Hall to Hall | Osaka Auto Messe 2020 Part#1

Between the time spent in Japan from visiting that trackday in Tsukuba, to arriving in Osaka, me and Luke did some cool stuff in the interim such as: catch a guided tour through the Samurai Museum; see Mount Fuji (a lot, which is a rarity); drove both an R34 & R35 GT-R (at the very conservative Japanese speed limits); caught a couple bullet trains from Tokyo – Odawara – Osaka. I have a fair few photos of all that but, to be honest, I would rather get the bulk of the material uploaded first, which happens to be what will result in an event coverage blog post split into two. Its only right to do so, as it was my primary intention to visit the Kansai region’s version of Tokyo Auto Salon, so chill and sit back to scroll through all of what the show had to offer.

On the Saturday that we went, it didn’t feel crazily busy, although the footfall came in at 207,479 which is child’s play to the big TAS which saw a count of 330,666 visitors (2019). We got to the entrance just after the opening time I think, and joined the wave of visitors patiently waiting to get through the ticket gate. I say patiently, however, I remember there being one kid slipping past everyone needlessly. Maybe he really badly wanted those HKS ratchet-spanner keyrings on sale.

Before checking out the display halls, we saw a large gathering of people around a couple Super GT cars. I did get a mobile phone video of the Wakos Lexus LC500 GT500 car being fired up, but no revs occurred so I won’t bother uploading it. Juichi Wakisaka is actually the Team Director who was involved in the team’s securing of 2nd place overall last season, only to be left behind by Team KeePer / TOM’S and their Lexus by 1 point. Wakisaka-san was definitely the funniest Best Motoring host drivers, but not exactly the guy you would expect to be heading a Super GT team, no offense.

The first hall started off with a load of camper conversion MPVs and SUVs. Luke and I weren’t expecting this, but I suppose the event has to cater for everybody. We skimmed past all of that and headed towards the buzz – the Kuhl Racing stand. You can spot their demo cars from a distance, as you can’t help but be drawn in by their majestic, artisanal handicraft that is ‘Grinder Tattooing’.

Other than the bodywork finish, the R35’s low-slung swan-neck carbon wing and double-stepped carbon front splitter were elements that were very Kuhl to me.

Toyota and their Gazoo Racing division capitalized on the majority of the space in that same hall. The amount of width and aero applied to the WRC Yaris was pretty substantial to say the least. The automaker also had the all new 2020 GR Yaris on display but there was no chance of me getting a clear shot of it with my 50mm lens. There was a drivetrain layout display of the new hot-hatch’s 4WD system, something else I struggled getting full view of. A lot of hype and anticipation around Toyota’s all-new homologation special. I hope they have more success with them in the UK, unlike the last Yaris GRMN which was a great car on paper but didn’t sell a great amount. I am just bored of seeing Ford Fiestas left, right and centre to be honest, that’s all…

Seriously serious rear portion. Props to Toyota for pulling off some of the most coolest livery designs aswell.

Supra-ise! This car was in abundance at the OAM, clearly being the next big thing for Japanese/German sportscar enthusiasts. Snide remarks aside, I really do like the look of the next season’s Super GT car. I’m excited to see this thing go wheel-to-wheel with Nissan and Honda’s works-backed GT-R and NSX in the GT500 class.

After coming across a very weirdly customized Toyota Prius of the future and then a Gazoo Racing rep trying to sell us the idea of how their groundbreaking formula bottled in the form of a spray/wax/liquid sealant, can single-handedly counteract aerodynamic drag and body roll, we felt it was time to transport ourselves to a different hall.

Enter the world of V.I.P.

Luke wasn’t a fan of what we came across in this part of the Intex convention centre. Personally, I don’t mind this type of build style. Low, big-body Japanese metal looks great when done tastefully. A little (~3 degrees) negative camber is a good amount of aggressive alignment; excessive camber to a point where it looks awkward can sometimes appear nonsensical though. Saying all that, I have seen some wild cars before, most of them being online so I can’t comment on the fit & finish etc, and they have been executed really well.

