Later this year Toyota releases the much anticipated and critically acclaimed GT86 sports car (alongside Subaru’s BRZ), the fruits of a joint project between Subaru and Toyota to create an affordable, back-to-basics sports car. I take a look at the history of Toyota’s iconic ‘hachiroku’ line of sports cars that have influenced the development of the Toyota GT86.
The GT 86 heralds a return to form for Toyota. A history of iconic sports cars that goes back to the mid sixties has provided the inspiration for a modern take on back-to-basics motor sport. All too often modern cars are over laden with technology that not only adds weight, but also contributes to a detachment from the driving experience.
With the GT 86, Toyota wanted to create a performance car that was not all about high performance figures that the marketers could shout about. From the very beginning their aim was to create a drivers car and a future icon.
In 1965 Toyota launched the 2000GT, a limited-production, front-engine, rear wheel drive coupé. Designed in collaboration with Yamaha, a 2-litre, 150bhp straight six engine was placed in the front of Toyota’s first foray into the sports car market in 30 years of car production.
Originally a concept by Yamaha, Toyota bought the prototype and employed its own design, unveiling the 2000GT at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show. Japanese sports cars had always been known to be technologically basic compared to European rivals.
The 2000GT changed that, becoming the first Japanese car to feature 4 wheel disc brakes as well as magnesium alloy road wheels. It also included a fully instrumented dashboard, modern heating and ventilation and a telescopic steering wheel, all features considered luxuries for a sports car at the time.
Perhaps the clearest link between the 2000GT and its modern counterpart is the way it drives. A Road & Track article, written in June 1967, claimed that “When it comes to ride and handling, nobody in his right mind could need or want more in a road vehicle”, an ethos echoed in the GT 86.
Nearly 20 years later in 1983, Toyota launched what is arguably the most iconic sports car in their history – the Toyota Corolla AE86. The Corolla has become a familiar sight in motor sport and in recent years has made a return in drifting series’ thanks to its light weight and rear wheel drive, front engined layout.
There were two variants – Trueno and Levin. The only difference between the two was the headlight design and it became more commonly know by its chassis number AE86. Fans of the model often affectionately refer to the car as ‘hachiroku’, Japanese for 86. This is also the official name of the GT 86 in the Japanese Domestic Market, a conscious decision by Toyota to associate it with the iconic Corolla.
As well as the lightweight, rear wheel drive structure, the other key to the AE86’s success in motor sports is the fact that the engine is easy to tune. This meant that private owners and racing teams could unlock the true potential of the engine without the restrictions placed on Toyota by legislation. With the GT 86, Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s President, was adamant that the new Boxer D4-S engine followed the same route. Tetsuya Tada, Chief Engineer on the GT 86 project, revealed that this meant that they used the simplest system possible at all times, and restricted the use of computers that govern engines to make tuning simple.
Toyota has tapped into the spirit of the 2000GT and Corolla AE86 to create what they believe will be a future classic. An affordable performance car that returns the driver to the forefront of the driving experience.