Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | The Zoom-Zoom Konnection

It was approaching the latter end of our German excursion. Since the flight back to sunny England was booked departing Munich International Airport, it only made sense to pitch up somewhere in accomodation not too far from Bavaria’s capital. Airbnb rarely fails to please; this final spot we lodged at was on the upper floor of a couple’s home in Moorenweis, a nice little villagey area.

On arrival, we were nackered, so for the night we just chilled; being antisocial and catching up on Youtube videos. I was hoping our second-to-last day would lift my spirits after a minor debacle at the hotel in Stuttgart where I left my washed T-shirts – one from Narita Dogfight, the other an RWB one I bought from Nakai-san a few months prior – to dry and forgot to pick them up on the way out. I was pinning the blame on Luke as I initially thought he hid them from me (sorry, Luke, but you are a twat, so you kinda brought it on yourself).

That morning was bound to be a start to a good day, visiting two spots I anticipated highly throughout the days leading up to it.

The first stop was in Augsburg, one of Bavaria’s largest cities after Munich and Nuremberg. Home to a kollection of cars you wouldn’t think of having such a dedicated following so far from home…

I first heard and learnt about the Mazda Classic Automobile Frey Museum on the NHK World channel on TV (does anyone even use their Sky+ set-top box anymore?), which is basically Japan’s major broadcasting network channel that airs all types of travel & tourism related programmes. It’s 507 on your Sky Freeview if you’re interested.

The ‘Frey’ in the museum’s name belongs to the founder: Walter Frey. He is the man behind the idea of this Mazda mecca, and it all stemmed from him owning and running a local Mazda dealership which was the foundation for his passion for the Japanese auto-manufacturer.

We entered via the gift shop, rather than exiting from it, largely because we completely missed the main entrance around the front. I think I was mesmerised by the Soul Red Crystal ND MX-5 so much so that it succeeded in luring us in the wrong way. In fact, it was far from wrong if I’m honest, as the first thing that nearly caused me to snap my neck when I walked into the main hall was sat there in a shadowy corner. The 323 GTR, an unsung hero, was Mazda’s attempt at rallying back in the 1980s to early 1990s using 4WD. They had some success with the FB RX7 in Group B, being an underdog competitor with no fully-financed backing from Mazda – only 7 “Evolution” models produced for homologation – the rear-wheel drive, naturally-aspirated coupe mightily fought to land a step on the podium at the Acropolis Rally in ’85. Whatever the case, I don’t care how many trophies this hatchback managed to snap up. Its boosted transversely-mounted MX-5 engine, rear tailight bar, and the aggressively “LanEvo-like” front face is such a cool combination.

The Frey family have a lot of love for the rotary, they’ve even set up a small section of the museum to resemble some kind of living space/memorial/shrine for the Cosmo Sport. Knowing that this machine started it all off, way before the RX model-code entered our cultural vocabulary, brought shivers to the spine.

There were all sorts of ikonic models from Mazda’s historical line-up, but this was definitely one of the highlights for me – the Autozam AZ-1 Mazdaspeed. A keicar with gullwing doors. Need I say more? Check out how angry its widened body looks from the front. It would be sick to stomp through the streets of Tokyo in this pocket rocket. Mazda, please atleast make a comeback with something like this if you aren’t bringing the Wankel back.

You don’t walk into a enthusiast-owned, Mazda collection hall, and not expect to see the greatest trio of alphanumerics to ever be assembled and branded into the minds of car nuts across the globe. The RX-7 would have never been if it weren’t for the German inventor, Felix Wankel, who gave the Japanese carmakers that spark to then set the world alight with all the premix-infused afterfire. I loved that ‘vert’ FC Turbo II.

And then you have to be out of your mind to think there wouldn’t be an abundance of the most successful two-seater sportscar of all time! The best on display have got to be this pair. 1 of 250 NB MX-5 Coupe that came with a fixed roof from factory, and a design concept in the shape of an NC Superlight without a roof and glass. These two must be the rarest of roadsters. Seeing that Mk3 in the metal was mindblowing, after only ever seeing it in video games and online, to have the chance to get close to one was a treat, lemme tell ya. It sits so low too, compared to the dismal OEM fitment of the red Mk2.

