Simon Urquhart is proving that you can have your cake and eat it too, with his multi-sport AE86

Without a doubt, one of the most overused phrases we hear is the one we’ve just inserted in the byline: ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’. It’s often used in reference to those in the car world who try to achieve polar-opposite objectives, with perfection in both areas. The reality is that getting a car working well in more than one discipline is usually a game of tug-of-war that’s damn-near impossible to win. You will always end up having to sacrifice performance in one area to pander to the other — it’s just how it goes. 

But, just like how any rule is made to be broken, there are always those that manage to defy these predictions. The AE86 you see before you displays how its owner and builder, Simon Urquhart, managed just that, as if it’s some kind of magical, self-replenishing piece of mud cake. Perhaps, though, it’s not actually magic at all that allows this particular AE to go both ways — handling a little drift and a little grip racing, depending on its mood — given that its owner, Simon, is no stranger to NZ Performance Car. 

Simon has played a hand in the fabrication of many feature cars over the years, including his old AE85. You see, Simon runs Christchurch-based Surfab and has built all manner of race cars, which is how the AE86 eventually became his. Simon first built it up for then-owner Paul. That original build was drift-centric, taking a Beams-converted AE that Paul had purchased in the North Island. “He picked it up from Auckland, but, with only the ITBs [individual throttle bodies] it was just too slow,” explains Simon. 

The decision to add some boost happened rather quickly, with a built engine put together using CP pistons, Eagle rods, stainless-steel valves from an auto head, and Kelford springs. Originally, the intake manifold retained those ITBs, and Simon built a plenum around it, but, after problems with the throttles leaking on the dyno, a larger, single throttle body was employed. It was in this guise that Paul used and abused the AE till, eventually, the head dropped a valve, and the car sat at Surfab while he enjoyed his other toy, an 86. 

Getting the Beams to handle boost required a set of forged CP pistons and Eagle rods to bring compression down from the factory 11.5:1 to 9.0:1, while, in the head, the titanium valves were swapped for stainless 3S-GE ones

With the car just sitting at the shop day-in, day-out, it proved too tempting for Simon, as Surfab soon began accepting either cash or vintage Toyota tin as currency, and it just so happened that Paul wanted some work carried out on his 86. From the outset, Simon had planned to switch codes with the AE and try his hand at grip racing. But first, a new engine was required. Retaining all the juicy fruit from Paul’s build, a new motor came together, this time with a bumped compression ratio of 9.0:1 to go along with the switch to ethanol. 

The turbo kit was also upgraded, with Simon building a mid-mount manifold for the new Garrett GTX2867. This upgrade saw big gains on each axis of the dyno graph, including reaching a peak figure 75kW higher, and 2000rpm earlier, than the previous incarnation.
The other big change to the driveline would come a year later in the form of the TTi six-speed sequential. The rest of the driveline would remain, because Simon had already built an equal-length four-link for the Hilux limited-slip differential (LSD), an eight-point cage, and a set of custom front knuckles for the car while Paul was signing the cheques.

The set-up was pretty much just the way Simon liked it — a perk of buying a customer’s car, we guess — even considering that his preference was not for over-steering the AE. However, he can be found swapping between the two codes — as it turns out, it’s a little harder to quit tyre-killing than he previously thought. “Drifting is just too fun,” he explains. That versatility has meant that the car could be attending some dual-car sprints or a track day one weekend, and drifting the big corner of Highlands (watch the video on our Instagram) the next. The set-up changes are minimal — slicks are swapped for radials, and that’s it. 

Although, it seems that Simon’s about to put his foot down and focus more on circuit racing. “I’d like to give the OSCA [Open Saloon Car Association] series a go. The car should be quite competitive, and there are 35-plus cars in that field. I have also thought about coming up to the North Island to try the Super Lap series.” 

To achieve this, there will need to be extra aero additions made to accompany the current Sard wing–and–duck tail combo, which sees the car a little washy at high speed. The underbody aero is something that will develop over time, with Simon planning to eventually build an entire undertray with front splitter and rear diffuser. 

As Simon’s focus on circuit racing gets more serious, the drifting will inevitably take a back seat. Although, regardless of the direction in which the AE86 is heading, the fact that this 930kg go-kart is putting out 335kW to the wheels means that it will remain a car that requires its driver to summon their inner Keiichi Tsuchiya to keep it on the straight and narrow, no matter how much downforce Simon can engineer. 

Simon Urquhart
Age: 30
Location: Christchurch
Occupation: Owner/Operator at Surfab
Build time: Two years, ongoing
Length of ownership: Two years
Thanks: Southon paint; Signlab; Beau Cogle; NZEFI; and my wife, Kasey 

1984 Toyota AE86

ENGINE: Toyota 3S-GE Beams, 2000cc, four-cylinder
BLOCK: Eagle rods, CP pistons, ARP hardware
HEAD: Kelford valve springs, steel valves
INTAKE: Surfab plenum, single throttle body
EXHAUST: Surfab three-inch
TURBO: Garrett GTX2867, TiAL exhaust housing, Surfab manifold
WASTEGATE: Turbosmart MVS 44mm
FUEL: Walbro pump, Tomei fuel-pressure regulator
ECU: Link G4 Storm
COOLING: Sylvester dual-pass radiator, PWR oil cooler
EXTRA: Custom catch-can

GEARBOX: TTi six-speed sequential, Surfab shifter, Hollinger strain gauge
DIFF: Hilux G-series, double-row bearings, TRD two-way 3.55 limited-slip

STRUTS: (F) BC Gold coilovers, (R) Koni shocks
BRAKES: (F) Wilwood Superlite calipers, 300mm rotors, Endless pads; (R) Dual Nissan two-pot calipers, 296mm rotors, Surfab / Wilwood hydraulic handbrake, Endless pads
EXTRA: T3 GTX2 lower arms, T3 steering arms, equal-length four-link, eight-point Surfab roll cage 

PAINT: Toyota red; livery designed by Pixelsaurus and applied by Signlab
ENHANCEMENTS: Origin widebody, Dmax fronta, side skirts, fibreglass hatch, Surfab carbon bonnet, fibreglass doors, polycarbonate windows, Sard wing

SEATS: Racetech, Sparco harnesses
EXTRA: Carbon dash 

POWER: 335kW
BOOST: 17psi
FUEL: E50 ethanol blend
WEIGHT: 930kg 


This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue No. 249 — to get your grubby mitts on a print copy of the mag, click the cover below

Marcus Gibson

Marcus Gibson has spent his life getting a little grease under his fingernails growing up with a fascination for all things loud, fast, and low. Growing up during the boom of the import scene, the last ten years have seen him work for a few publications, as well as running his own website before taking up a role at NZ Performance Car in 2011. Marcus is as at home with a keyboard or camera in-hand as he is getting dirty in his workshop or at the track, championing that Kiwi DIY attitude.