Nick stared at his math homework. Nick would never call himself a fan of mathematics, but his test was coming up in the next few days. He figured out how to make homework more tolerable scrolling through anime shows was one solution.
With his lifelong interest in cars, Nick found a new anime series – Initial D.
From the moment he heard the music, Nick was hooked. While he only intended this to be background noise with a glance here and there, Nick forgot all about his math homework. Nick had a new obsession with not only Initial D but also the Toyota Corolla AE86.
Nick was 14 when he first watched Initial D; now, almost a decade later, Nick owns the same car the show is based around. Nick texted me he found someone selling a Toyota Corolla AE86: his dream car. A few days later, he posted on Instagram that he had bought his dream car. After he worked out the logistics, Nick and I went for drives on the country roads, using the hand crank to roll the windows down and feel the wind in our hair.
I’m no car expert, but having been close friends for many years, I knew Nick was car-obsessed, making this car a great photo-op. Without power steering or an anti-lock braking system, we trekked up the mountain and along the winding Niagara roads, looking for quiet spots to stop and take some shots.
Our journey together resulted in some incredible photographs and learning Nick’s deep history about his love for the AE86.
How It All Got Started
I think my earliest memories of cars would be watching Top Gear with my dad as a little kid. I grew up with a family that loved cars. Once I got to high school, I met car enthusiasts my own age and started taking shop classes, making me realize my passion.
Initial D really opened my eyes to Japanese cars. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rewatched it, but I wanted to learn everything I could about the AE86 or any other vehicle that caught my interest.
By the time I turned 16 and had my license, I sadly couldn’t afford an AE86 Corolla. So, to satisfy my cravings, I looked for what else had the same engine and came across my first car: a 1985 Toyota MR2. The MR2 made me realize that it wasn’t just a lust for something old; it was a love for all classics and an appreciation for what it takes to keep them running. Finally owning an 80’s Toyota really cemented the 86 as a dream car for me.
Driving the Dream
I remember waking up one morning to a bombardment of notifications on my phone. They were all messages from my best friend, including a link to a Kijiji listing selling an AE86. I brushed it off at first because I assumed (like most AE86s for sale) it would be far out of my price range.
To my surprise, it was an affordable price and looked almost too good to be true. I called the owner right away and went to look at it only a few hours later. Now I’m a proud owner of my dream car!
Driving is a great escape for me. When I’m stressed, I go on a drive. Older cars require more patience, love and arguably a bit more skill to drive, so because of how much time and work one has to put into it, the drive becomes all the more rewarding. On top of that, driving is a wonderful experience, and there’s not much I love more than sharing that experience with others.
Driving my dream is exactly what it is, a dream! Not only do I adore everything about how the car feels, but sometimes I have to remind myself what I’m driving. When I was a teenager, I’d drive the backroads near my house, imagining what it would be like to drive these roads in an 86. And now that I can, it’s nothing but joy.
What’s Next for the AE86?
Without going into too much detail, this car is a two-door, rear-wheel-drive coupe. Mostly unmodified except the rear gearing, which helps it accelerate. The stock 70hp carbureted engine (known as the 4AC) is untouched and basically runs like new.
The AE86 is famous for its simple philosophy: low power, low weight, and great handling. Due to its low power, the driver really needs to focus on keeping speed and momentum whenever possible.
Like all 86 owners, I have lots of plans. I have nothing serious planned for now – only a smaller steering wheel, some wheels, and maybe some suspension upgrades. I can certainly see an engine swap in this car’s future. But currently, the original motor runs wonderfully, so it won’t be any time soon.
Photo of the Week is a weekly series that showcases and elaborates on my photography, photography from my fellow creatives, and famous photographs.