NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: RICHARD OPIE

Built from the byprod­uct of an un­for­tu­nate en­counter with the un­com­pro­mis­ing en­vi­ron­ment of ral­ly­ing, Chris Wouden­berg’s now im­mac­u­late AE86 was trans­formed from a wrecked 4A-GZE–pow­ered ex­am­ple into a cus­tom-or­dered Milling­ton-en­gined mon­ster — those Ford Es­corts don’t stand a chance in hell against this rooster-tail­ing ’rolla.

The nee­dle on the tacho streaks be­yond 8000rpm. Strapped in­side this scar­let jun­gle gym, it’s the very def­i­ni­tion of sen­sory over­load. Be­yond the fire­wall, the me­chan­i­cal sym­phony of four cylin­ders reaches a fever pitch then subsides, as the mad­man be­hind the wheel plucks third, then fourth gear. We’re bar­relling along at a pace prob­a­bly slightly be­yond the com­fort zone of this vir­gin to a ral­ly­ing silly seat, but with barely a lift off the loud pedal, the car tips left into a cam­bered, up­hill turn.

It’s not vi­o­lent — at least it doesn’t feel par­tic­u­larly ag­gres­sive as the tail flicks to­wards the edge of the road while the nose points at the in­side bank. Rather, the chas­sis mo­tion is fluid, and the sus­pen­sion ab­sorbs the ruts and bumps. On com­mand, the bark from the four throt­tles pro­vides a timely re­minder that this is some­thing quite an­gry, com­pet­ing with the stac­cato ham­mer­ing of rocks against the floor­pan.

Rally tyres, it seems, do their job well. The AE86 squats and rock­ets to­wards the next right-han­der, a rinse and re­peat si­t­u­a­tion of but­ton off, drop a gear, turn in, power out with hand­fuls of op­po­site lock, while bal­anc­ing the at­ti­tude of the car on the throt­tle. And, of course, that ruth­less nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated sound­track through­out.

Thanks to Rally Drive New Zealand, we’re out at Mara­marua For­est, tak­ing in a ral­ly­ing experience that’s quite lit­er­ally like no other in the coun­try. Perched on the gravel among the pine trees is Chris Wouden­berg’s freshly com­pleted AE86 Corolla Levin rally

ma­chine, al­most unas­sum­ing in its aes­thetic. Out­wardly, the AE86 looks like any other rally-fo­cused ex­am­ple of Toy­ota’s cult chas­sis. Th­ese builds are a prod­uct of func­tion over form, con­structed to with­stand abuse from the driver, and the un­com­pro­mis­ing en­vi­ron­ment of ral­ly­ing.

Chris’s im­mac­u­late cre­ation is, in fact, a byprod­uct of an un­for­tu­nate en­counter with the afore­men­tioned en­vi­ron­ment. Some­thing of a Toy­ota loy­al­ist, this isn’t his first AE86 rodeo, as his pre­vi­ous ex­am­ple met an un­timely demise dur­ing the 2014 Sil­ver Fern Rally. En­tered with the sole in­ten­tion of “hav­ing a good go at those pesky Es­corts”, Chris had the 150hp 4A-GZE-pow­ered AE86 run­ning com­fort­ably in the top 10 at the half­way point. Belt­ing along a South Is­land for­est stage, the AE86 made an in­vol­un­tary call to en­gage in an ar­gu­ment with a road­side boul­der.

The boul­der won, and while the me­chan­i­cal com­po­nents of the car sur­vived the im­pact, the chas­sis did not. Dam­age to the roll cage meant any chance of re­pair­ing the car to con­tinue chuck­ing stones the fol­low­ing day was out of the ques­tion. Chris and the team re­turned to Auck­land to plot an even­tual re­turn to the stages.

In one of those mo­ments of con­ve­nience, five years ear­lier Chris had al­ready ac­quired a ‘spare’ car, in the form of a some­what rusty AE86. Rust or not, the team be­gan a strip down, re­duc­ing the AE86 to a mere shell to be­gin patch­ing up the rust. At this point, Kerry Hol­land of Top Gear Au­totech was en­gaged to build one hell of a roll cage. Nick­named the ‘Me­lanie’ de­sign (af­ter Chris’s wife, who clearly wants to keep life that way), Kerry crafted an ex­ten­sive chro­moly mas­ter­piece, de­void of gus­sets and fit­ted close enough to the fac­tory shell to weld di­rectly to the pil­lars. Fur­ther met­al­work to the shell in­cludes modification to the floor­pan to lo­cate the seats both lower, and more cen­tral to the car. With a tick from MSNZ fol­low­ing stress anal­y­sis of the roll cage, and the rust work — al­ways a big­ger job than you think — end­ing, Chris turned his brain to choos­ing an engine. He’d done the 4A-GE thing, and that wasn’t go­ing to cut the mustard against the hordes of po­tent BDA-pow­ered Es­corts. Some­thing spe­cial was go­ing to be re­quired. The Toy­ota 2ZZ-GE was briefly con­sid­ered as a means of keep­ing it in the fam­ily, but as was the cus­tom in 2014, the in­ter­net came to the res­cue.

