July 07, 2007
●777 - RX-7 Meeting at Daikoku (7-07-2007)
7th of July 2007, 7-7-07, the perfect day for an RX-7 meeting!
Here are some pictures from Daikoku. I've never seen so many cars there, it was truly amazing!
June 25, 2007
●Il Salotto D1 3-series car
This is one I shot a long time ago. This 3 series was turned into a SR20DET powered D1 drift machine by Il Salotto
For 2007 their drift car in now based on a E36 M3 and pushes over 400 PS thanks to some turbo-charging.
Enjoy the pictures:
May 07, 2007
●New wheels for the Legacy
Well with the cold winter season over the Legacys snow tyres (which are run on the stock 17" 5-spoke wheels) have been put in storage. I picked up a used set of 10-spoke Spec B. 18" wheels from Yahoo Auctions clad in almost new Falken something or other tyres. Certainly makes a change on the handling side of things, not to mention tyre noise is considerably reduced! I really like the look of these stock Subaru wheels, but I'm contemplating having them sprayed in a dark silver for a meaner look. Next for the Legacy will be suspension and brakes. I will keep you updated on how that goes.
A few pictures.
The Yokohama snow tyres
Station Wagons are great aren't they!
Getting them fitted at the local tyre place. The poor guy doing the work looked like he was 130 years old or something!
And with the new wheels fitted. Yes I know, it rides too high!
Put away until next winter
May 03, 2007
●V36 Skyline 370GT Coupe
Spotted this at Roppongi Midtown the other day. It's a very nice looking car and looks great in this deep red. The 3.7 L V6 promeses to be even better than the already great 3.5 L VQ35HR whcih I loved in the V36 saloon. Can't wait to get behind the wheel of this.
Some crappy pictures taken with my phone:
April 22, 2007
●Newera AE86 Toyota Levin, tuned by Techno Pro Spirits
Here is another car I shot last year, the Newera Imports AE86 Levin.
The owner, Miguel, kindly let me borrow his recently completed pride and joy for a few days. And what an experience that turned out to be. This little hachiroku is a very special car. Miguel built it up from scratch and turned it into the ultimate street going beast. Under the carbon fiber bonnet beats a highly compressed 4AG pumping out a whisker under 200 PS. It is without a doubt, a full-on race engine.
Seeing this was always going to be a road legal street car Miguel spent a lot of time and money on the interior. A set of red Bride seats take center stage while details like the Nardi racing wheel add to the whole drifter look. There is even a headunit if the piercing sound of the individual throttles gets boring!
And how about this for a custom dash! The old 80's cluster was binned and this Defi custom item built on a nice piece of carbon fiber. Looks great at night with the green illumination
Looks totally mean from any angle
Under the Mito tower in Ibaraki-ken
In the back streets of the city
And of course you are all wondering how it drives? Simple, this is the rawest most thrilling car I have ever driven. Sure it might not be as precise and as fast as more modern sports cars, but it gives the driver an overall more intense driving experience. This little hachi has something that has all but disagreed from cars lately, soul. Its controls feel so direct, it immediately responds to the faintest input, and gradually becomes an extension of your mind and body. It's a delight to hammer to the redline as the tiny 1.6 engine screams its heart out from intake and exhaust. And then there is the handling. No electronics to hamper feel here. Its as raw as the rest of the package and it is its finest point to say the least. Its demanding on the limit but progressive and understandable. Mess with it and it will bite you in the ass, but respect it and it will satisfy you in a way that very few cars can.
April 18, 2007
●Infini MZ21 Soarer
Well it has been over four months since the last update. Yes I know, I'm lazy. But seeing the amount of e-mails I've been getting asking me for more updates....well I couldn't really ignore them! So here we go.
This was a car I shot early last year at the Saitama football stadium. Built by Infini this MZ21 Soarer packs some serious power, very serious in fact. 900 PS on the engine and 1200 PS with a bit of nitrous! Which explains the size of the rear tyres!
All that power comes thanks to a 2JZ-GTE swap, running JUN-Cosworth pistons, HKS connecting rods and a stock, balanced crankshaft. A big HKS T51-R turbine was chosen to meet the 900 PS goal. As you can probably imagine a lot of fuel is needed to keep this engine happy so a twin rail set-up was made up, the first running 450cc injectors the second 720cc items. If that wasn't enough Infini fitted two nitrous foggers which are used only for serious drag races. The two tanks for the gas are in the boot. You can also see the ballast weights on the sides.
The interior has been stripped out and runs all the necessary gadgets to keep the engine happy. Gearbox lever actuates the cogs on the Hollinger sequential while the OS Giken quad plate clutch juggles the immense 120 kgm plus of torque.
And in case you are wondering, yes, this Soarer is sporting a full custom wide-body. No cheap FRP panels here, it's all metal and hand shaped by the owners trusted bodyshop! Quite a car to say the least!
November 20, 2006
●330 km/h Revolfe Aristo
Built by Supra specialist Revolfe SA the black Aristo you see in the links below is possibly the most extreme sleeper currently prowling the streets of Tokyo. Up front is a completely rebuilt 2JZ mated to a good old Trust T88, a set-up capable of cranking out 720 PS! Coping with all this power and the towering 74 kgm of torque is a Supra Getrag 6-speed 'box and ATS triple plate carbon clutch. A mind-blowing set up for a luxury car!
Things have been kept very simple on the exterior with a Curve bodykit, only the rear ARC wing and white TE37 wheels hinting that this is not your average luxury barge! Simpson harnesses and a few gizmos aside the interior has been left untouched. Like every Revolfe built car suspension and brakes are high on the agenda. The Aristo runs F50 Brembo calipers & 370 mm discs up front and F360 calipers with 355 mm discs at the rear. Adjustable Sachs dampers are used all round.
November 05, 2006
Well it's not out for another few months in Japan, but I snapped up these (extremely crappy phone) pix tonight on my driveway. Guess it helps having a BMW employee as a neighbor ;-)
Funny thing is the Beemer badges are taped up....like anyone out on the road can't recognize it as a BMW! I have to say I really like it, far better looking than the saloon, very compact and flowing design. New M3 will be a beauty. Straight 6 twin-turbo engine sounds very fruity,
●Curve Auto Design
Met up with Amemiya-san of Curve Auto Design way back in February to check out some of his latest creations. Curve specializes in body modifications, and on top of their own products provide a full custom service for their customers. If you don't like a specific detail on your bumper, or want to integrate parts by different manufacturers then Amemiya-san is your man. Just take a look at the cars below.
First off the Z32 300ZX. Sporting a full Curve body kit and a Revolfe built 480PS engine this is the company's own demo car.
Owned by one of Curve's customers is this wide-body JZX80 Supra. Curve cleaned up and refined the look of the Top Secret wide body kit for a totally bespoke look.
And if the above cars aren't extreme enough for you then have a look at this fat-ass Supra!!! They don't get wider than this! Here Curve worked with an Abflug wide-body kit and Veilside parts to create an impossibly unique ride.
October 15, 2006
●Subaru Legacy Wagon 3.0R
Well it had to happen sooner or later, the good old and trusty Honda Accord had to go after 13 years of trouble free use. With the odometer reading close to 200,000 km and Shaken running out this month, it had to go.
