日本カスタム: The Other JDM
Japanese for ‘kustom’

I’m going to make this simple. I like Japan more than I like Japanese cars.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t like Japanese cars. I love them. In fact, at the moment, every vehicle I own is from a Japanese manufacturer, and it was Japanese automobiles that got me interested in the country in the first place. But to only look at Japan’s domestic vehicles is to absolutely sell the nation short when it comes to car culture.

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Over the years we’ve been able to showcase all sides of Japanese car culture here on Speedhunters, and the more often and deeper you experience these different sides of motoring enthusiasm, the greater appreciation you’ll have for the place.

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To be frank, Japan totally kicks ass at cars. I’ve spent most of the last decade trying to figure out why, and I’ve yet to reach a solid conclusion. The evidence though is an undeniable – just look at the country’s incredible hot rod and custom scene for example.

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My first real exposure to the world of Japanese traditional customs came about 10 years ago through the pages of magazines like Daytona and Cruisin’. Needless to say, I was impressed with what I saw, and was even more impressed when I had the chance to experience some of these cars first-hand a few years later.

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Initially, my reaction to this scene was one of amazement. How could these guys living half a world away from the birthplace of custom culture be so good at it? I mean, most of them didn’t even speak or understand English, and they drove their big American customs down roads that can make a Honda Civic look positively gigantic. They were overcoming some serious barriers.

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But with the more cars I’ve seen and the more owners I’ve met, the more I realize that identifying these automobiles by the fact they’re in Japan is not giving them the credit they deserve. The reality is that these cars would be jaw-droppers anywhere on the planet. It’s no real secret that Japanese builders have been creating some of the world’s best custom cars and I recently was able to spend some time with a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad that’s currently one of the hottest and most talked about builds in the country.

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Known as Acid ’57, the Nomad is owned by Daichi Shimizu and was built by Fit Kustoms in Saitama – a workshop hidden amongst the industrial landscape on the edges of Tokyo. The story behind the shop is an interesting one, but I’ll save that for another day and just focus on the Nomad for now.

New school technique, traditional style
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The choice to start with a 1957 Nomad is a very special in itself, as unlike some of the other popular custom base cars, this Chevy model is both extremely rare and very valuable in stock form. Starting with a unique base is always a good step, and it would make this a rare build in the USA – let alone in Japan where you can bet Nomads are even more uncommon.

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Since the Nomad is quite an iconic car in itself, it’s not surprising to see that that the custom body work has been kept relatively subtle. There’s no ridiculous roof chop, and the car is still immediately identifiable as a Nomad. Preserving that fact was one the key missions with the project, but it’s not to say that this was an uninvolved build though. The closer you get, the more you realize that this isn’t just a cool old car with nice paint and body work.

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Making the car functionally sit on the ground was an important goal and there was a lot of fabrication involved to accomplish this. Beneath the body lies a heavily customized chassis with RideTech StrongArms tubular A-arms up front end a StongArms parallel four-link setup in the rear.

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The rear frame was raised by six inches for additional clearance, and the engine mounts, firewall, and floors have also been raised to allow the car to lay-out properly.

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The ride height itself is achieved via a RideTech ShockWave air ride setup, allowing for easy transition between cruising height and ground-scraping mode.

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A big part of the car’s mild custom look is the use of 15-inch wheels with big bias-ply tires. This was the desired look from the beginning and great care was taken to get the tall tires to fit inside the Nomad’s modified inner fenders. The wheels themselves are original steel pieces with ’57 Cadillac hubcaps to complete the period custom vibe.

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One of things that I love about Japanese custom builders is the way they fuse modern and the vintage elements. The styling of the Nomad is very traditional, but when it came time to select a powerplant it was a strong and smooth running LS1 setup with a Holley carburettor conversion that got the nod.

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While some pure traditionalists might not like the idea of modern motor in there, the Fit Kustoms crew love to drive their cars and the addition of the powerful and reliable LS motor was a perfect choice in combination with its 4L65E overdrive transmission. Here you can also see the one-off air cleaner setup which was installed due to low clearance from the modified front end.

