1998 Toyota Levin BZ-R – What Lies Beneath – 157
Name: Daniel Fung
Occupation: Town Planner
NZPC: Nice Levin Daniel — how long have you owned it?
Daniel Fung: A very long time about six and half years now.
NZPC: What made you want to buy an AE111 in the first place?
DF: My dad bought me an AE100 Levin with a puny Corolla SOHC engine in it to teach me how to drive a manual. I always wanted a Honda Integra when I was in college, but I did some research and found out that the AE111 facelift version actually looked quite good. I reckon it looks better than the Integra, so I started to pursue that path and find one.
NZPC: When you got it, was there a plan to modify it?
DF: Yeah, there was. In college my mates and I always talked to each other about getting a car in NZ Performance Car magazine, so to build a car like this has been a dream of mine for a long time.
NZPC: What was the Levin like when you got it?
DF: It had a few mods but basically only TRD adjustable suspension, an HKS Silent Hi-Power cat-back exhaust and an HKS mushroom filter. I began modding it when the VVT pulley started to make a rattling sound. I was searching the net for aftermarket pulleys and came across the Toda website where I saw camshafts and forged pistons to suit the AE111 4A-GE Blacktop engine. So I thought I might as well get those as well! I saved up the money for all the bits and got them, but it wasn’t until two years later that I had enough to actually get the engine build done.
NZPC: That’s some patience. So who did the build and what else did it entail?
DF: Engine-wise, Advanced Autos did most of the work. Apart from the Toda forged pistons and Toda cams, stronger rods from a 20V Silvertop engine and ARP rod bolts were fitted. Inside, the factory intake box has I.mec trumpets on the quad throttle bodies, and it’s also got an ARC intake and Fujitsubo extractors and exhaust system. It was tuned through a GReddy e-Manage Ultimate.
NZPC: Sounds like a nice setup did it make much more power?
DF: From memory it made something like 85kW at the wheels when I got the car. When we put it on the rolling road dyno at Gary Capper Motorsport after the engine build it made 112kW.
NZPC: Not bad, considering.
DF: Yeah, it was pretty good. I drove it like that for about two years, but a few months ago I thought I’d get it ready for some weekend circuit use. Knowing how much power other popular track day cars like Integra Type Rs make, I knew that 112kW wasn’t really going to be enough, so I decided to try for more power. I ordered bigger cams from Toda 304-degree/9.2mm lift ones for the intake and exhaust to replace the original 262-degree and 272-degree ones and also a Link G4 Storm computer. I basically went from there. Barry Manon’s dad, Bruce from Manon-Butler Motors, fitted the cams for me and a mate of mine from the Toyspeed forum came up from Hamilton to wire in the Link.
NZPC: How did that all work out?
DF: We put it back on the dyno at Gary Capper’s and this time it made 131.1kW.
NZPC: That’s decent power for a little 1600cc N/A four pot. How did it feel on the road?
DF: There was a big difference in the mid- to top-end range it comes on at about 5000rpm now and I rev it up to 9000rpm. The good thing is it hasn’t really affected low-end torque that much, so it’s still really easy to drive around the street. A good mate of mine, who drives a Honda Accord Euro R with mods, rode in the car when it had the old cams and the new ones, and he reckons it now feels like it’s turbocharged.
NZPC: It sounds pretty lumpy at idle, too.
DF: Yeah, a couple of times when I have gone through the drive-through people have asked me if it’s got a ported rotary engine in it.
NZPC: Classic! Well it’s definitely got the go, now fill us in on what you’ve done with the exterior.
DF: When I got the car the outside was completely standard. It’s had three different front bumpers on it since then. The first one was Bomex-style, which didn’t fit very well. I got rid of that and ordered a genuine Bomex one, but when it arrived it was for the pre-facelift AE111 model and didn’t fit very well around the headlights. Kind of lucky for me, not long after I was on the motorway and a wheel came off a truck, and after hitting another car it hit my front bumper and smashed it off on one side. The guy had to pay for the damage himself and he ordered another bumper from Japan for me and this time it turned out to be the correct facelift one.
NZPC: A truck wheel! Sounds like you were really lucky in more ways than one. What else?
DF: It’s also got Bomex rear caps, and genuine Bomex side skirts that I scored off Trade Me second hand. They were quite damaged when I bought them, but Bob and the guys at Howick Auto Painters & Panelbeaters fixed them up for me. I’ve also added black headlights from a facelift Trueno AE111 and the TRD boot spoiler came courtesy of my mates for my birthday. The wheels are 17-inch Enkei RP-F1s.
NZPC: Nice. Looking at the brakes and the ride height, it appears you’ve done a bit of work in those departments as well.
