Back On The Street & Badder Than Ever: The Hardcore Pandem ’70 Camaro

When a car has a good backstory attached to it, it really gives it some character. Not that a 1970 Pandem-kitted Chevy Camaro really needs any help in that department.

Its owner, and head honcho of Hardcore Tokyo, Junichi Takahashi (better known as Jun) also oozes character. The Camaro is Jun-san’s personal project influenced by a lifetime digesting Japanese and American punk culture. It’s about as far from his R33 drift car as you could get, but both are incarnations of Jun-san’s eclectic tastes and appreciation of all car culture.


Jun-san spent his 30s living in New York City, returning to Japan every three months to renew his passport. While based stateside, he became heavily influenced by the US drag racing scene, and became particularly excited by an 1/8th mile Outlaw class for muscle cars, which were limited to small 26×8.5 rear tyres.


This was back in the mid-2000s, when drag racing was still big in Japan, so when Jun-san finally returned to his homeland, he wasted no time seeking out a 3rd generation 1990 Camaro Z28, and then headed for the nearest drag strip.

After a 10-year run, the Z28 was sentenced to the scrappers and Jun-san picked up the second-gen ’70 Camaro you see here. But this is where the story takes a turn. Call it fate if you will, but there’s every possibility that if things had of gone differently, the car may not have materialised into the beast it is today.


It all went sour the moment after Jun purchased the Camaro. As in most countries, a transfer of ownership needs to be completed when a sale is made, but unbeknownst to Jun-san at the time, the Camaro wasn’t coming with any official documentation – it had been lost. He and the seller had an immediate diversion of parallel views and subsequently lost any line of communication, essentially leaving Jun-san with a giant muscle car-shaped paperweight.


In order for Jun-san to register the Camaro in his name, it was now up to him to track down the car’s last registered owner and have them reissue new documents. This eventually happened – it just took 10 long years!

Throughout this time though, Jun-san never lost faith and started rebuilding the car anyway – something his good friend Kei Miura from TRA Kyoto – the company behind Rocket Bunny/Pandem – ultimately played a big part in it.


Both Jun-san and Miura-san have spent considerable time outside Japan, collecting experiences, perspectives and ideas from across the world. The Camaro is just as well travelled, and having lived in Japan almost half its life now, you could say it’s probably more Japanese than it is American.


As the paired lounged around TRA Kyoto thinking about what to build for the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon, Jun-san confessed he had a Camaro stashed away. Miura-san also had a confession: He had long admired Trans Am and NASCAR racers, and had always wanted to design and manufacture Pandem body kits for select muscle cars. The pair agreed on the theme and Miura-san purchased a Pontiac Firebird the very next day.


Over the next year, over fenders, spoilers and lips were designed for no less than four American muscle cars – Miura-san’s Firebird, Jun-san’s Camaro, plus a Mustang and Corvette, all of which made their debut at TAS 2023.


Both the Firebird and the Camaro feature smoothly-contoured fender flares, something a little different to the bolt-on style we all know. Jun-san says that they wanted to pay homage to the wide and smooth style of ’70s muscle car racers, which is timeless, and I think we can all agree that it’s worked very well.


The ‘Pandem 70 Camaro’ went under the knife at J.Beat Custom Shop in Saitama, who carefully blended the Pandem FRP onto the body before respraying the whole car pure white.


Under the hood, old school drag-spec muscle car vibes are strong. The 402ci big block V8 is mated to a Muncie 4-speed transmission and a 12-bolt diff with an LSD and 3.97 final drive. Custom valve covers are finished off with laser-etched logos, just in case you forget what you’re looking at.


When I first saw pictures of the car, I wondered why the roll cage was so tight against the steering wheel. ‘Surely that must be a pain?’ I thought. It turns out, this is another nod to muscle car history, as the roll cages in old Trans Am race cars were built this way. You have to love the authenticity.


The Camaro looks nothing short of menacing. An updated Heidts 4-link suspension kit and the classic, crazy-wide RS Watanabe Eight Spoke wheels – measuring 15×10.5-inch and 15×12-inch front and rear respectively, and wrapped up in Mickey Thompson rubber – improve the appearance and drivability of the car considerably.


