Garage Visit | Meet the MX-5 Maniacanic

It has been a while to say the least. Much has occurred, as we all know. Without straying from the topic of this post, I’ll just say this before I ramble on. A lot of people are being made to live in fear and anxiety now, from what I can see. Its a shame, because people are trying to make sense of everything presented to them by outfits who have impure intentions. By outfits, I mean establishments with power who only care to indoctrinate and control. This is sad, because their plan seems to be working on the majority of the population. I find it difficult to articulate how I feel about the way people are acting after they’ve been instructed to, all for this “greater good”. Maybe watch the film “They Live” (1988), then split the fictional fantasy and the underlying message of the movie to get the picture I’m getting.

On to the main piece…

A couple months ago, I went over to the neighbouring county, Lancashire, to visit Carl. As you might know, I’ve been out of full-time work since the new year, so I had all the time in the world (kinda) to make a trip to CBS Autos.

As it says on his back, Carl, along with a small team, are Mazda Specialists, with a preference for that two-seater known to rot. A lot. This man knows how right a wrong – namely, neglected MX-5s.

His place has character scattered across every wall, corner, even the ceiling had an RC airplane hanging from it. The environment truly is a reflection of his personality – slightly eccentric, but nothing less than a hardcore car nut.

I snuck into his office (with his knowing) to show you how obsessive he truly is over anything with wheels, including scaled down model versions of the life-size originals.

Mazdaspeed MS-03, the curtain call of the OEM tuning house’s trio of wheels manufactured by the one and only RAYS. Simply amazing. The question is, NA, NB, or NC? These on an ND might be a bit too daring.

He’s into all sorts of machinery, but its obvious that 1990’s Japanese gems are what kept him keen. So keen in fact, he stepped up to the plate of being one of few to rust repair MX-5s with a fit and finish quality that surpasses the durability of the OEM metal. I say this with confidence, as he was the one who fixed up the chassis legs on my NB. I wonder what the state of the car is now, after I let it go to a guy who came from Portsmouth for it…

Carl had brought his fun car to work that day, so I suggested a mini-shoot seen as though I had all my gear with me. The Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R – a car that has suffered “middle child syndrome”, maybe not in everybody’s eyes, but by popular consensus the 32 and 34 are generally more sought after. I mean, it didn’t even feature in the Initial D anime, yet a Suzuki Cappuccino found its way onto an episode in Fourth Stage! I’m still not keen on the exterior design, but I can’t look past the sheer performance capabilities this chassis has demonstrated over the last couple decades. The window switch integrated into the door pull is a nifty touch too, 10/10 interior innovation, Nissan.

You may or may not notice the characteristics and “style of tune” that the cars featured on the site have. In the UK, or at least up north in and around Yorkshire, all-out concours builds and restomods are difficult to come across in comparison to what the USA and Japan have to show. What this part of England does have is proper functional, dialled-in cars built to be driven on the road. Although, do take note of the conservative look of Carl’s Skyline, as it shares no likeness whatsoever to his batshit crazy turbocharged NA MX-5 build. Maybe one day he will let me get that in front of the camera.

Thanks to Carl of CBS Autos for lending me his time, hope you all enjoyed this little read.

Posts may become less frequent in the near future. Only time will tell.

Est. 2019 | A Look Through the Rear View

Since it is the last of the “Tenties” – it’s in the Urban Dictionary, so I’ll go with it – I thought I may aswell throw a end of year, wrap-up article on the site. It’ll be more of a timeline in photographs and I found that it’s definitely a good exercise to sit back and take stock, looking back at what you’ve achieved throughout the year.

I started this site in January of this year, with no real agenda scripted out on paper/digitally. It was kind of a spur of the moment, brought about by boredom. I had all these cool and interesting cars that I photographed at various events and of course the trips to Japan, so I thought why not share my memories with those who may be like-minded enthusiasts.

Sit back, chill, and just scroll through the highlights of Soul Fokus 2019…

Bit of a change that I hadn’t really calculated for beforehand. It probably all started with the sale of my NB MX-5. After putting a decent amount of money into repairing the rust and a few modifications I left on such as the custom cat-back exhaust and Racing Beat ARBs, it was not the most logical decision in hindsight. The car was great, I loved driving it daily and though I don’t regret it, I do miss that Roadster experience. My main reason for getting rid of the car was the fact that by using it everyday, the miles were going to take their toll on the chassis, especially through UK winters, so it had to go.

Photographing friends’ cars is most likely where my interest in doing cool things with a DSLR started to come into play. So thanks to James and his Elise, and Eddy with his SciroccoR, I began to take cameras more seriously investing in my first lens, a 35mm f/1.8.

I will make more of an effort to expand my photography in the future. It probably won’t make its way to this site, but since I am planning on going full-time, it would help keep me on my toes and widen my skillset.

My newfound satisfaction has been found through the art of panning, or atleast attempting to track the motion of a car. Its not so bad getting the shot with a light, wieldy kit lens, but I then went and bought a Sigma 120-300mm lens which makes steadily aiming the camera a challenge. The results make it worth lugging about though, so there’s that.

