86Day. August 6th – or 8/6… A reference to the identifier of the FR-S and BRZ as “GT86” or “FT86”, with references to that number proudly emblazoned on each fender of what is easily the most popular tuner car on the market in terms of just raw numbers – you can’t go a block without seeing one. The FR-S/BRZ/GT86 was designed with the spirit of a simple, basic little lightweight, RWD sport compact in mind.
The handling is fantastic and the car itself is fantastic, if a bit underpowered in stock form- as was the original. Some complain about the lack of power, others praise the restraint from giving the car 400hp preserving its “purity”. With a gorgeous silhouette, long hood, short decklid, it offers fastback coupe design with competent suspension and RWD layout to match – all within reach of the average enthusiast at well under 30k. A passionate rebirth of the RWD budget sportscar was taking place as the second coming of a quirky little sport coupe that paired a high-revving screamer of an 4-cylinder into a cheap, lightweight RWD Corolla. Usually referenced by its chassis ID code, “AE86” (much like BMW guys have their E36, E46 etc), the Corolla GT-S offered a whole lot of RWD fun and great handling at a very reasonable price.
The original AE86 Corolla – GT-S or SR5 for that matter – was never a fast car in straight line, but none of that mattered – once you got it moving, you could keep it moving at speed because you could toss the thing around with the ease of a nerf football… and the 4AGE revs so high it sounds like it’s going to come apart any second (it only SOUNDS that way). Trick is, there was nothing like it on the market in this day and age. Objectively, it sounds ridiculous, all these people are so passionate a Corolla that’s been out of production for over two decades. How did this happen? How did we get here?
And more importantly, what is the spirit of the AE86 truly about?
To appreciate the details, let’s back up a few years – this is the story of how the FR-S and BRZ came to be – and how for one summer, a 1987 AE86 Corolla SR5 became my partner in crime.
A little background: Akio Toyoda, descendant of the orignal Mr Toyoda (yep, the real Japanese version is ToyoDA not TA.) found himself in control of the company at last- sales were slumping and the quality of the product was beginning to slide. While hybrid sales were making record numbers, at the same time, few people, a few environmentalists and commuters aside, were excited or passionate about Toyota’s vehicles. Akio took a hard look at the range of cars offered by his family’s company – and he realized that the company had lost its way.
The lineup was cold, dispassionate, bland and lacked soul. While a bland sedan is a great bread-n-butter seller, there was no “halo car” – or even remotely draw the world’s attention to Toyota. And there hadn’t been for quite some time. The Celica hadn’t been on sale for 5 years. The Supra had breathed its last back in 1999 in Japan, and left the USA years before in 96 – along with the MR2. The Corolla went full FWD in 1988. The last RWD vehicle with sporty handling Toyota had built within a decade was the Tacoma X-Runner- a PICKUP TRUCK, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!
Rewind to 1984. The Celica-Supra Mk II packed potent performance and styling with cutting edge technology, the AW11 MR2 was just starting to make waves – and the last of the RWD Celica GT-S rolled off the production line. It was a strange time. Many manufacturers were shifting from RWD to FWD configurations- consumer tastes began to change.
What was once a company offering some of the greatest most innovative vehicles on the market was no longer so much a car company as it was a manufacturer of appliances – the sort of vehicles for people who have no idea what year – or even what model car they have.
With let’s count, Supra, Celica GT-S, MR2 and the AE86 Corolla GT-S, there were five very different and distinct cars that had their own unique – and distinctly Japanese – character to the way they drove, they inspired passion in people. Kids lusted after the Toyota MR2 at the dealership down the street as much as the Countach on the poster in their bedroom. Guys that saw Back To The Future wanted Marty McFly’s Toyota Pickup. Toyota was building cars that brought enthusiasm and excitement to the brand – and their sports vehicles were well built and quite reliable – it’s worth noting that many of the vehicles from that era have survived and still soldier on.
As the sensibilities of the time changed, the sales numbers on the more impressive cars began to drop as their complexity – and their price tag increased each year as we approach 1996 – and one by one, Toyota’s rich heritage of performance vehicles began to die off and fade away.
