Project 86: Build A Dream AE86 In 86 Days

We’ve said it time and time again here on this site, but it probably bears repeating once more: restoring old cars is no small undertaking. It’s a big job that requires patience, planning, and most importantly: time. When Toyota Canada approached us to restore an AE86 to commemorate Toyota’s adoption of the Toyota GT86 (formerly the Scion FR-S), we were of course excited to jump at the opportunity! Toyota had a little challenge for us though:  the ground up build would have to start and finish in the span of 86 days. Completing a full build can often take anywhere from 6 months to a year, so this would be a challenge indeed! Rather than just do a straight restoration, however, Pat decided that he wanted to build the AE86 he’s always wanted: clean, tastefully modified, and ready to rip at a moment’s notice. To really tell the story of this car however, we’re gonna have to roll back the calendar by a few years…

This particular vehicle had been around for quite some time. Pat purchased the 1985 Toyota Corolla SR5 at a bargain with the intention of it being the back-up race car chassis in case the original Corolla coupe race car got destroyed (spoiler: it didn’t). As a result, this car has spent the last 10 or so years in various storage locations and stages of disrepair as parts would be picked and plucked for other builds when they were needed. At our old shop in Mississauga, this car actually gained somewhat of a reputation as one of the “shelved AE86s” that we used to keep at the back of the shop. We would always say: “One day that car will see glory!” but were unsure of when or how that would actually be happening…

…fast forward a few years, and here we are! It was kind of a funny experience pulling this car in to the shop after all this time. In the past we would look at this car as “that thing we have to push around when it’s in the way”, but now it was being seen in a totally different light. Finally, the “shelf 86” would see glory. There was a lot of work to do to get there though, and with the deadline being so tight at 86 days it was even tough for our photographer to catch the build in its entirety, with work being done on the car at all hours of those 86 days. We did manage to take some snaps while hands weren’t on tools though, so let’s have a look!

First things first, that old roof had to go. Sunroofs just don’t look great on these cars (depending who you ask), and this one didn’t have the sunroof mechanism to go along with it. Time for a lid transplant! The thing that many people may not realize is that when it comes to restoring old cars, especially a cult classic as opposed to a popular model, parts like roof skins, door panels, and fenders aren’t things that are readily available anymore. The AE86 Corolla, though popular now, didn’t receive a lot of attention during it’s 3 year production run from 1985 to 1987. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that people all over the world began to notice just how awesome the plucky little AE86 really is, and that was long after Toyota had ceased production of many of the OEM parts. What that means for the people wanting to restore their AE86 is that those rare parts now can only be found in one place: on another car. A restoration of this scope will sometimes be the amalgamation of 2 or 3 different cars worth of parts to make 1 good car. Some people might frown when we take in a rusty car and cut it up for the good bits, but it’s those same cars that make a build like this possible. That is, unfortunately, the grim reality of restoring a car that is a bit more rare than others: some will have to be sacrificed for the betterment of one.

As mentioned above, steel front fenders are another one of those rare bits that at this point must be taken from another car. Even the reproduction steel fenders (which have long since been discontinued) would have come with the hole for the antenna, which you can see Pat working on patching up here.

Though this car wasn’t in the worst shape, it wasn’t perfectly clean either. Nothing that a little bit of creativity, cutting and welding couldn’t fix though! Note the 2nd to last picture, demonstrating our modification of the “rain bucket”, a section of the AE86 notorious for collecting water and completely rusting out. Since this part of the body goes under the bumper, it’s better to have a flat piece of metal there rather than go to the trouble of trying to recreate what was ultimately a funny bit of design.

While chassis reinforcement was happening on one side of the shop, engine rebuilding was happening on the other side. Though the work rate was solid through the entire project, it really felt like things started going faster from this point on, as the car began to take shape.

Before we knew it, the car was painted by the boys over at 242 Customs and parts started being mated to the chassis! Eagle eyed readers may have noticed that we installed a half cage in this car, for some added chassis stiffness as well as a little bit of sporty flair. Also, the brand new Rota Wheels from Rota Canada are all fitted up with Yokohama S.Drives (195s up front, 205s out back) and lookin’ fresh! The engine build was all buttoned up as well, and the 20v Blacktop 4AGE was ready to go into its new home!

Things were really coming together at this point! The hard work was definitely paying off, as this car was cleaning up quite nicely! We mentioned in the beginning that the car was originally an SR5, so we would need to convert it to a GT-S. To the uninitiated, that’s just a matter of changing the sticker on the back, right? Not quite so simple, unfortunately. One of the biggest jobs of swapping a SR5 over to GT-S is the wiring harness, among other things. Since the goal was to have this car be fully street-legal, the entire wiring harness would have to be swapped out and thoroughly checked to make sure that all of the necessary connections are still there. Once that’s done, the harness is installed and the build continues! Tubing arrived from Vibrant Performance, and not a moment too soon, as it was time to fabricate the custom exhaust and manifold!

With fabrication mostly completed and finishing touches being added to the exterior, it was time to call in Sasha from Onpoint Dyno + Race Service to get the tuning all done and bring this beast to life! Not much left to do now but show you the finished product:

And there it is! Pat Cyr’s Dream AE86 built in 86 Days! Make sure you check out the video series by Toyota Canada!


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