FEATURE: Youchi Hangai’s AE86 Trueno

December 11, 2008 12:30 am Published by

Usually, mechanics spend so much time on other people’s cars, they have no time for their own. It’s amazing what results can come from a few minutes a day.

This particular Sprinter belongs to 35-year-old Yoichi Hangai, a mechanic working in the outskirts of Tokyo at the FNATZ workshop. He might technically have a job in Tokyo, but Yoichi has always lived in the eastern part of nearby Kanagawa prefecture, which is generally considered to be the slightly rougher cousin of the somewhat more refined Tokyo metropolis nearby. Running down alongside Tokyo Bay, it’s an industrial area with lots of long back streets and small mechanical workshops, where the tuners have a reputation for having some of the hardest worked street cars in Eastern Japan.

Yoichi’s car, while still bearing the various honest bits of wear-and tear you’d expect of a car that is often driven hard, has had a lot of hard work and expertise involved in its long build process, as well as a lot of money. Almost every single pipe and fitting in the car is a genuine Earls part, and everywhere you can see, and even some places you can’t, various standard fasteners have been replaced with anodised hex key bolts. Neat carbon-fibre brackets support the Blitz oil cooler, the GReddy extractors, radiator pipes and aircon lines and power-steering lines are all meticulously heat-wrapped, and all of the wiring is neat. A lot of the parts under the bonnet still might look kind-of stock, but everything has been messed with in some way. The standard throttle body has been bored out with a larger butterfly for example, and the tastefully painted rocker cover hides a full-on engine build.

Since he is an engine builder by trade, Yoichi balanced and polished the entire engine to blueprint-spec himself, and built it with Cosworth pistons, an AE92 NA crankshaft, machined AE92 supercharged conrods, HKS camshafts and a 0.8mm head gasket. The car puts out about 150kW at 11.7:1 compression, and Yoichi says it feels the best somewhere between 8000 and 9000rpm. With no set rev limit on the ECU, knowing when to shift is a matter of feel. The engine management is still surprisingly standard, but tuning is supplemented by a GReddy E-Manage and a few modifications to the standard computer.

“Funatsu-san put a chip on the ECU and reprogrammed it himself.” he said, making a soldering motion with his hands. Funnily enough, the shop’s boss-man had the guts of an ECU laid out on his table in the office, and was strategically tacking on various daughterboard chips to it while we were speaking. As the technology becomes cheaper and knowledge becomes greater, a lot of Japanese shops are offering their own custom dyno tuning and ECU modification services, as opposed to simply plugging in an aftermarket computer or installing a pre-set ROM-tune chip as was often done in the past.

The rack and pinion has been custom-machined to faster-turning 16:1 to replace the standard Sprinter 18:1 steering ratio, and a power-steering conversion uses the rack assembly from a Toyota GX71, which explains the somewhat out-of-place looking fluid reservoir in the engine bay. The gearbox also has its own share of custom machine work, with a full double-synchro gearset contained within the T50 five-speed.

“Do you usually drive around on these?” I asked, looking at the rather non-street-spec 185/60 Dunlop Formula-R tyres the car was wearing on polished SSR Longchamp 14×7.5in wheels with blue anodised Weds Sport wheels nuts.
“I drive it to work every day with those tyres, but I have to be a bit careful not to attract too much attention.” he said.
Having a rather stock looking car like this with semi-slick tyres and a rollcage by Winning Sport is a rather obvious indication to the authorities in any part of the world that you probably get up to no good when they aren’t looking, but Yoichi likes to take the Trueno to the track just as much as he does to the back streets of Kanagawa.
“It can do over 240km/h on the straight at Fuji Speedway.” he said nonchalantly.
To put that in perspective, Formula 1 cars reach just a bit over 320km/h at the end of the 1.5km-long straight. It’s not a bad effort for a 1.6L naturally-aspirated road car that’s over twenty years old, but what about the lap times?
“I don’t know.” he said with a shrug.
“It doesn’t matter really. I just drive fast on the whole track.”