More than a couple of cars wore these new SSR Formula Aero Spoke wheels which were a breath of fresh air. Its an off-trend approach to the VIP-look. A bit daring as the wheel looks smaller than it actually is, but it kinda worked, I dunno maybe time will tell.

This is probably the photo I should set as the thumbnail when sharing this article online. I think its a Toyota Crown, not sure, but it had more than a few exhausts. I cannot confirm which of these in actual fact dispelled any burnt gases, or if they were just ornaments…

…The Kanji characters stamped into the silencer shrouding were a neat touch.

For some reason, I instantly thought of Gundam looking back at this 350Z. I don’t even watch the anime, but its got that type of vibe going on.

Nizo-Low (an aftermarket aero/dressup parts maker?) had that blue Ferrari California on flat-bronze TE37s on show last year. Nothing mega-crazy in 2020 though, just this casually lowered 488 Spider.

As soon as we entered hall No. 3 (that probably wasn’t the hall number, it was just the third one we browsed) it was Euro-mania. Even WORK Wheels’ stand had a BMW 8-Series convertible showing-off their latest set of hoops. I have noticed over the years, Japan really knows how pay respect to the German marques when it comes to customizing them. You can tell there is a popular fondness of BMW over there, ranging from the classics to modern chassis. Oh and of course, RAUH-Welt Begriff has unquestionably made the Jap-mad worldwide take notice of old Porsches.

As if the standard 993 Turbo isn’t wide enough.

Internally, I was having a party when I caught sight of this 2002 built by a Euro importer. Every detail was just so on point, I couldn’t help but take photos of it. Whether it be the all-aluminium face Hayashi Racing Type ST wheels, custom carbon air scoop, rear screen louvres, the licks of chrome across the metallic green body, that carbon-fibre rear wing, or the jaunty side-exit exhaust tailpipe – or maybe its the culmination of all the above – this machine had a bunch of character. And those ITBs tell me that it must sound like a tune to every bone in your body.

A Toyota Celsior fashioned with the classic two-tone top-bottom paint option, plonked on a set of Walds…

… hard to look bad, especially with that stylish 3-piece ducktail boot spoiler.

This establishment is a staple in the automotive industry, both for showcars and competition cars alike. The all-new TE370 wheel is really cool with its pocketed spokes. I can already see every other GT-R wearing those seen as though RAYS will probably only make them in sizes above 19″. I remember that booth being really busy, so it was an in-and-out job. I did pick up a brochure though, of course!

WORK Wheels and their setup was nice, almost showroom-like in the way the wheels were all hung in their own recess built into the wall. And the lighting was good, so the photos make the wheels look very fresh. This dual-element design WORK and SSR are doing is pretty nifty, take a look at the WORK Crag T-Grabic intended for outfitting offroad vehicles. Thats the new 14″ version, which looks miles better than the larger diameter option in my opinion, taking the spoke count down and simplifying the look of the wheel. Oh, and the (prototype) WORK Emotion CRs were on display in forged guise!

Pretty certain this photo of the underbelly of a A90 Supra was captured at the Kakimoto Racing Exhaust booth…

…could be wrong, either way the company showed off their components installed on a demo car in a trippy way. The mirror was so clean and well positioned, I thought there was a pit in the floor!

Finally, BRIDE decided to produce some genuine articles of the [in]famous BRIDE backpack, along with a cool helmet bag too. Man, I always used to see people wear those “BRIDE/TAKATA” backpacks at college; shit made me nauseous.

Not usually a fan of the new-gen style of wheels, as they tend to overdo things, ending up in a good-looking car ruined. These HREs on the other hand are next level, and are actually more concave than they appear on camera. Dwarfs those brakes on the new Supra though, don’t you think?

