Remembering Japanese cars from the past

AE86 Trivia: Rotating grille Corolla Levin

As being an admin of AEU86 I’ve seen a lot of questions, facts and fun stuff about the Toyota AE86 (hachi roku). I also see a lot of questions returning even though we documented it on the FAQ already.

AE86 Trivia
This week we feature the rotating grille found on the zenki Corolla Levins!

First of all you probably think something like rotating grille? What is that? Well, it is exactly what it says: a rotating grille!

zenki Corolla Levin GT Apex with rotating grille
zenki Corolla Levin GT Apex with rotating grille

During the 80s Japanese car manufacturers were packing their cars all sorts of gadgets and to keep up with the competition they had to come up with the latest inventions! One of these things was the rotating grille as found on the Corolla Levin AE86, but only in the GT Apex trim. It is just another thing like the side mirror wipers found on the Toyota Mark II X80 series.

Rotating grille in opened and closed position
Rotating grille in opened and closed position

Basically what it did was having a closed grille when the engine is under normal operation to improve the drag coefficient and when the engine is under stress it would open up to give it more cooling. It had a thermostat which opened the grille when the water temperature was hot enough. Then the grille would open up and show the twincam 16 logo instead of the Levin logo when closed.

If you want to mount one yourself you definitely need the grille itself and the hoses and thermostat as well! As far as I know these parts are not available anymore at Toyota, so you will have to get almost all parts to make it work!

Rotating grille assembly as in the EPC
Rotating grille assembly as in the EPC

Then you need to hook it up between your engine and radiator like this:

How to hook up the rotating grille
How to hook up the rotating grille

As said before: it only operates at really high temperatures, so you really need to push the engine far to have the grille open up! Remember that the GT Apex trim was meant as a luxury trim and not a performance trim: therefore the GT and GTV trims got the louvre grille instead of this the much heavier rotating grille.

So is it worth its money then? Well that’s a bit hard to tell: it does serve a purpose to decrease the drag coefficient but it won’t save you much in fuel, especially if you push the car hard to get it open! ;)


  1. JY086

    hi, i own one that has a handle as the back which you can lock into open position or close all the time….it does not have the water line and mechanism….what model is that?

    • Paul

      You want to sell the grill ?? If you still have it

      • the86life

        I have a grill coming in that I might be willing to sell.

  2. banpei

    As you can see on the parts diagram there is no manual option available. Perhaps it had been installed afterwards with a grille without thermostat?

    It is possible to modify the system by replacing the thermostat (part 53107A) with a manual option to turn the shaft (part 53106A) to open and close the grille.

  3. Nikkojoe

    I have this setup and sourced all the gear off yahoo japan. My grille came with the manual/locking mechanism as well as the thermostat. You can select it to flip on the thermostat or just lock it open.

    There is another model which I also bought that does not have this option. It also does not have the twin gold strips (no bumps for them either – not been ground off). The mechanical side of it is identical between both, but you can still lock it open by screwing in the factory bolt provided but its a little more tricky than the lever model.

  4. banpei

    That is valueable information! :)
    I do see the shaft (53106-12010) is a seperate part from the thermostat (53106-12020). I understand from your experience the shaft is the same, but the thermostat is missing. Do you mean with “the factory bolt” the bolt attached to the shaft? (96160-00400)

    And perhaps the rotating grille differed between the 3 door and the 2 door with the gold stripe, just like the 3 door GT version was called GT-V?

  5. Nikkojoe

    The Factory Bolt is spring loaded to keep it tight, and both parts are shown as 91511-40520 for the bolt and 90501-07030 for the spring (according to my EPC).

    On the grille I bought the thermostat had never been removed.

    I saw the grille work for the first time today. I used the A/C to bring the temp up a bit and it opened at idle. It was a lengthy 2-3minutes before it fully opened.

  6. toyota corolla parts

    It’s worth the dollars if you really are a race enthusiast and is totally fond of winning. I also think that it is a very wise add-on to have.

  7. banpei

    IMO that is bullshit: if you are a race enthusiast you would immediately remove that thing and replace it for the louvre grille (zenki) or the glass grille (kouki): both better for weight reduction and has much more airflow going to the radiator.

  8. Sactown

    I used to live in japan, and while walking through a local junkyard, i saw a panda coupe GT Apex still all intact. The poor hachi had alot of rust and they had stacked it on top of another car. It was sad to see, but I managed to get the grille and could have got the original radiator with it but it started to rain and I didn’t have the tools. So I came back the next day, but the radiator was taken out…Anyways I wanted to get a price on it or sell it to the right person…I’ve held on to it for like 9yrs now…

  9. Anonymous

    wow 9 yrs is a long time. LOL hold onto it for another 10 and then it will really be worth some bank.

  10. kito_mike

    wow that’s worthy enough. is that rotating grilles still used by japanese cars today? i mean could that cheap car part for sale still on this days?

  11. Anonymous

    I’ve got one too…But I don’t have the radiator…It’s for Sell, I’m thinking $300 just for the grille…The plastic Fog light version for the Levin go’s for $195 on Ebay…So If anyones interested, I’m in California….Holla…LOL…

  12. Seth B

    did the trueno also come with this grille?

    • banpei

      Nope, this was Levin only. And also fortunately not: otherwise the whole front would just flip. ;)

  13. WasabiCars

    Thanks for the info. :)

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