Japanaholik’s Journal | First Day in Tokyo

I threw up a rough itinerary beforehand, because when travelling Japan for two weeks, ideally, you need to know when and where you want to visit in an organised fashion. Simultaneously narrowing down the must-see spots and then ensuring they are within fair proximity of each other is a task and a half. Tokyo, as big as the metropolis is, has an efficient and smooth-running public transport system, so I didn’t even bother hiring a car out for the first portion of the trip.

Tokyo and its greater area is home to many famed tuning shops and motorsport outfits. But its the lesser known garages that I wanna check out, so I made it out to Car Make Corns’ location in Edogawa, just outside central Tokyo. The ‘Corns’ in the name is a literal metaphor for the kernels found on a corncob. It represents the unity between Roadster enthusiasts and how the members of the community are one and the same. This might sound a bit idealistic, but I met some cool lads on my visit, and they all owned MX5s so I can verify the company’s quirky name.

CMC is a well established company from what I could see, and I know that their online presence is healthy, with distributors in both the UK and the USA. CMC USA distribution co-ordinator a.k.a. MiataMan happened to be there at the time I went. He was helping out at their vending stall at the Karuizawa Roadster Meeting (the event I missed by a few days!).

Anyway, heres the stuff I got to see.

The conversion kits caught me by surprise, and definitely look even better in the metal. I’m glad these kinds of modified MX5s exist, as it shows how limitless creativity can be without sacrificing quality and execution.

I mean, that off-white/cream Pit Crew NA wasn’t exactly showcar quality, as the owner clearly drove the car well, but it exudes character and charm. Even when you look at the interior, every detail is thought out and nothing clashes at all, from the billet CNC-machined handbrake lever to the custom quilted dashboard.

As you can see from the photos, a lot of their product range consists of accessories and dress-up items for your Roadster, but they do manufacture some of their own parts such as stainless-steel exhausts, bucket seats, and the CMC-03 14″ pepperpot-design lightweight wheel. They also have a good link with Mazda themselves which allows them to source and sell those old and hard-to-find OEM bits to the hardcore purists.

After hanging out for a bit, I felt like I ought to get going, because the longer I stayed there the more emotional I got due to being an ex-Roadster owner. Since I was only window shopping, we bounced and headed in the direction of Tokyo over the Arakawa River to the most R.E.spected tuner of the land.

The first time I saw an RE-Amemiya FD was on Gran Turismo in the form of the 2004 JGTC car the company built and powered using the extraordinarily turboless 20B 3-rotor engine. It was the first RX7 I had come across with fixed headlights, so it took some time for me to warm to it, but as we’ve gone through 15 years of awful styling (especially in the west when it comes to race cars) the car looks better than ever.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to live out my childhood dream by witnessing the car up close in the “real world”, but the guys at RE-Amemiya were working on a bunch of cool stuff, including the next D1 Grand Prix season’s competitor: 20B RX-7 ft. forced induction.

This location base the company have in Tokyo is quite compact in comparison to their Chiba shop from what I have seen of it online. I regret not taking time out to visit the other one, especially with it being close to the airport… there’s always next time…

I am by no means a keen Toyota enthusiast, and I have always looked at the brand a bit sideways as they tend to cater for the masses, especially in recent times. Nowadays, cars are measured by their numbers and stats, and it appears that Toyota does that very well, but lacks the vital property that is SOUL.

I won’t go off on a tangent in this blog post, so I’m gonna let you check out what’s under the roof of the ‘Megaweb’ situated on the artificial island, Odaiba. It’s part-museum, part-R&D centre, part-dealership, surrounded by and connected to a retail shopping complex.

Thats it for the main body of this post of my third day in Japan. Plenty more to come, and I promise that it will get better!

Scroll for the extras…

Cadwell Park TrackDay – The Orange Peeled Off

Last summer on a visit to Cadwell Park, I joined Luke who, at the time, owned a homebuilt kit car. Now, I have never been keen on kit cars, especially the Lotus 7/Caterham “style” variety. It must be something to do with my awkward feeling towards replicated designs. This topic is something I could write on and on about, so I am going to stay on course for this one.

This particular machine Luke built in his garage is an MNR Vortx, space-frame tube chassis, fibreglass lightweight body, driven by a 1.8 BPZE engine from a Mazda MX-5 NB/MK2. The basic concept is excellent though, as I experienced in the passenger seat that day at Cadwell Park, which nestles in Lincolnshire, UK.

