It all started as a bit of a joke, just over a month ago. Fellow Speedhunter Taryn (who I also happen to be married to – just getting that out of the way early!) and I were sitting at Speedhunters HQ discussing exactly what the hell we were going to do once our EU visas ran out. We’d have to leave Europe for a good three months before we could even consider coming back for another long-term visit.
“There’s always Japan,” Taryn had said. It was, of course, the obvious solution. We’ve been a few times previously and know all too well that it’s one of the greatest places on earth for people like us. Whilst wondering whether I could handle all the weirdness Japan contains for a solid 90-day stretch, I had a sudden thought, and joked, “that’s just about long enough to buy something cheap with a 1JZ, start showing up at track days and pretend to be the next Daigo Saito!” Oh how we chuckled…
But that’s the funny thing about the world we live in. It’s a very fertile environment for half-baked ideas. I like to think of it as the ultimate ‘rash decision nursery’. Back in the ’80s you might have cooked up a crazy plan or a unique build idea and then talked about it with friends for a few days before letting it die off quietly in the corner. But now? The internet is a modern-day devil sitting on your shoulder saying things like, ‘you should definitely click on that link, just delete your history later’ or, more specifically in our case: ‘hey, here’s an endless selection of videos, images and build threads to help you turn that off-hand comment into a life-changing decision.’
And that’s how I ended up dipping into the funds I’d hidden away since selling my beloved Impala last year, and buying a cheap, factory manual JZX110 Toyota Mark II IRV with the help of a few local friends, including AllThatLow’s Charles Zayas and Hayato-san of Yokosuka-based shop My Break.
A few weeks later and we were in Tokyo driving the big silver sedan from My Break to our temporary new home on the western outskirts of the city. It had been given a quick look over by another contact, but as is to be expected with purchasing anything sight unseen, you never really know what you’re going to get – especially considering before being parked up in storage two years ago, this particular JZX was used as a weekend drift car.
While the latter fact gave us a good head start with HKS Hipermax coilovers, a 3-inch exhaust, Ogura heavy-duty clutch, some kind of LSD, seats, a steering wheel, Vertex body kit, a set of cheap 19-inch wheels, and little things like Endless brake pads and an e-throttle controller, it also meant we weren’t starting with a lily-white blank canvas.
And sure enough, we quickly discovered a bunch of issues. But with having only three months to get the most out of the JZX there’s no point in ‘fluffing around’ as my mother would say, and in the days since we’ve been scrambling around Tokyo trying to get the car sorted for its first drift day, and in the process quickly learning just how hard being a car enthusiast in a massive metropolis like Tokyo can be.
Luckily, we’ve had help from old friends that we had met on previous visits, like fellow Tokyo-based Kiwi Toby Stent, who works at a local Up Garage and was kind enough to lend us his set of 18×9.5s to replace the fugly 19s and accompanying bald tyres until we get on our feet.
As well as new friends who we’re meeting for the first time, like the hilariously energetic ‘Koki-man’ and his colleagues at Mercury, the shop behind the monster 1000hp Z33, as recently featured by Dino.
But more on all that soon… The JZX is already streaks ahead of where it was a week ago, but for now I want to keep the introduction to this short-term Speedhunters project car equally as short and sweet. Mostly because I’ve got to head into the city and find some new wheels to replace the loaners, as well as some drift spares!
Our attempt at ‘living the dream’ has caused a few tense moments so far, but as dorky as this might sound, without having even been to a Japanese track day or touge yet, the feeling of driving your own drift car, complete with rowdy 1JZ-GTE soundtrack and bone-jarring super-stiff suspension through late-night Tokyo streets is almost worth it just in itself. Regardless of whatever else happens, this is something I’ve dreamt of doing since I was a teenager. I just never thought I’d actually ever do it.
Is the car going to be reliable? How well is it going to drift? Will the local drivers accept a couple of awkward foreign beginners at their track days? Stay tuned for more stories in the coming weeks and months to see whether this turns into the best or worst decision we’ve ever made!
Looking forward to more on this one, keep at it guys.
Can't wait for more chapters to this story!
p.s. @team: Thank you for fixing the layout of SpeedHunters. This is how it should remain.
I don't think you should ever tell everybody the price they would lose their minds on how cheap it is.
I love the entire notion of the plan.