It’s 2001. These older 80’s cars are still largely unappreciated in the USA, most of the quirky little AE86s sold and relegated to beater use, and subsequently driven into the ground until they simply couldn’t go on. Enthusiasts back then knew what the car was, and Back then in California, people were selling the Corolla GT-S models for not even a grand. About that time, a Japanese Cartoon from the mid-90s called Initial D started becoming popular in the USA – Anime fans got into it – car guys got into it – all of it went hand in hand and the scene took off. That cartoon (and graphic novel) featured a black and white Corolla GT-S hatch as the hero car, and the word “Hachiroku” entered popular culture. All of a sudden, “drifting” was a thing in the United States, despite having been moderately popular in Japan for decades.
The first Drift Showoff took place out at Irwindale Speedway, with three Japanese Pro Drifters and their cars flown over from Japan just for the event – and I still remember Benson Hsu in his AE86 “Hachi Roku” (Japanese for 86) Corolla GT-S took home the trophy at the first ever Drift Showoff. And all of a sudden, the quirky and underappreciated little 1984-87 Corolla became a whole lot more valuable. With the nicest examples commanding barely $900 just a year or so before, the AE86 more than tripled in value. Today I lament this when I look forlornly at used-car for-sale ads, we even have a name for it – “Initial D Tax” or “Drift Tax”… a condition which also afflicts the S13 and S14 Nissan 240sx. And with that in mind, as a young enthusiast, when I happened across a very Maroon 1987 Corolla SR5 Notchback – with ONE mirror (factory cheapness FTW!) at just $1400, an AE86 became a part of my life for a brief, but very special time.
I have never had so much fun in a car without breaking 35mph. Even though it had good paint and a straight body, it wasn’t a pretty car, and the maroon exterior – with BROWN interior didn’t help. But still, the interior was purposeful. The seats were well bolstered and comfortable. The dash cluster was clear with a nice big tachometer and the 5-speed manual felt positive in your hands. It was built very economically but it had it where it mattered. Revving the crap out of that 4A single-carb 4-banger under the hood, sucking fuel through the straw-like 1-barrel carburetor to wring every last ounce of power out of it was satisfying and visceral. The handling was communicative and responsive and unlike the MR2 – very forgiving. Which made it very easy with its skinny sub-195-series tires to break the rear end loose around a corner. This cheap, objectively odd-looking little car with its awful maroon paint and oppressively brown interior and meager 95hp – it made you feel something. It connected with you. It was FUN. It made you enjoy driving and want to drive it- aaaand it also encouraged bad behavior. A few run-ins with local law enforcement in Rural Iowa, the SR5 and I had to part ways. But I never forgot that odd-but-lovable little car, and I still miss it.
As Initial D grew in popularity, people saw more and more of the value in these previously-overlooked little cars – they were spending more than a downpayment on a new Toyota to go out and buy a 20+ year old USED CAR. Akio Toyoda – and Toyota Corporate – took notice – people were going out of their way to buy a cheap old compact car. Why? Because it inspired passion. Enthusiasm. Fun. Toyota needed to put the SPORT back into its car lineup. And with that, the rumors of a “New AE86” or “Next AE86” began to fly.
Once that train left the station and Akio had made up his mind, nothing was going to stop him.
Toyoda wanted to build a car built with passion again, with the enthusiast – and the enthusiast’s budget in mind. A pure, lightweight, RWD sportscar. A true “New AE86”. The idea was born, and the FT-86 concept quickly shifted from a clay concept mockup to full fledged production car practically overnight.
And as if they’ve suddenly discovered the magic formula – sales exploded nearly two years ago and have remained strong since. And it doesn’t seem to have any sign of slowing down.
People responded to the purity of the experience of the FR-S/BRZ/GT86 – the simple focus on outstanding handling in a fun to drive, sporty package offered a totally different experience, more raw and visceral than the overwhelming distractions of more and more technology being stuffed into today’s cars.
Which brings us current.
Last year, a few of these new FR-S and BRZ owners met up with some of the folks with classic AE86s, and the first 86Day was born. This year, we wanted to really celebrate the Spirit of the AE86 – and so ModBargains stepped up to the plate to host 86 Day 2014 – which was just two days ago. Collaborating with our friends at 86Day.org, we got to planning. Borla Exhaust came out to give away a full FR-S cat-back exhaust and diffuser package, our friends at Avant Garde donated a coupon good for 50% off a set of wheels to be raffled off and partnered with a host of other sponsors to make 86Day 2014 SoCal really a meet to remember and look forward to.
But more importantly than all of the help from the sponsors that made the event possible – thank you to you guys, the enthusiasts for whom we put this event together – and without the help of the community we’ve made it a great success.