This blog post won’t revolve around his car however, as I did not get the best of shots in retrospect, but other cars were out there blasting around the 2.18 mile course which is actually designed for motorcycle racing; picture narrow track width and grassy runoff areas.

Waiting game…
Okay, I am going to have to open with this beauty. The FD RX-7 you see in front of you is a full RE-Amemiya GT kitted spec. The highlight of the car was the colour and unfortunately my photos do not do its aesthetic quality any justice in my opinion.
It was well put together and style like this is rare to come by, definitely in the UK anyway. But it sure is a treat when you witness something as wild, but simultaneously disciplined in the way it stands. I chatted to the owner briefly, I can remember him having some teething issues with a new single-turbo setup, which is a shame but I manage to catch a glimpse of the rotary ripping out on the field.
I do wonder what the status/condition the car is in at the moment…
Good luck trying to find a trackday where an MX-5 isn’t present. I mean, how could you NOT want to drive one of the purest sports cars ever created, on a racetrack?!
Future historic legend; flipped the FF (front-engine front-wheeled-drive) game on it’s head.
There were two EP3 Civic Type-Rs out that day, both equipped with this hatch mounted GT wing. Part of me sees the appeal in it, part of me realises it kind of looks out of place…
Maybe here, with the trimmed rear bumper, the spoiler’s toned down wing-stands suit the chassis more so. Downforce times call for downforce measures I suppose.
Luke getting a feel for the track more than the car, as he had already made some familiarity with it at a previous shakedown which did not go quite as he planned. Good to see him stretching its legs with confidence, albeit the day cut short because of an electrical gremlin…
The highlight of the car’s performance was most definitely its ability to change direction almost immediately. The G-forces you experience are atmospheric, and made me wonder what on earth F1, or even entry-level Formula cars for that matter, feel like.
One off incident occurred that day, which luckily was not too serious, driver was intact and physically sound after bouncing his Ariel Atom off the tyres midway through the day.
Taking a wander in the paddock area where both drivers and cars take a breather, I took a closer look at some of the motors attending. This K20 swapped EK9 was very nice and cleanly done. What is most impressive though, is the fact that the driver had one prosthetic leg, so the car was kitted to enable the driver to operate the clutch by hand control! Incredible.
This ‘RWB’ styled Porsche was cool. I know very little about these German powerhouses, but I have always felt that they have been held with high regard and respect as sportscars, so there must be something to them…
It did/does look good out there though, and it sounded even better.
One-make duel. For French cars, these hot hatches are not all that bad.
This Starlet Glanza is a very uncommon sight, so it was a breath of fresh air seeing it being thrown about. The deep turquoise colour suits it perfectly.
Track check up; the safety/pace-car M235i BMW for the grounds made its rounds.

I hope to return to Cadwell Park in the near future. The entire place has a cool vibe about it. That wraps up this “throwback” post. Getting out there and shooting more track events is one of my aims this year, so, until next time…

DriftCup UK 2018

Never really grew up with much, if any at all, drift culture involved in my car life. My initial exposure to the artform was probably as cliche as it gets: Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift. My brother introduced me to Best Motoring as early as I can remember, Japanese guys sending cars sideways, in both factory and tuned forms. It’s almost as if it was in their DNA, without sounding cheesy.

Nowadays, especially because of the Internet, the passion for drifting, as both a sport and an automotive ‘scene’, has spread to all pockets around the world. Even managing to worm its way into Wigan, UK. This was my first time attending a dedicated drift competition event, which appeared to have more focus on the drivers and cars, instead of acting as an all-in-one festival type of event as can be seen with the more commercially popular shows. Less circus, more circuit…

