When Quality & Quantity Meet in Harmony | Osaka Auto Messe 2020 Part #2

Let’s get straight back into this Messe, kickin’ it off with a bunch of Hondas – this is the true reason we carboys come to Osaka, isn’t it? In the UK, and I’m guessing its the same in the US and elsewhere in Europe, Civics in particular get a bit of a bad rap. In Japan, Osaka in particular, the chassis is revered. I can’t help but respect that, because the treatment this legendary, pre-2000’s hatchback receives by cult followers, both mechanically and cosmetically, is so original and outright cool.

Valencia Red (originally found on the latest Honda NSX) is the colour of X-POINT’s EK Civic, which I have done no justice to, by editing in a warmer tone to these photos. Anyway, the car looks brilliant with the all-new Mode Parfume aero kit. Luke made a remark about how the front bumper didn’t look like the typical aftermarket pieces you see fitted to these Honda, which is a testament to the ‘OEM-plusness’ of this build.

Over on the Exceed EK9, which was also red but of a different shade, something I couldn’t put my finger on was the distinct unusual look of its Desmond Regamasters. It was due to the fact that the lip had been profile machined and left bare, whilst the face of the wheel was still coated in gloss grey. If I heard correctly watching The Chronicles (Joey Lee) Osaka Auto Messe vlog, the wheels were actually pre-production specials, not yet available to the consumer market. Noteworthy, of course, was the high-sheen polish on the aluminium parts found in the exposed engine bay of the turbocharged B-series machine.

Built to look good at a show, and run hard on the streets.

It was difficult to get many clean photos of the NO GOOD RACING display with my 50mm prime lens, as it was just rammed with visitors taking interest in the four Civics that the crew brought to show.

The airbrushed floral pattern on these Zees were a cool touch to a vehicle that’s often regarded as ‘Japanese Muscle’. It actually kinda flowed with the Rocket Bunny kit fitted to this deep red/maroon car.

The GT300 class gives birth to some really well put together racemobiles. Take this BRZ, for example. Also, quite funny/odd is how there’s a Mitsubishi decal placed between the grille and headlight. They must be mates now, after the Subaru rival gave up manufacturing cars that excite.

The Omori Factory strut brace sure does make the engine room of the R34 GT-R look confined and tightly packed. A whole load of money at this booth, as there were three of these hero Skylines, all equipped with a host of carbon aero and Nismo body panels.

My pick would of course have to be this Millenium Jade example, with one of the greatest wheels of all time selected to fill the arches.

I reckon this angle is the one.

Trial, the shop that created that red supercharged Celica with scissor-doors featuring on an early Gran Turismo game, also had a busy booth at the show. The Osaka-based company parked up a very cool 86/BRZ wearing a pretty street-runnable aero pack.

Luke was hungry so he got some food and then we took a breather and sat out in the foyer area. Whilst he yammed up some fried chicken, I did a little browsing at this vendor selling all sorts of memorabilia from the good ol’ days. Even an old episode of Top Gear with Japanese subtitles was on telly.

A tuning house I’ve come across and heard of here and there, but not known much about, is ENDLESS who craft & assemble some hardcore GTRs, one of which (not photographed here) pumping out 1300bhp and is street-driven.

Super racing drivers in conversation on stage. Time-attacker Hiroyuki Iiri, who piloted RE-Amemiya’s Asparadrink FD RX-7 back in the 2000s, was sat off to the side on his own. Did he have bad breath or something? Must be why he’s the only one with a mask.

JUN is a performance-tuning heavyweight that has been known famously for their mental ‘Hyper Lemon’ builds, so it was a surprise to see a street-spec BRZ put on show at their booth. Full-ish interior, with the steering wheel even sporting an aftermarket infotainment controls module to allow the driver to bump up the vol when going for it on the touge.

I think most people had enough of the highly popular Supra. This was good for me though, cos I managed to capture a full view of the ings+1 demo car with their new aerokit. It is, in my eyes, the best looking treatment for the new Toyota.

Nakamura-san’s D1GP-championing JZ-swapped S15 on display infront of the N-style booth. So much style and substance rolled into one.

Temple Racing were situated right next to the drift machines, showcasing their grippy Attack builds, one of which is the K24-swapped EG6 driven by Horiton, an Osaka native, one of the fastest NA FF cars on the circuit.

If I am not mistaken, this is Ken Nomura’s a.k.a. Nomuken (meaning ‘Monkey Magic’) R34 Skyline with a blistery URAS widebody – now utilising a GT-R face? – giving way to that tyre-track and steering angle which are both highly necessary if you wanna go sideways fast.