It was a bit of Miata-mania for the most part in the hall. Luke got a bit excited over the black NC racecar, which admittedly does look cool for the Roadster that doesn’t hit headlines in the modified scene. Maybe because a lot of examples tend to be below par or a bit OTT. The aero cover that sits atop the rear bulkhead was a nifty bit of kit, as were those wheels that look like a 5-spoke version of the 6ULs. Anyone know exactly what they are?

So this is what you would be greeted by if you came in through the front door. Its either a restored Group B rallycar, or a replica fabricated by some keen enthusiast. Whatever the case, it looked the bee’s knees, and probably buzzes all the way to its 9-grand RPM limiter.

Mazda plonked rotary engines in more of their past models than you think. I remember reading about the Rotary Parkway Bus in a book but there were no photos to back up the fact that it was an actual reality. Then I see one chilling in the corner of the museum next to an old-school pretend fuel pump! The Frey family have nailed this automotive gallery to the finest detail, even going to lengths of preserving a bench that Felix Wankel kept outside his workshop.

I would absolutely recommend visiting this place if you happen to be venturing to and around Munich. From the outside it seems like an old, refurbed tram shed (which it actually happens to be) but what lies within definitely surprised and amazed us [me – Luke probably wished he was back at the Nordschleife driving like hell].

Before leaving, I scribbled a little something down in the guestbook, but I don’t have a photo to show you what I wrote, so remember to look out for my tag if you ever do make a stop at the Classic Automobile Frey Museum!

Before returning to the house, RUF was not too far from Augsburg, located in a rural Pfaffenhausen. There’s a ton of information about the company online, plus, I don’t have much photographic material to share from our guided tour of the premises as some of the work they had on must have been pre-production, top secret. After all, RUF is a registered manufacturer, not just a Porsche “styling” firm. If you grew up on Gran Turismo, RUF will be engrained in your memory. If you’re not already familiar, this family-run business takes Porsches – sometimes, maybe even from across the roundabout where a dealership resides – and turns them into pieces of art without sacrificing any performance abilities of the original model. Add to that, pretty much all of the work is carried out in-house, with facilities such as a bodyshop & paint booths, and an engine dyno room!

I won’t do a full blog on our visit to RUF, just because I didn’t get any more photos to share with you to give you visuals to accompany my blabber.

As I took snaps of the MX-5 rental car, a couple drove past in their car and then backed up as they must have seen me dodgily crouched down behind the car. Rolling down their window and from the serious look on their faces, they asked me WTF I was doing in some German. Was a funny/awkward moment. Pretty certain they had been drinking, too, so I should have flipped it and asked them WTF they were doing.

Hope you enjoyed the read, look out for the finale in my ‘Germany 2019’ album, soon…

Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | Stuttgart Stronghold of Pure Performance

Day 5 into the journey across Germany, we left the towns and villages of Nurburg behind for the city of Stuttgart. Home to two of the automotive powerhouses, the metropolis is the rightful birthplace to both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Their museums are within 6 miles of each other so we hit them both up in a day.

This will be part one, where we started the morning off with breakfast at the local Siegel cafe. This was right around the corner from both, the Porsche complex situated on the Schwieberdinger Strasse, and our hotel from which we could see Porsche’s mega-dealer. We visited that before entering the museum, and it was the first time I saw a Porsche Carrera GT and TWO 918 Spyders.

If I am not mistaken, this 992 Cabriolet parked up outside the museum entrance was due to be kollected by its new owner.

I had good fun goofing around to Luke everytime I spotted a Mazda Familia/323, as they seemed to be so kommonplace in every part of Germany we visited. Reckon I saw more of these than any other of Mazda’s outgoing models.

I can’t say I have ever felt an affinity towards the marque, I mean, the earlier nat-asp flat sixes sound the dogs bollocks, but apart from that, I could never understand the appeal. But after spending time at the museum and taking in the history and heritage on display, I kind of get it now. Its their motorsport efforts that pave the way and make the brand what it is.

