Relationships – they’re at the heart of every shoot I’ve done, any shop I’ve visited, or any tuner, designer or car guy I’ve ever interviewed. It’s always been about the people first; cars and everything else comes second.
It’s for this reason that I like nothing more than dropping by a shop and catching up with tuners, or anyone else in the automotive world that I’ve worked with or featured in the past.
Which is why on a recent weekend in Kyoto, I decided to stop by and say hello to Kei Miura at TRA Kyoto. Little did I know that my brief visit would turn into a whole day…
We spent a good hour sitting around Miura-san’s workstation, chatting about how things are going, how cars are evolving, and what the next big thing will be. He then proceeded to show me 3D models of cars he’ll be working on in the next year or two, which blew my mind. This only served to reinforce my opinion that Miura is one of the most forward-thinking trendsetters in the JDM world.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Miura-san in action, so I was excited when he asked if I wanted to check out a new car he was building. It turns out that he needed to quickly 3D-scan the engine bay of a USDM Datsun 1200 coupe, and test fit the motor and ancillaries to check for clearances.
As a Speedhunter I never really go anywhere without a camera, so this is how the rest of the day unfolded…Scanning Made Easy
The first time I met Miura and shot his Nissan S13 (and we’re talking prior to Speedhunters even existing here), he was using a 3D scanner that he made himself using parts form an Xbox. Miura-san and a friend from Kyoto University wrote the software that would allow him to make and save three-dimensional scans of cars in a format that he could then use in CAD.
This precision, technology-led approach to making FRP body parts when everyone in Japan was still hand-sculpting masters out of clay, is what put Miura and his Rocket Bunny brand on the map in the first place. Now he designs and makes aero parts for an ever-increasing list of customers, including OEMs.
Needless to say, Miura-san has come a long way since the early days, and with that the tools that he uses. The Artec LEO scans at a resolution that is probably higher than ever needed in the the automotive field and does so effortlessly and quickly with plenty of visual feedback from the built-in screen.
I did ask why he was scanning the Datsun’s engine bay, and was told it’s for a secondary firewall for heat insulation. Simply, with a B110 interior all stripped out, you get too much heat from the engine bay; the extra firewall should alleviate this problem.
The freshly repainted and restored shell is still mostly void of its driveline and suspension components, the former having to be test-fitted on this particular afternoon so that Miura could scan it and then check that everything else would fit around the new firewall.
The exterior of the Datsun had already been finished with Pandem fender flares to recreate those used in the ’70s, as well as a ducktail to highlight the rear hatch, and of course a bumper delete for that raw look.
Miura did a quick scan of the back end of the engine, again to ensure he had all the data for firewall clearance.
The engine was then mated to the transmission ready to be fitted into the car. It was cool to see that Nakawatase-san is still working with Miura-san after all these years. He’s the guy that made what is possibly the wildest S14 Silvia back in the day. Click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
It didn’t take long to get things into position.
In case you are wondering, this little workshop is a few shops down from the TRA Kyoto HQ. Miura is expanding even further as soon as space becomes available.
Still, it’s good to see that aside from the addition of the adjacent shuttered garage, nothing has really changed at the main shop.
That includes the 6666 Customs Silvia S13 demo car parked up out front, which is looking a little more weathered every time I see it.
There are cool new shop projects happening on the side, but the reality of Miura-san’s business these days is that the bigger contracts get priority. Still, had I not mentioned this, you would still assume that Miura is a fast worker, because he seems to have a kit for every new car that hits the market, let alone the stuff he does for everyone else.
This is the reason why Miura-san spends every waking hour at his workstation, making stuff happen.
The bags of polystyrene offcuts are a telltale sign that the CNC machine behind the shutter is always churning away, making the bases of what will later become body part molds.Letting Passion Be The Guide
One quick lens change later and a snoop around the main shop, things were progressing.
The steering column on the left-hand drive car was installed along with the brake master cylinder and pedals.
With the engine in position the car was lowered and a few bolts and the subframe tightened to get everything in place.
Miura pulled off the stock carburetors as he is going to run a sports injection system with longer runners. The way the throttle linkage was laid out didn’t quite line up and work in the space available.
Some quick grinding was needed to seat everything in place before going over a with a final 3D scan.
I love being a fly on the wall at times like this, as things naturally flow and happen. In these moments you can really soak up the atmosphere and become aware of things that you would never notice if you were rushed or there for just a quick in-and-out shoot.
I paced under the car checking out where things sit in this particular chassis. I’m far from familiar with these little old Datsuns, but it’s always nice to see the solutions engineers took back in the day. ‘Archaic’ is a word that came to mind, but I guess it worked for the time.
With Miura-san and his team hard at work, I decided to walk up the road and say a quick hello to the guys at Phoenix’s Power and check out what they were up to before the sun set.
It had been a while since I had traveled and spent some time talking cars with friends, and this visit to Kyoto reminded me just how much I had missed it. No pressure, no schedule, just straight-up chill.
Dino Dalle Carbonare