Two AE86 Corollas–one a coupe and one a hatch—with screaming 4-AGE motors revving to nine grand is something to behold. It is an old-school combination of a short wheelbase, no weight, and a peppy but not very torquey motor that allows these two drivers to keep their right foot pinned more of the time. Fortunately, the bark of the 1.6-liter engine, when paired with individual throttle bodies, is one of the most beautiful sounds known to man.
In the case of Norbert Strausser Jr., the owner/driver of the blue hatch, his motor makes 220 horsepower, which is capitalized on thanks to a sequential six-speed gearbox—so the the acceleration ain’t nothin’ to sniff at. Plus, the weight is trimmed even further with carbon body panels, so it only weighs 1,700 pounds.
However, its strong suit has always been its agility. Wider fenders, KW suspension, and sticky rubber, plus your basic aerodynamic additions, all contribute to the way this car corners. It turns in with such urgency and never seems to overwhelm the front tires. The car is stable at high speed, and still likes to slide around in the slower corners, but much later in the corner; the power is all at the top of the rev range. It makes you pine for the old days.
That wistful feeling is only magnified by Werner Rohr’s Corolla. With ten more horsepower but another hundred pounds, the car seems to handle and accelerate like the hatch does. It’s just as stable—if not more so—thanks to that massive diffuser keeping the car planted at higher speeds. At slower speeds, it likes to dance, and whether or not it’s faster, it certainly looks like the more dramatic machine to pilot.
It’s Rohr’s certainty with the car that allows him to get the most subtle angles out of the car while running very quickly and very accurately. His controlled drift through the wet hairpin (1:29 in the above clip) is all down to quick countersteering and a mild breathe and feathering of the throttle. He can point the car in the right direction without losing time thanks to that wonderful chassis and the manageable motor. It’s a thing of beauty.