‘People think we’re a drift team, but in reality, we’re a drinking team.’
Let me introduce Low Brain, a bunch of mates who don’t take themselves seriously at all. Don’t be fooled by their wacky name, cute logo or rough-around-the-edges appearance; these guys are serious about two things – their cars and drifting (OK, and maybe beer).
You may remember Low Brain from their event Ron covered back in 2019. For over a decade, these guys have been drifting and socialising together in Japan.
After connecting with Ryohei, we thought it would make a good story to shed some light on the team cars and the drivers behind their wheels. At first we planned to get everyone together at some city location for a shoot, but Covid put paid to that. Ultimately, they the guys managed to book some time at a drift day at Fuji Speedway, which would provide an opportunity to shoot Low Brain in their natural habitat: going sideways.
Low Brain was formed back in 2007 when Takuya and Abeshin used to go drifting on the streets around Kanagawa in their brown-painted cars. Things really progressed a few years later while the founders met JJ in a bar. He was driving a red JZX100 at the time, so Takuya and Abeshin decided to follow suit and repaint their cars. This was lucky for Genki, whose red Honda Civic earned him a place in the team soon after. A year later, Ryohei joined the team after meeting the guys in – surprise, surprise – another bar. The rest, as they say, is history.
Takuya-san is team leader and his freshly-painted 1985 KE74 Toyota Corolla Van looks pretty sweet with its zenki AE86 Levin lip spoiler and Moze overfenders.
Under the hood is an AE86 4A-G swap with Toda cams, octopus-style headers, and MSR42 carburetors fed from an alloy fuel cell via custom surge tanks.
Naturally, the KE’s interior has been stripped out for weight reduction, and keeping everything tight is an AE86-derived 10-point roll cage. Of the many cool custom parts, my favourite has to be the extra Öhlins coilover taken from a Ducati bike.
Second in command – being Low Brain’s second founding father – is Abeshin-san with his 1985 AE86 Toyota Corolla Levin. When I think drift, I think AE86, and this a great example. The body kit really beefs it up nicely, and I especially love the D-Max front fenders. It kind of looks like the car Spiderman would drive if he was actually cool.
Abeshin-san was ripping up the track on this day, although my photos really don’t do the tire-shredding, sideways action justice.
The Levin is running an internally-stock 4A-G with SS Works FCR41 carburetors and alloy crank pulleys. There’s an assortment of TRD, Cusco, GReddy and even some Nismo parts keeping everything running smoothly. Check out the full spec for this car and all the others at the end of the story.
Ryohei-san, the man who organised this shoot, might be one of Low Brain’s newest members, but I get the feeling he’s the main motivator when it comes to pushing the team’s image. He’s driving a 1986 AE85 Toyota Corolla Levin with a AE92 4A-G engine built by Air:Yous.
The lightly tuned engine features HKS cams, a Crystal Body Yokohama (CBY) muffler, and cooling from Koyorad. A Kaaz 2-way LSD gets the power to the ground via an Exedy clutch and Tomei flywheel.
Ryohei-san’s Levin was perfectly poised through sideways entries with help from Swift spring-equipped GReddy coilovers and a full course of other drift-specific suspension upgrades.
There’s always one who has to do things differently, and in the Low Brain team it’s Genki-san. Drifting could be seen as the rebellious corner of motorsport, and within its ranks there’s nothing more nonconforming than a front-wheel drive drift car.
Genki-san was handbrake drifting his 1993 EG6 Honda Civic around the circuit like nobody’s business, and battle scars show that this thing sees a lot of action. It has no problems doing so either, with plenty of power on tap from a B18C Integra engine and transmission swap.
Fun fact: the side skirts are actually rain gutters.
If it were a competition, I’d say best looking car award goes to JJ’s S13 Nissan Silvia. I love the Marlboro-inspired livery and 180SX front end conversion. The ‘Onevia’ has been completely stripped out and features an FRP bonnet and boot.
I did some camera tracking from the boot of the Silvia and I think it way have fractured one of my vertebrae. Solid bushings, A’PEXi coilovers, a 7-point roll cage and various race bushings result in an unforgiving ride.
All those modifications do, however, mean that the car is properly set up for drifting, and JJ was definitely one of the best drivers of the day. His sideways sends and almost reverse entries were awesome to watch.
Driving talent like this comes naturally to JJ, whose dad is owner of Kamiya Garage where he restores British and Japanese vintage race cars. I’ll be taking a look around the shop later this month.
The Low Brain guys have been driving together for over a decade, and their comfort level is evident when they drift together. Their tandem drifts were very cool, and I think they would have been even tighter if they’d had the track to themselves
Back in the day, you’d find the Low Brain team driving out in the mountains of Kanagawa, something I wish I could have seen. These days though, they only drift on circuits. It makes perfect sense, because in recent years the Japanese police have really cracked down on illegal racing, and consequences for the drivers can be life-destroying.
Sure, circuit drifting is not as authentic or rebellious as street drifting, but the Low Brain team tries to bring that street racing flavour onto the circuit. Compared to some of the other flashy, sponsor-covered drift cars out there, I think you’ll agree that Low Brain are about as authentic as you’ll get.
For the most part, circuit racing is much safer too. I’m sure you’ve all seen the images of Silvias and the like bent around guard rails on Japanese mountain roads.
The track is not without its fair share of casualties though. This AE86 Levin came out of a second gear corner and straight into a cement barricade, unfortunately missing the tyre walls by half a meter. Considering how valuable these things are becoming, the owner must have been gutted.