Everything about Jun-san’s Camaro is perfect – its new proportions, its stance, the wheel and tyre fitment, and the sound.

This is a modified American muscle car with a custom Japanese twist, and after 15 years of ownership – but just two years of registration – Jun-san is finally making up for lost time – behind the wheel of course.

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_



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Holy Sh*t! 10 years waiting for registration, and he went ahead and built it anyway. Good to hear this story has a happy ending!

Way back when I was a kid, my dad had a similar white metal bumpered Trans Am with some 7 litres of engine, coupled to a 3-speed auto.
Was still a very quick car in its day, and made a great sound under load.
Heavy as hell, though. It took 2 grown men to lift a door, when we had to replace one because of a large dent. Jun sounds like a cool dude. Kudos.


Wow, a Pandem kit that doesn't look like utter trash!


Wow, it only took me 6 months to get my imported Datsun registered and that wait was bad enough! Can't imagine what 10 years felt like! Looks like it all paid off in the end though.


I definitely wouldn’t have the patience!


Those 10 years must have been so painful. I couldn’t imagine working on a car I owned but couldn’t drive. Massive props for sticking with it, and creating something truly special.


Cool car & great photography.
Those flares and mini-lite copied wheels scream late '70's IMSA styling... That was very popular when the US enthusiasts were digging out of the automotive "malaise" era. It takes me back to my high school days (yeah- I'm an old guy).


Couldn't agree more, that car is perfect.


Why does the shifter looks photoshopped into that interior shot?


You tell us? Doesn't look like it to me.


Agree to disagree on that roll cage being "authentic"


I thought the same thing, but then went looking for pictures. The cages in those trans am cars from the late 60’s and early 70’s were in fact terrible.


But a cool car for sure!


What size tires on those rims?? Looks ultra tuff!


"Support Violent Driving"


The bō "暴" from bōsōzoku "暴走族" can be literally translated as "violence" so I'm guessing it's from that


As per my comment about Japanese using English swear's just trying too hard I think


Mis-translated of English-Japanese, I hope.


This is my favourite build with Pandem on it. Hands down.


Man it looks so damn good on the 'Maro
It looks like a Prostreet car made road legal


Toby mate this is one of the coolest cars I've seen on SH this year, wicked piece


It’s definitely up there


Sick looking car!


Might be a 3.91 (hand written notes?) diff. Never has been a 3.97. That ratio is basically impossible to exist in a single gear pair. You have to have a ratio where the ring count is divisible by a pinion tooth count of between (at very extremes) 5 and 16. So 43/11 is prob what it has.
Unless the builder calculated through an overdrive.


That makes sense thanks!


When I see Japanese car guys using English swear words on their cars it really comes off as super tacky and try hard. Like when English speaking car guys have "Japlish" sayings like "enjoy fun car times" on their cars, just comes off as overly try hard. Cool story otherwise though.


Are you referring to the “support violent driving”?
If so, I’m not sure what the issue is, Jun and the Hardcore Tokyo team are all Drifters from way back, which is perhaps one of the most violent forms of driving, which I for one support. It’s neither a sweat word nor is it Japlish


I'm talking about Hardcore Motherf*cker. It's just an odd saying for a Japanese person to have stuck to the outside of their car, and also embroidered into the seats. People in English speaking countries generally don't have this kind of wording on their cars, so to me it's trying a bit too hard. My explanation of Japlish was there and is for me the same style of trying too hard when English speaking people more or less mock Japanese translations of things and put them on their cars.


I’d also say that Hardcore MotherfXxker is quite an apt description of both Jun and the car.


Ok, but it's still quite tacky IMO to have English swear words on your car in Japan. For example if you had Swedish swear word phrases on your car in England(and you weren't Swedish), I'm sure Swedes would find it odd, and try hard, that's all.


hehe, kuka robots.


Hardcore Tokyo is Juns drift apparel brand.


Then have that....not Hardcore Motherf*cker. I dunno....I said my piece, and I like that your speaking on his behalf and defending him, but to me it's just odd.


not your car. just let it be


I agree. Perfect.


Great looking car but that's about it!