The Hachi Roku Buyer’s Guide


The ‘hachi roku’ is officially a classic car and the demand on it is increasing day by day. This means many of them will be over-priced to sometimes an unfair extent regardless the condition of the car.

People tend to get infatuated about the ae86 but in reality, probably, 90% of them wont even buy one and the reasons is that not every average enthusiast can handle the effort, money and struggle it requires to get this car back in top shape. It will be an easier step if you got plenty money or are a mechanic of your own.

This is a general guide, from for buying an AE86 in the US; though almost the same rules can be applied for the rest of the planet and for almost any car of the same age:

I want to buy an AE86 but can’t find one….what should I do?

I get a ton of email asking if I know where to find a Corolla GT-S AE86 to buy, so I decided to create this little flow chart to help you out. That way, I don’t have to email you back and ask for the details, and then you don’t have to email me back and tell me that you want to find a white/black hatchback with a straight, rust-free body, under 100,000 miles, for under U.S. $1000, in your home town. Now we can both skip all that hassle….just answer the questions and work your way through…you will be driving off in your new AE86 before you know it!

1) Does the thought of spending a lot of time and money fixing an older car scare you? We are talking about everything from sloppy door hinges to severe body rust, leaky seals, broken window cranks, bad wheel bearings, blown transmissions to worn valve guides, worn-out shocks, worn-out upholstery all the way down to that little crack in the dash, or that little creak in the interior. Does this scare you or appeal to you?
SCARES ME: go to 13 APPEALS TO ME: go to 2

2)Have you seen Corolla GT-S’s driving around the street in your area?
YES: go to 3 NO: go to 10

3)Do you have your heart set on a hatchback?
YES: go to 9 NO: go to 4

4) Can you dedicate several hours a week for the next six months plus several thousand dollars to finding a Corolla GT-S?
YES: go to 5 NO: go to 13

5) Do you regularly check the classified section of the forums at
YES: go to 6 NO: go to 7

6) Diversify your search. Read the local newspaper classifieds daily. Check the “Parts and Repairs” section as well as the “Cars for Sale” section. Some papers also have a “Cars Under $1000” which is a great place to find slightly older cars that might not otherwise be in the paper. Pick up the local AutoTrader on the morning that it comes out, and call about any Corollas that same day. In any of these listings, it may be worth a phone call about a “1985-1987 Toyota Corolla.” If the ad says 4dr or automatic, you know it is not a GT-S for sure. If the ad doesn’t specify, call to ask. I don’t give away what I am looking for too fast, you might cut yourself out of a deal if you sound anxious; I start with “Is it a two-door or a four-door?” and if it is a two-door, then “5-speed or automatic?” Then I will ask if it is an SR5. There are some non-car-people out there with GT-S’s…and more often than not they view their cars as just a Corolla. Walk and bike around town as much as possible, varying your route. The slower pace allows you to really scour the streets for Corollas. They may not be for sale, but you can always leave a polite note expressing an interest in the car, “if it should ever come up for sale” and then wait for a phone call. Remember the part about how this could take months? I know of six Corolla GT-S within a mile or mile and a half of my house from just walking to work, walking to the store, walking around exploring in my spare time, always looking in driveways, and at cars parked on the street. Make a habit of swinging by the scuzzy, cheap used car lots in your area once a week or so. If you are so inclined, it may be worth checking out some tow/impound auctions, too. I haven’t found any GT-S’s worth having this way, but some people I know have seen the occasional rough, beat-up Corolla GT-S pass through this type of auction. Go to local motorsports events, you never know when you may run into a racer with an AE86 for sale. If not, at least you get a fun day at the races or autocross. Look at online to try and find Corolla GT-Ss outside of your immediate area. Post a wanted ad up at in the classified forum, and consider taking out one in your local paper, too. I can guarantee you will get results quickly with an ad that reads something like this, “Wanted: AE86 GT-S in good used condition. Year, color unimportant. Coupe or hatchback OK. Body must be straight, must be in decent mechanical shape. U.S. $3000 cash waiting for the right car. Can travel up to 1000 miles from (insert your location here)” When all else fails, wait until tomorrow and then check back at again. Good luck, you are on the right track.