I've been checking out dealers, internet second-hand-car data-bases and even went to USS auctions over the last couple of months. I wanted a comfortable and refined car, something that would feel right at home blasting up and down the expressways of Japan. In the end I decided to go for a Legacy Wagon 3.0 R. It packs a 250PS, 3-L flat six, permanent AWD and a 5-speed auto/tiptronic style gearbox. I've covered just over 1000 km in it now and I have to say I absolutely adore this car! The flat-six is creamy-smooth and has enough power to give sports cars a run for their money, the ride is extremely comfortable and refined while with flat-folding rear seats offer all the space you would ever need. The McIntosh audio system is sublime in every way...in fact there is very little one could fault on this 3.0R.
A few pix.
October 14, 2006
●Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider (1966)
Was leaving Unidy car park today when I noticed this little beauty parked in the car park! Interesting car to go shopping at a garden center with....especially when in the middle of a historic car race!! (notice the number on the door!)
October 07, 2006
Was down at my local shaken place to get some new plates for my my new car (more on this soon) when I spotted this very clean El Camino. Notice the number plate...
September 04, 2006
●997 Twin Turbo in JapanApologies for the lack of entries over the summer but between some technical problems and other things I've had little time to add to the blog. I have a lot of material to upload so keep checking back regularly from now on! Saw my first 997 TT in Japan the other day in Tokyo and a second today in Narashino. Luckily this white Tiptronic example was parked so got a few snaps with the cell phone. I don't know what it is about this car but I just can't make myself like it. Performance wise it's an amazing machine but aesthetically wise it looks like its been tarted up by an after-market tuner. And the wheels do nothing for it! Pic 1 Pic 2 Pic 3 Pic 4
June 10, 2006
●Top Secret VQ32
Top Secret never fails to amaze. Even when there is little out there they haven't done, they always manage to come up with original cars. Check out the VQ32 Skyline which was shown at the beginning of the year at the Tokyo Auto Salon. Gone is the RB26 and the AWD, replaced by a VQ35DE from the Z33 and V35. And if that wasn't enough it pushes out almost 360PS in NA form! Look at the detail that has gone in to making the custom twin carbon air-boxes and the 6 throttle set up with gold trumpets!
June 04, 2006
●How much can you chop??? CS Hiro Impreza
Ever wondered what the chopped roof hot-rod look would look like on a modern Japanese car? Well so did Car Service Hiro, a specialized body-shop which develops and builds its own kits and has made some very special cars in the last few years.
CS Hiro built this car originally for Subaru, who displayed it at the 2004 Tokyo Auto Salon. Having no use for the car after the Salon CS Hiro bought the car off Subaru and eventually turned it into the 500 PS demo car you see here. Spot details like the full leather interior (including the leather-wrapped roll cage), radiator & intercooler mounted in V and the cool flake-effect paint job.
The car managed to lap Tsukuba in 1'00"912 during the Tsukuba Super Battle last December.
May 15, 2006
Well it's been almost a month since the last update, apologies for that. I will try to get back on track with this blog from this month!
Following on from Nob's S15 here is the T&E 350Z sporting the full Vertex kit.
[apologies if the thumbnails are not visible, for some reason I can't seem to be able to post them any more]
April 12, 2006
●T&E Vertex Lang S15 Silvia
Got very lucky to shoot this car late last year. It is actually Nobuteru Taniguchi's personal street car and the most complete and well modified S15 I have come across. HKS engine tuning, of course, 380 PS, full Vertex Lang kit with a gull-wing door conversion coming soon, 19" AVS wheels, Project µ brakes all round and full Bride interior trim. The center console features a custom integrated LCD navi screen and what Silvia would be without a Nardi steering wheel...which just happens to be a special "Nob" edition.
February 14, 2006
●Subaru Tecnica International S204
Not even a year has passed since the S203 hit the scene and its replacement is already here. Behold the S204, probably the best Impreza you can get straight out of the box.
The 320 PS are courtesy of the blueprinted and balanced flat four which is fitted with a larger IHI turbine. Power delivery is as smooth as it gets and there is plenty of torque available at low rpm ready to give you a punch of acceleration whenever you need it.
What really surprised me was how well the S204 handled. The hard yet supple STi suspension offer precision and accuracy without sacrificing comfort. This is also down to the tiny Yamaha dampers which have been fitted inside the rear strut bar and front chassis stiffening bar. They might sound like a gimmick but they truly work!
Only 600 will be built and only sold in Japan at 4.8 million Yen
February 07, 2006
●JUN Option Stream Z
Will 2006 be the year Daijiro Inada manages to get a decent result with the Stream Z?? JUN has certainly done an impressive job in preparing this car and there is no doubt it can average an impressive high speed over the 90 miles of the Silver State Classic Challenge. The question is....will Dai not screw it up this time??
Here are some pictures taken in the JUN Auto Mechanic workshop. Many thanks to Koyama-san for having us after-hours!
February 04, 2006
●Honda Collection Hall
I always love dropping by Twin Ring Motegi. Spent a whole afternoon taking in the history behind one of Japan most accomplished sports car and race car makers. Here is a small selection of shots of road and race cars (didn't bother shooting the bikes....tooo many of the damn things!)
January 26, 2006
●Bee-R R33 GT-R (track spec)
Well, managed to shoot this little beauty right before it was shipped to the UK to its lucky new owner by Power Vehicles.
Fully built by GT-R specialists Bee-R, it sports a fully stripped interior, roll cage and custom dash as well as full Bee-R body parts including some tasty carbon front fenders.
January 21, 2006
●Mine's BNR34 GT-R V-spec N1 base
Shot the daddy of all street based GTR demo cars a while back. This is by far my favorite GTR as I appreciate the way it is tuned and the quality of the work that is done at Mine's.
Here are some pictures.
Interior, again very simple, only Recaro carbon/Kevlar racing seats and a Sparco steering wheel.
November 21, 2005
How about this for something different! Totally custom wide-body Toyota MR2 from Team Autobots Japan. Built by the owner, Ono-san [hence the name "Type-0no", nothing to do with Type-One;-)] this MR2 has been treated to some very impressive body modifications. Check out the front section that lifts up at the touch of a button to reveal some mean looking subs and amps. All the body panels have been hand molded and joined to create a "one-piece-look." The interior features equally impressive touches in the form of full alcantara make-over and custom instrument binnacle.
November 10, 2005
●Lexus IS 350
Spent some time sampling the superb Lexus IS350. What a car! Really can't fault it in any way except maybe for the lack of rear room and, as ever in Japanese cars, the high driving position. Powered by the creamy-smooth 318PS 3.5 L V6 as used in the GS (the GS has 3PS less) the IS is as much of a performance car as it is a refined entry-level luxury car. And that's without going into how good it looks! I mean if you had the choice would you pick the IS or a BMW 3-series? I know which one I would take home.
And then there is the interior. Again, nothing to fault. If you really want to be picky, and in cars this good it's the only way you will find some negative aspects to counterbalance your argument with, there are a few things that could be addressed. As mentioned the high driving position. Can't quite figure out why this was allowed to pass as Lexus proved they can do it right in the GS. Other than that the gear lever shifter looks dated and the plastic surrounding of the central console looks and feels cheap. The wood trim is totally out of place in a car like this and I really do wish more trim options were available like flat or brushed aluminium or even carbon fiber to reflect the sporty feel of the IS.
