Back from the dead: The Garage Dusty AE86

When it came to Garage Dusty, this AE86 was at the crossroads. Mechanically good but in desperate need of TLC, without some love the car was headed to an early grave. I think I’ve made sure that fate will not befall this car now.

I got the car in pale yellow, with paint that looked like it had been sprayed on through a straw. I personally believe that every 86 on the planet should be white, so the first job was making sure mine fitted that bill. Stewart at 3P Auto took care of the minor rust repairs and the colour change. A few weeks after I bought it, the car was resplendent in stark white.

Also done at the time was the removal of most of the sunroof mechanism and the securing of the sunroof panel with some silicone. It didn’t work anyway, so why bother pretending it did?

I bought the car without wheels, but luckily I had a set of brand new 15×8 XXR 513s just waiting to go on. A colour scheme was born.

Offests are 0 front and -7 rear (with the addition of a 7mm spacer). Also added soon after I bought the car was a free 2.5″ muffler given to me by a friend. It was fitted up to the existing 2″ exhaust in place of a stock-sized muffler to free up a little of the 4A-GE’s bark.

That was where the mods stopped while the car did a couple of events and got through to the end of the year. But in Summer it was decided that it was time to finish the project. The front end was completely overhauled with Techno Toy Tuning parts – adjustable LCAs, adjustable tension rods, modified steering knuckles and monster tie rods – being added to the existing Cusco coilovers to get the handling in check. The end result is pretty amazing – point the car somewhere and that’s exactly where it goes. The essence of the AE86 driving experience.

The stance is just about the perfect balance between functional and tough. It may go a little lower yet, but for now it definitely does the job.

Along with the coilovers, Cusco is responsible for the front strut brace and the newly fitted cage. More than enough justification for a little advertising.

It wouldn’t be a proper 86 without a big mouth.

Open that mouth and there’s the venerable 4A-GE. The car came to me with the conversion already done, but aside from the remote mount oil filter, the oil cooler and the strut brace, everything else you see has been added since the purchase. Yep, even down to the reservoir tanks (as there were none when I got the car!).

The Summer freshen up focused most heavily here. In went a set of HKS 264 degree cams, some Ultrex adjustable cam gears, new leads, pulleys from Techno Toy Tuning, an ASI radiator, a set of extractors and two 12″ thermo fans supplied by Autoparts Professionals. The timing belt and all ancillaries were replaced, along with the water pump. All of this was done with massive amounts of help from Woodsy and Dave – thanks guys. The cam covers copped some red crinkle coat while we were at it, with the plug cover colour coded to give the motor a different look.

The end result of the modifications was something that just works, basically. The cooling system works amazingly well – so well in fact that we’ve only actually seen the fans come on once, and the harder the car revs the cooler it gets thanks to the underdrive water pump pulley. The car was tuned by Chris Dalton, returning a peak power figure of 105ps. And with the extractors fitted it has an unmistakable bark. With the newly liberated power and the on-point handling it becomes immediately apparent why these are such revered cars. It’s a pure driver’s car now. Involving, exciting and demanding. Everything an AE86 should be.

Aside from the colour change, the biggest transformation has occurred in here. The car came with a Bride Zeta II (my old one from the Silvia!) but everything else you see has been upgraded, painted or otherwise cleaned up.

It’s not an 86 without a period correct Nardi. The wheel sits on a D1-Spec removable boss to extend it closer to me for a more comfortable driving position and also to make climbing out of the Bride a little easier!

Originally equipped with the brown/tan trim option, everything aside from the driver’s seat has been treated with black dye. An AJPS dash mat went in to cover the cracked dash and the stereo and clock holes were covered with some sticker bombed plastic. The clock cover holds a GoPro mount, while the stereo hole cover is home to water and oil temp gauges. A Techno Toy Tuning handbrake button has been added to help make motorkhanas a little simpler, and a Holford Motors gearknob brings the LOLs. Note also the hand-upholstered Bride sun visors, courtesy of my Mum!

Behind the front seats is all business. Rear seats? Carpet? No need for them. Gone is the old bronze paint, covered with a few coats of white to match the exterior. All this was done at home to keep costs down – my first attempt at using a spray gun! The harness is held in place by an AJPS harness bar, and the newest edition is a Cusco 5-point bolt-in cage, also painted white at home (while hanging on the washing line, no less…). As the cage was from a non-sunroof car, the ceiling copped major surgery to raise it to allow the rollover hoop room. The roof was then retrimmed, again at home, in black suede-look material. Side trims have been left in place to keep everything neat and presentable. Also visible is the battery box – keeping the weight of the battery low and centred – and the mandatory fire extinguisher.

With bars as far as the eye can see it all looks pretty serious from the back now. Plenty stiff too.

The 80-06 plates are genuine items – no fake printed plastic jobs here.

So there it is. From an unused, rough and ready car caught somewhere between the racetrack and the junkyard to a clean, competitive, road-registered Group A-inspired track car in 8 short months.Nothing left to do now but drive. It really has risen from the grave.

Finally, a Garage Dusty success story. Here’s to fun times ahead.

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