Welcome To Japan
As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an innate interest in cars. But when the interest in toy cars turned to the interest in real cars, there wasn’t much I could do but live vicariously through whatever racing game and car-related media I could get my hands on, counting down the years until I could have my own license. For many, Gran Turismo was the game which was the gateway drug into Japanese cars, and it certainly was a big part of why I was hooked. But that’s only a part of what brings me to Japan; back around 2001, I picked up a game called Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, known in Japan as Shutokou Battle. To my young impressionable mind, this was life-changing.
While Gran Turismo introduced a generation to Japanese motorsport, Tokyo Xtreme Racer showed us the opposite side of the spectrum with Japan’s tuning and street racing scene. You didn’t race on circuits in TXR – you raced on the wangan-sen, the highways of Tokyo, in cars you made your own through visual and performance modifications. The game had a DVD section featuring a short documentary about street racing on the wangan titled Tokyo Hardcore: Night Warriors. The 10-minute documentary is an early 2000’s time capsule of JDM greatness, and I highly recommend you pull up a chair and a YouTube machine and look it up sometime. Featuring some now familiar faces, such as the legendary Shinichi Kobayashi of Matchless Crowd Racing fame, it showcased the tuning and cars of Japan, and the street racing counterculture. Kobayashi-san himself famously drove his tuned, 600+ hp GT-R’s on public roads.
If Gran Turismo is the nerdy, prim and proper book smart friend headed for a bright future, Tokyo Xtreme Racer is the cool streetwise kid who smoked and knew how to skate, and taught you about all those cool bands that piss off your mom. This game taught me about real car culture in Japan, where owners modified their cars in unique and interesting ways, the sometimes less than flattering side where people got in trouble with the law, and about the mountain and highway racing that is so deeply rooted in Japanese car culture.
This was the biggest catalyst for me falling in love with Japan’s automotive culture, buying up any related games and magazines, and what now brings me to live in Japan. My biggest fear before arriving was that the Japan I was familiar with, the Japan I cultivated in my mind over almost two decades of consuming any media related to Japanese cars and tuning, was dead and gone.
Time moves on, and like the culture back in the states, things change. While Japan’s culture isn’t nearly of the scale it was at the turn of the millennium, it is still very much alive and well. For better or worse, social media has helped to expose this culture to a wider audience than ever before, and it has renewed interest in Japanese cars and tuning both in Japan and abroad.
This brings me to Option Super Fest, a 500th issue special event hosted in the parking areas of Arashiyama-Takao parkway, a scenic mountain road north of Kyoto. The idea behind hosting the event on a touge was to hearken back to the roots of Option magazine and Japanese tuning, allowing the cars to stretch their legs on the road between the two main parking areas hosting the event and beyond. There were miles of road and many parking areas full of modified cars, all there to join the fun and celebrate Option‘s 500th.
Everything you wanted, and more
The bus ride up the mountain was about 45 minutes, with the occasional temple reminding me that I really was in Japan’s ancient capitol. The only thing that tipped me off to the event were the nobori flags on the road leading up to the main venue. Upon entering the main parking area I was greeted by not one, not two, but all three of the remaining street-driven HKS Zero-R‘s.
HKS only ever sold four of these cars and kept a small handful in their shop space. The fourth car, a white Zero-R, was sold new in the late nineties to someone in Brunei, where it has remained ever since.
The entire car had a thorough once-over from HKS, with the intention of selling these as original HKS models much like Gemballa or RUF did during the same era. That never panned out, and we’re left with the three cars seen here.
Throughout the day drivers took their cars on the road, allowing for an assault of the senses and many great photo ops as highly tuned machines screamed up and down the mountain road.
This Blitz Type R had been ferrying people to and from the two main parking areas, offering a taste of some touge action.
One must not forget that Japan is also fond of cool euros, such as this rally homologation Lancia Delta Integrale.
I caught this fantastic looking (and sounding) Blitz AERO SPEED 86 on the way back down the mountain, and made a beeline for it when it parked right up next to the Blitz CTR from earlier.
Unfortunately my camera wasn’t cooperating with me for the front end shots of it parked, so all I managed to salvage was this rear end shot. The Blitz AERO SPEED kit is a breath of fresh air in a Rocket Bunny world. Kits like these almost make the ZN6 feel like the golden-era demo cars of yesteryear, but not quite as much as…
…the WING TAKEO WING86 SPL. I didn’t expect to come to this event and walk away with a ZN6 as one of my favorites of the day. This car had taken everything I thought I knew about the ZN6 and threw it out the window, the subtle kit emphasizing the factory shape of the car…
…culminating in the beautiful, dry-carbon WING TAKEO original GT-Wing. The meaty 255-width tires and moderate height created a muscular but elegant stance, eschewing wide fenders in favor of simple, clean lines.