The IS is an extremely comfortable car on the motorway and it can also be a hooligan's car, but not as much as you would assume. It lets you get away with the odd burn-out but for some reason Lexus has preferred to let the nannying stability control take over at the slightest hint of a slide. With all that shove coming from the V6 this happens all the time on wet roads. Brakes are superb and I was surprised to find some rather big 4-pot monoblock calipers up front. The 6-speed auto is excellent in every way and if you set it on "sport" it will downshift aggressively and even blip the throttle! But I'm sure I'm not the only one who would still appreciate a good old DIY manual. Superb car, a bit pricey here in Japan but an almost obvious choice over a BMW 330i.
November 02, 2005
●340 km/h Revolfe Supra
Just had to go and shoot this car built by Revolfe in Yokohama. Love the purposeful exterior and real Wangan racer 700PS engine breathed on by a big fat laggy T88.
This is actually a customer car, and from the looks of the interior he likes his toys!
Let's not forget the engine!
You don't want to mess with this car. It might poke you with that big antenna;-)
Here is a free ad for Brembo!:-)
October 17, 2005
●Lamborghini Diablo Bi-turbo
Supercars don't get more flamboyant than the Diablo. It's big, wide and sports a 530 PS 5.7 L V12. In fact this engine is one of the most emotional sounding V12s in existence! So it would be hard to understand why a car of this stature would not be enough to satisfy the needs of the most demanding drivers. Enter Mr. Kondou and his 1999 Lamborghini Diablo SV.
A beautiful example finished off in a fine metallic silver which is contrasted with the matte-black Neez magnesium racing wheels. You might already see a few little bits and pieces that are not standard fit, but hey this is Japan and people have always liked to personalize their cars. Step into the interior and again a there are a few little touches here and there...
You might spot the Motec dash logger which hints at a top of the line management system, understandable to want a bit more processing power in such a car.
Step around the back of the Diablo and you notice the engine cover is made of glossy carbon fiber...but wait, what is that under there?
Open the cover and this is what you are confronted with....
Holy Mother of ....!!! What the hell happened here??
Yes ladies and gentleman your eyes have not failed you, this is indeed a twin-turbo-charged 5.7 L V12 Diablo SV! Feast your eyes on what is one of the most impressive engine conversions I have ever seen. Unlike bolting on ready-made, easy to fit bits & pieces like a lot of tuners do [playing Lego as I like to refer to it ;)] everything you see here has been designed and built for this particular car, all custom. The massive KKK K27 turbine and Blitz wastegates have found a home behind the massive V12 where they compress the air up to 1.2 Bar and feed the twin top-mounted intercoolers, again all custom built. This engine bay is something you just can't stop looking at...
This thing puts out 1187 PS at the rear wheels and a tractor rivaling (it is a Lambo after all!) 128.8 kgm. For those of you that can't get their heads around the modern metric system that is 931 pounds for every one of those "feet" you still use ;)
Out on the road this thing is savage. I thought highly tuned GT-Rs were fast but this thing is just ridiculous. It can pull 368 km/h flat out and there is plenty left as it bounces off the limiter in 5th. More power is on the cards too with a slight increase of boost and a few more tweaks Mr. Kondou is shooting for 1,400 PS and 136 kgm. Crazy!
October 07, 2005
●Toyota Vitz (Yaris) RS
The new Toyota Vitz went into production earlier this year and has been selling pretty well in Japan. It's biggest test is succeeding in the lucrative European market which is saturated with offerings from local manufacturers. It will go head to head with cars like FIATs new rather good Punto.
Overall it has grown considerably from the previous generation model and has plenty of interior space to sit 5 adults in comfort. Plenty of convenient storage spaces and cubby holes to keep anyone happy while the tilting rear seats (twin splitting on non sports models) offer impressively large and tall loading area. The RS comes with some nice sporty seats but, like in 99% of Japanese cars, are still way to high for tall drivers. The upright driving position might not be to everyone's liking but you do get used to it after a while. The RS came with the optional CD-based navigation unit which was excellent and feature packed and the keyless entry system which curiously uses the exact same Engine Start/Stop button as found on the Lexus GS & IS. I'm sure Lexus owners might have something to say about that!
The RS is distinguished by larger diameter wheels and a sporty bodykit as well as more aggressive rear LED-lights compared to your more sedate models.
The 110HP 1.5 VVTI engine offers plenty of go with a nice torquey low-rpm power-band but is right at home revving away to the 6,500 rpm redline. The five speeder is a bit vague but once again, like in every modern car I drive, the most annoying and hard to digest aspect is the damn throttle mapping. Electronic throttle it the culprit once again. You can stab the accelerator to give a quick throttle blip and you can virtually count to 5 while engine revolutions rise slowly and fall back to idle even slower. The result is slow gear-changes and a real pain to live with. Handling is superb, very precise and sharp turn-in which allows you to really commit to fast sweepers. Steering could do with some more feel but all in all a great all rounder. The RS is as happy pootling around Tokyo center returning 16 km/L as it is up on fun mountain roads being thrown from corner to corner. Even the brakes were superb.
Only real question is will the RS ever make it to Europe? I certainly hope so as I have no doubt it will give the hot european offerings a run for their money.
October 02, 2005
●Mazda Roadster RS (MX-5/Miata)
Spent some time savoring the dynamics of one of the most fun cars out there, the new Mazda Roadster. The design is very closely linked to the Ibuki concept shown at the Tokyo motor show two years ago and really does succeed in bringing the most successful roadster in the world into the new millennium. The cute looking Roadster has put on a bit of weight, up to 1100 kg, but that is to be expected considering the slightly bigger dimensions. The new 2L engine, which sits far back into the chassis almost all behind the front wheels, kicks out an ok 170 PS.
Out on the road the superbly balanced handling of a lightweight FR car is what impresses the most. The engine however sounds uninspiring at the best of times, it's very unrefined and it almost hurts to hear it rev over 6,000 rpm. I'm sure Mazda could have done a better job of giving the 4-cylinder better characteristics. What really did bug me though was the ridiculous throttle mapping the Roadster had. At first I thought there was something wrong with it, revs would hang on for so long when backing off for a gearchange. Of course it is all thanks to the electronic throttle which makes the accelerator pedal feel it's linked to a PS2 rather than a real engine. This resulted in extremely slow gearchange as you had to wait for rpm to drop to engage the next gear. Avoid doing this and you discover the meaning of driveline-shunt! All in all it is a fun drive but there are a lot of little things like the unprecise gearchance and comical body-roll that really spoil the experience.
The interior is a very nice place to be in. It looks and feels modern, despite the plasticky feel, to be expected of in this price range, and accommodates tall drivers without a problem. The Bose CD-based audio system is nothing to write home about but it does a good job of diffusing your favorite music around the cabin. On long motorway journeys with the roof up though things get very noisy and it becomes hard to hold speeds higher than 130 km/h. The roof mechanism looks a bit cheap from the inside and if you get caught behind a truck at anything over 100 km/h the roof will vibrate so much it will suck your ear-drums out!
I was not impressed with the Michelin tyres fitted to the car. They provide ok grip but are a bit scary on the limit. So all in all a good car but could have been so much better.
September 27, 2005
●Alfa Romeo Junior Z
Following on from the previous entry...here is another special car sighting in Tokyo. Spotted just around the corner from Super Autobacs (yes I'm there too often!) an immaculate 1973 Alfa Romeo Junior Z. Z of course stands for Zagato. Don't know much about this little car except it looks very nice in the flesh. First time I"ve ever seen one up close...
