Technically it's a bit of a curio too. The 4AGE 1.6-litre twin-cam is a peach; revvy and keen in the Japanese style but engineered with typical Toyota rigour and mated to a short-throw gearbox with close ratios and a lovely, positive shift. It lived on in the original MR2 and Corolla GTi-16 but in the AE86 Toyota paired this very modern sounding powertrain with very traditional underpinnings, driving the rear wheels via a live axle in a set-up seemingly at odds with the modernist looks.
This quirky combination is, however, the secret to the AE86's cult status. Think of it as a Japanese Capri and you begin to appreciate why they're so sought after and – as a first prowl of the classifieds reveals – so expensive. And where the Capri's cultural significance was sealed with sideways appearances in The Sweeney the AE86 owes its fame to a Manga cartoon strip called Initial D.
Its hero, Takumi Fujiwara, drove a modified AE86 delivering tofu for his father's shop, combining his work with after dark drifting and street racing on Japanese mountain roads. Life imitated art, enthusiasts realised the AE86's eccentric mechanical layout made it a perfect drift car and the Toyota's legend was formed in the real and virtual world. Its toughness and slideability also made it a successful competition car, its popularity among drifters, clubman rally drivers and modifiers making it a real challenge to find one that's not been crashed, chopped about or otherwise mutilated.