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…

Only Rotaries Aloud | Seven’s Day 2019 @ Blyton Park

Home sweet home. After landing back in the UK from the dreamy trip to Japan, as per usual the post-holiday blues hit me and lingered for a week or two. To add insult to injury, I saw the 7th of July coming around the corner and that only means one thing to any Mazda madhead. I have featured, briefly in past posts, my 7’s Day experiences when I attended the meeting held in Umihotaru P.A. on Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line. This year, I chose not to stay in Japan long enough to witness the twilight spectacle put on by the automotive underdog cult. I mean, I probably would have, but I’d come back with zero holidays left to take from work. In retrospect, it could have been worthwhile, especially after seeing all the coverage online of the ‘Rotary Spirit’ event staged in the paddock of the great Fuji Speedway.

I remember coming across a track day being organized by the UK’s FD Owner’s Club online, and since I wanted to get a firsthand look at what the small but strongly dedicated community have on offer here in my home country, I thought I’d swing on by Blyton Park on the 5th of July.

My love for this chassis is eternal. Stock or modified (tastefully), the only way it will age is if Mazda reintroduce the masses to a production version of that RX-Vision concept unveiled back in 2015’s Tokyo Motor Show, but even if that does materialize, the FD3S RX-7’s legacy will remain in history.

My first trip out to Japan was unforgettably a special one, mainly due to the sleepless night before I got to pilot a rental RX-7. Its one thing reading about a car that leaves you in awe and watching countless videos of the machine being described by motor journalists as the one of the purest sportscars ever built, but to actually do it yourself is another thing entirely. Yeah, it was a stock example, bar the Tein coilovers and RE-Amemiya exhaust system, but for my 20-year-old self, it was plenty.

Before I turn this spread into a essay on why the RX-7 is the greatest production car to ever come into existence, let’s get back to the sights I saw on my visit to FDOC’s track event.

Upon arrival mid-afternoon, all the eye could see was more than a few RX-8s, and whilst that car is a great Mazda in its own right, I had a mini panic-attack thinking I’d turned up on the wrong date or something. Obviously, that wasn’t the case, as I got closer to trackside, there was a decent lineup of FDs all raring to get out and kause a ruckus.

I did briefly contemplate buying an RX-8 at the time I was planning on saying farewell to my MX-5. I took an late R3 model for a test drive, and whilst it is a nice platform that could act as both daily driver and track toy, something was amiss. I am pretty certain its a universal problem with these “newer” cars, that tend to target the wider audience. I am fully aware that this is what progression looks like, and they’ll never make them like they used to, but I think it was the over-refinement of the RX-8 in comparison to my MX-5 at the time, that repelled me from going in that direction. Whilst current prices of RX-8s are quite attractive, with sellers practically giving them away, I still wouldn’t compromise; driving experience is why I don’t take public transport, the vehicle has to have that ability to make you want to keep on powering on, no matter the kost.

Totally unrelated, but I may aswell share a few snaps I got of this non-Mazda that turned up to the party (with an invitation, probably). British sportscars are known to have that distinct character and its good to see the likes of Lotus, and of course Jaguar and Mclaren, still in the running.

White-on-red is a suited look on this 360 Cup edition of the Exige. I find it funny how Lotus still use the Toyota 2GR-FE V6 engine, that’s applied to billions of other Toyota/Lexus chassis, and then we have the new Supra reaching out to BMW for a heart transplant which is in my opinion, distasteful, but I won’t get into all of that…

Starting off the highlights of 7’s Day, is this pearlescent flake yellow FD. This early Efini variant was sporting a 99-Spec front bumper with custom front lip, sideskirts, Ganador mirrors, Veilside(?) tailight housing bar, and some of those Rota things at all four corners. It sure did brighten up the scene, but I never got chance to see it out ripping the tarmac, so these static shots are all I got.

Matt’s kouki Pure White RX-7 was almost twinning with another’s of the FDOC crew. Wearing those Work CRs finished in a Dark Chrome colour set off the look of this machine, which is what I would consider a perfect example of the ‘OEM Plus’ style. Rear diffuser, carbon front splitter, and a NACA-ducted bonnet accentuate this fine specimen. But something NEEDS to be done with that ride height!

Another FD sitting on some of Work Wheels’ finest, which was also equipped with an interesting custom vented bonnet. Black on bronze is a no-brainer in terms of colour pairing, hence why the Demio of mine wears my old MX-5’s shoes! Nothing krazy about the exterior of this RX, apart from the GT style wing, yet the single turbo converted 13B inside was making it round with some pace from what I remember.

