THE ART OF EIGHTY-SIX

K-SWAPPED AE86 STYLE MAS­TER

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

You know that whole ‘dogs who look like their own­ers’ thing? Yeah, that bizarre phe­nom­e­non that oc­ca­sion­ally pops up in your news­feed when your mum dis­cov­ers an old BBC piece from five years ago. It’s a thing, for sure. Psy­chol­o­gists even agree — some­thing about nar­cis­sism ap­par­ently. But what about cars, es­pe­cially those crafted by the vi­sion and hand of their cre­ators? Does the the­ory ap­ply? Watch­ing Ben Walker ease his bonkers-look­ing Toyota AE86 from drive­way to road sur­face with the as­sis­tance of a cou­ple of tim­ber planks, the no­tion is worth pon­der­ing. From the whip-crack rasp of its dis­tinctly non-Toyota power plant breath­ing into life, through to its dan­ger­ously low aero, Ben’s ’86 surely seems to be owned by an in­di­vid­ual who sim­ply wants to watch the world burn — in a glee­ful, os­ten­ta­tious fash­ion, no less.

This is a build that’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously ev­ery­thing the purist wants and ev­ery­thing the purist loathes. The ex­pec­ta­tion is of an owner with the char­ac­ter of Speedy Cer­viche (yes, the Sa­mu­rai Pizza Cats’ fear­less yet cat­a­stroph­i­cally high-strung leader) to step over the cage and greet you with a twitch in the eye and a rapid hand­shake. And, while he ad­mit­tedly had his share

From the in­tri­cate chas­sis work to the bil­let man­i­fold, the sweep­ing head­ers, and even the be­spoke strut brace, ev­ery­thing is by Ben’s own hands, with skills gained from his time in the au­to­mo­tive fabri­ca­tion trade with Hyper­tune. It’s a homage to a can-do at­ti­tude, a will­ing­ness to take on any task, and learn­ing on the go

of mis­de­meanours at the helm of a Hachi, the man him­self presents a calm, con­sid­ered per­sona. Per­haps it’s an at­tribute cru­cial to, and moulded by, Ben’s day job.

The nine-to-five grind typ­i­cally sees him be­hind a weld­ing mask, glu­ing to­gether many of the won­drous cre­ations that come out of Hyper­tune’s workshop in Syd­ney: stain­less steel, alu­minium — the works. Ben welds with ro­bot pre­ci­sion. His skills’ ge­n­e­sis was in his high-school en­gi­neer­ing class, and he then tran­si­tioned to work ex­pe­ri­ence, then a paid ap­pren­tice­ship in a lo­cal sheet-metal com­pany. Stay in school, kids, and even­tu­ally you too could be fab­ri­cat­ing some badass au­to­mo­tive weapons.

As well as fabri­ca­tion tal­ent, AE86s are also in his blood — an in­fat­u­a­tion he can’t quite pin­point the orig­i­nal of. “They’ve just al­ways been my favourite car for as long as I can re­mem­ber,” he quips. “I had this blue Aussie-spec Sprinter as my first ever car, be­fore I even knew how to drive a man­ual.” Sadly, it wasn’t to be ev­er­last­ing. “That car

“But what about the gear­box?”, you’re cry­ing. Be­ing a trans­verse front-wheel drive en­gine, the K24A never had any op­tions to drive the rear wheels. The gear­box re­mains Toyota — in this case a 6-speed J160 — but a cus­tom bell­hous­ing mates the ‘box to the back of the Honda lump, while hous­ing a K20A fly­wheel with Exedy clutch

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