Highway Runners: <br />Chasing The Kaido Racer
The Rendezvous

It’s sometime before 10:00pm on a very cold Saturday night in Aichi, Japan. I’m sitting in a Honda Step Wagon at a quiet and empty highway parking area waiting for the evening’s activities to begin. But will anything actually happen? That’s the question that’s in my head…

Kaido-Racer-Highway-2 copy

Earlier in the day a good part of the Japanese main island was hit with a big winter snow storm, and though it has since passed the roads are damp and fresh snow can still be found on the side of the highway. Next time, I tell myself, my Japan trip will come at a slightly warmer time of year.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-31 copy

The plan for the night is to meet up with a group of local Kaido Racers who are acquaintances of my friend Toshi from Local Hero Japan, but I’m wondering if the cold and wet weather will put a damper on our late-evening rendezvous.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-6 copy

I grab a sip from the hot can of coffee I just bought from a vending machine and stare out the window. Then I hear it. The sound of engines. Not just any engines though, but the distinct wail of high-revving sixes – and it’s getting louder.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-52 copy

I turn my head and see a long row of lights coming off the expressway and into the parking area. The lights don’t carry the hue of your typical automobile headlights – instead it’s a rainbow of yellows, blues, whites and even pinks and purples. It seems the Kaido Racers have arrived.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-58 copy

They have held true to their promise of coming out in anything short of full blizzard conditions – and why should I have doubted them? These guys might not be your typical Japanese salarymen, but their punctuality is as professional as it gets.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-13 copy

But that’s not what I’m thinking about at the moment. Instead I’m gaping at the line of machinery that has just rolled up and parked near us. It’s not a huge group of cars – only about a dozen or so – but these certainly aren’t your typical automobiles, and they’ve already attracted the attention of everyone at the parking area.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-32 copy

The cars are representing Hamamatsu Racing and Showa Speed – some of the Tokai region’s most well known kyusha clubs. Once the cars had parked up, I walked over to introduce myself and thank these guys for rolling out on such a cold and wet night.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-21 copy

While these types of vehicles might carry a rebellious and outlaw image for many members of the Japanese public, as is often the case I find that this is an easy-going, friendly and talkative bunch. They are simply a group of guys working to keep vintage Japanese street car culture alive.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-20 copy

After exchanging greetings, I begin to look over the machinery. A couple of the cars I recognized from events like the JCCA New Year Meeting, while others I was encountering for the first time. Either way, it was hard to think of a more appropriate bunch to represent the unique style of the Japanese Kaido Racer.

The Machinery
Kaido-Racer-Highway-27 copy

Among the group is Toru Aiba’s Celica XX, which in my opinion might just be the finest XX in all of Japan. It’s got a great mix of subtlety and period-correct early ’80s tuning style put together in an extremely tidy package. I simply love this car.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-4 copy

Also joining the fun was Kawaguchi-san’s Showa Speed Hakosuka. These days you don’t see a ton of Hakosukas with the full Kaido Racer treatment, but Kawaguchi’s car is the exception to the rule. The metallic purple Skyline is sporting a legit shakotan ride height, ‘semi-works’ overfenders, a deep set of SSR MkIs and a 330 headlight conversion. Beneath the hood sits a built L-series with a lopey idle that can be heard from across the parking lot.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-66 copy

This 910 Nissan Bluebird is another car that I recognized from other kyusha meets, and being one of the cleanest of its kind in Japan, it’s not an easy car to forget.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-64 copy

There’s just something about classic ADVAN livery isn’t there? Especially when it’s applied to something cool like this long nose GX71. As you are probably beginning to gather, the classic SSR MkI was by far the most popular wheel choice among this group.

Kaido-Racer-Highway copy

The two most outrageous vehicles of the night came from Hamamatsu Racing, with both exuding the extravagant style that Kaido Racers are known for.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-7 copy

The Y30 Nissan Gloria Hardtop is a rare car in any condition these days, and seeing one built like this is even more unusual. I’m of the opinion that the four-door hardtop is one of the coolest and most underrated body styles ever, and I love that the Japanese kept the style alive when most had given up on it. That wrap-around window is also positively awesome.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-33 copy

But of course, this thing is far from stock. Box fender flares, double stacked rear wing, MR2 side vents and a gnarly set of takeyari pipes are just a few things that help transform this bubble-era luxury car into Kaido Racer hero.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-5 copy

And for as crazy as the Gloria was, the Hamamatsu Racing GX71 Mark II has managed to take the style to an even more extreme level. In fact, it looks less like a modified Toyota sedan and more like something that came from outer space!