September 26, 2005
●FIAT 131 Mirafiori Abarth
It never seezes to amaze me the cars you get to see in Tokyo. Spotted this orange Fiat 131 homologation special at Super Autobacs just outside Tokyo. Brings back a lot of memories as my father used to drive this (albeit the normal road car) back when I was a little kid and it's the first car I ever got to drive. They were built between 1976 and 1981 and people might recall Walter Röhl won a few rallies with this thing!!
Powered by a twin-carb, twin-cam, 2.0 L 4-cylinder FIAT engine it develops 140PS at 6,400 rpm and considering the 985 Kg it must still be a fun car to drive. It was the Italian version of the AE86!! They even made a Shilouette Group 5 racer based on the 131. It was powered by a 260PS 3.5 L V6.
September 23, 2005
●Knight Sports Supercharged RX-8
Mazda had no idea the RX-8 would have been so well accepted in the sports car world. In fact it was never even supposed to be a sporty car, but rather a unique family car that was also a fun drive. But in Japan tuners have been at it for years now trying to make this, the only rotary production car in the world, go a bit faster. Handling has never been an issue with the RX-8. It's considerably light, and thanks to the tiny Renesis being tucked almost under the dash (!) it makes the "8" behave like the best FR cars out there. However, what has proven to be a problem, is getting more power out of the 250PS twin rotor unit. The fact is this wankel is highly tuned as it is and as many people have found out, change one of the main variables like intake resistance or exhaust back-pressure, and you are more likely to loose power than gain anything significant! So this is where rotary masters Knight Sports come in. They have come up with a supercharger kit to considerably boost power and torque and give the RX-8 the extra horses it so desperatly needs.
This kit, which only operates at 0.5 bar, is enough to boost power to a very respectable 292.6 PS. Knight Sports also measured the power of the standard car before fitting the kit and found that it only developed 212.6 PS! It's a known fact Mazda were a bit optimistic when saying their high-spec RX-8 pushed out 250 PS. Anyway you can't argue with an 80 PS gain, and the best thing is the kit is bolt on, comes with everything you need including a small intercooler, and there is no danger of damaging the engine. The kit retails at ¥630,000 and is available right now. Please note that the piping and intercooler end tanks in the production version of the kit are polished unlike the items fitted to the demo/development car. Here are a few snaps of the Knight Sports RX-8 demo car.
Many thanks to Kinght Sports team for taking the time to let me sample this new demo car and get a glimpse into the fascinating world of rotary tuning Knight Sports style. Fact is, with racing experience going back to the seventies, nobody out there knows how to fettle with wankels as well as these people. The attention to detail of their work is a pleasure to see. If only every tuner out there was as half as good as these guys!
September 20, 2005
●Lexus GS350 Vs Nissan Fuga 450GT
End of August saw the official launch of the Lexus brand in Japan. The new GS is the car everyone is talking about as it is the first model to embody the new L-Finesse design language. The GS has actually been on sale outside of Japan for a couple of months so it's not exactly big news. But what Lexus have done is keep a little gem of an engine all for themselves by only offering it in the Japanese market. I'm talking about the new generation 3.5L V6 which puts out a very impressive 315 PS at 6,400 rpm and 38.4 kgm at 4,800 rpm. Strangely enough this engine is more powerful than the 4.3 L V8 fitted on the GS430 (granted the V8 does crank out more torque). So with this in mind I came up with the perfect car to compare the GS350 to, Nissan's brand new Fuga 450GT. The Fuga has been on sale in Japan since late 2004. Until now only the 2.5 and 3.5 L V6s have been offered but what a lot of people have been waiting for is for Nissan to drop the 4.5L V8 (which also powers the Cima) into the big engine bay. So behold the 450GT, the Japanese market version of the Infiniti M45. Yes that's right, Nissan hasn't still got round to launching its luxury brand here in Japan.
Design wise both cars have their own charms. While the GS impresses with its smooth aerodynamic design the Fuga prefers to take a slightly more aggressive road with a menacing front end and more conventional saloon lines. The Lexus has a coherent design carried out all the way from the front to the rear of the car while in my opinion the Nissan really looses the plot at the back with odd oversized lights. Both cars are extremely well put together, the GS having the upper hand with slightly tighter panel fitting and attention to detail like extra seals around the front doors to keep wind noise at bay. The Fuga, fitted with the optional sports package, has very nice 19" wheels while the comfort oriented GS is fitted with 17" wheels with 18 inchers being offered as an option.
The power plants in both these cars are sublime. The Lexus V6 is simply marvelous! It offers effortless acceleration at the slightest prod of the throttle and revs smoothly and silently all the way to the redline just under 7,000 rpm. What makes this engine shine is the Toyota developed 6-speed automatic transmission which is both fast and smooth shifting and seems to guess exactly the gear you want to be in by kicking down instantly without any drama.
The Nissan V8 is a hot-rod! Below 3,000 rpm it's hardly even audible but step on the loud pedal and this small block really begins to sing. Power wise it develops an ok 333 PS, nothing special for a 4.5 V8, especially after Audi has shown the world what it can do with it's aspirated V8 engines! But it has buckets of torque that really make the Fuga feel like a sports car at times. And that V8 soundtrack! Wow! What let's it down though is the 5-speed automatic which feels "old-gen" compared to the Lexus unit. It's smooth shifting and fast but not quite in the same league the GS 6-speeder. But all things said there is not much difference in the performance of these two luxury saloons, the Fuga is slightly quicker, but not as much as most would think.
If you like your toys then both these cars will not disappoint. Overall the Lexus has an old-school come new-school design feel to it while the Nissan offers a more unique and futuristic feel. I did prefer the Nissans overall layout with its easy to operate controls and high mounted screen. The GS has a very user friendly touch screen system and latest generation HDD navigation and is packed with other toys like an in-dash 6 DVD changer and Mark Levinson surround sound system. The Nissan certainly doesn't lag behind in this department with an equally impressive DVD-Rom based navigation unit, in-dash 6 CD changer and a separate DVD player in the glove box. The Bose 5.1 surround system is excellent but the GS system felt slightly more refined no doubt thanks to the impressive NVH insulation which Lexus is so well known for.
The Lexus leather felt softer while the build quality and switch gear was much better then the Nissan. Keep in mind the Fuga is quite a bit cheaper then the GS so some cost saving in this department is understandable.
Out on the road the GS stood out for it's impressive refinement and virtually silent ride at any speed. What surprised me was the handling. I was expecting an American style wollowy ride but what I got was superbly responsive chassis and suspension.
The Fuga 450GT with its optional sports package proved to be very reactive and accurate. All that torque means power-slides on demand but the electronics, just like in the Lexus, kick in to spoil the fun even after the traction and stability controls are switched off.
Choosing between these two cars would be extremely difficult. Lexus is leaning heavily on the brand image side of things with unrivaled dealer service and brand exclusivity. In Japan this is an excellent strategy as brand and image play a lot in choosing a car at this level. The GS is a superb car, excellent build, excellent equipment levels after you fork out for the bigger toys and an overall great driving experience. Nissan not yet able to lean on its luxury brand image has taken the value-for-money route and offers the Fuga at an extremely competitive price. The V8 engine and sports car like handling are the cherry on the top. The V8 powerplant is also available from Lexus but higher costs really do begin to factor in.
If I had to pick between the two I would probably go with the Fuga. Despite the questionable quality of materials and switch-gear, noisier ride (19" wheels to balme here) and not so pretty design you really can't question the value this car offers. I just hope a future introduction of the Infiniti brand will not lead to higher prices!
