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…
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.