Deep in the mountains (I seem to open with that line quite often, but it’s absolutely my favourite place to be) of Fukuoka, in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, I met up with Tatsuya and Seiya Mouri at Neo Project to check out their 2022 Tokyo Auto Salon demo cars and find out how they get their Z33 Nissan Fairlady Zs so damn wide.
The boys have been expanding the width of Z cars for the past few years, and will be bringing two builds all the way up to the Makuhari Messe in Chiba this weekend – one red and the other blue, which coincidently ties in nicely with the release of the new Matrix film.
Neo Project was originally set up by the brothers’ father, an old school Silvia drifter from the heady touge days of ’90s Japan. While Mouri-san still keeps a close eye on proceedings at the workshop, the boys have taken over the day-to-day running of Neo Project, and are together responsible for the BellusMare bodykit line that adorns these two Z cars.
Younger brother Seiya-san is following in his father’s footsteps and will be competing in drift events starting this year. Tatsuya-san, however, is following his childhood dream to create the baddest, widest Z cars out there, with inspiration from the IMSA 240Zs that raced stateside in the ’70s.
And inspiring they are indeed: Bright colours, super-wide body flares and wheel/tyre combos, and double their production power.
Even though the 350Z that Tatsuya has chosen to work with is modern, clean and carefully contoured, walking around the yard it’s easy to see where the boys’ roots lie. There’s a definite old school drift vibe going on.
Fun fact: the BellusMare name is actually the paint colour code of Tatsuya-san’s first S15 Silvia.
For me, hanging out in random garages in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains and the sound of dogs barking is absolute bliss. Sure, I’m looking forward to Tokyo Auto Salon, but I’m also kind of dreading it. I’m not one for big crowds or sensory overload. I also would much rather see the cars out in their natural habitat, like here at Neo Project.
Of course, I’m sure I’ll change my tune once I’m at TAS – it’s my first time there after all – and the follow-up stories will be full of mind-blowing recollections.
Before arriving at the workshop, all I knew was that Neo Project builds super-wide Z cars. I had no idea what would be waiting for me, or if there’d even be anything ready to shoot. Luckily, Tatsuya and Seiya are a couple of reasonably organized young men, so things were looking good.
Some of the cars in the Neo Project yard are customer-owned, while others are test mules for various BellusMare body parts. Tatsuya-san tells me that they will fit and widen any Z car, but they don’t just sell the kit; you have to bring your car to the shop, and they will take care of the rest, right down to the paint.
So how do the brothers get their Z cars looking so fat? Well, as it turns out, it’s actually very simple – all you need is a pack of Hi-Lite cigarettes and a few bottles of Coke. After inspiration and vision have been attained, the hard work begins. Tetsuya-san tells me that he spent the best part of a year shaping and contouring urethane foam to get his ideal shape just right.
How wide are we talking? Well, the very well chosen Work Meisters measure 12-inches wide up front and 13-inches wide at the rear, with huge dish. The rears are very nearly double the width of Project GC8‘s wheels, on a car that’s almost half as tall.
While the Zs definitely look good at rest, sitting low and wide, looking good is most certainly not the goal here. Tatsuya-san told me that the focus is speed and agility on the track. The wider you are, the tighter you grip.
As the colourful bunch of Nissans glistened in the morning dew, I saw the 350Z in a different light. For me, it’s always been a bit daft looking, like a black Labrador in a business suit. But on this particular morning, out on the road, I saw the Z33 as a proper driving machine.
Time wasn’t really on my side at Neo Project (I have lots more coming from my whirlwind visit to Fukuoka…), so I’ll be checking out all the details of the red Z at TAS for an upcoming spotlight feature.