7) Do you have it stuck in your head that you can’t/won’t buy a Corolla GT-S from an enthusiast?
YES: go to 8 NO: go to 11

8) Consider buying from an enthusiast, or else budget even more time, energy, and longer travel. Check the ads at Buying a Corolla GT-S from a fellow enthusiast may cost a little bit more money, but you can usually count on getting a few mods with the deal, and possibly a better maintained car than the $500 beater Corolla some grandma is unloading because she doesn’t drive it much anymore. The enthusiast’s used cars are usually easier to find, also. You pretty much have to luck into a Corolla GT-S for sale from a grandma, and that can take months to years. Go to 11

9) Finding a hatchback will take extra money and extra time, perhaps even several hours a week for an entire year of long, hard searching, plus several thousand dollars and a willingness to travel. Can you live with this?
YES: go to 4 NO: go to 13

10) Can you travel to the West Coast for a couple of weeks?
YES: go to 11 NO: go to 12

11) Look at the ads in local newspaper classifieds, the local AutoTrader and similar weeklies, and in the forums at and start contacting sellers to arrange viewings and testdrives! If this doesn’t work for you, go to 6

12) Find a trustworthy, car-saavy buddy or an acclaimed car-buying service on the West Coast and pay them to find you a car. If not, go to 13

13) You are not ready to buy a Corolla GT-S. No offense intended, but your priorities are unrealistic. You need to widen the scope of color/bodystyle/condition/price of the GT-S you are looking for. You need to either dedicate more time, money, energy, and travel to this project, or else go buy yourself some other kind of car. Thank you and have a nice day!


I want to buy a used AE86….what should I look for?

Can you tell me anything I should look at when I go to check it out? Any problems I should be aware of?

Rust. Structural. I have heard people talk of cars which have been driven hard developing cracks around suspension mounting points and/or at the “frame rails” on the underside of the car, just in front of the firewall…I haven’t seen this type of damage in person myself. Rust check is pretty much like any other car.

Then the usually used car buying stuff: See how easily it starts/runs….and make sure the car isn’t warm when you get there to look at it. A car which has been running recently and is still warm will usually run better. The 4AG engine is fairly solid, but doing a compression test can give you a rough idea of the amount of wear on the engine. Snoop around under the hood and at the suspension. Grab each wheel and throw your body into trying to shake it to see if wheel bearings or suspension parts are loose. Look at the condition of belts, hoses, and the wiring harness. Ask if the owner has any receipts for work, or a mechanic with records of service performed. The timing belt should be changed every 60,000 miles, and even though the 4AG is a non-interference engine, if the owner can’t prove that it has been changed in the last 60,000, I would plan on doing it, and use it as a bargaining point. While the car is still cool, open the radiator cap and check for oil in the coolant-can indicate blown headgasket. Checking things like the overall cleanliness of the car and, say…the levels of the fluids (coolant, brake, clutch, oil) can give you some idea of whether the car was cared for or not. Try everything out you can think of…do the headlights work? Do they go up and down? Do all of the taillights/brakelights/turn signals work? Does the e-brake work? Does the in-dash fan work? Do the power mirrors work? Does the adjustable lumbar support (hand pump by the center console) inflate the driver’s seat, and does it hold air? Do the rear seats fold down/up easily and squarely? If not, it could be time to check for crash damage. Pull the carpet up in the trunk and check under the spare tire for rust? Does it even still have a spare? Think of anything that you could complain about to bargain with. Look for mismatched paint between body panels, or on the inside/outside of the same panel (inside the trunk, inside the fenders, inside door openings and under hood) as a potential indicator of crash damage. Do the tires all match? How worn are they? Look up at the bottom side of the opened trunk lid/hatch for rust and/or signs of water actually leaking in. Do the same around the roof/interior headliner for cars with a sunroof. Ask to drive it…have the owner come along it necessary, and if no go there, reconsider buying it, or at the very very least, try to get a ride in it. Run through all the gears several times up and down to see if they syncromesh is worn anywhere. Test the brakes (in a safe place) for feel and stopping power. Try the brakes again in a straight line with a very light hand over the steering wheel and see if it pulls to one side or another. Does the car pull to one side or another when just driving along?…this can indicate potential alignment/suspension issues, or even hidden crash damage. Give the car one or two good acceleration runs up to redline and see how the engine pulls. Watch the coolant and oil pressure gauges for potential signs of problems during the whole test drive. Take the car up to highway speed at least once if possible. Try some swerving motions and see how it responds. How does the clutch feel? Can you bitch about anything else to make the buyer lower the price? Ask where it usually parked and look on the ground for coolant/oil leaks. Look at the underside of the car for the same. Let the clutch out listening and feeling for bangs/clunks that could indicate some driveline wear or problems. Ummm…yeah…just keep thinking like this for as long as you can about what could be a problem. Do all of this, and you should come away with a good idea of whether the car is in great shape with obvious care and maintenance, or a diamond in the rough, hopefully easy to restore, or a steaming pile of c**p which has never been cared for.

Hope this helps…the AE86 is a pretty well built, durable little car, but their personality leads to lots of aggressive driving, and their relatively low values means that people often skimp on maintaining their cars. Let us know how it goes.



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