Toyota AE86-Powered Boats Are Wildly Popular in Asia and Nobody Told Us?

Rev that baby up to 11,000 rpm.
Toyota 4A-GE engine mounted in a boat with an overlay of an AE86 Toyota Corolla floating next to it
via @kang_performance90 on Instagram (left), Avex Pictures (right)

Outboard motors run the gamut of tiny, two-horsepower four-strokes to colossal supercharged V8s, and even V10s. Of course, if your boat is small, so can your engine be. And as with cars, if it’s light enough, it’ll be quick enough with a tuned-up Toyota 4A-GE like the one used in the famed AE86 Corolla.

Hot-rodded long-tail boats appear to be something of a trend in Thailand, where Toyota’s 4A-GE is a popular choice to power the long, narrow multipurpose craft. The 4A-GE was one of Japan’s first mass-produced twin-cam engines, and has powered iconic road and race cars alike. I don’t use that word lightly: It beat in the chest of the final rear-wheel-drive Corolla (the AE86), the MR2, and Celica, not to mention Formula Atlantic open-wheelers and rally cars. It’s one of the most well-supported performance engines in history, so it’s only natural it’d make its way into all manner of vehicles—including boats.

4A-GE long-tails have appeared across Southeast Asian social media innumerable times for years, but only came to my attention by way of a video of two moored together in what seems to be Malaysia. Both boats use 16-valve engines that have been tuned to the gills, with four-into-one headers and independent throttle bodies. These give the 4A the signature intake growl commonly associated with the engine, though they were only standard on the later 20-valve engines.

The video didn’t feature sound of them in action, so I went searching for the builder only to find more examples. I found at least one with a seriously lopey idle, suggesting it’s heavily cammed. It’s pretty clear that tuned 4A-GEs are common boat motors, at least partially in Thailand where this video was filmed.

Of course, it should be noted that the Toyota “A” engine dated back to the late 1970s, so even a tuned example’s power output won’t blow your mind. Odds are you’re looking at 150 to 200 horsepower, as pushing to the fabled 220 to 250 of the Formula Atlantic motors takes a far bigger budget than these builders are likely working with.

But power be damned, I’ll take the tiller of any boat with ITBs just to hear it hammer away at 7,000 rpm. And now that I’m thinking about 4A-GEs, I should probably finish the 7A-GE stroker for my race car. Now to source some ITBs…

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