Phoenix’s Power, another high profile speedshop located in the country’s Kansai region, pulled out what I would class as ‘the Build of the Show’. Okay, maybe the ‘FR Build of the Show’, since there were plenty of Civics I was really into. As for this Supra though, it pressed all the right buttons, from the ings+1 body dress-up items, down to the gold-faced BBS LM wheels. Great lighting set-up on their display as well.

Some more souvenirs I couldn’t bring myself to buy.

OEMs were of course in attendance, most of whom happened to be designated in a hall all to themselves. Mazda were of course who I sped over to first, in hopes of seeing something amazing like their old RX-792P IMSA GTP car or maybe the RX-Vision concept. Even though both of those weren’t anywhere to be seen that day, they had a couple cool racing machines: a Super Taikyu Demio, and a Roadster put together by Murakami Motors for the same endurance series that won its class back in 2018’s 24hrs of Fuji event. They also teased the fans with their latest-gen Mazda3 with an aero kit and ZE40 wheels by RAYS. I say teased, because when I asked the rep whether or not Mazda would release a model like this, say an MPS, he negatively and apologetically replied with an answer I didn’t want to hear. Maybe someday, after they sell a load of those electric crossover things with that nifty rotary range-extender, the automaker will bring back a high performance machine in either hatchback or coupe form. I’m praying for the latter.

After checking out Mazda’s pop-up shop that was built into a stack of shipping containers (best display at the show, absolutely no bias whatsoever), we went over to Honda to see what they were showing off. Their all-carbon NSX GT500 car is a sight to behold. Wish they had fired it up.

Max Orido’s achieved perfection with his Advan Supra and its wheel fitment.
That kei-van pictured above is totally unrelated, but it was both visually and aurally loud, so it gets a spot.

Kato-san of Liberty Walk was in attendance, and boyyy did he deliver the goods. The pure carbon LBWK Silhouette GT-R R35 is the only way to modify Nissan’s Godzilla if you’re thinking about going widebody. Its radical angles make it an ideal match for the personality of the beast, and makes the 13 year-old car look like it belongs in another dimension, nevermind another century.

The star of the show at Liberty Walk’s stand was of course their Silhouette Racer R34, built in respect to the KDR30 Super Silhouette, with its Tomica red-on-black livery and wild boxiness. Shame it didn’t have the gold mesh wheels, or even those crazy SSR turbofans, to finish off the complete look of the classic racer. One photo was caught on my DSLR, as I got a bit impatient with the crowd going bananas pointing their phone cameras at either the car or the model in front of it.

I’m gonna close this coverage out with a photo of my daft face next to the face of the real-deal, someone I thought I’d never meet in person! I found out Dorikin-san has a cool signature, too.

Thanks for checking out the final part to this Osaka Auto Messe 2020 piece. Be sure to follow my Instagram and/or Facebook, because I’ll be loading up a lot of extra Japan sights and scenes on those!

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Japanaholik’s Journal | The Kansai Chapter (1)

Japan’s system of addressing locales is not as straightforward to us Westerners as we’d probably like, with the island being divided into geographical regions, then a cumulative 47 prefectures within those, then subdivisions of cities and districts, and then villages and towns identified within in and amongst them, and then the building numbers aren’t ordered like they are in the neighbourhoods in the UK, because they are based on WHEN the building was constructed as opposed to odds and evens on either side of the road ascending/descending in numerical order.

Wow, that was a major, unnecesscary veer-off, but I don’t care, I’m gonna leave it in. It might act as a heads-up for someone who wants to go out to Japan, although there’s probably full-on guides if you give Google a quick ask.

Osaka and Kyoto are the Kansai region’s largest prefectures after Tokyo and its greater area. Back in the day, there was a East-West rivalry between Edo (what is now Tokyo) and Osaka. If you want to know more about the history of Japan in a nutshell, check out a well-delivered video created in MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker, titled ‘history of japan’ by Bill Wurtz. I thought it would be interesting to see what the contrast was like between both major cities, and whether their characters are distinct enough to make me notice. To be honest, wandering around in Osaka centre is not THAT much different from Tokyo, except that its a bit more “down-to-earth” and not as pristine as the country’s capital.

Anyway, day#10 of the trip, I wanted to start the morning off in nature. Cities are overrated, I prefer towns, but I can’t pin down why exactly I am attracted to places with a good balance of liveliness and tranquility. We decided to grab a cheap, runabout rental car, so we booked out a Toyota Passo (that white thing below). Why are modern Toyotas so drab to drive? It didn’t help that it was an automatic, however, atleast it sipped on fuel even when I wound that CVT ‘box out from every set of traffic lights.

