Time Machine: Fuji Time Attack
What The ’90s JDM Scene Created

Many people talk about the ’90s as the golden years of Japanese tuning, and it’s a fairly accurate assessment of that particular decade. Japan may have been slowly declining from the ‘bubble economy’ of the late ’80s, but there were still a lot of people, both tuners and customers, that didn’t think twice about dropping serious amounts of money into making their cars go faster.

It was a great time for sure. But you know what? When I get asked when the best time in Japan was, I answer the question remembering a certain event in 2003…


And that’s precisely why you’re seeing this Time Machine post. Today I’m taking a look back at the very first time tuners were let loose on Fuji Speedway after it had undergone a complete redesign. We’re talking the pits, the paddock and even the track itself which was widened and improved overall.


This time attack event sticks in my memory as the absolute best of the best from the past; it was pretty much the culmination of what the ’90s had spawned. Call it a final hurrah before a new breed of Japanese sports and supercars arrived and the tuning scene started losing its way a little. To me, this event represents what tuning should be, and perhaps the way we’d like to see it heading again. After all, modifying a car is not all plastic overfenders and looks; the mechanics should always be the most important aspect.


But I won’t judge, it’s not my place to do so. I’m a casual observer in an automotive tuning and modifying world that continues to grow and evolve. So think of this post as a look into what was cool in Japan in my eyes, and let’s leave it at that.

Let’s kick things off with ATTKD. Tsukada-san is a guy that even through the hard days has never lost focus; he builds fast GT-Rs and that’s all that matters to him. This particular day was the first time I laid eyes on his much improved R32 time attack beast, which to this day remains as one of top three fastest cars around Fuji Speedway, irrespective of the complicated rules that are often put in place to attempt to categorize these machines.


With an HKS 2.8L stroker kit, HKS GT-RS turbos and an HKS V-Cam setup, around 750hp was developed from this RB26 base. And let’s not forget the Holinger sequential gearbox to help get it all to the ground.


I think Mine’s has been seeing the error of its ways lately. Once the R35 GT-R hit the scene in 2007, it’s as if RB26-powered cars never existed to the famous tuning company. It’s understandable I guess, as after well over 15 years of tuning the older cars, Mine’s wanted a challenge and something new to develop. But it’s funny how so many tuners are going back to the RB26 cars now that the R35 has become just another ageing supercar. On this day at Fuji though, it was a pleasure to hear the high-revving wail of the Mine’s R34’s responsive motor echo around the track.

It wasn’t all GT-Rs of course; there was the usual variety that you always find at events like this in Japan, including some vintage Skyline goodness.


Do any of you guys remember this S15-faced Silvia S14 that Hayashi-san at Garage Saurus built? It developed 555PS and was good for a 57-second flat lap at Tsukuba. Sure, times have moved on since, but this was a pretty epic car back in its day.

While I’m on the subject of epic stuff, here are three guys that in 2003 were doing big things in the Japanese tuning scene. Ichishima-san of Spoon Sports is still very much an authority on preparing Hondas for track action and fast road use, which reminds me that I need to drop by his shop and check out the crazy little S660 he’s built. Next up we have Koyama-san, the mastermind shop manager of JUN, who together with the company’s president, Tanaka-san, built some pretty amazing cars. After leaving JUN, Koyama joined forces with the Team Orange guys and created Koyama Racing Labo, but sickness eventually forced him to step aside and concentrate on his health and wellbeing. Last but not least, we have a true legend – the late Tanabe-san of Power House Amuse. I had a huge amount of respect for Tanabe; he pushed boundaries in his own unique and methodical way, and every car he touched was transformed into something truly special.

Fresh Tarmac At FSW

It was only a few moments after I took this shot that I stepped onto Fuji Speedway’s brand spanking new pit lane for the first time, and I remember thinking how great the upgrade was. Up until then, most Japanese circuits were relics from the past, poorly maintained and in dire need of attention; Twin Ring Motegi being the exception as the newest facility. But Fuji was everyone’s new playground, and it’s been that way ever since.


There’s no way I could do this post and not mention Kobayashi-san and his MCR R34. Mine’s and MCR were the fiercest of opponents back in the day, and I really hope we get to witness that sort of friendly rivalry again. It would be great to see how MCR responds to the newfound love for older GT-Rs that we are seeing right now.


ATTKD was one of the last cars to line up in the pits before the inaugural time attack event at the revamped circuit.


And just look at that line up!


Then all of a sudden this appeared – the Esprit NSX. Little did anyone know at the time just how far Esprit would take this project; if you recall the car has gone onto have a serious overhaul.


The grid full of tuner cars was shot for a big feature in Option magazine to celebrate the reopening of Fuji. It was certainly a very good way to inaugurate it!

Out In Action

Spoon came to the event with its stripped-out Honda Legend race car, which was out testing ahead of being shipped to the US for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, a race it entered for two consecutive years.


And J’s Racing came all the way up from Osaka.

Even Sun Line Racing was there with its Z33, one of the most memorable Z cars from the period. However, when it came to Z33s, Tanabe-san at Power House Amuse was untouchable. On top of the yellow demo car, he had a second silver more powerful example, and then went on to tune the Z34 with amazing results.


I have to say, I’m really enjoying piecing these Time Machine posts together; it’s fun to look back at when I started to cover the Japanese scene. Perhaps they can serve as a reminder of how great the Japanese tuning scene used to be, and where it should possibly be heading back towards. Because performance should be at the center of it all, right?

