Aoshima AE86 Levin GT-Apex Review
I know it has been months since my last post… I’ve just been busy despite it being month #6 of lockdown.
This is a kit that I wanted for a while, but I figured I already had too many kits. It was a good thing I bought it because it would turn out to be one of the best kits out there.
For me, the idea behind this kit was to make something that looks ordinary, and like it is being used as a weekend getaway car (like Dagumi taking it to the lake with Myogi). In fact, most Laurels/Chasers would have been like that prior to touching enthusiasts’ hands.
I really wanted the AE85 kit, but the art on this looked too good.
Let us begin with the wheels.
Since the kit had only one wheel choice which are extra-glossy chrome, my original idea was to fit a set of Advan Dish from another kit. Unfortunately the wheels in the AE86 kit are polycap type with plastic studs, while the Advans require metal studs to be hammered into them. Because of this, I snapped all of the studs and ruined both the AE86 and the wheels.
Also the rear bumper had a manufacturing defect where it was mis-shaped, another manufacturing defect was that the rear seats were slightly askew.
Despite the issues, this kit was very highly detailed. Unlike any other kit I’ve ever built, the suspension consists of 4 coil springs that sit atop the solid suspension struts, true to the real car. In the rear, arms and linkages work just like on the real car when the suspension is depressed.
There are also individual chrome disc brakes hiding behind each wheel.
I really wanted to paint the car in the GT-V scheme (this kit includes decals for it), but it would be a waste to not use the GT-Apex skirts and go full-panda.
Like the other kits, once the interior has been assembled, it resembles a bath-tub. In the real car, the seats have a striped pattern due to the stitching. On this model, they are grooves.
There are two choice of headrests: the plastic V-shape and the puffy leather headrest (the latter similar to A70 Supra headrests). Since most AE86s had the uncomfortable-looking V-shape, that is what I used.
There were a few decals, but not many - mostly exterior GT-V and GT-Apex stickers, and a choice of digital or analogue dash clusters.
The underbody is, well, amazing!
Not only do the arms move with the rear suspension, but the diff housing, sway-bars and driveshaft all do.
All the floorplan grooves look true to the real thing, even the chassis rails - which I painted to look like on the real car. I probably should have painted the entire underbody dark matte grey, but oh well.
In lieu of the broken Advans, I had another set of wheels that I bought for the kenmeri. When I actually put them on the kenmeri, they were too small (probably due to the lack of tyre sidewall), but they seemed to fit the AE86 just fine.
These wheels do look very good and even include decals for the centre caps, but the tyres are too narrow and are meant to look stretched so they don’t have much body at all.
When I covered the 430 Gloria in decals, it made the car look lively and like it were real and being used.
Going a step further, I bought a kit for the AE86 that was more than just stickers - a full accessory pack!
Being made in 1996, the plastics are faded and a bit soft (flexible, not malleable) but they look great when painted. I really enjoyed building the vending machine since there are so many decals (and they are based on real products).
Assembling the various car kits was a lot of fun and I figured I’d end my last one with a bang, so there are a few kits mixed into this.
Along with looking like it’s being-used, I sort of wanted it to be grandma-spec. So on the seats are light-green and pink cushions, while on the rear parcel tray sits a tissue box, and inside is a plethora of paraphernalia that you might find inside a real car, all thanks to the accessory pack.
Now it has been months since I finished the kit, but trying to remember the difficulties/drawbacks, I was really hoping to use the other style of mirror included, but they don’t fit the chrome mirror-inserts, also the indicators on the side of the headlamps were a pain to install, and it looked like there was a part missing from the number plate surround.
Additionally, I damaged the bonnet when separating it from the kit (NB: use pliers to cut the bonnet out of the frame, not a knife) which means I had to do a masterpiece with miniature body-filler.
One thing I wish Aoshima would include is a mask for the wheel-arches. It was hard enough painting the panda livery, but the wheel arches were another story - I had to practise masking with tape and then try my hand at free-style pin-striping to get the arches looking decent.
This kit includes a sticker to act as a mask when painting the black part of the rear side-windows, but none for the wheel arches - it would be awesome if they did.
But wait, there IS more!
That is right - what you are seeing is a scale-model 4A-GE, very highly detailed with the weird factory airbox that is virtually non-existent today.
It took a bit of thought of how to mask and paint the cam-covers, plus I referred to many photos for the extra nibs and grommets around the engine bay - and even the dirt on the underside of the bonnet.
Oddly enough, the engine has the solid end of each ignition lead, but none of the leads themselves, so I went ahead and added some thread leading to each distributor point - in the correct order I might add - and more thread for the wiring loom.
So what do I think of this kit?
So much detail, very well made, very accurate, ingenious solutions, but with every kit there are minor drawbacks.
Having looked at many kits, I did notice that this isn’t exactly as new as its 2019 launch-date suggests:
There was an almost identical kit 10 years prior
The Initial-D kit is basically the same with Akina decals
There was another almost identical kit 20 years prior
But hey, that just means they’ve had time to improve it.