If you’ve been keeping up, Luke and his Caterham have popped up alot in the blogposts. Getting out on trackdays and race events with him and helping out where I could has allowed me to get acquainted with shooting motorsport. An opportunity arose for me to follow Chris Williams whom I initially met at a Time Attack UK event at Cadwell. His EF Civic is undeniably the coolest hatchback competing, and it was equally cool meeting him this year.

Back in my birthday month (May), this Mclaren Senna I found at a local car meet shocked me instantly. I got all these photos and not a single one frames the whole car! I do remember a crowd creating a buzz around the thing though. It’s the details that matter though, and the Senna has plenty.

Spring time and the first half of Summer was definitely a boost-up in terms of experiences. Japan happened again and you can read all about my travels there in the dedicated series of posts I made.

You will spot some random photos I mish-mashed into the above collage. Highlights include Fueled Society at Harewood Hillclimb, my first trackday in the Mazda2 on Anglesey Circuit, as well as Seven’s Day with FDOCUK at Blyton Park.

Me and Luke made a kind of impromptu plan to go to Germany for a week before Summer ended, and it was a cool road-trip from the Nurburgring down to BMW-Land [Welt]. Mainland Europe is going to be somewhere I definitely want to explore for their unique car culture.

Opportunities weren’t gonna come knocking on their own, so I actively went out to shows and motorsport events on my own so that I could just practice covering them in their entirety. I ended up meeting the official head of media for Driftcup at the Donington Time Attack event where I was shooting Chris and his teal Civic. This random encounter gave me the chance to operate my camera from the heart of the circuit at the final round of Driftcup over at Driftland.

Around this time was when I met up with Josh and shot his R32, which was also an occurence that was completely by chance. You could say that this period in time was a turning point for me. I knew that this is what I wanted to do; tell stories through my work capturing the essence of automotive enthusiasm.

The latter end of this year tended to orientate upwards in terms of the experience I was garnering from just getting out there and doing, as opposed to thinking and evaluating and over-complicating unnecessarily. The most powerful lessons are those that come in the form of errors. Doing what you know you shouldn’t have done in such a way, or just looking back finding flaws in your work that are better left in the past. This has been a theme of 2019, but in a positive manner.

Luke’s year didn’t end great, writing-off his racing campaigning that Caterham 420R at Cadwell. All is good though now he got it fixed up, sold, and has purchased yet another one to do some crazy shit to.

That event was also the first time I saw the new A90 Supra, and yeah, my thoughts of that car on a whole are still somewhat unsettled. Moving on…

…Drift Matsuri weekend was a blast and a great way to close out the track-focused events of 2019 – or so I thought – until Chris Williams gave me a shout and invited me to tagalong at the finale of Time Attack UK. I am actually keen on what he is gonna pull out the bag for next year’s season.

So there we have it, 2019, thats what you looked like through the lenses of my Nikons. Hope those of you reading made it this far. Thanks for checking in, and be on the lookout for many more future posts I have lined up to publish!

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H A P P Y N E W Y E A R ! ! !

Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | Beem There, Done That

It’s the last entry for this Germany 2019 series, and on the day we were due to fly back to the UK, BMW Welt was around the corner (not literally) from the Munich Airport so we did a visit because, why not. After all, BMW has always been – in my eyes – German automotive engineering in the most definitive sense.

I remember the first Beemer that probably initiated my affinity towards the marque. It parked up outside my house in the form of a black E46 3-Series coupe belonging to my cousin. It wasn’t even an M3, nonetheless, it was and still is a highly appealing machine to me. I have always appreciated BMW always being slightly off the beaten path in their manners, whether it be slapping the infamous “kidney-grille” on every one of their models, or throwing daft engines, such as a 5.0L V10, into the E60 M5 saloon. Every write-up I read tends to vouch for the BMW’s superiority over their Audi and Benz counterparts, and I think it is because the company know balance and how to implement it well. Before you think I am fanboying, there of course were some cock-ups made in the past by the BMW design department; see E63 6-Series or those weird 3-Series Compact things…

Situated pretty much right off of the autobahn, the BMW Welt and Museum architecture was quite brave in its design. Inside the museum was a bit of a maze and it also had an upwards-spiral walkway, similar to that found in Mercedes’ Museum, but not as grand.

Krazy spindle-shaped structure partially grafted on to the BMW Welt building.

BMW, similar to other car manufacturers, started out producing aircraft engines, before venturing into the motorcycle industry, only until late-1920s/early-1930s did the company begin making four-wheeled automobiles.

A line-up of the brand’s bread-and-butter, takes you through time via generations of 3-Series, all the way up until the E9X iteration. Was this where the peak was tipped before emissions controls forced the glory of the NA “M-Car” days to retreat? I reckon so…

Pre-1990s marketing memorabilia has got to be the best form of advertising there has been, especially the German way with its straight-up, no-nonsense captions. That BMW K1 ad for the Japanese market loosely reads: “The new indicator of supersports”… If they ever do an Akira live-action movie, that bike gets the part, no contest.

