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CAR OF THE MONTH (APRIL): Matty’s Toyota AE86 Levin

Our April ‘Car of the Month’ is a build that we’ve seen around our community a number of times before, and it’s a build of rarity, passion and consistent progression. Matty Dowds has owned a number of great cars over the years we’ve known him, but the legendary Toyota AE86 Levin was always his ‘end game’. Since we’ve met Matty we’ve seen him behind the wheel of some sensational rides (an R34 front-ended Stagea and a JDM underground-inspired JZX100 just to name a couple), and he’s been a big supporter of our events since day one!

When we saw his childhood dream and current pride and joy grace our April Slowlife Saturdays meet; we already knew what the month’s Car of the Month could be… Let’s find out more about Matty’s JDM legend, and take a peek at some of the wonderful images captured by our resident photography mastermind Castle Car Media.

Matty’s AE86 Levin is an 80’s JDM icon. Image: Castle Car Media

For those wondering what’s so significant about what many of our parents would dub as “a boxy old Corolla”; the AE86 series Corolla Levin (alongside its sister, the Sprinter Trueno) sits in the fifth generation of the Toyota Corolla, and was produced between 1983 and 1987 in both coupe and hatch variations. The name Levin draws its origins from the English word Lightning (they are pretty…zappy, huh? #wejustsaidthat #poorslowlifehumour).

These rear-wheel drive models were lightweight, affordable and had a plethora of aftermarket parts available – making them ideal for motorsport and the wider enthusiast market. The OEM five-speed manual transmission in combination with a twin-cam engine, a near 50/50 weight distribution and optional limited slip differential (LSD) also made the cars popular in the drifting scene. Not bad for the 80s, right?

The AE86 also owes its widespread popularity to the Japanese anime series Initial D (1995 – 2013) as the main character Takumi Fujiwara’s drift/tofu delivery ride (albeit it’s a Trueno). The Levin, however, is featured throughout the series as opponent Wataru Akiyama’s weapon of choice. It’s widely believed that the AE86’ popularity in Initial D has largely influenced its renown high resale value in today’s market.

The AE86 Levin owes its high resale value and popularity to the Japanese anime Initial D.
Image: Castle Car Media

Matty’s Levin is certainly something special. It’s simply a work of art inside and out, and the love, care and precision that Matty’s put into his childhood dream car is nothing short of inspiring to us. Matty’s particular model is a 1983 build (a pre-facelift variant otherwise referred to as a ‘Zenki’). The work put into his car extends to every facet of the car including extensive work to the motor, exterior, suspension and interior to create a unique and tastefully modified example of one of the greatest JDM icons in existence.

Cosmetically; the vehicle has experienced somewhat of a transformation since Matty took ownership. The factory bodywork has had all post-1983 rust professionally removed and resprayed in a glistening gunmetal finish (the colour is known as ‘Dark Karki’). The bodywork itself has also undergone the aftermarket treatment – flared wheel arches, genuine D-Max side skirts and rear bar, a CBY front bumper and a TRD spoiler are just the beginning on what’s changed externally. A Kouki (facelift) front grille, redline taillights, yellow fog lights (tucked away behind the tinted front grille) and a set of SSR Longchamps tastefully finish off the Levin’s exterior to turn heads wherever it goes.

The AE86′ vibrant yellow fog lights are tucked away behind the facelift (Kouki) front grille, and look brilliant when switched on. Image: Castle Car Media

On the inside; the Levin’s dashboard has been completely re-trimmed, and the factory seats replaced with aftermarket bucket seats and Recaro mesh headrests. A DND steering wheel with a quick release finishes off the interior nicely without compromising the otherwise largely OEM interior.

Matty’s interior is clean, simple and tasteful – all the way down to the re-trimmed dash. Image: Castle Car Media

Performance-wise, however; Matty’s Levin is anything but factory. Every aspect of the vehicle’s performance including the suspension, exhaust and even the motor itself has been given either an OEM replacement or aftermarket treatment, and the driveability of the car is purely sensational.