This is the “other” white FD I was referring to previously. Owned by Roy, whom manages and organizes the events for the club, it is a stunningly clean FD but at the same time gets enough of a leg-stretch out on the track. It’s always the details that katch my eye when it comes to seeing a car for the first time. I reckon its because I have become sick of the latest trends, finding far too many builds online and at shows that have the same cookie-cutter philosophy applied to them, just because it looks good and is easy to do since every other man and his dog are putting their car “together” in the same style. I digress, but I believe the RX-7 is one of those chassis that has the natural ability to look timeless with an unmatchable aura in factory form. Anyway, one note I’d like to make is the fact that the engine bay was clean enough to eat dinner off, but that crack in the radiator’s fibreglass shroud! Maybe Roy has a new replacement on order (we hope)…

The day wasn’t short on black FDs, and this flame-spitting one in particular was getting its fair share of laps in around the circuit. This wore, what I would call, a safe and klassik look, outfitted with a 99-spec wing, drooping RE-AMEMIYA exhaust, and a unique taillight conversion.

Nas’ RX-7 was easy on the eye with not too much to take in: OEM front splitter, Racing Beat twin-tailpipe exhaust, rear lip spoiler, riding on a set of the klassik Desmond Regamaster wheels in matte black.

This work in progress belongs to owner James, and whilst in appearance it is seemingly basic at the (that) moment, those Enkei RS05RR wheels mean business and certainly make for a good start to this FD’s life. The majority of the guys on the day had wingless cars, which is a look that didn’t do it for me in the past, but after spending some time looking at and shooting them fly by, it does make the car more streetable to some degree.

Stu of RotorTorque was whipping his white RX-7 around Blyton with some frequency and was looking good whilst doing it. I properly endorse the mismatched wheels look aswell, with flat gold Advan AVS Model 6 upfront, and a pair of burnt orange Ultralites working in the rear. Can’t go wrong with that rear GT wing courtesy of Voltex Racing.

Jack’s heavily modified, street-sleeper of an RX-7, was built with hard track use in mind. The exterior is indeed telling of that purpose, with it being hunkered down on another mismatched pair of aftermarket rollers, custom smoothed widearches on the back, RE-Amemiya rear diffuser, aftermarket vented bonnet, and sleek fixed headlight assemblies. I unfortunately did not get any interior shots, but the cabin was just as serious, I can assure you.

Closing out this post, we have a guest entrant who I missed the chance at seeing put some rubber down, but these still shots of the zenki Silvia S14 200SX will have to suffice. The owner told me the rear wing, which baffled me as soon as I spotted it, is borrowed from a DC5 Integra Type-R. Weirdly looks at home on the decklid of an FR Nissan.

There’s your lot for this one, and I hope that it is now proven to you that rotaries can blast around a hot track all day, and then cope with a drive home. Not one trailer or recovery truck made an appearance so all that gas you’ve heard coming from the naysayers who can’t stand to see an underdog bark loud, redirect them to this post.

This event will be one of many and I hope the FDOC emsemble make it out to more circuits and exemplify how usable and capable the greatest sportscar to exist, truly is.

Thanks for the visit!

Japanaholik’s Journal | The Kansai Chapter (2)

It was the next day, and that meant finally visiting the garage I was probably most looking forward to. Rotary-engined machines are an endangered species, and this place is a conservation sanctuary. Okay, maybe thats a bit over exagerrant, but when it comes to rotary-powered Mazdas, this joint will FEED you well.

If balance is your aim, then ‘Fujita Engineering Evolutional Development’ are one of the top players in the automotive tuning game. Its apparent that quality is held in much higher regard than quantity with these guys. How I found out about FEED was when I came across an FD RX-7 for sale online, equipped with one of their Aerobonnets which was that cool and unique of a design, I went and scoured the internet until I found the source, in the form of yet another Hot Version video.

The company fokuses on parts manufacture and vehicle services for all rotary-engined Mazda chassis, but also produces offerings for the NB MX-5 and Mazda 2/Demio, such as strut braces, dressup accessories, and aero-enhancing add-ons. Even though I left empty-handed, I came back with some pretty kool photos of their premises. The workspace isn’t so much of a clinical area, with a tired looking lathe in a dingy corner, which I prefer to be honest – piles of parts and empty wheel boxes just lying about – it probably creates a laid back atmosphere for the guys working there day in, day out. The founder and owner, Fujita-san, happened arrive after us, but he wasn’t fussed about us foreign visitors at all.

Its not a huge place, located on a patch of industrial estate surrounded by paddy fields. But square-footage doesn’t necessarily equal significance, you could have the biggest place and churn mass-produced garbage out.