Their livery designs are some of the best of all time. Porsche definitely knew how to make fast cars look the part.

Everything about the Martini RSR was just right in all possible ways. I am a sucker for cars done in the ikonic blue & red lace striping; oddly, it looks like a kind tribal warpaint seen on the faces of mandrill monkeys. This No. 8 car did not have its rear cover plate, making it easy to view its mechanikals including the KKK turbo assembly and its fire-breathing external wastegate. I’m unsure what section those rear tyres were, but I bet they were plentiful of traction when it came to stomping all 400 ftlbs of torque down.

I struggled to find a badly designed racecar in Porsche’s inventory. The 935 “Moby Dick” blew my flippin’ mind, so many people crowded around it making it difficult to get many photos.

A group of sketch artists gathered around this special edition 911S, the millionth to be produced, and done so in Irish Green which apparently was the colour of Mr. Ferdinand Porsche’s own Carrera back in 1964.

The museum wasn’t massive when compared with Mercedes’, but the quality makes up for the quantity, there’s no doubt about that. I’m sure if you live and breath Porsche, you’ll walk out of this place with a stupidly big grin on.

I’ll leave you with a few snaps of this beast of a 997. Come back for part two, where we sped off to see some of Benz’ brilliance…

Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | 5 REASONS WHY YOU NEED TO DO A RING TRIP

Instead of leaving you the residuals of the ‘Ring gallery without much commentary, I might just shake it up abit and do a list, 1 to 5, of valid excuses for you to use to make the journey out into the Forbidden Forest of Nurburg.

Eins! The Nurburgring is the best testing ground for those who want to improve on their driving in an environment that does nothing but demand of your complete 100% fokus. Whether it be your own personal vehicle, a ‘Ring rental, or one you’ve borrowed from SixT (naughty), the not-so-smooth ride you’ll be faced to endure for 11.9 miles of the ‘TF’ bridge-to-gantry course will put both man and machine to the ultimate test. A lot of cars that manufacturers plan on producing are tested on the circuit, and for good reason. The varying conditions that the collective orchestra of components of a car are forced through simulate the very tough and rigorously spent life of use/abuse the vehicle will most likely go through when put on sale. This process brings near enough every flaw to light. I suppose, for the everyday driver, driving the Nurburgring will be more of a challenge for the driver and less so for the car. But, if you reckon your “lowering-springs-with-wheels-and-tyres” mod recipe is enough to keep pace, the Nurburgring might just devour you and spit you out into the oblivion. It is a track that demands total respect, so you better be serious if you’re wanting to set that BTG lap record.

Zwei! What you will immediately notice when you arrive in Nurburg, is the pure dominance of the Porsche marque, the 911 GT3 and GT3 RS model in particular. It gets to a point where you are on a hunt for all the 9 colour options that they are available in. But, whilst me and Luke were patiently waiting in the Suzuki Swift for the red flag to be dismissed, this friggin’ 991 GT2 RS rolls up and I managed to snap this one clean photo before the beautiful British Racing Green stunner got horded by Snapchatters. It didn’t stay for long, since the parking spot was for Ring Taxis only, and the marshal told him to scram. Its not all just rare Porsches though. You will stumble across a handful of extraordinary pieces of automotive art, with such an eclectic assortment, there’s bound to be something to make your gob drop…

…Just like that BMW 2002 did to me.

Drei! Enough’s enough, quit playing pretend on Playstation, get off your gaming chair and into the hot seat on track for real! If taking your own pride and joy is too much risk, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to hiring a purpose-built motor to blitz around the Nordschleife in. That purple Swift Sport was what we borrowed for a few laps, costing us about £150 for the day including fuel and lap tickets. You might snigger at its meager 125bhp turbo-less output, but if you find enjoyment in driving cars to the limit, this is a sensible option when you’re concerned about damage excess if something does go wrong. Besides, the car we got was fully caged, bucket seats with harnesses hold you in, Endless brake pads literally felt neverending in terms of stopping power, and sticky (when dry) Advan AD08R tyres; a proper ‘Ring spek Swift in all aspects.