Built to cruise
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As I mentioned a moment ago, one of the biggest goals with the build was to preserve the original character of the Nomad and for that reason the custom bodywork is not over the top. However, keen eyes will notice that there’s a lot still going on here. Body panel gaps have been reduced and emblems and door knobs have been shaved for a traditional custom look.

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And while the body mods might be simple, the Nomad’s paint job is simply mind-blowing. It’s all the work of Cal Trend – a local Saitama shop responsible for the Liberty Walk Kenmeri Skyline and Merc 9.

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The paint consists of House of Kolor Candy Apple Red with subtle scalloping that uses a silver mini-flake. For even more character, the gunmetal base coat fades in towards the roof of the car.

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Moving inside, you find that the Nomad’s interior brings the same mixture of traditional styling and modern conveniences – an idea that the Japanese seem to execute oh so well.

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For example, the steering wheel is the factory ’57 Nomad piece – albeit painted in the same Candy hue to match the body.

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The bucket seats are covered in period-correct tuck n’ roll upholstery, as is the custom center console setup which houses the 4L65E’s tall shifter and the controls for the air suspension.

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The fold-down rear bench is finished the same way as the front seats.

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As is the tailgate, with the floors covered in matching red carpet. The overall attention to detail here really rivals many show-only builds.

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It’s never easy to balance out the modern and the classic without making things look unnatural, but Fit Kustoms has done a great job in that department.

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The gauges for example, have all been completely replaced with Dakota Digital displays to keep an eye on the LS1’s vitals. To me, they add just the right amount of modern flash to the cockpit.

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The paint and bodywork on the car was completed just in time for last year’s Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show, and Fit Kustoms was rewarded for their effort with the Best Custom award. The car also took top prize from the Starlite Rod & Kustom guys, who were over from California as special guests. That’s quite an honor given how much they know about building a proper custom.

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But despite the show car level attention to detail, Acid ’57 was built to be driven. Whether it’s taking a ride down to Yokohama with the rest of the Fit Kustoms crew, or a longer road trip to Nagoya to gather with other Japanese custom enthusiasts, Shimizu-san can be found regularly cruising the Nomad down the highways.

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With a rare base car, incredible attention to detail and a sense of style that can rival the best of the world’s builders, Acid ’57 is another machine that puts Japan right on top of the custom game. The fact that it gets driven and enjoyed often makes it that much better.

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Nissans, Hondas, Toyotas – yeah, they are great. But if you want to truly experience the wonder of Japanese car culture you’ve got to look wider and dig deeper.

日本カスタム最高!

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike
mike@speedhunters.com

Bonus images
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47 comments

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1

Urghhhhh... I love this! 私は日本が大好き!!!

2

I know right! I love seeing old cars like this still alive and in immaculate condition. Especially something a little different like a wagon. I remember seeing one just like it in a magazine in the 90s with a zr1 engine, suspension and wheels. I really hope to see s30s and GTR's like this when I'm an old fart :)

3

Awesome.

Would love to see you guys feature ANY kind of video with some of the articles. I want to hear them!

4

Civics in period correct 1990s style!

5

And of course the civics..! and the supras and imprezas and evos and BMW M models... Yeah the list is long...

6

That nomad is   Just.   Gorgeus.

Great photos Mike!!

7

The only thing that is incoming to mi mind: Piece of art
Ty Mike

8

The digital gauges also make it look like a time machine, but i think that it is so wierd to have these customs in Japan

9

And when I saw the engine, everything went to hell. 

Also, all that stuff about featuring this car not because it's japanese is pure bullcrap. There are literally hundreds of cars of this style in the USA that are better built than this one, yet you have featured like 3. But when one of these pops up in Japan, it's the end of the world. Just move there already.

10

It's a cool car.  Kustomz are susposed to look kool and have that look.  I don't care for what's under the hood but it aint my car.  I dig it man.  The gauges are ok but here again not my car.  It is a little predictable but still I like it.  It's not super typical and honestly the Japanese seem to get the lowrider and kustom scene very well.  I'd drive the snot out of this thing.  Cruise down the road and enjoy it.  It's ten times better than another civic or some other fast and furious car with a wing....

