So there I was announcing my happy return to Speedhunters after a few months spent working behind the scenes on Need for Speed Heat, when Mother Nature felt a need to intervene.
Just days after publishing my editorial piece, one of the many typhoons that hit Japan during the late summer/early autumn months completely flooded the lower floor of my house. It’s been a tough month since Typhoon Hagibis, and I’ll be living with my in laws for sometime yet while my house undergoes some major repairs, but I’m finally getting back into my Speedhunting stride. You may notice a slight delay in some of my stories for the next month or so, but I’ll do my best to keep them coming.
First up, it’s our 2019 Speedhunters Live Japan event, which we ran back in September with world-famous magician Dynamo.
‘That’s a strange partnership’, I hear you say. Well, imagine what I was thinking when the guys behind Dynamo’s television show reached out and threw the idea on the table. But I like thinking outside the box, and with the theme staying very central to cars, I thought that spicing up a static car event with a little bit of magic would be something totally unique. And it was.
The hardest thing was trying to sell the concept to some of the biggest names in Japan’s aftermarket industry. ‘Dynamo? A Magician? Uh…’ was the response that pretty much everyone came back with, and so my explanation followed.
Organizing any car event is never an easy feat, but time was very much a factor in all of this. Speedhunters’ Japanese merchandise partner, Hashimoto Corporation, and I had just three weeks to pull the whole thing together, so we wasted no time getting the word out. Adding to the challenge was the fact that some other big automotive events, including a national AE86 meet, were happening around Japan on the same Sunday.
Fast forward to a few days before the actual event, and Longwood Station – the venue for our show – was hit by a very strong typhoon with winds toppling over trees all around the Chiba region and causing a blackout. With so much against us we decided to keep our fingers crossed, while making it a completely free event in order to support the local car community who hadn’t had the best few days.
On the morning of the show the power at Longwood Station had been restored and we were ready to go.
With Dynamo’s main trick of the night requiring darkness, we shifted the event’s start time to 2:00pm, in the process giving it even more of a chilled vibe.
As I’d be on the mic all day, I’d had to come up with a plan for photography. Ron was somewhere in South East Asia for another event, so I reached out to a friend of Speedhunters who I had met last year at Fuji Speedway. I can’t thank Mu Huan enough for making the trek from Nagano to take care of photo duties.
A Speedhunters Live event wouldn’t be right without a Speedhunters project car or two, so I brought along the soon-to-be-upgraded Project Quattro, and Project GT-R, which is still off the road and had to make the journey sporting JDM slash plates and a very uncooperative base map for the Haltech. More on both of these cars soon.
Project GT-R was joined by the Trust/GReddy BNR34 demo car, which I featured last year. As the company’s test bed for new R34 GT-R products, it continues to evolve.
Yuuki, the owner of the very loud and impossibly cool 4-rotor FD3S RX-7 arrived soon after.
The engine was built by Koseki-san at Scoot, and the sound it makes is one of the best things your ears will ever hear.
Everyone thought Yuuki’s RX-7 would be the loudest, but we were all wrong. When Pan Speed arrived and unloaded their RX-8 track car – which is powered by a naturally aspirated and peripheral ported 3-rotor – off the trailer, well, let’s just say the entire Chiba countryside would have known.
What the…? Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought…
The sheer variety of cars was amazing, and as more pulled in we ensured they were arranged in a cohesive way around our main center booth and stage area.
The humbling sensation that I felt one year prior at our very first Speedhunters Live event at Fuji Speedway hit me again. Seeing so much support for an event that had been put together so quickly was incredible.
Everywhere I looked were sick rides of every type; the carpark quickly became a living representation of what Speedhunters is, and it unfolded right before my eyes.
The coolest aspect of this was seeing friends come over and give their support, and bringing all their toys. Toys that my kids wanted to play with.
Up until very recently, this super-clean 944 used to cruise around California’s Bay Area, and was even entered in a RADwood event there. Now it’s been brought back to Japan by its owner to become a part of the local car scene. We were very happy to have it show up at SH Live.
Mu Huang did a great job of capturing the vibe of this initial first part of the event, while I was busy welcoming people and organizing the in-show events we had planned. Until now, I didn’t even know we had a Toyota Tacoma on RAYS Volk Racing TE37s show up.
Like any modified or custom car gathering in Japan, wheels and fitment play a big role. It’s something the Japanese do very well.
In fact, they do it so well it would be close to impossible for me to choose a favorite.
It was this E92 BMW M3 on Ferrari 488 wheels, however, that quickly became the talk of the show. Talk about absolutely nailing a look.
And where there’s wheels and fitment in Japan there is always slammed vans, this time around kindly provided by the Cambergang crew.
Many of you will know that I compete as a co-driver in the Marronnier Run every year, and this is the Fairlady Z432 that I do it in. It’s always great seeing valuable historics being properly used rather than being relegated to the confines of a collection.
While cars kept rolling in, I kicked off the first game, hoping to show all these cars in a slightly different light – or specifically, sound.The Exhaust Loudness Competition
We kept the exhaust loudness competition pretty simple, but it sure got everyone cheering. It was basically a fun way to hear some of these cars, and put them to the test against a decibel meter app that I have on my phone. Is it accurate? Not really. Is it fun? Totally!
Yuuki went first, followed by Pan Speed, and then HKS’s 2JZ-swapped, anti-lag-equipped drift-spec 86. At this point my ears were pretty close to bleeding.
But we kept going. Project GT-R even had a go.
It might be hard to believe, but out of all the cars that participated, a little Esse kei car and a Nissan Tiida were the loudest.The Limbo
Think your car is the lowest? That’s what the car limbo set out to determine.
It wasn’t all slammed JDM cars though, we even had an Alfa Romeo 4C on coilovers give it a try.
Ultimately though, shakotan always reigns supreme. The trick to coming out victorious is pretty simple: You not only need to go low, but also start with a low car.
The Mazda Roadster is pretty hard to beat in this respect, no matter the generation.
As evening approached, I finally had a chance to properly check out some of the cars that had shown up. It was awesome seeing so many fresh cars mixed in with those I had seen before, something testament to the continuous evolution that the scene enjoys in Japan.
I was so happy to see Saito-san show up, too. Now that he’s repaired his car after a mishap at Tsukuba, it’s looking better than ever. And yes, I have a feature on this dropping soon.
We even had a handful of foreigners that were on vacation in Japan drop by to check out Speedhunters Live. Thanks for coming!Enter Dynamo
The whole reason for shifting our show late in the day was so that it could continue into the night. As soon as the skies went dark, the most unique part of this Speedhunters Live event would kick off.
So why was Dynamo collaborating on an event with us? He was over in Japan to film an episode of his new TV show that will air next year. Part of it would see him attend a meet – a link to his love for cars – where he would stop and do some tricks for the crowd.
It was a bit strange seeing a professional crew filming with multiple cameras and big mics on booms, and all of a sudden the whole feel of the event changed.
People left the surroundings of their cars and a crowd quickly formed around Dynamo, where he proceeded to do his thing, blowing people’s minds in the process.
As the card tricks continued, darkness quickly fell.
For the big finale, Dynamo ended up picking a random guy out of the crowd, and…
Well, I’m not going to give the main trick away – we’ll all have to wait until next spring to see what he got up to.
Despite the crazy rush to get all of this set up, the end result was an incredible experience that thanks to Dynamo’s participation left everyone impressed. Now the question is, what can we possibly do in 2020 to top this?
Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photos by Mu Huan Sheng