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

Japanaholik’s Journal | Spoon Sports’ TYPE-ONE

The morning after our first day in Tokyo, we awoke early welcomed by the scorching sun at around 8:00am, and it was only going to get warmer. A lot of people dislike the muggy climate, but it really doesn’t bother me. Anything above 20 degrees should be bliss for us Brits.

A combination of bus and train travel landed us drop dead centre in Shinjuku Station: the world’s busiest with about a billion commuters and travellers passing through annually. Managing the maze the train stopped at, then finding out Type-One was not open yet, I figured we might aswell hang around near the station and check out the shops in the vicinity.

I found a camera equipment store – a few were dotted about the area outside the station, actually – but it wasn’t open for an hour, so I killed a bit of time in an arcade. (Some of the following photos were taken with my new Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 – 4 lens I bought for a steal of a price).

These places are nuts, you will see full-blown RPG-adventure game stations being button-bashed to death by teens and salarymen alike. I suppose its an escape from bitter reality for some people, thats why gaming is so addictive. I clocked one race on Wangan Midnight and saved the rest of my change for the countless train tickets I’d have to buy during the rest of the trip.

After strolling through the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo at peak-hours (which is pretty much all day and night) we hopped back on a train to Suginami, heading west out of the capital.

Spoon Sports, for those who may not know, is the holy grail when it comes to tuned and modified Hondas. If I were to give my ranking of the Japanese automakers, Honda would easily occupy one of top three positions. I used to own one, albeit a very lukewarm, slow model of the FN / 8th generation Civic (Type-S).

Here is a photo of it pre engine failure due to me driving through a “puddle” (flooded waste water drain) with a cold-feed air intake kit that sounded the dogs bollocks, up until it snorted the sewer system up, bent a rod and then proceeded to spit it out through the block.

Okay, it wasn’t from the glory days of Hondas such as the DC2 or EK9 Integra and Civic, but the chassis was very sharp and made you work that 1.8L engine; a proper momentum car. It was decent and for a decade year-old model, it still looks modern today.

Anyway, as we all know, the aftermarket sector of the automotive industry is huge when it comes to anything with a ‘H’ badge. But Spoon Sports springs to mind, often when a VTEC addict wants to get a move on. Spoon is known for the highest in precision and durability when it comes to their performance parts. Tatsuru Ichishima, the founder of the company, started up racing Civics and testing out his bespoke suspension and engine components live on the battlefield, so you can be guaranteed said parts will take plenty of use and abuse.

Spoon Sports Type-One isn’t just a typical tuning centre with over the counter parts available to the public, but they also offer their customers education on how specific components will affect the overall feel of the car. I don’t know if they still do, but the company did deliver ‘Engine Lectures’ to those who wanted to brush up on their skills and understanding of engine and suspension tuning.

The S2000 you see above was Team Spoon’s weapon of choice when entering the Super Taikyu endurance race series in Japan during the year 2000’s campaign. Fast forward from then, the No. 95 car has progressed and now sits as shown. It features an assortment of visible parts, including the fastback hardtop made by Mugen (if I am not mistaken), Spoon aero-mirrors, Spoon V2 front bumper, and Spoon S-Tai(kyu) bonnet and rear bumper, Spoon Monoblock brake calipers, and wheels by Prodrive (which suit the car well, maybe its coated in bronze) just to name a few.

There were two technicians tending to a customer’s EK9 Civic Type-R, I didn’t want to distract them as they were working so I just snapped away and they seemed fine with it. They are probably used to seeing a lot of visitors, particularly foreigners, so its just another day in the office for them.

Honda’s new sportscar, that is not the mental NSX, is the S660. These things are so sick, I regret not hiring one out when I was there. Mid-engine kei cars are the shit for real, and I can imagine them being a bit lairy at first when set up with track-ready suspension and tyres due to its short wheelbase, but I would 100% daily drive one.

The ground floor is the where the clean room is situated and can be very blatantly seen through the front glass screen as you approach the shopfront. Technicians are busy working away meticulously with the world passing by in front of them. Interesting how this area of the garage isn’t tucked away in a corner in the back, I could imagine this would really test your fokus and concentration skills.

Not much was occurring downstairs. A couple of S2000s and a demo FK7 Civic resided on the shopfloor not being worked on, so we decided to dip out of there and quit being a nuisance haha. I reckon I took enough decent photos whilst there, but Spoon Type-One is definitely a shop I would return to, on the off-chance they would have the NA2 NSX there for me to shoot!

I’m done here, so keep an eye out for the next entry in this Japan series. Hope you enjoyed, as always, I appreciate your time.

