We’ve found ourselves in the slightly odd situation of commencing a rebuild of two Japanese cars from the same era, both with sporting pretentions and both with lashings of traditional, Retropower custom work. That’s about where the similarities end however, as the cars in question are a Toyota AE86 Corolla and a Nissan Sunny ZX Coupe. The former is a darling of both the drifting and the global tuning community, whereas the latter is little more than an interesting (albeit largely overlooked) footnote in late ‘80s Japanese coupe history.

This is Retropower though, and love for quirky, somewhat left field old cars is a given, so we’re just as excited to be working on the oddball Nissan as we are the cult classic Toyota. Here’s how we plan on each panning out over the course of the next few months.

Toyota AE86

The appeal of the AE86 gen Corolla is tricky to explain to those not well versed in cult cars from the late ’80s. After all, it’s not especially powerful, sporting or exclusive, but to judge this humble looking Japanese icon on these terms is to miss the point spectacularly. You’ll struggle to find a more iconic Toyota or a more sought after drift, road or track car. The AE86’s beguiling handling balance and the charms of its buzzy, impressively tuneable twin cam have made it a fully paid up cult icon.

So sought after is the AE86 these days that sourcing a suitable base car can be tricky, certainly if you don’t have Liberia’s deficit at your disposal. This has prompted a number of would-be Corolla owners to take matters into their own hands and go direct to the source – Japan. The owner of this example did just this, before collecting it dockside and driving it directly to us.

We’ve since stripped it, carried out a limited amount of metalwork and custom fabrication, the latter in order to make it better suited for its intended environment, the track. It was then treated to the deceptively complex colour it now sports, Jaguar Ultimate Black.

Various performance focussed coilovers, arms and mounts will eventually find their way onto the AE86, as will as highly modified, re-sized and relocated Hilux axle.

We’re now in the midst of rebuilding the Corolla, adding custom touches along the way. It will eventually be propelled by a tuned version of its standard 4AGE engine, albeit with throttle bodies and other inlet and exhaust tweaks. It promises to be an unbeatable weapon for tearing along the highland roads of its owner’s Scottish home.

Nissan Sunny ZX Coupe

We’re not going to pretend for a minute that the ZX Coupe has the same sporting pedigree or cult appeal as its Toyota contemporary, but that doesn’t stop us getting excited at the prospect of working on it. The project has only become more appealing as the owner’s brief has developed, namely his desire to primarily use it to pootle around central London!

It wouldn’t be a Retropower project worthy of the name without a deep commitment to custom work and individuality though, which is why the Sunny sports some of the most extensive bodywork modifications we’ve yet tackled.

Listing everything that we’ve carried out could take up a large portion of the internet, so we’ll merely restrict ourselves to some of the highlights. The boxed rear wings have been completely remade from sheet steel, a process that’s left the Sunny with a far more aggressive rear-three quarter profile.

Custom fabrication work has also been carried out on the front arches, the sills and both the front valances, and while we’ll leave it to you to judge its overall effectiveness, we have had several people comment that the end result looks a little like a truncated R32 Skyline (no bad thing in our book).

The extensive bodywork revisions were crowned with a fresh coat of paint, in this case a Ford colour, Magnetic Grey. It’s a hue best known for its use on the latest iteration fo the Mustang though one we feel also looks right at home on the boxy Nissan Coupe.

The initial plan was for the Sunny to have an auto-box bolted to its modified CA18DET engine, though we’re pleased to report that the owner has since seen sense and plumped for a manual cog-swapper instead. It won’t have to deal with too much stress, either, with the engine mooted to make a sold 250bhp.

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