Life really is short, which is why I’m a firm believer in never growing up. Playing with toy cars and modifying my dream Lego build was a world with no worries or woes. Tsuchida-san is prolonging his childhood joy with this Lotus Esprit.
When Tsuchida-san was in the first grade, he was such a good boy that Santa flew all the way to Japan to drop off a supercar encyclopedia to him. Say what you will about the fat bloke in the red jump suit, but he’s responsible for shaping many a child’s destiny.
Flicking through that encyclopedia of foreign and domestic machines ignited the imagination of a young boy. Not content with just looking at those ’70s supercars, Tsuchida-san found there was a way to experience them in the flesh.
But even getting up close to one was a fantasy back then, so Tsuchida-san scaled down his ambitions to a more realistic size. He entered the world of plastic models.
When I first saw pictures of Tsuchida-san’s slammed Lotus Esprit, my mind immediately started to imagine all the potentially cool locations I could shoot it in. My mind conjured up thoughts of rundown industrial parks, traditional mountain villages and lakeside vistas. My heart raced at the thought of capturing rolling shots through city streets or maybe monolithic motorway overpasses. The sound of that sweet little four-pot was palpable.
But some things are too good to be true. Shortly after confirming a date to meet up for a shoot, I got a message from Tsuchida-san with the single most depressing phrase in the Japanese language for a car photographer: hashirenai. Translation: it doesn’t run.
But does the fact that a car doesn’t drive, or even start make it any less special? I’m not sure.
For me, driving is basically the top reason for owning a car, but for Tsuchida-san, his Lotus gives him just as much pleasure as it is, an object. And this is perhaps where he has kept his inner child alive. I think that’s really quite sweet, and something we should all make an effort to remember in our own lives.
In essence, the Lotus has become a real-life incarnation of one of Tsuchida-san’s plastic models. You see, back in the day he would modify models with different wheels, making them lower, wider, changing their colours and customizing them as he wished. He’s done the same with the Lotus and it’s his best model yet.
I decided to make the trip up to Nagano to see the car anyway, knowing that the drive would be fun and there might be a few more cars to shoot at the charity event Tsuchida-san himself organized.
When I’d arrived at the event the Lotus was still sitting on the back of a flat bed, and that was at 10:00am. As I walked around, looking for Tsuchida-san and snapping photos of the eclectic cars on show, I began to worry that the Lotus wasn’t going any further. It sat so low to the ground, I wondered whether they perhaps had trouble unloading it off the flatbed. There’s a reason the car is nicknamed Lowtus.
Realizing that the event didn’t actually start until 11:00am, I went and grabbed a coffee. On my return I was happy to see the Lotus had been rolled into a prime position in the center of the show.
The first thing that hits you is just how low this car sits. This is all thanks to some clever sourcing of parts including 9-inch air bags, genuine front shocks from Lotus, rear shocks from a Eunos Roadster, all of which are controlled by a Tanabe Air Cobra system.
I think the iconic Giorgetto Giugiaro wedge design is complemented nicely with some mixed-and-matched SSR mesh wheels that Tsuchida-san has pieced together from various Yahoo! Auction buys. They look huge but it’s really an optical illusion. They only measure 16×7.5-inch up front and 17×9.5-inch, but when the already low-slung Esprit is almost sitting on the ground, the wheels look nearly as tall as the car. Fantastic stuff.
Oh, and before you accuse Tsuchida-san of being a pervert, those posters are of a famous pop singer from his youth – Seiko Matsuda – and he went to her concert as a teenager. There’s nothing weird about watching her videos on a retro portable National television. OK, perhaps it’s slightly eccentric, but that’s why I love it so much.
The Lotus is such an extension of Tsuchida-san and his vision for modeling cars of any size, that I can’t help but grin childishly and hope that it might be back on the road soon.