Luke’s worst nightmare is FOMO, and the BMW Museum’s awkward layout with multiple floors let the win go to Mercedes in the final verdict. I didn’t mind the labyrinth of rooms, it kept you on your toes and it made you take note of what you saw in each exhibit.

Could the Z1 have been a kei-car for the roads of Bavaria? Such a quirky design with its disappearing-doors and pocket-sized kidney-grilles.

The M-Power bloodline.

I have always been drawn to the shape of the 2002, probably thanks to the Turbo model. You can definitely find hints of the 1M Coupe embedded within this early predecessor.

BMW’s racecar livery and aero-work has always been on point – Exhibit A, B, and C, above.

Of course, like the rest of ’em, BMW are keen on showcasing the people what the future could look like. The company’s efforts were evident throughout the museum, implying their methods of making humanity’s lives more “convenient” with autonomous driving, whilst simultaneously being a harbinger of alternative fuels.

I am quite interested in how manufacturers will manage to successfully implement the use of hydrogen as a form of energy to power vehicles of the future. I feel that because it is seemingly difficult to efficiently do so at the moment, if the industry can power through the challenges they face, Tesla will have to up their game. But that’s just a hunch, eh…

Upon leaving the museum, we popped into a glass building situated outside, separate from both the BMW Welt and Museum. This small space was given to a few M Performance demo-cars, tarted up with all of the options available from the pricey catalogue. You’re talking £5k for a set of those 19″ wheels; with tyres of course. I suppose its nice of BMW to offer aero parts and wheels that better represent the models’ deep-seated motorsports DNA.

That Z4 GT car was the show-stealer for me though. From its centre-lock BBS, to the silhouette of the widebody, I can imagine it looking (and probably sounding) like a maniac out on circuit. [Scurries over to YouTube]…

On another note, are BMW aware of how dramatically enlarged the front grilles are on their current models? I just saw an X7 for the first time out in a retail carpark, and the proportions between the headlights and grille are just straight weird. I guess only time will tell, for now, lets just appreciate how mean M4s look even when painted in the colours of lemon and orange TicTacs.

That journey to BMW World closes out the Germany 2019 saga. It was a kool trip and I reckon we saw a decent amount in the 5 nights we stayed there for. The highlight has got to be Nurburgring, but seeing the appreciation for Mazda was also absolutely worth the 300+ mile drive from “Burg to Burg”.

As always, thank you for stopping by at the site, and please follow the Instagram @soulfokus for more of my car/photography content. If you’re not far from the Yorkshire & Humber area, give me a shout if you would like me to shoot your motor!

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…

Japanaholik’s Journal | Lowstars Meeting 2019 @ Nikko Circuit

So here we are, on day #6 according to the name of my folder where all 600+ photos are kept from the first half of the holiday. In retrospect, it didn’t feel like a typical holiday. I don’t really like to lounge much when I am abroad. I obviously had a free day here and there, but for the most part, I had events or places lined up that I couldn’t miss. Especially when we had flown thousands of miles to a country with an abundance of fresh culture and beauty.

The ryokan (traditional-style inn – it had the vibe of a franchise hotel instead of a humble family-run establishment, but even still it was nice for the night) had such a glorious view of the surrounding mountains, it made me forget about my camera hence no photos. That, and I was busy getting prepared for the day ahead early that morning.

Usui-san, who I met in the last post, informed me of the show-and-throw event: Lowstars Meeting, held over at Nikko Circuit. A lot of you will know/recognise this course from the Best Motoring videos online, as it was, and probably still is, used by Option magazine for filming MyCar Challenges and countless drift demonstrations. This ~1km long track is half the length of the coveted TC2000 in Tsukuba, but I reckon Nikko is just as difficult with its tight consectuive hairpins and narrow width.

The circuit grounds itself aren’t huge, and I only spotted one signpost directing us to the drift haven. Pulled up into the overflow car park and I already found an array of machines belonging to the spectators who came in pretty high numbers.

We enter and exit the tunnel to get to the paddock, and pure mechanical noise hits you with increasing volume as the cars slide around the long right-hander. As we walked towards the track, intermittent views of the machines whipping their rear-ends wide could be seen through gaps in the safety fence.

Something I could not help but notice was the unusually high number of Subarus and Mitsubishis. At a drift event? I know its Japan but… oh okay, I guess its expected here. They looked good going sideways, and that is all that matters.

Once you walk out into the main paddock/pit area, theres a wide variety of metal, some just sitting pretty with the cleanest engine bays I have ever laid eyes on, whilst others have their bonnet up to let some steam off with no intention of showing off any bling under the hood.

The show was very relaxed, a few vendors here and there, but it was just a really chill, non-competitive atmosphere, guys and girls simply coming together to enjoy their cars, in whatever fashion they choose. There was a timetable for all the different sessions, but I was just floating about, trying to soak it all in as it was the first track-event I had attended in Japan.

Thanks for passing through, hope something caught your eye and made you smile with glee, or maybe you were horrified at some of the cars you saw, either way its all good.

This post was going to be a 2-in-1 job, but this already looks like a hefty enough album to publish, so the second half of that day will be uploaded in a separate entry.

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