Kaido-Racer-Highway-10 copy

Besides a long nose conversion with a one-off, multi-scooped hood and a front splitter that extends out for a good couple of feet, the Mark II also has an enormous sloping FRP rear spoiler and a set of takeyari pipes that resemble lightning bolts.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-12 copy

A closer look reveals dozens of crazy details. Why heart-shaped lights? Because Kaido Racer. The style surely isn’t for everyone, but if it doesn’t at least make you smile, there might be something wrong with you. Aside from that, the simple amount of work put into these cars is astounding.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-25 copy

After spending some time looking over the cars and having a chat, we were joined by some additional visitors – officers from the local police department. While some might freak out at the presence of law enforcement, these guys took it in their stride.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-37 copy

The policemen weren’t pushy or rude, they simply asked a few questions and took some notes – all of them related in some way to Japan’s strict shaken vehicle inspections. It’s bound to happen anytime you get group of such heavily modified cars together. But after a few minutes of friendly conversation the police left, and shortly after we figured it was time to hit the road.

The Escape
Kaido-Racer-Highway-67 copy

The engines were fired up again, the flashing lights came back to life and the cars formed a perfect line before jumping back on the expressway. The plan was to cruise down the road for several kilometers, grab a few photos and then reconvene at another parking area.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-45 copy

I hopped back in the van and watched as the cars entered the highway in front of us, and soon we were following in pursuit. It wasn’t hard to spot them up ahead with their flashing lights, and a couple of minutes later we had caught up to them.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-42 copy

Even if you weren’t able to see them for some reason, you’d certainly be able to hear them. While the cars weren’t moving terribly fast, there was an absolute orchestra of engine revving and exhaust notes being amplified off the surrounding concrete. I would hate to see the fuel economy figures for this type of driving.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-47 copy

Now, it’s one thing to see these cars parked, but it’s something else to see them in motion on a dark and wet highway. Talk about overwhelming the senses.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-43 copy

Because it was so cold outside, the takeyari on many of the cars were emitting vapor trails in a way that made them look like aircraft, or possibly steam locomotives.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-51 copy

I was grinning like an idiot as I hung outside the van with the icy wind whipping against my face. There was so much fun happening that the cold no longer bothered me.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-49 copy

I’m not sure exactly how many kilometers we cruised for, but the time passed quickly and soon the group was slowing down to exit at the next service area.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-56 copy

Once again, the group of cars rolled in and came to a stop in close formation, with the light show still going.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-62 copy

By this hour of the night, most of the regular travelers were off the highway, and aside from us most of the other patrons were long distance truckers.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-16 copy

Shortly after we arrived, another convoy of very interesting vehicles rolled in to the parking lot. Turns out it was a group of trucks and other military vehicles from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-60 copy

It was definitley a surreal feeling to see the military machines parked alongside the Kaido Racers. Could there be a bigger contrast between two different types of vehicles?

Kaido-Racer-Highway-57 copy

We enjoyed another can of coffee and chatted a bit more before going our separate ways. Our agreement is that we will meet again under slightly more pleasant weather conditions next time, with an even bigger group of cars.

Kaido-Racer-Highway-53 copy

And with that, the night’s adventure had come to an end. I was cold and exhausted but extremely satisfied. On a trip that included everything from early-morning Kanjo runs in Osaka to drifting in the Hiroshima mountains, this little highway meet was another great experience that I won’t soon forget.

Is it time to go back yet?

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike

More Kaido Racer stories on Speedhunters

Cutting Room Floor
Kaido-Racer-Highway-65 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-17 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-50 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-54 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-41 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-34 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-30 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-18 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-28 copy
Kaido-Racer-Highway-11 copy


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Sick post! The weather made for some glorious pix! The Celica XX is just perfect!!! Long live Kaido!!!