Topping it off is the engine bay. No FA20 bellyaching here. WING TAKEO turbocharged the car’s god-given engine with a Greddy unit pushing a modest 300 horsepower, with the beautiful fit-and-finish one would expect of a shop demo car.
After the line-up headed by the WING86 SPL had taken off up the mountain and reached the second parking area, another run of cars had come back down, starting with the new A90 Supra. The Supra had a great exhaust note, and the driver was well aware of that as he took any opportunity to rev the engine for the crowd.
The new Supra was followed by two hard-hitting shop cars from Garage Active and Star Road, which we will see more of soon…
Find your happy place
Separating the two venues hosting the event was a short stretch of mountain road, and Option staff offered a shuttle service to and from both areas, so I hopped onto a bus and headed to the second parking area up the mountain to see the rest of what the event had to offer.
Like red R34’s? How about red R32’s?
Well if you can’t make up your mind, Bee*R has you covered with the 324R kit, which transforms an R32 Skyline into a mishmash of both cars.
Pulling into the second parking area not long after I stepped off the shuttle were the Garage Active and Star Road demo cars, which promptly pulled into their parking space and opened their hoods, allowing for a closer look.
There was a lot to gawk at on the Star Road S30, from the Glow Star MS-BCBR wheels produced by Star Road –
– to the FIGHTER SUPER WIDE kit. Every visual element of this car was produced by Star Road themselves, down the the carbon mirrors. It’s evident that no expense was spared, which is not surprising considering the car was built for Tokyo Auto Salon back in 2015.
The engine bay may just be the most beautiful element of the Z. Every part of this L28 has had a once-over, inside and out. With its displacement increased to 3.2 liters and a triple carb setup like any good Z, this naturally aspirated gem gleamed in the Japanese sunlight.
Parked in the space next to the S30 was Garage Active‘s Active Carbon R. I’ve been following this build leading up to its TAS reveal earlier this year and for good reason; as it’s name suggests, every single exterior panel of the car that was originally made of steel or aluminum has been removed and replaced with parts made of carbon fiber, while the metal chassis underneath was reinforced. If that wasn’t enough the car was also significantly widened, with the goal of retaining it’s recognizable GT-R body lines a priority.
With its newfound width, the car commanded a lot of attention. It was certainly every bit as dramatic in person as it is in photos, with an engine to back it up.
Garage Active is no stranger to modifying the GT-R, having started operations in 1992. The heart of the “GT-R GT 900 PLUS” is this bored out N1 spec RB26 featuring a catalog of HKS parts and nitrous. Back in August the car did a 9.9 second quarter mile run at Fuji Speedway’s AMEFES event, hammering home how monstrously effective the work of Garage Active has been in building one of the nation’s best GT-R’s.
Now For Something Completely Different
Situated next to the S30 and R32 was this RE-Amemiya X-Response 7 FD RX7. Yet Another TAS veteran from earlier this year, the car was painted in RE-Amemiya‘s signature shade of blue and featured one of their most dramatic kits to date.
RE-Amemiya held fast to their ‘street car’ mentality for the X-Response 7, and as such the interior is fully furnished, and fully blue. Unfortunately the hood wasn’t open so I couldn’t snag any pics but don’t worry, it’s still rotary powered of course.
Adjacent to the FD was this amazing looking RX8, which completely caught me off guard when I first saw it as I’d never seen anything like it.
Sporting an REW swap and named the SUPER 8 by RE Amemiya, this car has had the full RE-Amemiya treatment. It debuted in an Auto Salon event in Thailand last year, but how it hasn’t had more exposure is beyond me…
Parked nearby was the new Voltex S2000 Circuit Version 2, currently the only car with this kit in existence. Covered head to toe in camouflage, it is difficult to fully grasp just how intense the new kit really is without seeing it in person. That said I tried my best to capture what I could!
From my understanding the final version will be ready for Tokyo Auto Salon come January. Can’t wait to see this kit make it to full production and hit the circuit all over the world!
With an event as huge as Option‘s 500th issue special, there’s still much left to cover. So stay tuned as Part 2 is just around the corner!
Continued in: Option Super Fest – Part 2