Vier! Okay, so it might be your first time or perhaps the weather turned to shit on arrival, so you don’t have it in you to risk a remortgage back home if you write-off a rented GT86 all because you wanted to become Takumi Fujiwara coming off Karussell in 2nd gear. If thats the case, jump into the passenger and ride shotgun with a taxi driver. As long as that taxi is a Mclaren or better yet, a 550bhp F80 M3 with 4 Recaro bucket seats so its fun for the whole family! I wanted to get round the ‘Ring with a view from the passenger seat (which would be the driver’s side in normal countries), so I luckily got chance to hop in a 720S piloted by Moritz Kranz, some guy who can drive cars fast and win races, basically. The Mclaren was beyond ballistic, its twin-turbo V8 powerplant is phenonmenal with its delivery, but Moritz made it look like a Sunday drive whilst simultaneously passing everything, of course.

Fünf! The final reason I can give for visiting the Nurburgring, is simply this. Whether you love driving cars, watching cars be driven to the edge, or just enjoy generally enjoy the kulture, this is the place for you to experience at least once. There is so much passion and enthusiasm, not only in and around the Nurburgring facility, but also in the villages that are dotted in that region have a strong affinity to motorsport. Germans, in fact, just like the Japanese make a tremendous effort when it comes to car life. They share a lot of similarities, which is what I tended to note frequently during my stay. The way in which they do things (cars, specifically) is probably the greatest difference. Germany brings functionality to the forefront; Japan highlights delicate form in very unique ways (which is why it can be misunderstood most of the time).

To be quite honest, I didn’t need to give much justification for my reasons. In fact, why the hell do I need to persuade anyone to visit the world’s most notorious automotive holiday destination? Its one of those things that has got to be done.

Probably gassed enough on this one, so I’m out of here.

Thanks for checking my stuff out, if you can be bothered, share it with your fam or your mate. I appreciate your time. Keep your eyes peeled for the next one in this Germany saga…

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

Japanaholik’s Journal | Supreme Klassiks of the Golden Era

The plan after the Lowstars Meeting in Nikko was to bolt over to Tochigi City, where a private kollection of incredible automobiles are nestled away under the roof of an old train JR (Japan Railway) station.

The ‘Mahoujin Supercar Museum’ is deceiving on first encounter; it seems like an old, unused building that has been preserved for the local community or something of that nature. But step past the ticket barriers (after you pay for admission) and what welcomes you is pretty astonishing.

The cars you are about to see are what I believe to be the pinnacle of supercar history. The 90’s machines have that perfect balance between technology and rawness, and the cars that predate that decade are pure analogue bliss.

I am sure you will spot some of your all-time favourites in this assortment…

… ‘cos I know I did when I caught this red Delta HF Integrale Evo 2 sitting in the corner of the gallery.

The dudes you see gathering around that Porsche 959 arrived at the museum in a convoy, one had some kind of Mercedes 2-door coupe which didn’t peak as much of my interest as the FD2 Civic Type-R (which I probably should have chosen to rent out instead of the Integra) and the two Alfa Romeo saloons. Dare I say, the Italian 4-doors beat the heck out of the Honda with their sharp looks.

Upon exit, the owners of these cars followed behind and they got chatting after they caught me taking photos of that black 159. I vented my frustration with the rental car, so they offered to phone the company and give them a very polite, Japanese earful. Nothing came out of it really, but at least they tried. A couple of them reckoned it was a faulty crank/cam angle sensor, which I also speculated, but that wouldn’t explain the nasty throttle pedal feel.

Thats all I have for this one, the visit was more of a bucket list check-off than anything, and since it happened to be along the route to our stop in Tsukuba, I thought I’d might aswell pay it a visit.

The post to follow is gonna be exciting, as you might have guessed by the aforementioned destination…

VVV B O N U S R E E L VVV