A personal note from Nick to the 86 Community:
Folks, I’ve been to many, many car meets in the 14 or so years I’ve actively been an Auto Enthusiast here in SoCal and the “86” community really impressed me – and the rest of the ModBargains team. The next morning, the parking lot looked as if nothing had happened and no sign of the dozens of cars that packed every square inch of possible space in our parking lot. As far as we know, everyone was very well behaved – and the event went off without so much as a complaint from local police. That’s no small task considering we had well over a hundred cars packed into our cozy parking lot. So, again, THANK YOU for making 86 Day 2014 such a huge success.
Before we get to the rest of the gallery, we’ve got a few shoutouts to the clubs that came out and the folks that helped organize and coordinate the flood of FR-S and BRZs at the event. We’re proud to support a such a vibrant, active and passionate enthusiast community.
SoCal Inland Empire 86
@socalinlandempire86 (Group Name on IG)
@desertfrs – (Group Coordinator) Name: Jose
@deadpool_86 (helped coordinate parking & helping hand)
Socal SouthBay 86
@socalsouthbay_86 (Group Name on IG)
@lilmish90 (Group Coordinator) — Name: Mish
@johnnythegeek (helped with parking & helping hand)
@johnbt86 (helped with parking)
@86two6 (Group Name on IG)
@norvg (Group Coordinator and MC of the RAFFLE)
@jus10_argh_rn (Group Coordinator and Great advocate of the 86 community)
SoCal Valley 86
@socalvalley86 (Group Name on IG)
@alex_forever (Came early and a big advocate of the 86 community) Name: Alex
@Nica118 (Advocate of the community)
Matt Fox was indispensible in helping us coordinate parking in the back lot during the event.
Valenti Tail Lights are incredibly popular for the new FR-S and BRZ and with several color options to choose from, they’re a great compliment to almost any build.
“Duck, duck, duck, GOOSE!” Can you spot the BRZs hiding in this lineup?
Gourmet food trucks are as popular as ever in LA, The Grilled Cheese Truck filled the bellies of dozens of hungry enthusiasts with offerings ranging far beyond your mama’s American Grilled Cheese, taking the grilled sandwich way off the reservation with creations that will make you question what you thought was possible with grilled cheese.
It’s hard to make out in the photo but the FR-S in this photo is fitted with a 2″ widebody setup – this FR-S has enough mechanical grip to darn near drive on the ceiling – the Forgestar F14 Super Deep Concave Scion wheels are wrapped in 335-series tires wide as Montana… 335s on an FR-S! Now I really have seen everything.
At almost any car meet you go to, there’s always a party crasher. Jay Leno is notorious for stealing the spotlight with whatever he brings to anything, and the arrival of a single R34 Nissan Skyline GTS-t (not a GT-R) had even the most jaded enthusiasts drop what they were doing to go scope out the R34. I felt bad for the R35 GT-R accompanying it. Sure the R35 might be faster, but it will never be a Unicorn the way an R34 is in the United States. You might note that R34’s are rather notoriously against the law in the USA – this one is here from the great white north.
Having cut my teeth as a gearhead as a Nissan/Datsun fanatic, the R34 is as special to me as the Holy Grail is to Indiana Jones. Yeah, the R34 did crash the party a bit, but nobody minded sharing the spotlight with a very rare, special car.
We know we’ve said it several times already but it’s worth saying again, thanks for coming and being a part of 86Day 2014 Hosted By ModBargains – it wouldn’t have been as great as it was without your help.
We know this has been a heck of a long read, so thanks for sticking with us, we hope you enjoyed the photo gallery.
If you’re looking for upgrades for your Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ, look no further than ModBargains for your modding needs. With installations by ModAuto and knowledgeable Modification Experts on staff to offer mod advice, we’ve got everything you can imagine for your FR-S or BRZ all in one place – check us out at ModBargains.com or call today at 714-582-3330 to talk to the experts.
Be sure to check out some of our other FR-S and BRZ related posts below.
Plug n Play Performance with Vishnu OpenFlash Tab for FR-S / BRZ running E85 Fuel for Big Power Gains
Carbon Creation: Shutter’s Scion FR-S gets Carbon Fiber Aero Upgrades
6 Mods To Get the Most Out of Your FR-S or BRZ
Get Boosted: Full Blown Motorsports FR-S/BRZ Turbo Kits at ModBargains