Hey, if that's your plate, there's no shame in living in Yokohama! All that space. Hills. Views. Cheap food & rent. Friendly people. But it is not Tokyo. Tell it like it is... and hope to see you about! Neko.
off course it's gonna be reliable.. Its's a jz!! probably hooked up to a r154 5 speed, also indestructible :p
"Well that just looks like a crusty manifo-oh jezums that hose...".
Horaay I love the I-bought-a-thing's congrats! Can't wait for the initial impressions after it gets sorted.
At the same time.... all I can see is a Camry.... Coming from the states, I almost require a Lexus guise to get me to enjoy a toyota's aesthetics.
Awesome, semi-ridiculous plan. I love it.
for round two, import that car into vancouver canada. if its 15 years old. you two are part of the commonwealth so you can hang here as long as you want. and drift that car up and down the coast. highway 101 down washinton, oregon and cali is a awesome car adventure. then when you are there route 66....have fun
@truhidden visa rules are a bit more stringent that "stay as long as you want" 2 years max with a working visa.
As a new owner of a S15 with rock hard coil-overs, a raspy exhaust note and enough power for everyday driving, I think you and Taryn will love it! Way to go jumping in the deep end!
I'll need to update my profile pic!
"1JZ engine, no shit!"
And those seven-spokes...
@Kuroneko We're actually staying out in the hills beyond Ome city at the moment, but will be moving around a bit over the next few months.
qaped Yep, it's a good old R154 - like shifting a truck, but built like a brick shithouse. Perfect!
Paizuri_4g63 That's just the start haha!
@truhidden Awesome idea! I haven't been to Canada yet but I've been wanting to go for many years (mostly to go to Whistler in summer admittedly!
I'd love one of these but, you know, America.
hypodermic two years max if i go to kiwiland sigh, but canada is pretty open. we like taking in people.we need more people to fill it up and melt tires.besides EA headquaters is here get them to work the magic.
Peter_Kelly sounds great i live in squamish 30 min from whistler on the famous "sea to sky" highway. epic car stories all day long on this road. if you do come through there is a couch for any speedhunter.
Ice Age Thanks for the laugh! Pitchforks!!!
Peter_Kelly Vancouver itself has a huge car culture all it's own too, from exotics to home built rat rods. Let us locals know and we'll be happy to show you around!
clevernamehere Peter_Kelly And 30 min west will take you to jacked up truck heaven haha. Grew up in Richmond & that area is one of the most beautiful on earth. Make sure you catch the dry season it only lasts the month of August lol jk
Welcome to the clan!
I'll meet you guys at Tatsumi or Daikoku if you set a date!
Kaizoushin What are of the city are you based in? We're probably going to end up heading there quite a bit in the coming months, just getting the JZX road-worthy first.
How reliable are the hks coilovers.... I'm debating going with them or Fortune Auto 500's
@Brian M I actually had a set in my old JZX90 track car, I never had any issues with them, but that was seven years ago now. As for these ones, not really sure what to expect so will just have to see what happens out on track. The Fortune Autos are supposed to be pretty decent.
Thanks for your patience with that slowpolk, our site layout was doing a few weird things recently (which weren't intentional!) but we've sorted them now. Cheers!
Pedey-San, this is a very sugooooi machine! Take care!
Gianluca FairladyZ Cheers Gianluca, hope you're well!
Chur brutha duz it g8 hard au bae.
Does your form of vehicular transport vent its waste-gate actuation system rather ruthlessly, chum?)
Matt Khoun Nah, but the juddies are mean!
looking forward man! good luck!
Good luck out there Kellys!
wow man, nice different project... but I am sure you miss the impala.
I got a question for the readers... I'm bored.
Why is there no hate when Peter wanks on about his car, but people are quick to criticize the articles that Dino puts up?
Peter_Kelly more to the point how are yokohama and tokyo to different city's they are next to each other
What ? Who?
Because many of us know Peddy personally. And he's a GC. And we'll hunt down and p.ss in the cornflakes of anyway who dares speak ill of said GC.
Damn, I'm gonna be over in a couple of weeks again but I'd love to stay for a couple of months myself. Real jealous.
Good car choice as well, 1JZ are just the best.
Hope you guys will be at the JCCA event on Tsukuba!
Peter_Kelly qaped Uprade to fully synthetic mt90 Redline oil and Marlin Crawler shifter bushings;) Made a lot of difference in my mk3 supra.