The obligatory warp speed pix;-)
September 09, 2005
●Veilside Fortune NSX
Well you are looking at one of the star-cars of the forthcoming Fast & Furious 3 movie. Built by Veilside this Fortune Honda NSX bares little resemblance to the all-alluminium car that lies beneath. Glasshouse and roof aside everything else has been carefully crafted by the creative hands of Veilside's founder, Yokomaku-san. As ever the guys at Veilside proved to be top people and made shooting this car a real blast. Special thanks to the owner of this stunning unique car who took the time to bring the car to Veilside's HQ in Tsukuba for the shoot.
September 03, 2005
●Subaru Impreza WRX STi SpecC
New year, new face lift for the rally bred Impreza. But looks like they have finally nailed the design of the front end with a pair of Legacy-ish aggressive headlights and the new family grille. I quite like the result and from the looks it got on the street it seems I'm not the only one.
Still think the rear end is the weakest point of the car. Looks bland and unappealing and those clear lights for this 2006 model don't do anything for it! Notice Subaru's answer to Mitsubishi's Vortex Generator.
The car you see here is the light-weight SpecC, or as I would put it the "soft" version of the SpecC with A/C, central locking and power windows. To remind you of your "hardcore-racer" choice you are left without a boot release mechanism and no sun visor for the passenger side. And you can impress all your mates by showing them your cool boot trim...or lack of it!
Interior is miles better than the Evo 9 with both design and quality of materials, but on this Spec C model you still get some horrible hard plastics here and there. Steering wheel is way to big and seat position way too high. Pedal layout is perfect for heel-&-toe antics while the red dials are easy to read.
The flat-4 turbo still looks like a washing machine with a motorcycle radiator bolted on top of it, but it's 43kgm of torque is ferociously explosive and feels enormously powerful from 3,000rpm till about 7,000rpm. Revs smoothly and vibration free to 8,000rpm but it's hardly worth going all the way to the redline as power trails off quite dramatically after 6,800 rpm.
Apart from a few revision of the engine management to liberate that extra torque the suspension geometry has been finely tuned while some additional stiffening added to the front struts. On the road the handling has definitely seen some improvement with a considerable precision added to the front end. Understeer is not as noticeable as in the older cars and the front end has enormous bite, thanks also to the grippy Bridgestone RE070. What I really didn't care for was the massive grip the DCCD allows the rear end to generate. Sure it's safe but it's not fun! Only under full power in first gear can yo get a decent slide going and if you want a bit of sideways action with higher gears then forget about it, only way you can manage it is with a mighty weight transfer flick. What this car needs is a looser back end, something that will allow a bit of adjustability with the throttle when powering on and backing off. Apart from this and the usual steering-kickback on uneven surfaces I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the 2006 Spec C. In fact if I had to make a choice I would pick it over the Evo 9 GT I drove earlier in the year. Now if only they could sort out that rear end!
Good to see that Japanese manufacturers are bringing their cars into the modern world by not bothering with the silly 180Km/h speed limiter. The Spec C happily pulls 260 km/h.
September 01, 2005
●The S14 Silvia that wants to be an R34 GT-R!
Met up with the owner of this unique car. Based on an S14 Silvia (spot the number plate?) the car has been transformed by hand into an "S34." All of the work was been carried out by the owner and finished off in a superb chameleon paint-job. In fact thanks to the light conditions I have to say it was one of the most fun cars I've shot. The way the light plays with the bodywork is unreal.
August 25, 2005
●New Mazda Roadster (MX-5/Miata)
Got this cool looking invitation in the mail the other day. Pity I couldn't attend but check back soon for a full road test of this fun new little Roadster. With 170PS and 1100Kg it promises to be a great drive.
For more info and pictures on the new Roadster check the Mazda Japan Website
August 20, 2005
Magical place this. It's just amazing the cars you see zooming by.
And was lucky enough to spot this popping out of the back entrance. The test mule for the 575's replacement, the 600, or something like that. By the looks of it it should look very similar to the Scaglietti, a car I really love. As the driver saw me jumping out of the car with my big zoom lens he gunned it down the road and made sure I couldn't get any clear shots. One thing is for sure, they certainly fixed the uninspiring V12 engine note that was endlessly criticized on the 550 and 575. This thing sounded amazing!!!
Finally had the chance to visit Galleria Ferrari in Maranello. Looked a bit like an abandoned building outside what with poorly maintained grounds and overgrown weeds all over the place, but I guess that's how Italians like to do things;-) But things get better inside, with cars like these to drool over...
Ferrari at its best. Make a model of a car that is totally pointless (why screw with the beautiful 575?) and absolutely ugly and everybody will buy it! All 559 Ferrari 575 Superamerica were sold before the car went officially on sale. Features a cunning and innovative rotating roof. What I don't get is what happens if it starts raining cats and dogs with the roof down? Does the roof collect liters of water that will then be pored on the occupants at the flick of a button...or will the electric motors burn out lifting the extra weight?
The mighty Enzo. I think this was a pre-production model as the whole rear section was out of alignment with the rest of the car. You could literally stick your index fingers down some of the panel gaps. Looks like they can learn a thing or two from Lexus...LOL
So this in the end turned out to be a great place. Most interesting for me was the prototype engines in curios configurations, both aspirated and turbocharged. And a round of applause to who ever was responsible for writing the English information boards and various name plates. It's very disappointing to see the most renowned sports car maker in the world struggling to hire people proficient enough in the English language to avoid making spelling mistakes in virtually every sentence. I spotted a few British visitors shocked at what they were reading! Come on Ferrari you can do better than that surely?
August 14, 2005
●Chrysler Crossfire SRT6 vs Nissan 350Z 35th Anniversary Edition
Got a chance to snap away at these two coupe's while at Adria Raceway. On paper they appear as decent rivals even if the Chrysler does have the upper hand on engine output with 335PS compared to the Nissan's 300. However out on the black stuff these two couldn't be more different. As you would probably have guessed the Crossfire, being an american car build of the previous generation Mercedes Benz SLK platform, is not exactly the sharpest of the two. Things certainly don't get any better when you consider that the SRT6 is 11,000 Euro more than the 350Z and is only available with a lazy slush box.
The blown 3.2 L V6 certainly gives the SRT6 decent performance levels and is quicker to 100km/h by .8 sec over the Z (5 sec vs 5.8sec) but thats just about all it's good for. The Z's 3.5L V6, even if not the most impressive engine Nissan has built, is silky smooth throughout the rev range and pulls evenly from as low as 1000 rpm. Now with a slight power increase (used to develop 280PS) things get even better. Add the crisp and snappy 6-speed box and the Z really sets itself apart from the US offering.
Step inside the Crossifire and you can't help but feel a bit queasy. This is all thanks to probably the nastiest center console ever fitted to a car's dash. Horrible to look at and not much better to use it looks like it's been finished in a silvery matte color from an aerosol can. Pretty much everything else in the Chrysler looks like it's been put together on a tight budget and it certainly does not look like a 50,000+ Euro car's interior. The Z is slightly better in this department. Design and ergonomics are without a doubt in another world, it looks modern, sporty and is great to use but some of the materials really need to be addressed. Like the plastic on the transmission tunnel, hard like a rock and extremely easy to scratch. Then there are the switches for the seat warmers which you turn on with your elbow at every gearchange. Smart move there! But at least it feels solid, something that can't be said for the Crossfire.