Harewood Hillclimb 2018

Last year’s warm-ish spring season was when I attended the hillclimb event over in Harewood, Leeds. The course is lay out on a portion of a farm, which made for some picturesque shots. This was the first time I had ever ventured out to an event of this kind, as it has that ‘grassroots’ air about it, which was what I reckon pulled me in. Saying that, the day that I went, it seemed that all categories were competing so there was the whole spectrum of machines as you are about to see…

A basic black DC2 Inte Type-R sat out on the lawn, in what appeared to be JDM specification if you go by the square reg plate and ‘better-looking’ front end.

Simple styling on this NA MX-5. Reg plate says UK model, ‘EUNOS’ side stripe decal says Japanese domestic. Whatever the case may be, this car had a FRP replacement bonnet, as if the aluminium factory fitted part isn’t light enough! Well, I suppose when running the hill you’re gonna go for gold!
My all-time favourite BMW. This Phoenix Yellow example definitely matches the coupe body perfectly; the flared arches are accentuated when the light beams off the paint.
Another surprising Japanese import. Hailing from Toyota’s golden era, this SW20 turbo-equipped version was parked up but I did not see it run. This one seems to be a Harewood regular from looking at that rear bumper sticker.
Appears to be used as a daily run around, as the OEM seats are retained but Willans harnesses have been bolted in for the driver. Stable seating position is crucial when having to manage corners at the limit.
Interior reminds me of the NB MX-5, especially the centre console. Although, the MR2’s flows into the gauge cluster hood, making for a more driver orientated design.
Another Bavarian bruiser…
This rare-to-come-by 1M coupe sat out in the visitors car park and caught my eye immediately. It has so much presence.
This Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio was also in attendance. This is such a breath of fresh air amongst all the typical German high-performance saloons I get use to seeing in the UK.
Oh yes. What were the odds on this boxy beast rocking up to the show!? Even this model had plastic wrap on the driver’s seat, which makes me wonder whether it was the same car I encountered at the Classic Car Show (NEC Arena). These WRC derived weapons are legendary. You can barely tell that it is a 5-door hatch, because the rear box flare sits so proud, it makes the overall length of the car seem shorter.
Now, for those who are thinking I am a Lancia fanboy, you’re mistaken. But to have two Lancias in one day only makes sense for me to capture both of them and show you. This Lancia Beta coupe wasn’t too far away in the grassy field. I admit they look cool, must be those twin dual headlamps. That crooked tailpipe is quirky, I wonder if that is standard or someone decided to add some character to a slightly – dare I say – bland rear end.
If I remember correctly, a Ferrari owners group made it out to run the hillclimb, believe it or not some Ferrari drivers like to DRIVE their prancing horses.
This Ferrari 355 coupe is more than you can afford pal. Okay, that ‘The Fast and The Furious’ reference is not completely fitting, since this was not a convertible. That MR2 would have definitely given it a run for its money.
No idea what this was. Somebody, enlighten me.
This LanEvo was all belts and braces.
Boxer brute. I quite like the look of the latest WRX offering from Subaru. Has more style than some of its predecessors such as the ‘bugeye’ and the GR model hatchback.
For the initial duration of the day, these single seaters were at the front line. Very ‘Formula-1’ based design, but due to their inherent lightweight, most of these were running motorbike engines with reasonable power, and even more potent power-to-weight ratio.
Soaking in the scenery was nice. However, I do recall it being warm as the sun’s core that day, so I was also soaking in sweat…
Most of whom were driving these, I am sure, were young teenagers which was bonkers considering how swiftly these were moving up the hill!
The Italian V8 monster is tough to tame, as this F430 twitched its rear on exit more than once. Still, I commend those owners for trying, albeit in a poorly suited environment. I guess the risk is low driving up a bendy hill and barely having the space to stretch the legs of a 480bhp luxo-sports machine.
At the other end of the scale, a modified Peugeot 106 skirted up the track with pace.
This was probably my favourite competitor of the event. These are uncommon, and probably for good reason (unreliable(?)), but all I know is that the Fiat Coupe 20V with those bronze 4-spokes is the meaning of style. Well done.
Well then, that was a brief recount of my trip to the Harewood Hillclimb last year, and I might return in 2019 who knows. It wasn’t overly crowded, the course is that short you can catch the cars fly by you from any viewpoint, and you might come across something you would never expect in the rural outskirts of Leeds.

Cadwell Park TrackDay – The Orange Peeled Off

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

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

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

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

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

DriftCup UK 2018

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

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

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