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Wow, you have the best job ever sir! Many of the cars I remember because of all the best motoring / video option i've watched and the countless hours off race games played back in the day.  Hope you keep your time machine theme going, and hopefully you could also trace back the cars of the mid night crew one day. 
Thank you very much!


would love to see smokey in a time machine post...

Jeroen Willemsen

YES Dino, I have been waiting for this Time Machine post, these photos were my first introduction to you Dino in 2003 ;) (are we that old? Damn haha) I had saved them on my harddrive ever since. The photo of the Mine's R34 and the MCR together was my wallpaper for as long as I can remember.

Jeroen Willemsen

Oh btw did you see my little user icon ;) Propper 'J-Style' haha remember that on the GT-R Owner Club blog? Man I loved that blog and followed it religiously. Seems like a lifetime ago.


One Evo... Such a gorgeous car the esprit nsx is



Gianluca FairladyZ

everytime when i start to find other cars interesting, it appears that i see a pic of a good old GTR and it gives me the creeps... blessing and curse..!!


that opening shot is great, missing an r33 though


So many Best Motoring memories


Please tell me there's a feature on that ATTKD R32 somewhere, that thing is crazy


Following your work, i am addict now, amazing job, it is so nostalgic this one, best motoring is gone :(


Best Motoring live! It cant really get any cooler than this.


Thanks dino. This made my day! It's meets like this which brought me here many years ago!!!


Why cant we download the images now?


I'm enjoying these posts too. Those links brought back some memories.


Old times, good times...


Thank you yet again Dino for another awesome time machine post. These posts bring me back to what got me on imports in the first place


Thanks Dino! These Time Machine articles are the best. Reminds me of when I first started getting into cars. In my mind its still the early-mid 2000's


Thank you Dino !


BobbyRostron or maybe a current feature to see what other things he's got cooked up in his lab???


Great post! I remember reading about this very event in Banzai magazine. My favorite was the Keiyo Jiko R32 GTR. Always liked that "stock" look! I think it was pretty fast as well!


I grew up with these cars.  Seeing them is like seeing an old friend again.


This is cool to see. Not only these astounding cars, but it lets you compare where you were then, versus your newer photography. There's nothing wrong with these shots, but your newer stuff has just gotten even classier.


Oh my, I recognise almost every car in this post! they remind me when I was in high school and I had just discovered the best motoring hot version dvds, that red r34 from mcr was a real beast!  This was such an epic post Dino! thank you for sharing it!


No offense to the other staff members, but speedhunters would be boring without Dino & Mike!


earmenau AND PATTY!


Thank you for this!!!


This bring back memories when I spend time in Gran Turismo 4 attacking Fuji Speedway with 500hp++ R32 and looking for gems in Tuner's Village like Mine's........such good times where people focusing on How the Machine Performs vs How the Machine Looks.........The simplicity of Aero makes me loving it too.........





importfan I've got a few more cool ones coming from the old days :)


muse_coyote Thanks, appreciate it! Definitely less JDM tilts nowadays haha


MorganKuhla Ah yes that was a good one too!


Bro5 Just doing my job :)


Jimmy O  Same here. I just wish more emphasis was put on tuning these days. And I don't mean swapping out your panel filter for a cone filter lol


FrankensteinConnelly :)


@Shorif Works for me


d_rav They'd still be pretty fierce. In fact at Fuji the older cars are still faster in a lot of cases. I love how an 800 ATTKD GT-R is still faster than a 1200 HP R35. Progress? Where?




@Jeroen Willemsen haha I knew you would like this! Oh and my old blog is still online, haven't updated it in 7 years though hahaha  https://jstyle2.wordpress.com


d_rav BobbyRostron Can do both :)


@vsp3c Oh I'll keep them going for sure :) D1 might be next...the real D1


Great work Dino, I'm loving these time-machine articles! It would be great if the other regular Speedhunters did similar archive pieces from their own parts of the car tuning world.

It would be even better if you highlighted some of the individual trends and mods, being form or function, that were a sign of the times back then. For those of us new to the scene or too young to remember, it would be great to understand how design and performance mods have changed with the times (and cars). Keep them coming!


I suddenly remembered the white Evo VI TME with a GT wing and that R32 N1 that i both tuned for FSW and Tsukuba time attack sessions in Gran Turismo 4. :D


The first time i seen MCR was in Tokyo Night Warriors in TXR Zero , With that said i have nothing but respect for that Skyline

Jeroen Willemsen

speedhunters_dino I mean this one http://blog.gtroc.com/dino/ Last post on sevens day ;)


Oh boy, this makes me feel old..


So many great memories. This was a time in my life when I was young, single and unencumbered, with a whole lot of free money and time to indulge a hobby. Things are different these days with a young family to raise, but I'm counting down the days to my midlife crisis so I can have something to blame for having some visceral motoring fun again.


Keep these articles coming, they're great! Educating the newbies on what modification, tuning, and JDM culture is meant to be!


says.... "After all, modifying a car is not all plastic overfenders and looks; the mechanics should always be the most important aspect."

**standing**clapping**pays no attention to statement made after this**


my aunt recently purchased a six-month old Mitsubishi i-MiEV by working online at home... website here..............online.factoryofincome.comᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ


my Aunty Riley recently got a very cool Mercedes R-Class Wagon by working parttime off of a home computer... blog here  see it here=====report55­­.ℭomllllllll


Technically 2003 is still considered part of the 90s as most decades didn't begin/end until the 3rd year (+/- a year) after said decade. For example, 80s didn't end until 1993, 70s until 1983 and so on.


speedhunters_dino d_rav It's called weight and mechanical connection (or lack of) with the driver of the car.