Out on track they are both pretty quick but the driving experience the Z gives is rawer, more precise, like a front engined rear wheel drive coupe should. You spend most of the time with the Crossfire cursing at the traction control which is programmed to cut power at just the right second you begin to have decent fun! The 350Z is a true driver's car with a great chassis and dynamics only real negative aspect has to be the 1500 plus Kgs it has to haul. Where does all that mass come from nobody knows!
August 11, 2005
●BMW M6 - Part II -
Some action shots of the BMW M6 being used like it should around the impressively modern Adria Raceway . Couldn't get over how cool the covered paddock is.
Dorifuto!! Adria turned out to be the perfect track for drifting. Maybe when the D1-GP has a few rounds in Italy (hint hint!) they can use this circuit which also offers excellent space for tens of thousands of potential spectators. M6 felt right at home here....tyres not so much
Ahh...the joys of having an empty race track all to yourself...
●BMW M6 - Part I -
You really can't go wrong with a 5.0 L V10 no matter where you put it. Couple it with a latest generation smooth shifting 7-speed Getrag SMG gearbox and things can't get any better. The design of the new BMW 6-series might not be to everyone's taste, after all it is Bangle's most daring design to date. But I like it, a lot. I like it's originality, the way the creased lines of the bodywork play with the light and the fact that it looks like nothing else on the road. But then again I was one of the few that liked the pre-face lift 7-series, so maybe it's a bit easier for me to digest the look of this new coupe. I'm even beginning to accept the rear boot lid, it's just one of those things that you either love or hate.
You really have to look hard to tell the M6 apart from a normal 6-series though. Apart from mildly aggressive front and rear bumpers and the M-badged wing vents it looks rather plain. Of course those lovely thin-spoked 19" wheels are hard to miss but it all looks very mature and almost bland on the outside. Harder to spot on this black M6 was the super technologically advanced carbon roof panel which thanks to it's lightweight construction reduces the car's roll center. Great little detail but why bother at all when the M6 nudges 1800Kg!! It almost seems a bit of a joke.
But the M6 has no intention of setting fast lap times around the world's most demanding circuits, it just wants to offer great performance coupled with everyday comfort and usability. And this it does very well indeed. Interior space is vast, rear seats are good enough for 2 adults although there is little room for your feet thanks to the electronics-packed front seats. Build quality as you would expect is very good as is the choice of materials. Color coordination is obviously something the germans still need to work on a bit as is perfectly demonstrated by the vomit inducing maroon leather seats and wood trim combination.
But we all know the interesting aspect about this car is the high-revving (stoke is only 75.2 mm, bore 92 mm) V10. 507HP at 7750 rpm and 520Nm at 6100 rpm are very impressive numbers. The torque curve might look a bit peeky but the truth is it works quite well in practice having enough twisting power to smoke the rear wheels in second and give a nice chirp when shifting into third.
Other nice details include an interestingly finned rear diff housing
Looks aggressive, but then again it doesn't.
So great car but what remains a mystery is why BMW wants 21,000 Euro more than the M5 for it. A very interesting marketing move that will no doubt assure waiting lists for the M5 keep growing. Small detail...the bland BMW looking key on top of the super technologically advanced carbon roof panel. It's very light you know...;-)
August 09, 2005
●Newera Imports S15 Silvia SpecR
First off apologies for the lack of updates, I'll get into why this happened on a later entry. For now feast your eyes on this lovely looking Silvia built and mentained by Gareth Brunt of Newera Imports .
Gareth came to Japan in 2004 to work for Newera and was faced with the hard choice of what company car to get. Miguel, president of Newera, suggested a tuned R32 GT-R but Gareth wanted to get into the drifting scene and so looked for something a bit different. When this superb looking white S15 Silvia came up at an auction he knew it was the right car even if a bit over budget.
Over his 12 month stay in Japan Gareth did a substantial amount of work on the Silvia, like fitting massive Brembo F50 front brake kit and full R33 GT-R rear Brembo conversion (with handbrake and all). Most impressive job has to be the Defi gauges cleanly and seamlessly fitted in the air vent housings as well as the massively tall rear GT-wing.
Engine wise this S15 kicks out around 380PS thanks of a equal length ex-manifold, Nismo exhaust, HKS F-Con V Pro and EVC.
Gareth had lots of fun racing this car against Miguel's RX-7 which up until a few months ago was very evenly matched power wise, not to mention getting the tail wide around the deserted roads of Oi Futo in the wee hours of the morning.
Miguel keen to show the camera how things are done in the Silvia...
The Silvia is being shipped to the UK now where Gareth, now back home, will be putting the finishing touches to it before probably selling it on.
Many thanks to Miguel for bringing the Newera S15 to Daikoku Futo for the shoot. Next time it will have to be the Rex;-)
June 15, 2005
●Revolution NSX & RX-8
Revolution have one of the fastest track RX-7s in Japan. Even if they are masters with rotaries this doesn't stop them from dealing with other cars like this stunning red Acura NSX. Pushing out 360PS from it's NA 3.1 L engine this car means business!
You should hear the single exit exhaust at full revs! (8,500rpm)
Yes I know it's missing the rear GT-wing!;-)
And how about this RX-8! Full roll cage to regain some of the lost stiffness lost to the rear suicide doors, custom intake, titanium exhaust and AP racing brakes. Too bad the seat was so small I couldn't even get one leg in there!! :-(
●HKS Toyota Chaser
Here is another HKS tuned car. Very basic mods in the form of a GT turbine and a drift oriented set up. Very responsive engine and tight rear diff means getting the back end out is very easy!
June 05, 2005
It's all about being different. Personalizing your car to make it stand out is one thing, but what Mr. Koseki (president of Scoot) has done, takes this idea to a whole new level.
The idea was to make a one off car that would showcase what this company can do. Having worked in Formula 1 as a suspension engineer Mr. Koseki knows a thing or two about creating fast cars and this can be seen in virtually every detail of the Scoot RX-7.
As you can see the result looks amazing to say the least. The lines of the FD have completely been lost, in it's place a mini-Carrera GT look for the front end and a Nissan R390 GT1 Road Car look for the rear. Add scissor doors that work and shut like they were factory and you have one amazing looking car. The front bonnet is a Scoot special...one of the best out there for the FD. (Watch out for cheap imitations!!)
But what really sets this Scoot RX-7 apart form anything else on the road is it's custom built 4-rotor NA engine. Pushing out 400PS at 8,000rpm this little rotary can easily rev to 10,000rpm and has the most incredibly sharp throttle response, ever! It breathes through 4 separate throttle bodies and a custom carbon air box while a special exhaust system has been developed to quieten it down to acceptable levels. Out on the road this car sounds more like a high revving sports bike than a car and certainly gets a few looks.
Interior is finished off with two carbon racing seats and acres of lovely smooth alcantara.
Look closely and you will notice a very special dash. Not yet on sale this Defi "Super Sports Cluster" dash/data/logging unit will hit shops this summer and is packed with lots of cool features. The multi display section in the bottom provides countless engine parameter readings and is easily controlled with a small remote control unit. The days of working with obsolete interfaces is gone, all data logging is stored on an SD card...superb idea!! Find out more about this great product at:
June 01, 2005
●Amuse Fairlady Z
The 350Z is a superb coupe. You can't really fault it in many areas unless you are being very picky....in fact the only negative things I can come up with are the weight and the lack of power from the engine (like every new car on the market!). Don't get me wrong the engine is a sweet little unit, a bit slow revving but very full at low rpm and linear in delivery. But a boost in power would be very welcome (isn't it always). Enter Amuse.
