I can’t believe I forgot the Hachi Roku. Seriously. We’re, what, 20? 30 deep into It’s an Amazing Machine—and I’m just now getting to the Toyota 86? How could I have missed this one for so long?

Maybe it’s because I’ve never really been into drifting outside L3 < 50 /Cr (“left three opens 50 over crest”—it’s a rally thing). Or maybe it’s because, by the time I actually sat down to watch Initial D, Takumi’s apparently boredom with everything bored me and I just couldn’t get into it—but damnit, I respect all of it.

Everything we love about playing with cars was borne out of cars cheap, fun-to-drive cars being made faster. From the 1911 Franklin Sand Special to the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 to the 1984 Honda Civic Si, every hot rod and hot hatch that’s ever been can trace its roots to some crazy gearhead pushing something pedestrian further than it was meant to be pushed. 

The Toyota Corolla GTS, aka: Hachi Roku, aka: AE86, aka: Trueno/Levin, is such a machine. With a 1.6L, naturally aspirated—carbureted—inline-four making 130-horsepower, the little hatchback might not seem like much by today’s standards. But combined with a RWD, 5-speed gearbox and optional LSD all wrapped up in a sporty, lightweight body, Toyota brought a real gem of a car to the market. 

Gokart handling for days. | img: @midnightmenu

It’s an amazing machine!

[tgp] Introductions: My understanding is you drive one of the most iconic machines of a generation—the Hachi Roku. Is that correct? (I’ve always got the Trueno/Levin/85-86-88s mixed up. Anything else you’d like to mention?

[Karl] Yes! I usually call it a Corolla GTS, or just simply 86. Names usually go based off the trim; it ranged from 83-85 for Zenki (first gen) and 86-87 for Kouki (second gen) in Japan. Trueno refers to the model with the pop up headlights everyone knows. Levin is for models equipped with standard lights—for the sake of simplicity to tell them apart. Some might see it as ignorant but it’s essentially the same. Of course if you want to get into detail there are trims to each model that vary in features. That could be a conversation all in its own. Mine is styled to the Zenki Japanese Trueno GT-Apex look.

Zenki GT-Apex | img: @midnightmenu

On Hachi Rokus

[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As an AE86 owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them?

[Karl] Don’t believe the hype, they’re old and are equipped with obsolete technology. They’re not fast out of the box. And the money you’re gonna spend on it far outweighs their value. It’s expensive to upkeep especially when it’s highly modified and is driven hard every time it’s started. But to some that won’t matter. 

I’ve always loved the body lines and overall styling of this car. It’s like driving a go-kart! And it’s my chassis of somewhat expertise as I’ve been working on my own 86s for over a decade. There’s so much you can still do to have fun in this car as it keeps you engaged. All about that high speed low power keeps it interesting. 

One thing I don’t like that’s killing the market—granted it’s only natural for inflation—is the price of chassis and parts to put it all together. 

[tgp] These cars have been in high demand for a couple decades, now. How hard is it to find one, let alone a good one? 

[Karl] Leading on from the previous point, due to inflation and the increasing rarity of these, AE86 in all forms are starting to skyrocket in price. Even back in the early days it would be super rare, but it happened when a super clean one would pop up with the owner asking $10k for a stock car. 

You’ll have all these beat up ones saturating the market now, with ridiculous prices, all based off that “I know what I got” mentality. It’s slowly becoming another car I can’t afford to get another one of. The deals are still out there, but you have to be extremely lucky—or extremely quick with the wallet. Hopefully I’ll add a few more cars to the lineup one day. 

[tgp] How did you end up with one? Why have you stuck around as long as you have? 

[Karl] Luck. Pure luck. The 86 I owned before this one got totaled, unfortunately, when a drunk driver didn’t yield on a left turn on green and struck me head on. Long story short: I parted it out and junked the car. Six months passed and I had been constantly posting I was looking for a car. 

A buddy happened to hit me up. This one’s been with me for the last six years now. I stick around because I find it interesting, the people that I’ve met with this car. I’ve developed a lot of lasting friendships with this one. And the support! There’s still plenty of options out there!

The Trueno/Levin/Corolla Community

[tgp] How’s the owner community doing these days? Where do y’all hangout, share tech, and whatnot?

[Karl] Sheesh.. the community is huge and small at the same time. Most are quiet, but it’s been buzzin’ lately. People’s cars I follow are starting to run and some of them nearing completion. Still love to keep track of the homies. Not much out in my area but I’ll drive out to the Bay Area once in a while. Usually there is a meet in on the first Friday of every month. Those meets go late into the night. 

A lot of us have been so focused on adulting that we haven’t seen each other in a while. Most of the time for me it’s usually through Instagram, where I’ll catch up with folks or help others with tech stuff that I’m familiar with. 

This Gearhead Life

[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?

[Karl] Going with trends. Car culture isn’t the same as it used to be. It can’t be the same forever, I know, and I’m by no means a show car, but some builds are just cringe because they’re built to try and fish some kind of reward. Sometimes they’re obviously put together wrong. To each their own, but the main scene for me just kind of all blends together. Everyone chasing that next big wide body on air. 

That’s my bias, but I am no expert judge. Don’t really have a solution as I’ve been kind of inactive. Maybe one, people need to stop being idiots at car meets. I’m talkin revving, burnouts, donuts and shit. Last couple of ones I’ve been to have ended with me staying for 5-10 minutes because it’s either getting broken up or the situation was getting sketchy. Can’t even take the time to walk around and check some things out. 

Hooked on a feeling. | img: @midnightmenu

Shout Outs

[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?

[Karl] There isn’t one specific person for me. It’s the community as a whole that keeps me going and the companies out there that support builds. 

Shout out to friends at Battle Garage Racing Service, CM Autohaus, Techno Toy Tuning, Shock the Mob, Devil Run, Battle Version for everything y’all do and for being part of my own personal build! 

Shout out to the homies over the years that have helped me learn, source parts, and came through when I needed it. Strange how a common interest in a car brings people together.

Truer words are rarely spoken, dude.

Every car has a story, a scene if you will. Sometimes, you look at a car and it looks back into you. You can imagine yourself behind the wheel… Windows down, side draft carbs, exhaust, and rear tires singing in unison as you dance with the slip angels on a winding forest road in the mountains. You could be going faster, but not much—and certainly not having more fun.

That’s what the Hachi Roku promises. And, as we all know these days—that’s what the Hachi Roku delivers. But it also delivers something more, ya know? It’s a symbol of the underdog in all of us; the regular Joe or Josephine who loves the physical connection between human and machine. 

And the fact that you know exactly what that all means just goes to show we’re all in the right place.  

Hachi Roku delivers. | img: @midnightmenu

Would you like to know more?

Check out Karl’s Zenki Trueno GT-Apex on Instagram: @midnightmenu

And special thanks to @kmachjr (Civic Type R) for the introduction!

Help keep car culture alive by visiting the communities, events, and vendors Karl mentioned. Aside from being something interesting and different to look at, it’s always nice to know where to direct a fellow gearhead in need.

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