned, the car came with a working 20-valve ‘Blacktop’ swap and Chester drove that version of the motor to its fullest. Unfortunately, long drives and a 4.89 ratio rear end were not exactly copacetic.

Eventually, the motor started to show signs of fatigue as a result of prolonged high rpms, and as a pre-emptive measure, it was pulled for a re-build. While the engine bay was empty, it was given a little bit of spit shine.

Superfluous holes were welded shut, and the entire thing was smoothed and then painted Toyota white.

The motor went back into its renovated home with T3 velocity stacks on one side and a JSP high rise header on the other. Further engine bay improvements include a Honda Civic coil pack conversion and a Sam Q waterline relocation kit.

To clean things up even further, carbon fiber spark plug and cam gear covers were worked into the engine bay.

In an effort to keep this one around a little longer on his frequent weekend trips of two hours or more, the rear end is now a TRD 2-way LSD equipped unit with 4.77 gears. The new gearing keeps the revolutions per minute at a much more manageable number while cruising the highway.

Refined

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Visually, the car’s exterior is another stellar example of the right modifications, not all the modifications. The front and rear bumpers are OEM JDM zenki units, as are the front lip and the grill.

The eyelids and corners lights are kouki, and so are the Redline tail lights in the rear.

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The front end is complemented by extremely rare, working, OEM Toyota fog lights. These lights are rare as the covers are motorized, at the flip of a switch they cover the yellow lenses entirely.

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A big fan of carbon fiber, Chester has added it to the car wherever tasteful. At the time of shooting ,the most visible CF additions were the J Blood rear fins. However, since the shoot, carbon fiber eyelids have also been added to the mix.

The flares containing the 15×8.5-inch SSR XR4 Longchamps are also carbon fiber, but to not disrupt the visual flow, Chester painted the flares gloss black.

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Should the need for more carbon fiber accents strike, Chester has a VIS Carbon hood he can rock. Usually, when he adds the hood he also adds a J Blood front bumper as well.

The result of that package is slightly more aggressive than the one in these photos, but still one that is quite timeless.

Tightening The Strings

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Mechanically the car is fairly straight froward. Greddy Coilovers have been installed at all four corners while Whiteline sway bars are affixed at each end. Poly-bushes have been installed throughout and a T3 lateral bar has also been installed to keep things in line for trips that are a little more spirited than a simple A to B journey.

Project Mu front and rear brake pads, and rotors, bring the nimble package to a quick stop as required. As it sits, the car is one that Chester wouldn’t hesitate to drive anywhere.

It’s a great car to look at and an even better car to drive.

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At the end of every feature interview I like see what the owner’s next steps are and since many are on the verge of selling I asked Chester point blank if the car was for sale.

Chester replied with an enthusiastic ‘Hell no’ quickly followed by ‘I’ll never sell this car, it is something I’ll take with me to the grave’.

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Many car communities are tight knit, but the AE86 community is not only this, but extremely welcoming, too. Chester says the people he’s met through this car have only made its ownership that much better. One member of the community in particular, fittingly named Angel, has helped immensely throughout the journey building this car.

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Like any true AE86 enthusiast, Chester doesn’t just have this particular car, he has three. The second is a daily driver he picked up for a steal while the third is destined to be a drift project. The drift project is underway but currently has no fixed completion date because he’s spent so much time behind the wheel of this one.

As well put together as this car is can you honestly blame him?

Dave Thomas
Instagram: stanceiseverythingcom

Photography by Keiron Berndt
Instagram: keiron_berndt

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