AE86 - Classic RWD fun tuned right!

"There is a reason the AE86 is so sought after."

The AE86 nicknamed the Hachiroku (86 in Japanese which is the chassis code) is still revered and respected by many today as a great track day car.

The short wheel base, high revving engine and rear wheel drive add up to make a fantastic little car.

The AE86 usually finds its way into drifting and is controllable and forgiving for the beginner although demand has pushed up the prices considerably. Standard unmodified AE86 are extremely rare nowadays, but you'll find many that have been properly upgraded and looked after.

Toyota AE86 Tuning

We review and look at AE86 tuning and outline the best modifications.

Toyota AE86s are popular tuning projects and with a few sensible sports enhancements you can greatly enhance your driving opportunities.

A popular car for tuning up is the AE86 and our members have some interesting projects on the go. The car was rear wheel drive and amazingly balanced and easy to control.

The big benefit of RWD is that when you add lots of power you won't suffer the same traction issues you get on FWD cars.

Original engines offered were...

  • 1.6 L 4A-C
  • 1.6 L 4A-GEU
  • 1.6 L 4A-GEC

Engine swaps for the AE86

The newer 2az fe engine swaps are often considered due to the availability and cost of these engines, plus they have an insane tuning potential, giving a fairly easy 250hp which would be fun in an AE86.

The potential pitfalls are mounting them and getting them to drive a RWD transmission.

Have you considered a 2RZFE as an alternative? It has the ECU, transmission etc setup for RWD?

Also the engine will likely sit higher in the engine bay, so the answers would be to mod the hood to fit or use a custom subframe?

A note on engine swaps, as they usually require some sort of adapter to merge the old with the new.

One issue you are likely to hit is that if you use an adapter plate between the donor engine and transmission you'll need to modify the end of the pilot bearing and then by using a thicker flywheel. The other option is to use a spacer on the flywheel and use longer flywheel bolts.

Best AE86 Mods and upgrades

The key to AE86 tuning is choosing the right mods - a lot of money can be wasted if you do it wrong.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Many AE86 owners uprate the handling of their cars with uprated suspension modifications as a priority, this will certainly increase your enjoyment of the car. We suggest that you fit uprated suspension and lower the car by 30-35mm. Larger drops require arch work - especially on models already equipped with
motorsport suspension.

Turning our attention to the AE86s engine we need to get a bit more power out of the top end.

AE86 make good sleepers if you debadge them and fit the most powerful engine mods and handling upgrades you can !

Smaller engines do not provide much of a return in terms of power so start with a bigger engine. Engine swaps are a good option if you have a small engine size.

Engine tuning modifications for AE86.

This list of the stages and motorsport modifications are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you want to push your car before you get started.

Getting the correct grade of sports mods for your planned usage of the car is a time and money saver. Stage 3 competition upgrades just won't work well on the road difficult in stop start traffic.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your car. Be sure to subscribe and support our new channel.

Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Mapping - remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.
  6. Typical stage 1 mods often include:
    Alloy wheels,Suspension upgrade (drop 30-40mm),Lighter flywheel,Piggybback ECU (*remaps not possible),Sports exhaust,Panel air filter.

    Typical stage 2 mods often include:
    Ported and polished head,Power clutch,Fuel injector & fuel pump upgrades,Fast road cam (<263).

    Typical stage 3 mods often include:
    Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger),Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves),Engine balancing,Sports gearbox,Competition cam.

    Peak power is good on competition cars but for a daily driven car you need a wide power band and perhaps extending the rev range.

    In this article we shall give a brief overview to the best performance parts for your car, but we'd encourage you to spend some time on the site looking into the details of each type of performance modification. A fast road camshaft will be one of the best NASP power mods you can do with a single part fitted to your engine and durations of up to 263 degrees work quite well on the AE86, just bear in mind if you use the car on the road to use a less aggresive cam profile.

    It maximizes the intake and exhaust durations and increases the power if done right. Ideally you'd add other mods and finish up with a new map on a piggy back or aftermarket ECU such as the Motec or Adaptronic or the AEM units.

    We'd also caution you not to go with a competition cam as this upsets the engines idling and general town driving characteristics. Don't forget to pay attention to the fuelling when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty.

    If you find you have flat spots and surges after your sports kits you should check the fuelling and try a higher octane fuel as well. Uprating the injectors is another beneficial modification and will deliver sufficient fuel. Uprate the fuel pump to cope with the extra fuel requirements of your tuned AE86s uprated injectors.

    AE86 Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

    Breathing mods are usually next up. Please note that WE DO NOT RECOMMEND INDUCTION KITS, unless you have tuned your car extensively and are finding that the standard air intake has become a restriction.

    The standard AE86 exhaust is pretty good but adding a high flow sports catalyst and straight through system will allow a higher top end power figure.

    Maximum power gains come from a full induction kit with a cold air feed on heavily tuned engines, this can be sited within an air box but a performance panel filter should suffice for most applications. TorqueCars suggest you use a panel air filter as these are easy to clean and maintain and generally perform better than paper ones.

    Sports exhausts generally help improve air flow from the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too large or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 2 to 2.5 inches for best results.

    Head work including a gas flow (ported and polished) and 3 or 5 angle valve job will really help to release the potential of the engine.

    A good fast road sports clutch will help to keep that power going where it should. Never skimp or assume the standard clutch to cope. NASP engines do not achieve big power gains if you remap them, unless you have done extensive modifications. It is usually cheaper to bolt on a supercharger than it is to fit a working turbo to the AE86 but we have seen supercharger and turbo conversions done well. It is harder to map a turbo as the boost comes on exponentially with engine speed.

    Lowering the compression ratio is a priority when adding forced induction.

    Superchargers however will give a boost which is correlating to engine speed so is simpler. Alternatively you could perhaps fit water injection to control knock.

    AE86 Alloy wheel upgrades.

    As alloys are less heavy they improve performance and they help to cool the brake disks. Please note although they can look cool on the AE86 big alloys will actually decrease your performance. The larger you go the lower your acceleration will be - this to the change in your effective final drive ratio.

    Although some people have fitted larger wheels without issues we would stick to a 16 inch rim size as the maximum.

    If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss AE86 options in more detail with our AE86 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Toyota tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

    Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below. We love hearing about our website visitors projects, especially the mods done and which work best for you on your car. Which helps us keep our guides and tips up to date helping others with their modified car projects. Your feedback and comments are used to keep this page up to date, and help improve the accuracy of these articles which are kept updated and constantly revised.

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