With most people only catching on to the AE85/86 hype in recent years, it’s owners such as Paul Halliday that caught on much sooner. Paul has owned his example since 2005 and has enjoyed every single minute of it.

If I told you how much he paid for his 1984 Toyota Levin 10 years ago, I can guarantee it will hurt your feelings. Let's just say, he had change from $2000 — and it came with zebra-skin seat covers, oh, and a dodgy distributor, but who cares.

Although cheap, the Levin did have some rust, and back in the early 2000s there weren’t many panel shops that wanted to get involved with an ’80s Toyota. That was until a friend of Paul’s recommended that he go and see Craig at Kiwi Beat out in East Tamaki.

Paul made it clear to Craig from the get-go that there was no real urgency with the project, and after 10 long months the car was ready to be picked up, looking as though it had just rolled off the production line with a brand-new coat of paint.

Although the Levin did have a 4A-GE 16V engine, Paul had to make the decision to either build up the original motor, or swap in the later-model 4A-GE black-top. In the end, it worked out much cheaper to opt for the 20V model for the power levels he was after — so in it went.

Paul told us to make it very clear that it is not as straightforward swapping in a black-top as the internet says it is. Most of the time, the conversions have been completed in left-hand-drive examples — not at all the same. FGK four-to-one headers were salvaged and adapted to run on the 20V head, and the factory, quad throttle bodies were modified using 50mm velocity stacks. The exhaust system is fairly low-key, so the noise you do get at high rpm is mostly intake — something we were very happy listening to.

The driveline is fairly factory, however the T50 gearbox has been reconditioned and backed up by an Exedy heavy-duty clutch and a TRD 1.5-way LSD. Handling has been taken care of with BC Racing BR-series coilovers, Nolathane bushes throughout, and a Whiteline adjustable panhard rod — all of which see this nimble chassis handling at its peak. An old-school Levin wouldn’t be complete without an old-school set of wheels, so Paul opted for a set of 14x7-inch (+10) front and 14x7.5-inch (-1) rear Hoshino Impul G5s wrapped in Falken ZE912s and Hankook Ventus tyres.

Paul told me he enjoys taking the Levin on long journeys to race circuits and events around New Zealand to promote his brand Kouki Apparel, so something had to be done about the seating. Super supportive and comfortable Honda Accord Euro R CL1 seats were grafted onto the original Recaro fishnet rails and added a subtle modern touch to the cabin Paul spends hours in.

Although Paul’s Levin has seen the track a number of times, it will remain a street-going vehicle used to promote his clothing brand. And honestly, it’s far too immaculate to hack into something used solely for track duties.

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.