"86" (pronounced "eight-six" or Hachi-Roku (ハチロク)) refers to the Toyota Corolla Levin series AE86 and the Toyota Sprinter Trueno series AE86, a particular series of cars sold between 1983 and 1987 (both the Levin and Trueno were available in coupe and hatchback bodystyles). As such, the Toyota 86 has been named as the spiritual successor of the original AE86 during the press release of the 86. The use of a boxer-style engine also refers to a historical Toyota sports car, called the Toyota Sports 800, Toyota's first sports car. Heritage of the Toyota 86 can also be traced back to the Toyota 2000GT, Toyota's second front engine, rear-drive sports car with a 2.0 liter engine.
The signifigance of the reference to the series AE86 was that both the Trueno and Levin of this series were the last with rear wheel drive; the following Sprinter Trueno and Corolla Levin series AE92 were released with front wheel drive thereafter. The previous Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno were performance enhanced trim packages of the Corolla and Sprinter for each generation of the Levin and Trueno; the current platform is unique, and not related to the current Corolla or variants.