AndreLeRoux I do very much, but at the same time, you've got to try new things sometimes, and the purchase didn't cut too badly into the Impala fund, so there's still hope for another Chev in the future!
AlexGut Wouldn't miss JCCA! Please introduce yourself if you see us wandering around.
Kawaguchi in Saitama just outside Tokyo. I can usually be at Tatsumi in under an hour. Daikoku is close to an hour from me. I sometimes catch Dino doin' his thang lol
1JZ is a rock solid engine, don't worry about it
Great choice for a project looking forward to this !
Cool, hope you find what you need to get it done in three months. What I want to know is how you would a person of color, especially black, be accepted in the car scene there? I am close to having my trip to Japan set up but I am nervous on how I will be seen. I love cars and racing just like anyone else but I NEVER see any people like me on the big gear head sites on the editorial staff. Kinda sucks. Love this site anyway and keep it up!!
@atomant I genuine wouldn't sweat it man, caucasian people stick out in Japan the same way.
However, most importantly: A gear head is a gear head, ethnicity don't matter fuck all. Go and enjoy yourself over there, the japanese people are the nicest on earth.
Good luck with it! I'm sure it will be fun
Hahaha!!! Speedhunter doing some independent social research... Having fun and calling it work you gotta love that...
I just arrive a few hours ago to Hong Kong for some bussiness and in two weeks will be heading straight to Tokyo then to Saitama to pick up a few cars. White guy in a drift moded JZX should not be to hard to be spoted.
@atomant I'm a person of colour from South Africa and I've been to Japan, Hong Kong and China. Checked the car scenes and had no problems with anyone. Don't focus on anything that negative and it will be fun. Oh and in Japan, if you have tattoos, then there's certain places you cannot enter.
AlexGut Thanks dude! We are all one family of gear heads!
Ujean Awesome! That is good to hear. I guess I have such high esteem for Japan and its people I want to really have a good time looking at some dope cars and enjoy some Japanese omotenashi! No tats here dude! so Im allowed to roam freely? LOL
Yup, turning greener by the second. Loving every minute of the passenger ride so far.
@atomant AlexGut What Alex said! That's kind of what I like about cars and the car scene so much. The fact that I've never actually thought about the ethnicity of my peers is a good sign. You're into cars, great, done - that's all I need to know. From what I've seen so far, I get the impression that a foreigner is a foreigner to the locals, if you're respectful and have an understanding for the way things are done here, they're incredibly welcoming and friendly people. Although, I feel like some of the older locals do get sketched out by my beard haha!
@partywith Peter_Kelly Think of the difference between San Fran and Oakland.
Haha!!! ...Byeee thanks for coming to san franciscooo...come back in april where having a sale on birkenstock. Cross to the otherside....and is Welcome to oakland Biatch!!
Dream car for my, enjoy
D1RGE Peter_Kelly Except Tokyo and Yokohama are in different 'states', have different governments, different license plates, different transport systems, different dialects, and are two different cities. They just happen to merge into one homogeneous contiguous mass of roads, humanity, and general Japaneseness.
Yokohama has nicer people, and better architecture too though... More car scene as well!
This is super rad. We have matching boost gauges.
nice i love a functional vip car
Hey, I'm currently living in Asakusa, I was at Tsukuba with Nakai and Alvin, I worked for Toyota for 5 years back in NZ so if you want any help with anything I'm usually free. Nate said you guys were there but apparently we didn't get introduced. If you are interested in talking further then you can PM me on facebook or through line.
GripHooligan86 A JZX isn't a VIP car...
ScottMoore26 Thanks Scott, I've tried to find you on those platforms but no luck. Fire me an email if you could on firstname.lastname@example.org, thanks!
seventhskyline GripHooligan86 what makes a vip chassis to you?
GripHooligan86 seventhskyline It's a bit of a rubbery measure but usually bigger and more luxurious than a JZX.
Crown, Celsior, Century; President, Cima, Gloria, Cedric etc; big body Euros; that kind of thing.
seventhskyline GripHooligan86 hmmm well i have not seen one of these in person nore do i know its exact chassis dimensions, so to me it appears decent sized for a sedan and quite bulky so to me its a vip car lol
Yea the car is perfect bro!
keep on dreamin' on!!! I can only hope that one day I have your life!!!