Takuya-san had his own dance with disaster after his carburetors popped off their flanges. Luckily, he was mid-approach when he lost power and was able to continue straight off the track with no incident. Armed with a screwdriver and some cable ties, Takuya-san was back on the track for the next round.
After lunch, the heavens opened and soaked the track. The guys went out for a very slippery round, and then decided to call it a day.
All in all, it was a really fun morning with Low Brain. While the guys all have proper jobs, wives and families, they still make time to hit the track and smoke some rubber. Car friends forever.
If you want to find out more, check out Low Brain on Facebook here.
Takuya: Toyota Corolla Van (KE74)
Engine: Toyota 4A-G (AE86), Toda 272-degree/288-degree camshafts, K-Works exhaust manifold, MSR42 carburetors, MSD6AL ignition, custom aluminum gas tank
Driveline: T50 5-speed gearbox, ORC clutch, AE86 TRD LSD
Suspension & Brakes: Largus coilovers, T3 knuckle & tie rods, Beatrush strut tower bar, AE86 solid axle conversion, AE86 brakes front/rear, additional Ducati Öhlins coilover, custom traction arms
Wheels & Tyres: XXR Tosco 14×9-inch wheels, Dunlop Direzza Z3 Star Spec 185/60R14 front tires, Dunlop Direzza DZ101 185/55R14 rear tires
Exterior: AE86 Levin (zenki) lip spoiler, Goodline carbon under flap, Moze overfenders, Yabuking wing
Interior: AE86-based custom 10-point roll cage, OMP seats, Crow 6-point harness belts, OMP steering wheel
Abeshin: Toyota Corolla Levin (AE86)
Engine: Toyota 4A-G, TRD metal head gasket SS Works FCR41 carburetors, RS Chita intake manifold, Jubiride intake port conversion adapter, MSD Digital 6AL ignition, MSD Blaster2 coil – Nagaidenshi plug cords, aluminium pullies, aluminium radiator, Billion thermostat, electric fan, GREX oil cooler, GReddy oil catch can, custom exhaust
Driveline: T50 5-speed gearbox, Exedy clutch, TRD LSD
Suspension & Brakes: Front – Custom coilovers, TRD AE92 short dampers, 8kg Swift springs, custom short knuckles, Section tie rods, Megan Racing tension rod, GReddy roll center adapters, custom extended lower arms, Cusco pillow ball bushings, Rear – Largus dampers, Raftz springs, adjustable lateral rod, slotted rotors front/rear, Dixcel front brake pads, GP Sports SCV rear brake pads
Wheels & Tyres: Work CR-01R 14×9-inch wheels, Toyo Proxes R888R 185/60R14 tires front, unspecified 185/60R14 tyres rear
Exterior: Goodline front bumper, Duce side skirts, FRP hood, FRP hatch with polycarbonate window, FRP spoiler, Group A-style side mirrors, D-Max fenders front/rear, AE86 Levin zenki front grille, AE86 Levin kouki taillights, custom LED headlights
Interior: 8-point roll cage – Momo steering wheel, Bride Gardis II seat, original long handbrake bar
Genki: Honda Civic (EG6)
Engine: Honda Integra B18C, Maxim Works exhaust
Driveline: Honda Integra 5-speed gearbox, 4.785 final drive
Suspension & Brakes: RG coilover, 16kg front springs, 18kg rear springs, Winmax special order brake pads
Wheels & Tyres: Front – SSR Formula Mesh 15×8.5-inch -10 wheels, Toyo Proxes R1R 195/50R15 tires, Rear – SSR Reverse Mesh 15×8-inch -3 wheels, unspecified 165/55R15 tires
Exterior: Modified Toyota JZX100 front lip spoiler, rain gutter side skirts, Battleworks front overfenders, Origin Labo AE86 rear overfenders
JJ: Nissan Silvia (S13)
Engine: Nissan SR20DE, Trust oil pan, isometric exhaust manifold
Driveline: Original 5-speed gearbox, Nismo clutch, R32 R200 axle conversion
Suspension & Brakes: A’PEXi coilovers, adjustable rear arms, rear subframe solid bushes, modified steering knuckles, roll center correction tie rods, Nismo strut tower bars front/rear, Nissan Laurel C35 front brakes, Nissan Skyline R32 rear brakes
Wheels & Tyres: Front – RS Watanabe R-Type 15×9-inch wheels, Toyo Proxes R1R 205/50R15 tires, Rear – RS Watanabe R-Type 15×10-inch wheels, Kenda KR20 195/55R15 tires
Exterior: 180SX facelift, FRP hood, FRP trunk lid
Interior: Racetech seat, TRS 6-point harness seatbelt, 7-point roll cage
Ryohei: Toyota Corolla Levin (AE85)
Engine: Toyota 4A-G (AE92 kouki) built by Air:Yous, HKS 264-degree/256-degree camshafts, HKS metal head gasket, Koyorad radiator, Koyorad oil cooler, CBY muffler
Driveline: T50 5-speed gearbox, Exedy clutch, Tomei flywheel, Kaaz 2-way LSD
Suspension & Brakes: GReddy coilovers with 8kg Swift springs, 326Power 30mm extended LCAs, Kojima Seisakusho short knuckles, JIC tie rods, Silkroad long tie rod ends, GP Sports tie rod extensions, pillow tension rods, Cusco roll center adapters, Cusco 4-link arms
Wheels & Tyres: RAYS Volk Racing TE37 14×7-inch +-0 wheels, unspecified 185/60R14 front tires, Falken Ziex ZE914 185/60R14 rear tires
Exterior: AE86 Levin (zenki) lip spoiler, Goodline carbon under flap, Moze overfenders, Yabuking wing
Interior: 7-point roll cage