Sweeps’ AE86

As the number of drifters continues to rise within the UK, demand is higher than ever for organised practiced days and competitions. With the organisation of an event comes a great deal of hard work and hassle; something a limited number of people are willing to put up with. Imagine then, trying to organise and run the UK’s biggest drift championship, finish your project car and then, on top of that, trying to get a bit of time behind the wheel yourself. Welcome to the world of Mark “Sweeps” Buckle, a man who has not only been at helm of the British Drift Championship since its inception in 2008, but also in charge of the spanners when it came to putting together this incredible AE86 (a build that started way back in 2007). Oh, and he can skid pretty good as well…

After spending so many years as a project car a shakedown was greatly anticipated upon its completion, with the Team Japspeed test day at Lydden Hill being the chosen time and place.

From the outside there was nothing out of the ordinary to look at – all of the obligatory Corolla essentials were there (apart from the ubiquitous black and white colour scheme, of course). While the car was undoubtedly clean, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what Sweeps had been working on for all these years. It’s then that you take a look under the bonnet and notice the rather out of place turbo, which sparks your urge to delve deeper into the underpinnings of the car. It is then you realise why it has taken so long to complete.

The project originally started life as a 1983 AE86 which was soon reshelled into a younger 1987 shell due to numerous rot issues. The new shell was then treated to a thorough dose of seam welding, shortly followed by a multi-point, weld-in roll cage complete with necessary gussets.

The 4GZE lump has had its usual accompanying supercharger replaced by a T28 turbo, a unit more commonly found bolted to SR20DETs in a plethora of Nissan S-bodies around the world. HKS cams can be found within, while pulleys from the same manufacture adorn the exterior. All of this is controlled by an Emerald engine management system, while Samco hoses, a 24 row oil cooler, front mount intercooler with custom pipework and an uprated Walbro fuel pump keep the necessary fluids cool and in plentiful supply.

Putting that forcefully-induced power down to the ground is a bespoke Helix clutch mated to a Fidanza lightened flywheel, both of which mate up to the W58 gearbox that is more commonly found underneath JZA70 Supras. Transferring the power rearwards is a one-off prop shaft which is coupled to the OEM LSD (soon to be replaced due to its failure after two drift days).

Keeping this lightweight Hachiroku pinned to the ground is a pair of Driftworks coilovers up front and a pair of 1.9 diameter AVO coilovers out at the rear. Of course, no drift car would be complete without an array of adjustable suspension arms and there is no shortage of them here. Adjustable front lower arms (set 30mm longer to widen the track), Driftworks tie rods and a Battle Version panhard bar aid the little Corolla’s razor sharp handling traits. The track rod ends have been replaced with rose joints and, where there aren’t already rose joints present, every other bush has been replaced with polyurethane items. Helping Sweeps to pull off super-fast transitions is a much quicker steering rack, giving full lock at 2.4 turns of the Nardi steering wheel.

Footwork is taken care of by a set of Hayashi Street hoops in 14×7 and 14×9 sizes front and rear (respectively), although a pair of Celica Supra 14×7 items were in use on the rear while the car was being thrashed.

As the time came for me to have a poke around the interior I was originally worried that some of the Hachiroku’s subtle and period-correct exterior would be lost on the inside in favour of a much more modern, competition focused setup. Thankfully, I was wrong. Aside from the somewhat necessary cut-off switches and Japspeed hydraulic handbrake, everything is as it should be.

The suede Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel, Capillary gauges located in the heater vents and Sparco bucket seat all help to create an image that wouldn’t be out of place in an issue of Drift Tengoku or Battle Magazine circa 2001 – something that is so frequently lost on most drift cars nowadays.

I could spend all day discussing this Corolla’s spec but obviously, the important question is “how does it drift?”. Well, there was only one way to find out…

The layout at Lydden Hill begins with a long downhill approach towards a very fast, sweeping left hander. The aim is to get as close to the clipping point on the outside while initiating, shortly followed by trying to get as close to the inside rumble strip straight after.

It is then followed by a quick transition into the right-hand hairpin, with the aim here being to get as close to the outside of the track at first, followed by tucking into the hairpin and then getting as close to the outer wall as you dare.

Having plenty of power to spare is a big bonus for the next section of the track, which features an uphill approach (where it is usually preferable to keep the wheels spinning for maximum crowd and judge pleasing effect) into a very fast right hander onto the back straight.

With the track sessions limited to 15 minutes at a time (the track was being shared with drivers attending a regular grip track day) most of the higher powered cars found themselves limping back to the pits with spent tyres some time before the session had expired. The nible Corolla had no such issues, and Sweeps could be found giving it his all for the full 15 minutes, each and every time.

The question is though: will 2013 see him taking charge of the BDC from behind a desk or from behind a suede Nardi steering wheel? With round one just a few weeks away, we’ll soon find out…

A full spec list will be added shortly.

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