As far as I’m aware, Fujita Engineering has always targetted the ‘grip’ circuit in aftermarket performance tuning. They lean towards the ideal of perfecting the already excellent chassis, through subtle and progressive means. This is reflected in their grey FD RX-7 demo adorned in the shop’s new GT3 widebody kit, which is stunning in photos, and even better in the metal. As soon as I entered the garage, it was perched up on the lift, towering over a whole load of stuff as you can see in the pic below. One of the technicians kindly moved some of it from underneath so he could drop the car down a little so I could peep the engine bay.

Even I’m not a fan of some the wild conversion kits that have been created by some aftermarket companies, and I tend to think of myself as open-minded and more eccentric than most! But the Afflux kit designed by FEED is actually a well-done take on that trend. It could even pass as being penned by a manufacturer’s concept design team. This customer was having the car prepared for its roadworthiness test (a.k.a. shaken in Japan, M.O.T. in the UK), hence the RX-8 wheels with awkward fitment. From a certain angle, it looked like it had no wheels bolted to it; hoverkraft-flex! Funny how in Japan you can modify a car to the brink of becoming a UFO, but the gap between wheel and arch has to be wide enough to fit a monster truck tyre…

Out in front was almost like a graveyard of decaying bygones. I doubt that they have been completely neglected, and I am hoping Fujita-san chooses to ressurect them someday. I assume most of them were previously demo cars, the one that surprised me the most was the off-white (now beige) Mazda Eunos Cosmo, Mazda’s answer to the ‘luxury-sports coupe’ segment back in the early 1990s, which was the first production car to be armed with a built-in GPS satnav. All I really care for, though, is whether or not it packed a 20B three-rotor twin-turbo unit under its bonnet.

Loads to look at, so little time. After spending a decent hour or so at the FEED shop, we said bye and headed to Glion Showroom, located on Osaka Bay. A red-brick warehouse complex is a home to some proper gems. I came across cars I had never seen before, along with classic heroes we have all seen in films and on TV. Some of them were even for sale,

This old Mustang GT had a prime spot just around the corner from the Museum entrance. It’s metallic gold skin definitely got my attention, even though I would probably keep walking if it was a bog standard model, but this California Special had a cool aura. That notchback shape is still awkward to me, the fastback is way more suited to the Ford’s body.

A BMW E9 is what came before the 6 Series, and its not hard to tell with its long nose and striking front-to-rear swage line making the coupe look longer than it actually is.

I didn’t plan this spot in the itinerary for any particular reason, it wasn’t like they had some crazy rare car that I was hoping to see. With it being out of the way, not many people travel from Osaka’s centre to visit, which made the atmosphere less “museumy” if that makes sense.

A Cosmo Sport 110S lingered in the corner next to two 2000GTs. I know which of these Japanese legends I’m having if I ever grow a money tree. Even when its stationary it looks fast (for something that was made in the late Sixties).

All sorts of flavours inside each section of the unit made for an interesting wander around. There was a whole host of pre-1950s BMWs, including that 507 Roadster which was pretty nice. Almost resembles some kind of mix-up consisting of a C1 Corvette and a Shelby Cobra.

The next room was something of a gift shop for those with a fat wallet. Some of those model engines cost as much as an ACTUAL motor. Alright, maybe you can’t buy an RB26DETT for 200 quid, but that much money would get you a used BP out of an MX-5! The incredible detail found on these models were crazy to be honest, I wonder if the turbos and pulleys spun.

The C2 Corvette is still the best thing to come out of an American car manufacturer’s design office.

After the self-guided tour of Glion, it was time to drop our rental car back off at the depot and do a lot of walking and waiting, for our overnight bus back to Tokyo.
All in all, Osaka was decent, I wish I saw more of the Kansai region, but that is always the case in hindsight.

Well, I reckon that’s the ‘Japanaholik’s Journal’ for 2019 complete. Hopefully, you enjoyed what you saw/read.

Next stop: the other car capital on the Globe…

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 | Gunning to Gunma in the Honda Inte-R(ental)

This point in the Japanese journey was one I was looking very forward to. Every carboy’s dream is to live the ‘Initial D’ life, and become one with the touge. This time round, I made sure to book a rental car out with more horsepower and pizazz than your average Daihatsu Micromachine. Luckily for me, a company based in Noda, Chiba has a fleet that would make any JDM-fanboy swoon/faint, so why look anywhere else when these lot had all you could ever want.

My criteria for a hire car to get about in on a three-day road trip included the necessity of boot capacity for two large suitcases and a backpack, so the Lamborghini Gallardo was out the window (as if I could afford it). Since binge watching a playlist of all the Best Motoring videos with English subtitles on YouTube, I became to admire the DC5 Integra Type-R, so much so I started looking at ones for sale. They appeal to me as a do-it-all car; drive it to work, load it up with shopping, take it to trackdays. The rental company did have a Civic FD2 Type-R, which is supposed to be the successor of the Integra coupe, but I didn’t need 4 doors, so I made my choice months in advance because I had never experienced a pure Type-R behind the wheel and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The fact that I fantasized almost every day and night leading upto my voyage in the ‘InteR’ solidifies the reality of the naive overestimation I projected on my adventures around the mountain routes of Japan.