Even though Yoichi’s personal car is a small-four Sprinter, he mostly works day-to-day building and tuning high-power sixes like Nissan’s RB26 and the FNATZ workshop specialty, Toyota’s 2JZ. I asked him what his favourite engine was.
“It’s the RB26 of course. I like to get maximum horsepower from the engines I build, and you can get a lot of power from those.”
“So your job is building and tuning cars, and your hobby is building and tuning cars as well?” I asked.
“Well, the two things I like are cars and girls. I’ve only owned two cars in my life, and they were both AE86 coupes. This one is my second car ever, and I’ve had it for a long time.” he said with a smile as he pulled a cigarette packet from his jeans.
“It’s different with girls though.”

1986 Toyota Sprinter


1.6L 4AGE

HKS 288°in/272°ex camshafts, HKS adjustable cam gears, Cosworth pistons, AE92 supercharged rods, balanced AE92 NA crank, 11.7 compression, HKS 0.8mm gasket, Greddy E-Manage, TOM’S fuel regulator, AE92 supercharged fuel pump, GReddy exhaust manifold, custom side-pipe exhaust system, custom twin-core radiator, Blitz 7-row oil cooler, Greddy remote-mount oil filter, remote coolant header tank

ORC Super Metal single plate clutch, TRD 2-way LSD, custom double-synchro gearbox

8kg springs front, 6.5kg rear, TRD short-stroke dampers, TRD swaybars, custom GX-71-derived power steering, custom steering rack, custom 95mm spherical bearing suspension arms, IBA Works & 4×4 Road body braces

PFC circuit-spec brake pads, slotted discs, Wilwood brake bias adjuster

SSR Longchamp 14×7.5in, Weds Sport anodised wheel nuts

Dunlop Formula-R D01J 185/60R semi-slicks

TRD rear wing, FRP front bar, standard paint, aero mirrors

Recaro full bucket, Simpson four point harness, Recaro recliner passenger seat, Winning Sport rollcage, Momo steering wheel, Carrozzeria head unit, gauges

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This post was written by Alexi


  • garage_86 says:

    Nice article! now this is how a 86 article suppose to be ! the story and owner background, lots of little things and custom things from Japan that we wanna read ! Its true though when you work on other cars , you tend to neglect yours! but there’s always little things you do to your own car that’s different from customers! Great Job as always!

  • Matt says:

    I hope you have more of these up your sleeve mate. cool street cars shot outside workshops at night. haha.

  • Joey says:

    that is pure sex on wheels!!!!

  • Warren says:

    Really interesting feature!!

  • Clifford says:

    nice feature. please do more of these!

  • Pedro says:

    WOW!! that 86 is awesome. I see his intake is from ae92 which has the throttle body on the other side if you look closely, you can see that its been welded and switched just like mine 🙂 I guess only 86 guys might notice that one!

    I wish i had the map sensor instead of the big afm.

  • Rob_180sx says:

    Wow, that ae86 is hardcore!

    As soon as I read shift by feel I cringed though. All I could think of was of that wang from the Shannon’s insurance ad.

  • Luke says:

    Nice feature Alexi
    Good to see an interivew about the driver not just the car, make you get to know the driver a bit more and he seems 100% like all the dirty old japanese mechanics i know!

    – Luke

  • Alexi says:

    As soon as I read shift by feel I cringed though. All I could think of was of that wang from the Shannon’s insurance ad.

    Yeah, that guy was a wang.

  • Akai-Oni says:

    This is hands-down the best drifting, Japanese tuning related site on the internet. Nice work Alexi.

  • Ruiz XIII says:

    Man this car is perfect AE86 for the streets.
    I would daily drive this thing hard. Looks so clean and well done.

    That guy’s mustache is sweet too

  • Robin says:

    look at that enginebay! 😀

  • Marco V. says:

    This panda is really bad ass….Speechless!!! BTW If some day i want to buy a trueno u can help me out???

  • Raph says:

    I’m bringing an oldie out of the dark, but it’s the first time I’ve read of a toyota ecu being “chipped”.

    Any info on that ?