A Secret Car Collection Deep In The Okayama Mountains

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

Both? OK, do you want them in swift succession so that you don’t have time to be soured by the bad or underwhelmed by the good? Or would you prefer them separately, allowing you time to comprehend and process the wild torrent of emotions which will inevitably flood your equilibrium?

How about I just rip the plaster off this story and dive right in…


Last month, I was invited to check out a ‘secret car collection’ while shooting Madlane’s Lamborghini Diablo in Okayama. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, I lost half the photos. Luckily though, the shots that remain are the cream of the crop.


To amass a collection of interesting cars is surely a dream for many of us. But the icing on the cake is this particular garage’s location. Nestled deep in the mountains of Okayama, owner Kitamoto-san runs a small mechanics workshop at the far end of his two-storey storage facility. He was busy with the overhaul of a tired drift-spec AE86 while we looked through his collection.


One of the first cars I made a beeline for was this genuine BMW 2002 Turbo. It was in fantastic condition and made me smile just as much as the last one I saw in 2018 at Retro Rides in the UK.

As far as real classic cars go, I would choose this in a line-up of the usual suspects time and time again. It’s simple, awkward, quirky and purposeful all in the right amounts in all the right places.


The 2002 Turbo wasn’t alone, with plenty of other Germans to wax lyrical with during those long Japanese nights. A few looked a little worse for wear, but all were worth saving for some reason or another. Foreign cars will always hold their value in Japan.

It’s cruel to pick favorites, but with a 2002 Turbo in the room I simply put the blinkers on and strap on the nose bag; the rest of the world fades away. Fun fact: The Turbo’s fender flares are screwed on to facilitate easy removal if fitting wider wheels at the track. Those Germans are clever, aren’t they?


Coming back to my bad news…

As you can see above, there was an unbelievably cool Celica in the collection which looked to be completely original, funky ’70s decals and all. That’s one of the cars I lost images of. Among the others that were mistakingly deleted were a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition, Volvo 123 GT, and a few more 1950s and ’60s classics. Sorry about that.


On the second floor, I found a small Mini collection, Honda Beat, and a fantastic Datsun 2000 Roadster. Minis are big in Japan; they are loved for their agility, economy, convenient size and just because they’re a ton of fun.

The next car, however, is the polar opposite in every single way.


In contrast to the Mini, this 1983 Koenig Specials Ferrari 512 BBi is monstrous, brutish, garish and wild. I love them both. Or maybe the V12 Ferrari a little more.

This one was up on jack stands, which is why it looks like it’s about to take off.


These Koenig Specials 512s were built with the same philosophy and outright madness as all the others. The goal, to turn the Ferrari platform up to 11, and then some.

On this model there were four levels of custom madness available: 370bhp with an exhaust system, 400bhp, 450bhp with engine internals, while the twin-turbo version with a whopping 653bhp was the rabies-infected, frothing-at-the-mouth level.


The interior is quite red, which looks a little out there today, but I imagine that in 1983 it would have matched perfectly with white-washed jeans and an oversized designer jacket.


Aside from big jackets, big hair was also, err… big in the ’80s. I’m sure the twin-turbo setup with windows down was a sure way to keep the perm voluminous.


After the excitement had worn off from inside collection, there was one car I had been eyeing up the whole time. My company must have thought I was mad to take such an interest, but the heart wants what it wants.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a Subaru Leone in person. Maybe 2001 in Australia? This is basically the grandfather of the Impreza, and it was almost strange to notice so many similarities in the layout.


Under the hood lies a boxer engine, but whereas the modern WRX utilises the extra headroom above the flat-four engine for an intercooler, the Leone instead featured a full-size spare wheel.


This collection really sums up collectors here in Japan. That is, you find all sorts hiding away in the middle of nowhere.

I’ll finish this with good news – I still have one more story from deepest Okayama…

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_



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1983 Koenig Specials Ferrari 512 BBi. Thanks for the pictures.


Good news: we got a hint of what's laying out there in the deep mountains. And you got an excuse for a revisit.
Bad news: It's not secret anymore.


Definitely shed a small tear when I read that you'd lost photos of a certain red EVO.


Cool cars here but I think the highlight has to be the Koenig Specials 512
Just a very unique build for a very unique car

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Question: how did you lose the photos?

I'd be very interested in the Leone too! They are so rare today, I've seen more of those contemporary Japanese sports cars than a Leone.


I didn’t import them onto my hard drive and then formatted the flash card at the next shoot!


I can’t remember the last time I saw a Subaru Leone in person.

I was surprised and then almost shocked seeing plenty of them, all kinds, pickups, station wagons, coupes, in Telaviv, Israel.


I guess there’s some rough terrain in Israel? Or is there a military connection maybe?


Man, that Koenig, and a white one at that! It may be on jackstands but the wheel gap when it's down on the ground isn't much better, heh.


As if the front of the car wasn't heavy enough, the engineer then dumped more deadweight to the front with a full size tyre.

Speaking of tyre, that is one unique way to "store" a tyre in the engine bay.


SUBARU Leone !! Amazing.. add that flat 12 turbo in it and now we got something wild


Plenty of space in the wagon!