Low Supra; such a graceful silhouette
Sileighty chassis S13 will always be my all time favourite from the Silvia selection. This Vertex kitted example caught my eye.
Very unusual sight. A Porsche 944 is definitely something I did not imagine encountering when I was picturing all the machines that would be competing before arriving at Three Sisters Race Circuit. No idea why the ‘PORSCHE’ decal is out of line on the door, but I’m feeling the mismatched wheels.
One of the more serious-looking entrants I spotted that day with the tailpipe looking like a bazooka.
Back to front. Hardcore boyz don’t need rear bumpers. And check out that front camber; nuts!
The format of the race was a basic lead-and-chase run. The classes of cars were separated so that similar power and tune cars were pitched against each other to keep things fair. Judging drifting is subjective but only to an extent, as clipping points and proximity act as measurable markers for high skill and precision, which win you points.
The drift section was short as only the first 3 corners of the track are used from the pit-exit, but this allowed for higher frequency in runs and gives chance, to those who need it, for seat time in a competitive environment.
I loved seeing the less powerful machines, particularly those in NA tune, being pushed to the absolute boundaries. This Corolla was cool-looking.
If I remember correctly, that S14 rocked a R35 powertrain, so it sang some beautiful songs as you can imagine.
Here comes trouble. This RB26DETT-powered non-GTR R34 Skyline was dominating every session, it just goes to show how capable the chassis is, even in FR layout. To be honest though, this was far from stock so my comment is near enough irrelevant with this machine.
Coming in hot. I liked this take on the E36 coupe BMW, makes me wonder what it would look like with those headlights in combination with a full front face… The front and rear quarters don’t really flow, but that adds to its quirky character.
ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME (ON THE STREET…)
Very well styled. The S13 coupe Silvia does grow on me from time to time, this is a great looking model if done right

‘Lancaster Insurance’ Classic Motor Show 2017

Me and my cousin made it out to the NEC in Birmingham to attend the Classic Motor Show in one of the biggest venues in the UK. This was also exposure for me to cars I would not usually be interested in so I thought why not venture into the unknown. I think it was my narrow mindset that led me to presume all I would see is a bunch of Minis, Jaguars, and Fords. But, the photos you are about to view completely dissolved that idea, and I was pleasantly surprised!

As soon as I saw this Lancia Delta Integrale HF I was that excited, I forgot I had my DSLR, so unfortunately for you, this picture shot using my Samsung Galaxy A3 camera will have to suffice; fortunately for me the momentary chance of sitting in this mint example is forever burnt into my mind.
I think if I remember correctly, the seats and door cards had plastic wrap protecting them, which is no surprise since this was an import from Japan. Everything was built to be used as I could tell from the Recaro recliners and MOMO steering wheel w/o an airbag, but at the same time, the tan/beige interior softened the feel of the car. There’s more to the “Evolution” nameplate besides Mitsubishi Lancers you know…
I bet you can’t guess what this Mazda 20B rotary was planted in…
Impressive indeed. Pipey McGraw from Muttley Racing built this E-Type inheriting a very unorthodox power unit. I guess it was a good job I went to the show, as this kind of Jag was not one I had expected to witness! As amazing as it was, the car now runs off of a BMW E9X M3 V8, which isn’t a bad substitute to be honest.
Brap-o-clock.
European manufacturers know/knew how to put together a road-going hatchback that could teach a few higher-price-tag machines a thing or two when it comes to tackling a back country road. This 106 Rallye is no exception, damn, I would even openly admit that it is my favourite Peugeot!
The DeTomaso Pantera is a car with very niche appeal. Something about the silhouette of these mid-engined monsters, combined with their classic Italian flair is something to be admired.
A proper rallying legend on display. Easily the one of the best looking liveries of all time. It is a shame that this photo was the best I got.
Modern metal, BMW switched up the vibe with this F90 M5
My pick of the show was this gem. I know pretty much nothing about Mini Marcos except that I won one on Gran Turismo back in the day, but this GT is very quirky and looks like it would drive well. The concept of the car: hyper-lightweight, minimal body overhang, a seemingly appropriate width-to-length ratio, and a simple naturally-aspirated engine. I say, that is the winning formula.
This Morgan Aero8 caught me off guard, with its elegant color co-ordination along with those OZ magnesium centre-lock wheels. And they are factory-fitted of all things?!

JAE 2017

Continuing on with the modified Japanese car scene, this final instalment fast-forwards two years on from the 2015 show. This time round, the venue the organisers chose to hold this even more vast event was Newark Showground down in the East Midlands near Nottingham. I remember being at the show, and being overwhelmed by the number of cars on display, along with the intense heat that summer. I also found it funny looking back at these photos, noticing the repeat sightings of certain cars that I had shot during the 2015 JAE. Hope you enjoy this set, this bunch is what caught my eye.