Chris stum­bled across a story about an AE86 based in the UK, run­ning some­thing called a Milling­ton engine. Fur­ther re­search con­vinced Chris that the Milling­ton was the ticket to beat­ing the Fords, and the prompt re­sponse from the engine builders in the UK soon saw one of the world’s best as­pi­rated four-cylin­der lumps sit­ting on the floor of Chris’s man cave. So, what’s this Milling­ton fuss all about, then? Known as the Milling­ton Di­a­mond Se­ries II+, the 2.5-litre twin-cam is an all-al­loy long block based on a YB Cos­worth. While the orig­i­nal Milling­ton Di­a­mond fea­tured a mod­i­fied YB head on their al­loy block, the Se­ries II makes use of a re­vised de­sign to ad­dress the YB’s short­com­ings.

Th­ese in­clude an al­tered valve an­gle for in­creased com­bus­tion ef­fi­ciency, re­vised ex­haust ports to suit the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated (NA) ap­pli­ca­tion (the YB was de­signed as a tur­bocharged engine), and a re­fined com­bus­tion cham­ber. In­te­gral to the head cast­ing is the re­spon­sive roller bar­rel–style throt­tles, which, in­stead of a tra­di­tional but­ter­fly, use a cylin­dri­cal roller with a port-sized aper­ture through the mid­dle. A stout bot­tom end is re­quired when ham­mer­ing through stages, on and off the throt­tle at 8000rpm. The Milling­ton comes well equipped with a steel crank, forged rods and pistons, as well as a dry-sump kit to keep things oily and en­sure re­li­a­bil­ity un­der high lat­eral loads.

In keep­ing with the Milling­ton be­ing a com­plete pack­age, the en­gines also come with a pre-mapped DTA Fast S60 ECU

and wiring har­ness to suit. While Milling­ton dyno tune all of their en­gines, power isn’t spec­i­fied, but it’s a safe bet to as­sume it’s some­where in the 220kW range. Ken Block, for ex­am­ple, runs the same engine in his own ‘Hooni­gan’ Mk2 Es­cort, with a proven 250kW. Top­ping off the im­pres­sive pack­age is the stain­less tunedlength head­ers, fab­ri­cated in the UK by Simp­son Race Exhausts, and mod­i­fied to suit Chris’s ap­pli­ca­tion in the AE86 — the ob­vi­ous hur­dle be­ing that, from fac­tory, the AE86 has an ex­haust on the pas­sen­ger’s side, while the Milling­ton’s exit is on the driver’s. It’s an ex­hil­a­rat­ing experience for the NA engine faith­ful. From around 4000rpm the 2.5-litre rides the crest of a torque wave, which doesn’t ap­pear to fall off all the way past 8000rpm. Oh, and did we men­tion the sound it makes?

Keep­ing the Milling­ton in its torque band is a Drenth DG400 se­quen­tial dog­box. Ac­quired fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion with lo­cal gear­box guru Kayne Bar­rie, the Dutch­man­u­fac­tured sixspeed is es­sen­tially a re­place­ment for a BMW Ge­trag 265. The al­lure of at­tain­able spares sealed the deal, and while some thought was re­quired to adapt the bell­hous­ing to the Milling­ton block, there’s just some­thing about ur­gently bang­ing through gears to a gruff NA sound­track that just feels so right.

Chas­sis-wise, most of the un­der­pin­nings have been re­pur­posed from the dam­aged AE86. Top-end Drum­mond coilovers keep all four Dun­lop rally tyres at their trac­tive best, and even though the AE86 still rocks a T-se­ries 6.7-inch diff, up­rated axles from Weir Per­for­mance and a TRD plate LSD en­sure it keeps up with the Milling­ton for the time be­ing. Techno Toy Tun­ing’s cat­a­logue can be found through­out, with caster arms, four-link arms, strut braces, and knuck­les all used on Chris’s car.

Ev­ery­where you look, the AE86 is in­dica­tive of a metic­u­lous en­gi­neer­ing back­ground. In­side — among the cage, Racetech seats, and har­nesses — is a mod­i­fied trans­mis­sion tun­nel to ac­com­mo­date the gear­box. Not con­tent with the first at­tempt, it took three ver­sions to fi­nally set­tle on a tun­nel that looked ‘fac­tory’ enough. Peek­ing be­low the flocked dash is the elec­tric pow­er­steer unit, fit­ted to a re­lo­cated steer­ing column and mak­ing life eas­ier for Chris as he flicks the Momo suede wheel dur­ing big ‘scan­dies’ while en­ter­ing cor­ners.

Watch­ing Chris come in from a cou­ple of fast runs for the cam­era, the smile says it all as he coasts to a stop, ask­ing how the shots came out. There’s noth­ing quite like that sat­is­fac­tion of cre­at­ing some­thing so im­mac­u­late, so fo­cused, and of course this trans­lates to some­thing so damn cool. With the rally sea­son only months away, it’s worth keep­ing an eye on lo­cal events and trekking into the for­est to experience the noise of the Milling­ton. Or, if you’re suit­ably equipped with a solid sup­ply of brave pills, Chris is even seek­ing a co-driver. Get in touch with Chris at if you’re keen!

Big­ger engine means big­ger fuel con­sump­tion. The mod­i­fied OEM fuel tank in the AE86 now holds 65 litres of fuel, to keep up with the 1.92L/km fuel us­age un­der rac­ing con­di­tions

The AE86 is drip­ping with qual­ity fab­ri­ca­tion. Dry-sump tank, ra­di­a­tor, and exhausts were all fab­ri­cated in the UK, while lo­cal in­flu­ence ex­tends to the cage, sus­pen­sion, and chas­sis modification

SHOES WHEELS: 13x6-inch Bridge­stone Zona TYRES: Dun­lop or DMack rally tyres

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