This Honda had over 250000 kilometres on its digital clock (~150000 miles) and most of that mileage appears to have been some fair abuse/neglect.

It all started off well; Recaro seats hug you tight, the gearbox was precise and every shift in ratio could be felt, and that K20 can bring the ruckus on full tap! I did notice, however, the steering felt heavy and a bit uncommunicative, like the power steering had been deleted or something. A few miles into the journey towards Saitama, just north of Tokyo, the throttle didn’t want to open until you had pushed the pedal with enough force which in turn resulted in nearly breaking your neck and claiming whiplash injury. It seemed as though it was jamming shut which I guess is safer than being wide-open, but still not what I had expected and to make matters worse the “engine check” light illuminated. The car ran fine, but I wasn’t taking any chances by beating on the car anymore than necesscary, so I just had to drive it at a pace I could have driven a Daihatsu Matchbox :(…

Arriving with the “Teg” in one piece and running on its own K20 power, we park up in the front of Panspeed. It doesn’t take a detective to know what this tuning house is all about, with the colourful array of rotary-engined beasts lined up on the forecourt and stacked up on the ramp.

Panspeed are synonymous with RX7/RX8 performance tuning and racing. They are known for their wild, squared-off widebody conversions and sending their demo cars around Tsukuba in sub-minute times. More then anything, I admire the outlandish style of the cars that come out of this Saitama-based shop. Nobody cares about the fastest car around a track if it doesn’t stun you visually.

After pestering the chief mechanic (whose name I have embarrassingly forgotten) who took his time out to not only show us around, but also kindly spray some lubricant on the throttle cable winding of the Integra (which didn’t manage to cure the sticky pedal), I grabbed a T-shirt and we were on our way to the hotel in Gunma, the middle of nowhere when compared to the pigeon-coups of Tokyo.

Before we raced up into the mountains of the prefecture ‘Initial D’ was based on, I planned on making a pitstop at a lesser known garage in Maebashi that goes by the name of ‘Total Car Service Usui’.

I first came across TCS USUI featured on the Narita Dogfight site, as Sean caught some shots of Usui-san’s time-attack NA8C MX-5 Roadster at Tsukuba a few years ago at an Attack event.

Not only was it special because all I ever see is Hondas on NDF (not a bad thing when they’re shot and annotated by a truly knowledgable car enthusiast), but when do you ever see an MX-5 this well done and this well used!? Here in the UK theres a few time-attack runners and then you have the spec-car race series which, in my opinion, lack individuality and total freedom when it comes to vehicle design and setup, but that, of course, is inherent in particular type of motorsport.

All I knew beforehand was the address of TCS USUI, and that incredible Roadster the guys have built.

I turned up to what seemed like a very plain roadside used-car dealer. A handful of standard-ish MX-5s, kei cars and a quirky off-road Jimny were all I could see. I assume Usui-san saw me taking photos of his motors outside, so he came outside to greet a delivery man and then looked my way. This is where it got awkward because of the language barrier, but I reckon he sensed my reason for being there.

He welcomed me in to the interior of his shop where there was a counter in the middle buried by all sorts of stuff, from retro oilcans to numerous volumes of the Wangan Midnight manga. You do a 180 degree turn and your faced with inlet manifolds, oil coolers, alloy radiators, steering wheels, crankshafts, engine blocks, and more oil. Its mad how in Japan even the tiniest shop can have shelves rammed with parts so neatly organised.

Then I came clear with my intention – I wanted to see his attack machine for myself. He smiles and leads us outside. Behind this double-door of a makeshift garage, there it was. Usui-san was pretty cool about me taking photos, so I just went crazy and shot as much as I could.

It has obviously changed since the last time I saw it in 2016. No longer is there a white exterior panel on the car, as it has been resprayed in a dark blue, along with revised front and rear aero. The amount of detail and workmanship that has been executed is nothing like I have ever seen before on a Roadster. Man, I wish I asked Usui-san to fire it up, but I fear not because I plan on making it out to an event when the car has its legs stretched out on track sometime in the future, you can count on it.

After a pretty busy day of mostly driving, we get some indoor DIY BBQ aka teppanyaki, and call it a night.

Thats all for this entry. Hope you saw something you liked, maybe one of you were Roadster owners who now feel they need to up their game, haha. As always, keep scrolling for bonus portraits. In a bit…