“I believe that depression is a serious issue and not many people really understand what it is. People need to be educated about depression so that they can see the signs in friends or family and take action. The majority of people suffering depression don’t seek treatment or speak about it, so by educating people we can assist those who are suffering from this illness.” – Adrian Lee
Shuichi Shigeno may not be a name that is instantly recognisable, but chances are you may have seen his creations in one form or another. Most famous is his Initial D manga series, which has taken the world by storm over the past 15 years. It has seen itself be turned into a popular anime series and even a blockbuster movie and has dramatically accelerated Toyota’s AE86 Sprinter into cult status, with the name Takumi taking on an entirely different meaning since.
The owner of this AE86 is Adrian Lee, who gets to live every Initial D fan’s dream on a daily basis. However, his interest in the AE86 was not actually sparked by Initial D; “I had a family friend who introduced me to the AE86. He would show me all of his Best Motoring and Option DVDs and it amazed me how it moved around the racetrack and was able to overtake cars which had much more power.” It was at this point that he began an obsession that has continued to this day.
Before purchasing this particular model, Adrian owned a bone stock ADM Levin hatch complete with 4AC single-cam, single carburettor engine. Ben Cheong, Adrian’s mechanic of BEL Garage, Touge Tune and now Ixa, had owned this Trueno for 7 years, gaining fame under the number plate ‘Takumi’, building it into what you see before you. Knowing the time and effort that Ben had put into it with his heart and soul, Adrian accepted what Ben entrusted him with. Since then, he has left the car in almost the same state as it was given to him. As Ben had already modified a healthy portion of it, he felt no need to change anything; “I actually had parts taken off the car as I was a poor university student,” as Adrian mesmerises the time he first took ownership of the car.
The most notable feature of the car is the eye-catching panda design from the original GT Apex model that is a must for any replica of the Fujiwara Sprinter. Taking further inspiration from the Project D era of Takumi’s AE86 is the Varis carbon fibre bonnet, which not only completes the look, but also provides a considerable weight reduction compared to the OEM item. But the finishing touch to a worthy Initial D replica comes down to the ‘Fujiwara Tofu Den’ or ‘Fujiwara Tofu Shop’ decal, which Ben had researched extensively by finding the exact font before having the decal cut to the exact size and even going as far as to measuring the placement of the logo to ensure accuracy quite literally down to the millimeter.
Filling the guards of Adrian’s Sprinter are genuine RS Watanabe wheels measuring 14×7 inches in the front and 14×7.5 inches in the rear. A staggered wheel setup, borrowed from circuit racers who have used this technique for countless years, lessens the oversteer characteristics often found in light, short-wheelbase rear-wheel drive cars. Complementing the wheel choice is the popular Mazda FC-3S RX-7 brake conversion often undertaken by Sprinter enthusiasts as it offers the braking needs for a tuned Sprinters and extending the braking capabilities from the uninspiring drum brakes in the rear of the ADM model.
Here would be where the engine specs would be, but Adrian was as tight-lipped as Bunta when we asked him about the engine department. We weren’t even allowed to look ourselves, for what lies in the engine bay remains a secret only known to the owner Adrian and his tuner Ben, though it seemed like a heavily-worked 4AGE of some sort judging by the sound from the GP Sports exhaust taking care of the engine gasses at the rear.
The interior plays host to some personal additions to the car, including the JDM AE86 tissue box holder which even has tissues straight from Japan. Avid Sprinter fans will notice the original and uncracked black dash, taken from the GT Apex model, as well as a host of Defi gauges lying in the air vents to provide information including water temperature, oil temperature and oil pressure to Adrian.
These spots have proven popular for placing gauges, however, Adrian has taken this a step further with custom moulds in which the gauges sit. These point the gauges towards the driver as this part of the dash actually points away from the driver’s face.
Initial D fanatics will also notice the tachometer, which reads to 11,000RPM just like Takumi’s car. But Adrian keeps his cool with the throttle to keep people on the street unaware of the potential of his Sprinter. To help keep the secrets of the car under wraps, hidden away from prying eyes is a Haltech G8 ECU residing in the glovebox, the brains of the mystery engine that lies within the engine bay.
A Sparco Rev bucket seat keeps Adrian from sliding around under lateral load as well as keeping the centre of gravity of the car as low as possible for superior handling. A TRD shift knob ensures a perfect throw for quick gear changes, while a TRD steering wheel with a Momo hub keeps everything under control in the steering department.
Owning such an AE86 has had it’s benefits. “As corny as it may sound, it is true that every time I jump in the car and go for a drive it always brings a smile to my face. There’s no fancy electronics assisting you with this and that, it’s raw, just you and the car.” When asked what is in store for the future of the Sprinter, Adrian replies; “I want to get the car engineered but I just need to install a few more things beforehand. I also want to start taking it to the track to learn how to drive it better.” Adrian also plans to keep this Sprinter for a long time, as he says it has become part of the family. We hope that Adrian’s love for the AE86 continues and grows with this car to become one just as Takumi has.
“I have the utmost respect for Cars For Hope because not many people take big action like you guys have. Most people shy away from the topic of depression and think there’s nothing they can do about it, but even doing something small is better than doing nothing at all…and seeing Cars For Hope doing this; it takes great courage and commitment to do so.” – Adrian Lee