Long before drifting became a professional motorsport – more than a decade before Formula D cars slapped on their first wraps, and even before the birth Japan’s own D1 Grand Prix series – Pro Shop Wave was building and tuning drift cars for local drifters in Kanagawa, Japan.
As usual, I found Pro Shop Wave purely by chance. Driving past the shop on my way home from Odawara Castle, drift cars, piles of tires and parts, and the unmistakable face of a Hakosuka Skyline peering out from a dark garage drew me in for a closer look.
Out front the team were working on a drift-hardened S14 Nissan Silvia, but they were more than happy to chat and let me take some photos.
Pro Shop Wave has been located here since 1992, and I don’t think the shop’s changed much since then. Time has not been kind to the building; vines and rust are slowly reclaiming it for the earth. If you block out the traffic from the adjacent freeway, you could almost imagine this shop servicing Mad Max-esque machines in a post-apocalyptic world where drift cars rule the roads.
To say Pro Shop Wave is well established would be the understatement of the year. Expanding on my opening comment, the company opened its doors eight years before the first D1 Grand Prix event and 12 years before the first Formula D competition. Of course, drifting was already popular in Japan in 1992, as the first organized drift event had happened six years prior.
Pro Shop Wave are the guts and muscle behind sister company B-Wave, who make really cool custom parts for drift cars, and also for people-movers like the Honda Odyssey. Their body kits are even available on Japanese online shopping giant Rakuten.
One of the mechanics I talked to told me that he, along with a few other staff members, were part of the Night Walkers street racing team. They’ve been around forever, racing mostly four-door sedans like the Toyota Chaser and Nissan Laurel. The Night Walkers have produced a couple of pro drifters from their ranks, notably Tomokazu Hirota.
Back in the day, Hirota-san was famous for being one of the only D1GP drifters to run a Toyota Verossa, a model I’d never seen or heard of before. The car’s 2.5L 1JZ-GTE and fine tuning helped him take second place at Round 4 of the 2008 season, and Keiichi Tsuchiya even crowned him ‘D1’s best Verossa drifter’.
Looking around the place, I was interested to find out how Pro Shop Wave has managed to survive as a business for almost three decades. If you check out their website, you’ll find all their aero parts, gauge clusters, suspension and engine components, which I’d say probably make up a substantial part of their revenue. If you’re looking for period-correct JDM drift style, the parts are all perfect; my guess is the designs haven’t been changed since they first hit the market. I personally love the 180SX body kit.
If the online shop is the bread and butter, then working on customer cars must be Pro Shop Wave’s pudding. Adding to this, motorcycles – classic, custom and contemporary – are also restored, modified and maintained from the premises.
Drifting is a legit hobby in Japan and not just for people wanting to relive the ’90s. Apparently young kids are getting into the sport too, but it’s not cheap to buy a base car anymore. The rapidly rising value of 180SXs and even Chasers is enough to make the eyes of a sea otter water, but once that initial purchase is taken care of, drift consumables like wheels, tyres and fuel are all pretty cheap in Japan.
This is great news for drivers, small shops like Pro Shop Wave, and for Japanese motorsport in general. The more young people and grassroots drivers there are developing their skills on the various circuits in Japan, the higher the chance for pro drivers to emerge and inject both talent and revenue into the industry.
Of course, keeping the drift spirit alive has a great cultural effect too.
I really cherish workshops like this, and hunting them out – or just randomly chancing upon them, as was the case here – is possibly my favourite part of Speedhunting. Finding companies like Pro Shop Wave is just my style – junk everywhere, cars in pieces, colourful characters elbow-deep in engine bays who are happy to shoot the breeze.