Upon opening the bonnet of the 80’s JDM icon; we were simply stunned by the sheer tidiness, creativity and aftermarket appeal of Matty’s engine bay. There really isn’t a single point on this car that hasn’t been restored and given an aftermarket treatment, and we were drawn to the numerous colours around the engine including the Advan-themed rocker cover that Matty had painted himself (did we mention that he painted the majority of the car, too? Perks of being a painter, really). Every weld, every bolt, and every surface in the bay was spotless. The motor has undergone considerable maintenance and modification, and Matty owes much of this to our friends at Driven Motorsport. Jon and the team at Driven have always been great to us, and we were hardly surprised to hear that they’ve been looking after Matty’s car as well!

The Levin’s engine bay was somewhat a work of art, and was meticulously maintained by Matty, and cared for my our friends at Driven Motorsport. Image: Castle Car Media

We would write about everything on the mod list, but it’s simply too long to turn into paragraphs… Seriously, it’s loooooong.

It’s okay though, because here it is in full detail below:


Matty’s ‘83 Toyota AE86 Levin


  • Ported & polished/blueprinted big port head
  • 272 camshafts
  • Heavy duty valve springs
  • Adjustable cam gears
  • Silver top quad-throttle
  • T3 Manifold
  • Red ram tubes
  • 20V bottom end
  • High-flow oil pump
  • Weight-reduced crank pulley
  • Gates Racing timing belt
  • Front-mounted big oil cooler
  • Cusco catch can
  • Koyorad radiator
  • Fuel pump & swirl pot
  • Sequential gen3 coils ignition (running Microtech LTX 10)
  • Optima red gel cell battery
  • Custom-bent stainless exhaust system
  • High-ride headers
  • Extreme Clutch pressure plate
  • Lightweight flywheel
  • AJPS shifter rebuild kit (shift knob, drift button)
  • Stainless clutch line
  • Custom made stainless steel bash plate under engine
  • TRD two-way LSD (T-series differential)


  • Ultimate Tokico HTS 102s
  • Ajustable short stroke shock absorbers
  • AJPS coilovers (front) w/ 8kg front and 6kg rear springs
  • Cusco camber tops
  • Cusco front/rear strut braces
  • T3 Willwood big brake, disc brake kit
  • Stainless brake lines
  • T3 rose joint adjustable lower control arms
  • T3 rose joint adjustable caster rods
  • T3 zero Ackerman steering arms and tie rods
  • T3 bump steer spacers
  • Whiteline adjustable stiff sway bars front and rear.


  • Removal of OEM sound deadening
  • Black carpet
  • Mesh headrest
  • Recaro bucket seats
  • Re-trimmed dash
  • DND steering wheel (w/ quick release)


  • Wheels: SSR LONGCHAMPS (14X7.5 -7)
  • All rust professionally removed
  • Body Respray (Dark Karki Metallic)
  • Wheel arches (flared and finished in a stock look style rather than rounded)
  • D-Max skirts
  • D-Max-rear bar
  • CBY front bar
  • TRD spoiler
  • Kouki indicators and headlights
  • Zenki front grille
  • Redline tail lights (with proper number plate lights fitted)
  • Yellow fog lights (behind tinted grille)
  • Tinted windows
  • Custom rocker covers (shaved and Advan-themed)

With a mod list longer than most of our grocery shopping lists paired with one of Japan’s most celebrated iconic models; it’s hardly a surprise that Matty’s AE86 is our car of the month. We look forward to seeing his build progress even further as the months and years go on, and we’re already excited to see what’s on the horizon in all honesty!

Feast your eyes on these purely stunning images captured in the backstreets of Adelaide’s west and industrial districts by our very own Castle Car Media. His love for the AE86 fueled this shoot, and these are some of the finest images we’ve seen around town. Show Castle come love and appreciation, and don’t forget to wave at Matty next time you see his Levin prowl into a meet near you in the future!


Images: Castle Car Media (Follow: Facebook | Instagram)

Managing director of Slowlife and one of the original founding members. Passionate about all things Slowlife, and has been one of the minds behind Slowlife's events and media since 2014. Also owns a widebody tilty wheel car that struggles to get out of the driveway without scraping, and is often seen crying over doggo memes whilst on a caffeine binge.