I'm never a fan of this kind of modification , I'm more into those highway racers (let say , Devil Z , or Top Secret's Gold Supra & Skyline) ... but nevertheless this kind of car is always special , always something like , umm , showing what the Japanese really do !

Speaking of that police & vehicle inspections stuff , how are those car get inspection then ? Restore to stock ?


RDS i mean devil z or top secret arent really "highway racers" they are a professional company.


DAT CLEICA THOUGH...... just sex....brb fappy time. =P


How fast can these cars go before they start disintegrating?


LOVE this. Its all just a bit of fun..


The Hakosuka is definetely my favorite car of the bunch. Awesome car.


That XX... just wow. Your are a lucky man Mike!


Kaido racers are awesome. Always got a kick out of the rear wings mounted under the bumper like a ghetto diffuser.


That time your roll bar is bolted to your package tray.........such fail, hardly "speed"hunting


Not jealous of you at all Mike... not at all! That Hakosuka was possibly my favourite car from my last trip, so gorgeous.




Jon_Volk thank goodness we have such people like you that police the speedhunters page for us, to tell us whats fail and whats not


Mike, Dino, can you guys do a coverage on the cars of the JSDF ? They look suprisingly appealing for military vehicles

Another Know It All

Jon_Volk The lower legs are bolted from below the rear shelf, to connect to the sub-frame hard points. This facilitates an easy instal, and sacrifices little strength.


The Celica is dope, though I would lose the "ghetto diffuser". The JSF truck was the one that grabbed my attention though!


why are there no pictures of the Celica XX's engine/interior? :'(


4 door hardtop sedans... there is nothing better


Awesome. And a proper attitude to the police, whereas elsewhere (America, or UK for example) people will just stand around, shout abuse and generally be asswipes as soon as a police vehicle even so much as drives past.


Definitely cool to look at.  I bet they are pretty wild to see cruising down the highway!
have to ask, what type of work goes into the engines?  Are they wildly
modified?  Do they just make a bunch of noise?  Are they restored to
pristine stock condition, or are they just left alone?


So cool we love these cars and the feature keep this coming


@Another Know It All Jon_Volk
Proof? Genuinely curious. Not into these builds, don't really know where to look.

...you couldn't just do it right, with 1 piece of tubing?


@Another Know It All Jon_Volk no... screwed directly onto the parcel shelf clearly.


Love that Celica!


So awesome. What's going on with the Mark II and the pole sticking up from the front left of the splitter, with what looks like wires going into the engine? What's that?


Markers like on the side of snow plows ?

Gianluca FairladyZ

Is it difficult to get in contact with these guys? :) I'd love to take a ride with these street legends! Great write uP!


I don't know about you guys, but when I see a Celica XX I totally think that is waaay cooler than any AE86's or any Hakosuka. It's the only car that I would love to drift, besides Soarer JZZ30 an Soarer Z20. Too cool for this world!


greenroadster Yes XXs are awesome indeed.


Gianluca FairladyZ Thanks! Just cruise the highway on a weekend night and you might stumble across them :)


BT180 It basically tells the driver where the front of the car is.


Oldboygarage You got it.


ChrisMcNamee Generally speaking it's usually basic stuff like exhaust and intake, perhaps some cams. But there are exceptions to the rule. :)


JayPearson Yeah they are certainly used to it!


JimmyJanik Agreed!


CharlesXX I will be sure and shoot it in proper daylight conditions the next time I see these guys :)


KennedyCao That could be cool. Gotta see if we can find some contacts.


Taryn Croucher Yes, and it sounds even better!


Jon_Volk It should be easily apparent that these aren't actual race cars, right?


RdS2 Exactly!

JMax Paint Garage LLC

seen most of these rides @ Hightop Fade blog
Awesome article


Mike Garrett ChrisMcNamee That's cool too!  It's neat just to see what people do to be different, and I appreciate the work they've put into it.  I imagine it would be like walking into an anime storyline watching these roll down the streets :)


Jon_Volk Did you think these car were meant to be functional? Such fail.


what exactly is in the officers holster?  I know its not a gun but the shape of it draws question.