11

it would be nice if u included a few pics at bags inflated drive setup. i m sure it would still look good

12
kphillips9936

@Cano Went to hell??? What's wrong with the engine? 
You're missing the whole point of the article my friend, it's not everyday you see a Chevy Nomad this clean running the streets of Japan and with a LS1 to boot. 
Yes, I know there are hundreds of these in the US but it's awesome to see the Japanese embracing American muscle but with their unique twist. 
Chill.

13
kphillips9936

Wow! Now that's unique! Love their touches to this iconic Chevy!

14

The outside looks sooo good (I love fades and flake!), but the inside was a little disappointing.
Go carb on the LS1 but leave the corvette covers on?  Digital gauges?  I'm just not feeling it.
Just admit that it got shown because it was so out of the ordinary in Japan, it's ok, that's part of what is unique about it.

15

kphillips9936  how often do you see a car that's not clean in japan?

16

One of your best car features without a doubt. Very nice!

Author17

Larry Chen Thank you sir!

Author18

ninjapirate2 It's certainly out of the ordinary in Japan - but I've been to a lot of events in the states and it's not like custom Nomads are a common sight.

Author19

kphillips9936 Simple and to the point. :)

20
FernandoGorks

Maravilhosa!!!

Author21

steelyknives The photos of the car on the road are at its normal drive height.

Author22

donkyyyyyy Yep that's pretty much what the owner does with it.

Author23

@Cano Literally hundreds of custom Nomads better than this one? Is an LS a crime even in a Chevy now? Haha.

Author24

JoseFickert Thanks!

Author25

Jeremiahori Thanks much.

26
kphillips9936

rebounder43 kphillips9936Good point, LOL!

28
Mohammad_Akbarpour

Yeahh!! You are a fan of Wagons and that's contagious!!! BIG Thumbs Up!

29

ninjapirate2  I don't like the Corvette covers and digital gauges either, but it's a kustom and the hood is probably never open, so who cares?

31

Larry Chen  Someday you're going to own a kustom. I can feel it.

32

Mike Garrett Indeed, LOL! ^.^

Author33

KeithCharvonia Larry ChenSomething reaalllyyy kaaasssssstaaaaammmmm.

34

Damn....

35

Before I started reading Speedhunters, my idea of Japanese car culture was all JDM cars and Itasha. You guys (and girls) have really opened my eyes to so many new facets of international car culture, and that's why I keep coming back to this website, as I'll find something like this car, which I would have never even heard of otherwise. You've really broadened my taste in cars too, as before I was only really in to JDM, and yet now I find myself loving cars of all genres, from Kustom to to VIP (with a heavy dose of onikyan of course!) to the monsters of Gatebil, an event that is now on my bucket list, despite the fact I'd never heard of it before I started reading this. I love this car! Now to get a job and try and modify my own car on my student's (read poor) budget!

36

wow its a 130 plate... that is around 300$ for road tax alone >_<

37
The One Otaku

That custom is sweet. I love that they kept the stock steering wheel and didn't replace it with some crappy Boyd Coddington piece. Great write up and pics.

38
this.guy.said

Oh no not another ls! Im joking, but great job this has to be an odd sight around japan.

39

Mike, Great story man. I totally agree with Keith, You will, You have, You have done, a Kasssssssttttom.

40

@Cano  What is it with you weirdos not liking LS engines? Are you doing it just to be edgy now, or what?

41

The Next Movie?

:)

42
tenpennyjimmy

Picture 3, wow.

43
originalgarage

The build is cool for what it is but It could have stood on it's own merit, without the Japan hype.

44

It seems like these mechanic fabricator types like to troll the automotive reporter types. That is NOT a one-off air cleaner setup, it's totally off the shelf and pretty common.

45
RalphScarabaggio

It also has side trim from a '56 Chevy. It's all in the little details

Author46

That was pretty much my point in the story :)

47

Nice touch with the "bonus images" at the end :)

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