Tommy Kaira ZZ Trio At Tatsumi PA

After a lot of time spent outside of Japan the past couple of months, I needed to reset my brain and re-immerse myself into a bit of Japanese car culture. This can’t be more effectively done than dropping by Tatsumi Parking Area on a Friday night, as you are pretty much bombarded with an ever-changing array of interesting cars.

But I don’t what on earth was going on last Friday; there was so much rare stuff coming in and heading back out of the PA that I didn’t know where to look!


My aim however, was just to take it all in – not spend the night behind the camera. We Speedhunters need time to breathe too, and it’s incredible how much of the atmosphere you miss or don’t pick up on if your eye is buried deep into a viewfinder. But alas, it was not going to last. When not one, not two, but three Tommy Kaira ZZs rolled into Tatsumi PA in convoy, the urge to reach into the trunk of Project Drop Top and grab my camera was too much to resist.


This compact, British-built Japanese sports car from the ’90s is a legend in its own right. Tommy Kaira, a Japanese aftermarket tuning and styling company, conceptualised the two-seat, rear-engined ZZ and then built it in Norfolk, England. But mismanagement and poor sales ultimately led to the company’s demise, and the dream of the ZZ’s successor – the RB26-powered ZZII – remained just that, a dream. It’s a real pity too, because the ZZ, and potentially the ZZII, could have easily become some of the best driver’s cars to come out of Japan. Tommy Kaira didn’t disappear entirely though; the failing company was picked up by a new owner and is still in business today, tuning and modifying cars from other manufacturers as it once did, and developing stylised aero conversions under the Rowen name. As for the Tommy Kaira brand, it’s being used to market a new EV version of the ZZ. For the original hundred ZZs that were built, they continue to be enjoyed by their owners, and to see three show up out of the blue was pretty exciting.


This is as focused as a driver’s car can get; it’s light and powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine good for 180hp. I’ve seen a few ZZs with curious engine transplants too, so you really never know what they are running under their FRP rear engine cover. This is Japan after all!


And that of course also means that people can’t help but personalise them with aero additions and track-spec wheels and tyre combos.


Of the ZZ trio, it was this particular car I was drawn to; perhaps something to do with its RAYS Volk Racing 8-spoke CE28Ns wrapped in Potenza RE55S semis. Serious stuff!


As cool as the usual supercar turnout is at Tatsumi PA, not to mention the night being topped off with an unexpected Ferrari F50 appearance, it was these three little ZZs that did it for me. Japan, you are awesome in every way!

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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always loved these since I first seen one. EPIC seeing 3 of them together


Such a shame they failed, awesome cars and the RB26-powered ZZII well that would have been something special. A mid mounted straight 6 goes against the grain that's for sure.


They was made in the UK, for japan :)


DavidFRogers never heard of this car before, do you have something to read about this car? it looks really nice ..


Zz2 was totally killer in gran Turismo


The British really do know how to fuck up what could have been something special.

The British car industry failed because of the tribal war between the two factions that should have made it happen: incompetent, piss-poor management on one side, and lazy, entitled, socialist worker johnnies on the other.  Just like this case, the ones that really lost out were the designers.
If you design something awesome, don't get it built in Britain, because we will royally f**k you over.


Man these cars were so much fun back in the day on Gran Turismo 2, glad to see them being looked after!


welcome back Dino! your articles and pictures are by far the best on site


Not mentioned in the article, they were powered by the SR20DE as far as I know. Quite amazing numbers NA.


That's why Honda and Toyota build here?


mctav They are already established global mega corps with vast management structures and strategies in place.  There is a difference between how they manage their operations in the present day, and how this was managed in the 90s, and how the British car industry was "managed".


did not know that these existed look like pretty cool cars and the front is very reminiscent of the ford rs2000 evo, any connection? same designer perhaps?

they look quite small too about the size of an aw11 mr2 by the looks of it. 

would love to read an in depth feature of these cars!


LouisSoon the ZZII ran the Skyline drivetrain turned 180°, with the diffs inversed. I'm rather surprised no-one ever tried doing that as a DIY project. or at least I never stumbled upon it.


Slappy_Pistons  agreed...TVR is yet another example.


I'll wonder what the owners club thinks to these modified versions with there being so few of them about haha.


Slappy_Pistons Exact reason why the Australian car industry is now dead.


JakWhite Don't think they'll mind as practically every single one I've seen had some type of modification. Most seem to be used as dedicated track tools, which is something Tommy Kaira never seemed to realize. They could have taken that into account and offered proper stripped out versions and made a killing but it all went down the toilet...partly due to the cost of having the car built in the UK (with delays in production and concerns about actual build quality) and shipped to Japan where the majority of the clients actually were.


difflocked_mees Haha I was saying the exact same thing to a friend of mine as we were checking these cars out. Those headlights are so RS200!


DavidFRogers Yes it was, one with hot cams supposedly good for 180PS. I've seen 2-3 with SR20DET swaps


@Amintore Hey I've always been here haha, but thanks! It's tough managing everything and also going out and shooting/writing but I'll do my best for you guys :)


Slappy_Pistons They have a bit of a dodgy track record don't they? TVR is always a good example...


DJJAW11 Yes they were


DavidFRogers Well seeing they have the electric version now with the updated exterior and interior maybe someone will buy one and swap a proper engine in there!


So cool! I've never seen one outside of Gran Turismo. Excellent wallpaper material as always, Dino.


beach_samurai Glad to be of service :D


To me , Tommy Kaira ZZ is always one of the Japanese's takes on making a Lotus Elise ... another one would be Vemac cars & their Honda-powered MR cars .


Zooka DavidFRogers  Dino do you know who is making the electric version, link? Cheers


Need to come to Japan sooner or later.. Would you like to be my guide? We can skeep the temples and touristic spots thing ahah


Tommy Kaira ZZII kicked ass in Gran Turismo


I remember this from Gran Turismo, however after all these years this makes me think of the Pagani brand more. It looks like a Pagani Kei Car.


Tatsumi is a magic place.
people do not understand the real and impressive japanese car culture.

Enjoy! //


difflocked_mees My old RS200E


There are two of these for sale in Europe (Norway)


JonKjetilKallekodt around 21k GBP ish, it's not bad for the right buyer. Would


with the old style car that looks good on the road if you want to have


the car was very good 
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