Okay, so remember how I said it didn’t feel crazily busy at the start of this blog post? Well, I was chattin’ out of my arse abit to be honest. If you’re stood looking at a car, you’ll be able to breathe. But when a model comes out of nowhere, all the ‘keen photographers’ come out the woodwork and you’re screwed in terms of getting a decent photo of the car. This TOYO Tires D1GP Supra was different though, because a lot of people were hoarding the car to take photos of that, and not the female stood posing in front of it. I did manage to get some shots of the rear, illustrating the girth of the Rocket Bunny Pandem widebody. Cameras in place of the wing mirrors were also interesting.

That’ll do for Part#1, hope you enjoyed the read. Keep an eye out for the second accompanying post where we come across the real Osaka-style builds.

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Japanaholik’s Journal | The Kansai Chapter (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for swooping by!

Japanaholik’s Journal | 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…

Modified Live 2019 | Showstoppers

The idea of a dual-purpose automotive event makes complete sense to me. On-track action and off-track works-of-art (for the most part) go hand in hand, and where better to put on this kind of event than Cadwell Park during UK Time Attack’s season opener. Seeing cars in motion induces a different kind of feeling that is difficult to describe. When you encounter a car parked up, a machine of your dreams for example, if you’re like me you whip the phone out for some quick pics before someone spots you and looks at you awkwardly. Then, there are some moments when you are out and about, either on foot or driving, and you hear or catch a glimpse of ‘x’ car passing you by going the opposite direction. You just gawp, or if its moving slow enough you try video it and share it on social media because the internet is the world nowadays. I usually do the former if I see something special, ‘cos the cars I am into are fast, and that’s why I HAD to make it out to this year’s Modified Live when its a 2-for-1 deal as good as this.

The small-scale show is a mix-up, with car clubs of all types putting their pride and joy on display. This post is more of a gallery, so skim through and thanks for viewing.

Nissan’s S13 chassis was out in full force with a few here and there which was pleasant, since the S14 was more prevalent since they sold better to the UK market.

Who do you think wins this “Silvia face-off”? Both are well put together examples, but I am going to have to side with the deep-grey model sporting the polished and purple SSR Professor SP1 rollers. Could be the Japanese number plate that did it for me aswell if I am honest.

This Red Pearl Metallic R32 GTR didn’t have trouble standing out from the crowd, sometimes I need to do a double-take when I find one at an event especially if its near enough factory-spec. These cars are the ultimate sleeper coupe, and I remain loyal to this iteration of Nissan’s AWD supercar destroyer lineup.

Its rare you find one in this gorgeous colour, and then the owner went a step further and enhanced the looks with a set of Mag Blue Volk Racing TE37s.

Everyone’s favourite made an appearance: the Gran Turismo/Fast and Furious hero. Wherever you witnessed this machine for the first time, the Bayside Blue R34 GTR will be the icon for centuries. Not many words are needed for this one wearing the holy grail of multi-spoke split-rim wheels.

The rest of the Nissan selection. That dreamy Sileighty was amazing. Only in Japan during the 1990’s would Nissan be bonkers enough to merge two cars together, and damn me if you think I’m wrong but the result is perfection. This automotive synergy wasn’t even the manufacturer’s idea; Kid’s Heart (a tuning company who specialise in slidey cars e.g. Silvias, Chasers etc) put this style together since a lot of street runners found it cheaper to swap the pop-up headlight front end for the fixed headlight face found on PS13 models. The cars went on sale in official Nissan dealerships, with approximately 400 sold in the year 1998. The industry will probably never be the same…

Evos and Imprezas were plentiful at the show, here I some of the highlights I managed to catch whilst zipping about the field in the rain.

Mazda mania. Not as much as I would have liked but quality comes before quantity, and these few were pretty nice. The Rocket Bunny FD3S RX7 was well executed, sporting those Work L1 three-piece wheels, the first set I have ever seen on this chassis in person.

Hope you liked what you saw, I try to get as much detailed shots as I can, but its difficult to stay fokused on one car long enough to soak it in, especially when there are enticing builds all over the show.

Next in store for this site is going to be something you do not want to miss…

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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…