Mr Tanabe has worked miracles with the Z, not only going for the obligatory power hike but taking it that step further and shedding lots of weight (over 120 Kg) with extensive use of carbon parts. Looking at it it almost looks factory but the rear tail gate, doors, bumper and bonnet are all in carbon fiber.
The VQ35DE has been reworked, fitted with Nismo heads and fine tuned on the Dynapack to produce an impressive 349PS and 42Kgm of torque. With the use of a faster throttle valve (drive by wire) and the high performance map of the Amuse ECU what is most noticeable at first is the incredibly sharp and instantaneous throttle response. Put your foot down and the Amuse Z just takes off down the road with amazing urgency for an NA car. The titanium exhaust is simply awesome...not only does it sound amazing but it looks pretty damn good too!! But most impressive of all is the stock feel you get from this Z. Engine idles smoothly at 1000 rpm, pulls in top at any rpm just like in standard form.
Interior looks almost as factory as the exterior, just two carbon/Kevlar Recaro race seats and a Momo wheel add a bit of individuality
May 26, 2005
●Amuse Carbon-R + Shop
This lightweight carbon R34 GTR was the hottest car of 2004. A custom machine that was initially going to be a street car but turned out to be a full on race car. Weighing around 1100Kg and with over 600PS powering the rear wheels (yes, just the rear ones!) this is a impressive machine. More development has been carried out on this car so expect to see more of it in the future.
Notice how the whole section ahead of the upper mounts has been cut away, re-fabricated in carbon and elongated to provide better cooling and aerodynamics. Hard to miss the titanium I/C piping which has been kept short for best throttle response.
The mother or all straight through exhausts! Too cool for school!
Tanabe san on the Dynapack
350Z titanium exhaust.
One of the latest Amuse products. Titanium springs (for S2000). And you thought only Ferrari and McLaren owners could ever brag about things like this...Pfft;-)
The one on the left is an Amuse weld. Notice how much cleaner it is. Absolutely smooth on the inside too for best flow.
●Amuse S2000 GT1
You've probably played with it on Gran Turismo 4, but this is no GC car, this is the real deal, the Power House Amuse S2000 GT1. Well actually the car you see here is not the demo car they are building, that wont be ready before the end of the year, but a customer car.
Spend a few minutes in the company of Mr. Tanabe and you quickly understand how things are done at Amuse. Carbon and Titanium are the materials of choice for this company which has built a reputation for creating the highest quality exhaust systems. But more about that later. The S2000 GT1's carbon kit is simply awesome out on the road. It has so much road presence it can't be put into words. It would certainly be hard to better these looks!
The pearl white of this car was perfect to show off the lines Tanabe-san shaped himself. As with every Amuse car the wheels of choice could have only been Volk Racing CE28N, a superb choice if I do say so myslef;-)
But for how pretty this S2000 GT1 is everyone is waiting for the proper demo car to be finished. We hope to see this car at the Tsukuba Super Lap Battle at the end of the year! As you can see the F20 engine is all finished up, features JUN internals (stock 87mm pistons, JUN rods & crank) for a capacity of 2259 cc while the compression ratio has been decreased to 8.8:1 to accommodate the rather mean looking HKS GT3240 turbo you see sprouting out of one side (note the custom manifold)!
To cope with all the power (some 550PS) the S2000 running gear had to be binned and replaced with BNR34 GTR rear member + diff case & drive shafts. Couple this to an HKS sequential and a serious weight reduction and you have a devastatingly fast track car. Can't wait to see this at Tsukuba....
[Thanks @ Lorenzo for the pic:-)]
Many thanks to Tanabe-san for giving up a lot of his day to accommodate the photoshoot.
May 13, 2005
Stopped by Spoon Sports' Type One Garage (http://www.spoon.jp/ & http://www.typeone.jp/) to check out their workshop where development continues of their latest and weirdest demo car, the KB1 Honda Legend. You might think it's strange to dedicate time to a luxury saloon but this Legend is actually a stripped out (-450Kg!) race car that will be participating in the US Touring Car Championship in the future as well as next year's Nurbugring 24h race. Since the car is not on sale in Europe it hasn't really caught anyone's attention yet but this is the first production car in the world to be fitted with a torque vectoring system (SH-AWD in Honda talk). Only other cars currently using such technology are in the WRC! Spoon have now fitted a Bosh dual clutch gearbox and are continuing development on the 300PS 3.5L V6 powered touring car.
The workshop, set on two floors (cars are brought into the main area on the second floor by an elevator), is testament to their work ethic. Clean and organized you would think they build F1 cars here, a complete opposite to most of the tuning shops here in Japan.
Their Super Taikyu S2000 racer neatly sits in an elevated display position in a dark corner...
Take a look at this 4-2-1 manifold for the S2000...looks even more impressive from the inside!
One of the coolest cars there!
May 11, 2005
●JUN Auto Mechanic Lancer Evolution 9 RS
Back at JUN Auto Mechanic (http://www.junauto.co.jp/) to check out and test drive their latest demo car, the brand new Lancer Evolution 9. I have much respect for this company, they make some of the most sought after products in the tuning market and are always working on brand new projects keeping them well ahead in this game. That's without mentioning their successes in everything ranging from high speed runs to track battles. This new Evo 9 has just completed it's first stage of tuning that has yielded some impressive results. 412PS at 6,900rpm and a massive 51.5kgm at a very handy 4,400rpm. As Koyama-san explains their goal for this "stage-1" set-up is to run a 1 minute lap at Tsukuba, something that they will no doubt achieve. Based on the lightweight RS model this 9 runs the titanium/magnesium turbine...at some serious boost pressure. In fact the power run on their Bosh dyno was done at 1.8 km/cm2 (falling back to 1.4kg/cm2 as rpm rises) which is pretty much the max it can take. Out on the road this Evo hits you with seriously explosive mid-range torque, the MIVEC no doubt playing a small part in such smooth and constant delivery. Suspension is courtesy of ZEAL and feels excellent out on the road even if set up for Fuji Speedway! Thanks to some very aggressive camber and sticky A048 S-tyres the turn-in and grip are both superb. But during my short test drive what really got my attention was the Endless brake set-up. WOW! I've always had a thing for good brakes and the Endless kit (6-pot front & 4-pot rear) really is top notch. Most importantly it's very balanced shedding speed at such an alarming rate you really must make sure you check the rear view mirror to make sure traffic is not too close! Great car and as with every JUN machine you can expect some serious results.
Special thanks to Koyama-san for giving up his precious time for the day.
April 27, 2005
●Garage HRS - Cyber Evo
Cars that lap Tsukuba in under 1 minute deserve a lot of respect. The car you see here does it in the mid 55 seconds. It's an amazing accomplishment for a small shop like Garage HRS and the top people that work on this beast of a car. With around 800PS (no, it's not a typo) the 4G63 in this Cyber Evo has been stroked to 2.2 liters and completely rebuilt with race spec internals. Savage power delivery comes courtesy of an Apex RX-6 turbine which completes the package to make this one of the most powerful Lancer Evolution in the world. The full carbon bodied HKS TRB02 Evo is still number one but that is a bit out of any small tuners league, what with all the backing and unlimited resources involved. As Satoh-san of Garage HRS puts it there are no secrets about this car and as you can see from the pictures I was allowed to snap away at every detail I wanted. Too bad the car could not be taken out of the confines of the garage as it would have proven to be a hell of a ride...especially with no passenger seat! But I managed to get a few "action" shots nonetheless;-)
April 16, 2005
●Veilside Ferrari 575 Maranello
Big V12 up front and rear wheel drive. This has always been the recipe of a true Ferrari. Sure the mid-engined V8 series of cars have proven to be impeccable performers but there is something special about a big Ferrari GT. When the 550 Maranello was unveiled I truly suffered. It was such a special looking car I would have done anything to own one. Living close to one of the UK's biggest Ferrari dealers didn't really help as not one day went by that I did not see the 550 in all its glory out on test drives or sitting in the showroom. It was hell, in a good way. But fast forward a few years and I now find myself in front of Veilside's version of the updated original car, the 575 Maranello.