Minoo Park was not too far according to Google Maps, and it was a decent size for us to spend the first half of the day. I parked up at the nearest multi-storey, and its the same old story: Japan Love Cars. Walking down each level towards the exit, there was something lurking in the bays around the sides of the parking floor. Most, as you can see, had dustcovers on, which made for a good game of ‘guess the car’. I have both naff-all knowledge and not much interest in ‘supercars’, but I am glad the ones that laid bare were some of the koolest of klassics.

So, yeah, having a holiday in Japan that’s completely sterile of automotive lures is near enough impossible.

The forested valley is situated at the top of a hill, so it was a bit of a strenuous uphill walk to reach. It was worth it though; not that busy and you can just relax on one of the benches at the foot of the 33-metre waterfall.

Looking at trees for too long can get mundane, and I resisted the urge to whip out the Instagram feed that morning (well, there was no phone reception up in the forest anyhow), so I thought we might aswell head out back in the direction of Osaka centre to visit a couple “Car Meccas”.

The first was GT Net, a used-car dealership with some very fine pieces of kit. Its awkward going to a car-dealer with no intention of buying anything (me and a friend are guilty of doing this after school, years ago, just to check out manufacturers latest and greatest).

We got there and outside they had not one, but three, kouki FD RX-7s, so you can already imagine me frothing at the mouth. To top it off they had a Millenium Jade R34 GT-R, which is another beautiful paint colour offered by Nissan, which needs to make its deserved comeback.

Okay, now onto the hottest Honda tuner in my opinion, and that’s due to their #FIRE #LIT livery designs. I remember watching ‘Hot Version’ and seeing the J’s Racing S2000 tear up the touge for the first time. Its a phenomenal car, in both practice and on paper: 345 horsepower from its naturally-aspirated, stroked F20C 2.7 litre belter, and a kerbweight of around 1100kg with interior still in place, the streetable Honda roadster is a strong contender. Get yourself on YouTube and see for yourself. But check out the rest of my pics first…

The garage wasn’t even supposed to be open on the day I was there, but luckily some of the staff were in the office, and president, Murakami-san, kindly let me in and have a look around. The place is small, but like everywhere in Japan, given space is used to the maximum in terms of efficiency.

These guys know how to make Hondas look great, so even if all you have is a Jazz/Fit, I would recommend reaching out to this shop if you haven’t already. I could tell from the customer’s cars on the lifts, that these lot know what to do and how to do it.

After a jam-packed day of driving and walking, we headed back to our accommodation and called it a night. Looking at the content I have remaining on my desktop for my ‘Japanaholik’s Journal’ series, I reckon the next will be the LAST instalment, but definitely not the LEAST, so keep an eye on the Feed…

Thanks for swooping by!

Japanaholik’s Journal | Idler’s Games 2019 @ Tsukuba Circuit

Boy oh boy, we’re finally here. This is the coverage I have been the most hyped about sharing with you. My trip to Japan this time round happened to land right around the time the Idler’s Games event at the Tsukuba Circuit was to be held.

I reckon it was on the Speedhunters website where I first came across this race series and – gonna sound like a broken record – it looked like Gran Turismo brought to life. The most iconic short circuit of Japan, and every flavour of motor you can imagine. I could not pass up the opportunity to go and witness this for real.

I did not do much research on the event prior to making it there. I kinda wanted to just get a full, immersive experience and work it out as I went. Thing is, its been nearly 8 weeks since, so all I can remember was watching some very good-looking cars being properly used. The format was ‘Sprint’ so all the cars in a class/category are let loose in unison, and the fastest lap recorded in that session gets the top step on the podium.

From what I can gather, thanks to the internet, Idlers Club spawned thanks to a guy called Atsushi Seike, who works as editor of both a popular Porsche magazine in Japan (The 911&Porsche Magazine) and the Idlers magazine. I get the feeling he is very much into the classic European sportcar genre, but the diversity of cars that attended made it a dynamic, grassroots motorsport event. Various Idlers Games are held at Fuji Speedway as well as Tsukuba, along with an annual 12 hour endurance race over on Motegi’s Twin Ring.

We got there around mid-morning, and from the sounds of multiple rev-limiters being utilised, and from the smell of scorching rubber, it was easy to work out I had come just in time for a drift demo. Parked up right at the end of car-park, so not only did we have to pace past the underbelly of the grandstand where you could peep through the fence and see more smoke than car, it meant also that I got way too distracted by some of the machines sat in the car park (some of which you saw above).

I could not believe I was there. After watching an unhealthy amount of ‘Best Motoring’ videos on YouTube, and driving countless laps around the track on Gran Turismo & Forza Motorsport (mostly the former, because there’s only one King of Driving Simulators, and that ‘s the “real” one), I was finally IN the place IN Japan, not on my sofa in Bradford.

