The name Levin usually conjures images of an AE86 flying around corners, smoking tires and hanging its tail end out as its 4AG engine bounces off the rev limiter. But this Levin is the opposite. It's not powered by a 4AG, it's not an AE86 and it's not a drift machine. This is the later-generation AE101 Levin, the front-wheel drive successor to the AE86 Levin/Trueno that Toyota thought would become an instant success. It never matched the hachiroku for appeal, but it won over its fair share of enthusiasts. One of the biggest AE101 fanatics, Mitsuhiro Isaka, is a professional photographer working with Carboy Magazine in Japan. He decided to build the fastest front-wheel drive car in Japan, and the AE101 fit his project criteria perfectly.
Hot In The Pits
While the Levin prepared for a shakedown pass at Tsukuba Circuit, mechanics frantically double-checked the engine and chassis for maximum performance. It looked like a racecar ready to break records. Yet before touching the track, Isaka reminds us that making the AE101 street legal carried top priority. The work began at Plecio Technical Factory in Tokyo where the vehicle was stripped to its bare frame. Once bare, the 17 year-old frame was stitch-welded for increased chassis rigidity and strength. A Saito weld-in cage further stiffens the chassis and provides additional protection to the driver.
Bomex created a one-off wide-body kit built to Super GT GT300-class regulations for the AE101. The front bumper is a multi-functional piece. The bumper was designed to allow enough space for the low positioning of the intercooler and oil cooler. Besides cooling the intercooler and oil cooler, the large rectangular opening was purposely designed to help cool the radiator during competition. The two round side intakes channel air directly to the brake rotors keeping them cool to prevent brake fade. The curved design blends into the front fenders, which are pushed out to create an aggressive stance. The louvered openings in the fiberglass hood further aides in engine cooling by removing excess heat from the engine compartment. The side skirts feature a flat-plank contour that smoothes out the body lines up to the rear over-fenders. The visible riveting that secures the fiberglass to the body further exaggerates the curvature of the wheel arch that blends seamlessly into the rear bumper. The massive rear diffuser and the Voltex carbon-fiber rear wing help to keep the Levin planted around the track. To further reduce weight, the side and rear glass pieces have been replaced with lexan units.
Power Is More Than Skin Deep
To match the aggressive exterior adornments, this Levin flexes a muscular powerplant under the hood. A 3S-GTE from a 1995 Celica GT4 replaced the anemic 4AG. This engine seemed the logical choice to make the Levin competitive. Custom engine mounts position the 3S-GTE in the engine bay. An HKS metal head gasket keeps the head sealed to the block up to a full 1.7 bar of boost on track. Bolted to the factory exhaust manifold is a Power Enterprise RX6R turbocharger. A custom exhaust system was constructed by Garage 34 to expedite spent exhaust gases from the turbocharger.
Making The Numbers
The Bomex front bumper allows the ARC intercooler and the oil cooler to receive direct airflow. Custom piping was bent and welded to join the compressor to the intercooler, while 70mm heat-wrapped pipe connects the intercooler to the intake plenum. An ARC radiator was fitted with a pair of Billion electric fans to keep engine coolant temperatures in check. The factory fuel pump is backed by a SARD auxiliary pump feeding four 660 cc/min injectors. The factory rotating assembly transmits power through a Bespoke clutch combination composed of a Cusco flywheel, Racing Gear clutch disc and a GReddy pressure plate. Power is sent to the Cusco LSD via the S52 gearbox equipped with ST202 gearing. When regulated to 1.0 bar, the engine produces 296 horsepower, while 394 horsepower has been made while running at 1.7 bar.
In order to put the power down and stay on the track, suspension upgrades became the subject of attention. Bils adjustable shocks valved especially for the Levin replaced the factory dampers. Hyperco springs and Cusco pillow-ball upper mounts complete the shock setup. Pillow-ball links, TRD stabilizers and chassis braces further improve the Levin's handling. Shedding track speeds with factory stoppers can be a risky proposition. To ensure adequate stopping power, a set of Celica 4-piston calipers now put the squeeze on Endless CC-R brake pads and 315mm Toyota Celsior brake rotors. Out back, a set of 2-piston calipers and stock rotors from the Celica helps to slow down the rear end. Lightening the load at all four corners, a set of Volk Racing CE28N wheels replaced the factory rollers. These 17-inch forged-aluminum wheels rely on super sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE55S cut-slick tires for maximum traction.