Project AE86… Final Thoughts

If y’all have been following me on my journey, the AE86 has been a project that honestly took way longer to finish and more money I thought I would put in. Tackling a project car is very hard, and nothing ever really goes your way. Expect the worse and hope for the best.


I got this AE86 on Feb 2018. It had a full interior, AC, and full GTS swap. Back then, AE86 where not that expensive. I sold my M3 after tracking it for 3 years, The M3 was a great car, but it expensive to maintain if you track once or twice a month. The miata was just too common, and I wanted to be different. You dont see many AE86 at circuits, and consumables are very cheap compared to the M3.


The project AE86 sure had its lows. From 2018-till the end of 2019 it was tough. I stripped all the interior and only kept the dash. Then I replaced the suspension, wheel bearings, replaced the fluids, and new brake pads and rotors. I redid the interior harness, and bought TE37 just for the track. Did a lot of preventive maintenance, and some cooling upgrades. All the bolt on stuff was pretty much done by Jan 2019.


But the motor was the major issue. The car came with a small port 4age 16v with a ITBS and Megasquirt ECU. The motor would turn on for a brief moment and then die. The wiring on the car wasn’t that great and the Megasquirt ECU was outdated. Nothing was working right. My friends and I couldn’t figure out why it was doing that. I just started replacing parts left and right without really diagnosing the issue.

Then I hit up RNR Autosport in Malaysia. The guys at RNR Autosport made a custom engine harness that was paired to the LINK ecu, and all the parts for the to set it for coil on plug conversion. Took about 2 months and was worth the wait. So with a new engine harness, and ECU the car started, but wasnt running right. Kept backfiring, and would smoke like steam locomotive.

I just thought it just needed a tune, and it will be fine. Well, I was completely wrong. Some time has passed at this point. I got the car Feb 2018 and now I got to run on Jun 2019. I’m over 1 yr into this project.


At the shop, we did a compression and leak down test. And my compassion was bad, below 100psi on 2/4 cylinders. I was bummed out. All that money put into the car to finally get it running. Then to find out, the motor is bad. Epic fail.


I’ve sunk too much into it, that I couldn’t give up. Or I could just sell it for cheap and cut my loses. Luckily Harris had a 4age 16V big port motor for sale, and sold it to me for cheap. Learning my lesson about the past motor, I went and did a compression test. The motor was running when it was taken off the car but it sat in the garage for awhile. The compression test wasn’t that good.  I had big differences between the cylinders.


The joys of having old cars. At this point point, I think almost every 4age needs a rebuild. Since the motor is out, and not wanting to repeat the same mistakes, I took apart the motor and ruibilt it. Not having any engine building experience what so ever. Just had YouTube, and the OEM Toyota repair manual.


I took the dissembled motor to Scroggins Machine Shop where they cleaned it, and checked to make sure all the parts are useable. I ended up putting new rings, head studs, and bearings. Then resealed the motor with OEM Toyota gaskets.


AT this time, it was August 2019. I have fresh motor that I rebuilt. I was nervous that I might have missed a step or make a noob mistake on the reassembly process. I ended up just letting the car sit on jack stands, for awhile. My motivation was at all time low. I put the car up for sale in its disassembled state.


Around Oct 2019, I put a reservation for a new Tesla Model 3. The AE86 wasn’t selling for the price I would let it go for. I realized I need to get the 86 running, so I can move it and put the Tesla in the garage. The Land Cruiser, at the time, still fits my garage, and was planning to move the 86 outside. So one October weekend, I mated the tranny to motor. Then I placed it in the engine bay all by myself. It was a buttery smooth process.


The next day, I wired it all up and moment of truth, she started right up!!! No hesitation, backfires, or smoking!

I screamed for joy, and was best feeling in the world. I got my motivation back to finish the car! By December 2019 the car was street tuned by Brad. She finally running on her own power. The motor break in process went smooth. I just had some minor leaks that I fixed up.

Then January 2020, I went on my first track day with the AE86 and never looked back. I had growing pains, but it was all minor and not heavy on the wallet. Been tacking for 5 years and 1yr of that is in the AE86. This car has taught me a lot as a driver, and learned about the mechanics of this car. I do admit its fairly easy to work on with no need for special tools. She runs and drives good, and thats all I really care about. Looking forward to 2021. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see y’all at the track!

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