This circuit really does play a subtantial role in benchmarking cars’ performance. It’s short and flat enough to not put unnecesscary strain on a vehicle but it is also technical enough to put both man and machine to the test; hence it is the home to many Time Attack events in Japan.

For a car to be fast around Tsukuba, it has to have ultimate balance, not maximum-power or ultra-lightweightedness, and that is in essence what has always charmed me when it comes to the Japanese tuning philosophy and car-enthusiast culture.

Whilst tyres and clutches were being abused out on track, this bunch of Fairlady Zs were ready and waiting to storm the course. The ‘Super Z’ class consisted entirely of modern Fairlady Nissans, i.e. the 350Z & the 370Z. That is in no way a bad thing, because the sound these machines make is like no other production car, and they revved to the limitless sky.

I wish I spent more time going over this FB RX-7. It did look good out there though, even if a little battered and bruised.

This Honda S800 was a cool looking thing, its weird how dimensionally it appears so similar to the Lotus 7/Caterham chassis.

The last thing you expect to see at a sprint event is some muscle from the USofA. This Camaro took me by surprise and it was borderline comedy to watch it chase/be chased by Minis and 600cc kei-cars! Despite its heft it came out with a mid-pack position, but got outdone by an S30Z/240Z, that FB RX-7 you saw, and a couple of VW Beetles. I unfortunately did not snap any photos of the interior of the Chevy, but it was covered in red leather and custom dash, and looked totally out of place at a Tsukuba track event!

I would have been severely disappointed if I left the event without seeing an FD RX-7. Luckily, I found three in attendance, all running in the same GT class, which excited both the eyes and the ears. But, oddly enough, the loudest of the rotary-screamers was a little roadster…

When I spotted this, I did not even know what was under its vented, carbon-fibre bonnet. The Garage Vary Type-N aerokit, the swan-neck GT wing doubled up with an OEM bootlip spoiler, and those gunmetal Advan RZ wheels; I was just too overwhelmed.

When I had an NB, I remember seeing the Tomei Power white democar online, and that was what was the catalyst for me to go ahead with buying one. My car never got anywhere near that stage, but it was a big inspiration, nonetheless. This car echoes a bit of that Tomei car, but with much more aggression and function. When it was go-time, I was mesmerized by the noise, and was repeatedly confused everytime it went past. It sounded Wankel, and went like a rocket flying past GTRs both new and old. I ran back to the paddock area once their race was over, and seeing that 13B in the engine bay just made my day. The MX-5 came out 3rd overall, only to be beaten by an R35 and an R32 GTR, with a mere 0.8 seconds in deficit.

I think Idlers Games has garnered most of its attention thanks to the RWB empire. To not only make old Porsche 911s cool and relevant, but then to go out and drive the hell out of them is impressive. It is very rare that you see classic sports/supercars being taken to the maximum potential, especially those of the Euro type. The main event for all RWB crew members is the 12 hour endurance battle, so this stint at Tsukuba was probably just a little practice for them.

Nakai-san who is basically the mastermind behind the “movement”, was of course out their ripping his iconic 993 named Rotana. The machine has so much character I don’t know where to start. It looks so raw, but its flat purple paintjob softens the edge, and makes it look elegant. Still, Nakai-san put down a 58.725 second fast-lap, so neither car or driver is a slowpoke.

There were of course other Porsches and a Ferrari competing, but I know zilch about them, they just look amazing.

Here were some contenders that caught my eye whilst wandering the infield.

Whats easier, make an R34 GT-R look good or go fast. I reckon they are equally as straightforward, given you have a resources. This 800bhp+ attack monster is Auto Gallery Yokohama’s, who are known pretty well in the Skyline GT-R & Time Attack scene in Japan. It has a very plain and subdued look, but it was more than capable unleashing some fury out on track.

This well put together baby-blue EG Civic was easy on the eye.

Klassy kombo: white R32 Skyline and white Buddyclub P1 wheels. Maybe not so classy when you see its covered in fluids and melted rubber.

Dailying an Autozam-AZ1 would be nice. For a week…

Not so humble and grassroots when this Ferrari 458 rolls up…

As I finally got myself to the grandstand at the Dunlop tyre corner, I took the opportunity to sit down, take a breather. Not much was happening on track at that point, then after a decent wait, these Z3s and E36 3-Series BMWs came out to play. Some of you lot might be into them, I cannot really say much on them to be honest.

Thats a wrap on this one, lengthy but I guess it is a good representation of my first-time experience at both Tsukuba Circuit and Idlers Games.

Hope you enjoyed the read, till next time…

VVV B O N U S G A L L E R Y VVV