DF: Yeah, the brake rotors are slotted Dixcel heat-treated Type HSs running TRD pads. The TRD suspension that was in it when I got it was just too stiff for New Zealand roads, so I swapped to a second hand GAB Sport setup. It was pretty good not too bumpy and quite comfortable, so my girlfriend was happy. Then one of the rear shocks began leaking so I had Chris at Suspension Tech rebuild all of them for me using new Bilstein inserts. He did a setup that was good for the street but also suitable for track use.
NZPC: Speaking of which, have you had it out on the circuit yet?
DF: No, I haven’t yet, but hope to sometime in the new year.
NZPC: Any more mods on the way?
DF: No, I think my girlfriend would kill me if I did. I’m supposed to be saving up for a house now, and she doesn’t know about the new cams yet! I’m pretty happy with it the way it is, though.
NZPC: I guess she’ll know about the cams now. Good luck with that! So what’s your favourite aspect of the car?
DF: It’s different, so I like that. Also, the sound of the engine at high revs is very nice.
NZPC: And the worst thing?
DF: The gearbox. I really like the 6-speed but they’re just too weak. I’m on to my third gearbox now, and always have to remember to be gentle with the shifts.
NZPC: Since you’ve owned it for more than six years, is it safe to say you’ll be hanging on to it for a while?
DF: I hope I can. I am going back to Hong Kong soon and will probably only be coming back to New Zealand once a year. I would take it with me but in Hong Kong if your car is modified it’s illegal. I got those Trueno headlights from a wrecker over there the last time I went. The car they came off was mint, but apparently the police had deregistered it because it was caught on the road with a pod air filter and extractors fitted!
NZPC: And we think we’re doing it tough here in New Zealand. If you did replace the AE111, what would you get?
DF: It would have to be the new Toyota FT-86. That thing is really nice and my girlfriend likes it too, which is a bonus. I just wish it was going to be 4A-GE powered.
NZPC: You and us too. Thanks for showing us your ride, Daniel!
1998 Toyota Levin BZ-R – Specifications
Engine: Toyota 4A-GE 1.6-litre DOHC 20V VVT 'Blacktop’, Toda 82mm 11.8:1 compression forged pistons, shot-peened AE101 20V Silvertop rods, ARP rod bolts, Toda 304 degree/9.2mm lift cams, Toda adjustable cam gears, Toda valve springs, TRD 0.8mm head gasket, ARC intake system, custom cold air intake, I.mec quad throttle body trumpets, HKS racing spark plugs, Blitz 9mm racing spark plug leads, Fujitsubo SuperEX 4-2-1 stainless steel extractors, Fujitsubo LegalisR stainless steel exhaust, HKS Circle Earth grounding kit, Link G4 Storm engine management system, ARC thermostat, custom oil catch can, TRD oil cap, TRD radiator cap
Driveline: Factory C160 6-speed close-ratio gearbox, TRD heavy-duty clutch, Toda lightweight flywheel, TRD pressure plate, factory LSD
Suspension: GAB Sport adjustable Super Strut coil-overs, custom Bilstein inserts, TRD front/rear sway bars, Ultra Racing 3-point strut tower brace, Do-Luck cross bar
Brakes: Dixcel Type HS heat-treated slotted rotors, TRD Black brake pads
Wheels/Tyres: 17×7-inch Enkei RP-F1 alloys, Toyo Proxes 205/40/R17 tyres
Exterior: Bomex front bumper, Bomex side skirts, Bomex rear caps, facelift AE111 Trueno headlights, TRD adjustable rear spoiler
Interior: Factory BZ-R, TRD short shift kit, TRD shift knob, A’PEXi RSM with G-sensor, custom shift light, custom ECU logging switch, Pioneer DEH-9650MP head unit
Performance: Dyno Power — 131.1kW @ wheels, Dyno Torque —162.9Nm
Daniel Fung – Owner Profile
Occupation: Town planner
Build time: 4 years
Length of ownership: 6.5 years
Thanks: Gary Capper @ Gary Capper Performance, Al @ Driven Performance, Ewan and Adrian from Toyspeed, Bruce @ Manon-Butler Motors, Chris @ Suspension Tech, Brad and Nathan @ Advanced, Soichi @ ST Hi-Tec, Yin @ YPM Panel & Paint, Bob @ Howick Auto Painters & Panelbeaters, Toyspeed for all the advice and help, (particularly those who helped on the car) and lastly my mates Eric and Patrick for the TRD spoiler, and my family and girlfriend Grace (for putting up with me spending money on the car even though I’ve promised to save!), and anyone else I might have missed.
Words & Photos: Brad Lord
This article is from NZ Performance Car issue 157. Click here to check it out.