Buy­ing Clas­sics Abroad

These rear-wheel drive, twin-cam leg­ends are well worth hunt­ing down, even if it means im­port­ing from over­seas. You cer­tainly won’t be the first…

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

Toy­ota Corolla GT AE86

ven though they’re so thin on the ground, the AE86s have a re­ally strong fol­low­ing in the UK, and prob­a­bly more so in Ire­land,’ says Cal­lum Ma­cadam. He had his car im­ported from Ja­pan by a com­pany in Ire­land (JDM Auc­tion Watch, jd­mauc­tion­watch.com) a cou­ple of years ago. ‘Some peo­ple are amaz­ingly ded­i­cated,’ Cal­lum adds. ‘They’ll re­store cars that are vir­tu­ally bro­ken in half!’

Even the youngest ex­am­ples are now 30 years old, so cor­ro­sion is a se­ri­ous problem for cars orig­i­nally sold in the UK. Solid, un­mo­lested mod­els are very scarce. For­tu­nately,

ÔE­pass­ing that 30-year thresh­old means that im­port­ing cars from out­side the EU doesn’t at­tract im­port duty, and the VAT drops to five per cent. Kerch­ing!

A few have made it to the UK from South Africa, and you’ll find a smat­ter­ing of LHD ver­sions avail­able across the EU, but Ja­pan is the go-to op­tion if you’re look­ing to im­port. It’s worth ex­haust­ing your op­tions there be­fore look­ing else­where. The lan­guage bar­rier and un­de­ci­pher­able pa­per­work means that there’s lit­tle to be gained from try­ing to ar­range the im­port your­self, so pick one of the more ex­pe­ri­enced com­pa­nies that bring ve­hi­cles from Ja­pan reg­u­larly. Cal­lum re­ports pay­ing well un­der £1000 for the trans­port of his Corolla, with lit­tle in way of pa­per­work for him to com­plete and no hic­cups along the way.

Ja­pan being the spir­i­tual home of the drift scene, many of its sur­viv­ing AE86s have been mod­i­fied to go side­ways bet­ter than they go for­wards. Slammed sus­pen­sion, bucket seats, roll cages, ‘phat’ ex­hausts and Toys R Us wheels tend to be the norm.

Most peo­ple reckon the Ja­panese en­thu­si­asts are a con­sci­en­tious bunch, but their cars are likely to have been ragged. Buy­ing un­seen will al­ways be a bit of a gam­ble.

You’ll find ac­tive own­ers’ clubs all over the world, in­clud­ing in dry coun­tries such as Aus­tralia, New Zealand, parts of the USA and the Mid­dle East – though Amer­i­can cars carry gi­ant rub­ber bumpers that look a bit daft to Euro­pean eyes.

Toy­ota mar­keted the AE86 in Europe as the Corolla GT, while JDM ve­hi­cles were badged Corolla Levin or Sprinter Trueno (the lat­ter hav­ing pop-up head­lamps). Con­vert­ing a Ja­panese car to feel like an un­mo­lested Euro­pean original can be done, but there are a few things that will need chang­ing, in­clud­ing the bumpers, seats and lights.

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