As soon as I made the decision to buy a Levin I made it a priority to get it together with Chris’ one for some photos. A Sunday a couple of weeks back provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.
These are quite different cars, separated by 15 years and sporting completely different layouts. But when you get them together you can clearly see the family resemblance.
These cars are very clearly the product of the same philosophy within Toyota. They both come with a conservative but attractively styled coupe body and a spacious, practical, easy to live with interior. This is teamed in both cars with light weight, a focus on exceptional handling and a comparatively powerful, high revving little 4A-G. And while one is RWD and the other FWD, they’re both based on the Corolla platform of the day.
The fact that the cars were made 15 years apart, and in a period of massive advances in technology, accounts for most of their differences. So the AE86 is more raw and direct, while the AE111 packs power steering and airbags and climate control and ABS for a safer, more comfortable experience. The AE86 uses high-tech-for-1983 16 valve technology, while the AE111 benefits from 15 years of development and refinement by adding another 4 valves, VVT and 20-odd kw. All that doesn’t make one better than the other, it just makes them both products of their time. The AE86 was excellently equipped for 1983, just as the AE111 was for 1998.
The end result from that recipe is that the cars do the same job, just in different ways. Toyota always maintained a focus on fun-to-drive even as the platform completely changed, imbuing the last of the 4A-G Levins with the enjoyable spirit of the first.
Basically what you’re looking at is the evolution of not just Toyota design, but car design in general. As RWD moved aside for the cost and packaging advantages of FWD the AE-series moved along with it, with the AE86 and AE111 providing the clearest possible practical example of that process.
And what better place to look at technological evolution than in a disused machine shop? Time might have left this place behind, but I’d like to think these two little Toyotas have plenty of fun to give before the shutters come down on them too.