As with the Bentley Continental GT this Ferrari is part of the new Premium Collection the company recently launched. Mr. Yokomaku, the founder and president of Veilside, got to work on the 575's exterior by creating a subtle kit that would add some Veilside style to the Italian exotic. Using carbon fiber he molded a deeper front splitter into the original front bumper and integrated canards on the sides to generate some front downforce. This, in theory, should help high speed cornering while the rear Venturi diffuser generates more downforce. Some side under spoilers finish off the kit which looks pretty menacing on this black demo car. 19-inch Andrew Premier Series chrome wheels are used for an in your face pimp look, and wear Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tyres...massive 355/25 for the rears!
The titanium exhaust, which costs ¥1.5 million(!), does wonders for the Maranello's V12, which in Ferrari terms does not sound at all special. The aggressive down-changes made by the F1 gearbox are followed by lots of crackling and backfiring which sounds pretty nice out on the road.
The interior has been upholstered in red ostrich leather which doesn't look as horrendous as it sounds, but why anyone would replace the soft Italian leather of the standard car is beyond me. A Pioneer head-unit with flip-out LCD screen takes care of the audio/video install which also includes and HD navigation module.
April 07, 2005
●Bozz Speed Impreza WRX STi Type RA SpecC
Take a look at the logo on the Bozz Speed cars and you'll see the words "Astonishingly Ferocious." I didn't think anything of it until I got in their demo car, a GDB Spec C based monster cranking out around 500PS courtesy of a 2.5 boxer engine and a rather large HKS GT3037 turbine. This car's power delivery is, well just look at the logo! It's not so much the horse power but the explosive midrange this beast hits you with that will leave you with your mouth open.
I haven't felt acceleration this savage this side of a 900PS Top Secret tuned GT-R! And the car was running only 1.3 bar rather than the normal 1.6 and the NO2 tank was empty..that would add another 70PS! No wonder this beast cracks the 1 minute barrier at the famed Tsukuba circuit!
Sticky Bridgestone RE55S semi-slick tyres keep the Bozz Speed GDB glued to the asphalt and more importantly Tsukuba's corners.
The guys at Bozz Speed will be trying their best to win next weeks Hyper Challenge which will pitch Lancer Evos against Imprezas and Legacys.
They certainly have a capable car!
As you can see from the pictures the cars interior is completely stripped and things do get very noisy in there. Due to equal length manifolds and a hefty dosage of tuning the typical boxer offset beat is gone, in its place a menacing growl amplified through the original titanium exhaust.
Needless to say I was seriously impressed with this Spec C. Seems every tuner out there is using the 2.5 block these days ...maybe Subaru will take it as a hint and fit it to the Japanese & Euro market cars??!!
April 04, 2005
●Veilside Bentley Continental GT
Nothing could be further from my ideal car than a Bentley Continental GT. Its big, its pimp and its heavier than a full-sized SUV! Then why do I like this thing so much?? Hoping to answer this question I made my way to Veilside in February to take a closer look at their very own GT. In a bold move the famed Japanese tuner has taken a leap of faith and began catering for high-end luxury and exotic cars. The "Premier Collection" http://www.veilside.com/premier is proof that the company is maturing and although it will continue to offer its usual over the top body-kits, its nice to see a well established company taking a new direction. The owner and founder of Veilside, Hiranao Yokomaku, who styles all the kits by hand has toned down his usual design cues and settled for a more refined look. The kit on the GT features very subtle front and rear integrated lips and chunkier side skirts all made in carbon fiber.
I loved the way the kit adds a touch more aggressiveness to the bulbous GT and doesn't interfere with the original design of the car.
Massive 22" three-spoke wheels finish the car off while giving the much needed gangster look! Surprisingly enough these huge wheels don't effect ride quality at all as the active suspension take the edge out of the lower profiled rubber.
Thanks to the full titanium exhaust the concoction of offset frequencies that sprout from the crystal tail pipes (I'm not commenting on these!) is simply awesome. Think a mix of V8 and V12 soundtracks mixed together churning out a distinctive low edged rumble. Awesome.
Once behind the wheel I'm astounded at how the mighty W12 twin turbo propels this 2.5 ton beast so effortlessly.
I have never experienced such mechanical refinement and have to say I quite enjoyed it...for a few minutes. Then I began to notice little things that, for me at least, have always been at the core of automotive enjoyment.
Steering feel, brake feel, how the car communicates with the driver...everything felt num in the GT, over-servoed everything! Might be great for your comfortable drive to the golf club but disappointing for people looking for some driver involvement. I was expecting something along these lines, but even so I have to say I still love the GT for its emotional lines and superb interior. Its one of those cars you can't help but like, but would never buy.
April 01, 2005
●Lancer Evolution 9 GT
Spent last week driving the new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. I decided to go for the GT model which does away with the AYC which I really did not like on the Evo 8 MR I drove last year. The GT uses a mechanical 1.5 way LSD at the rear which feels far more natural when pushing hard than the AYC fitted to the GSR cars. One other main advantage to the GT is the fast and precise 5 speed gearbox, which I prefer to the notchy 6 speeder of the GSR.
I was expecting the car to feel different to the 8 MR mainly due to the adoption of Mitsubishi's variable valve timing (MIVEC) for the inlet cam, but out on the road its very hard to feel gains in torque (407 Nm for the GT) compared to older cars. One thing I did notice is that the delivery remains very flat until about 5500rpm and then trails off quite noticeably. Boost pickup is slightly improved thanks to the adoption of a new turbine design which features a titanium turbine wheel and a magnesium compressor wheel for better response. The MIVEC does also aid fuel consumption. Best I managed was 9.1km/L on motorway driving.
But these cars are all about handling and this Evo 9 GT sure does tackle corners like there is no tomorrow. My test was blessed by continuos torrential rain but this was no biggie for the Evo which offered amazing levels of grip and traction out of corners. The rear LSD does wonders for mid corner adjustability as well as giving you the option to set up the car for corners far more precisely and naturally than AYC equipped cars.
Second and third gear does allow you to play with a bit of oversteer in the wet, just keep your foot down and the car straightens its self out under power only requiring a few degrees of counter steer. The Yokohama tyres are simply superb! Why more manufacturers don't use such tyres for hardcore sports models is beyond me!
Overall a great car especially if you factor in the price (¥3,318,000) but don't expect great quality of interior materials nor mechanical refinement. This particular car I drove suffered from a very annoying sticky throttle...the worst I have experienced. When lifting off the accelerator the engine would hang on to revs (in some cases even increase rpm momentarily). You then have to wait a second to engage the next gear until rpm drops to avoid a shut from the drivetrain. Its a known problem in the Evo world (effecting the 7, 8 & now 9) and some have put it down to injector lag. Whatever it is Mitsubishi should fix it!!!