Koshimizu Motorsports: The AE86 Artisans

If you’ve ever visited Tsukuba Circuit, you’d be familiar with the various workshops scattered around the outskirts of the complex. Amongst these, in an unsuspecting building Koshimizu Motorsports hides some truly remarkable gems.

For the uninitiated, Koshimizu Motorsports – more commonly known as KMS – is synonymous with AE86 tuning, particularly within Group A, N1 and N2 racing circles. When Yoshinori Koshimizu founded KMS 30 years ago, he was determined to refine AE86 tuning, and that’s resulted in cars that are still actively raced to this day. In recent years, Koshimizu-san has shifted more towards AE86 restoration work but, naturally, most of the cars that leave KMS still receive some of the signature performance upgrades he’s famous for.

Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-50
Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-38

I first stumbled across KMS back in 2018 on a holiday in Japan, catching a glimpse of an AE86 through a half-shut roller door. Being the over-enthusiastic tourist I was, I stuck my head in to have a look and received an overwhelmingly warm welcome from Koshimizu-san. I wrote about this brief visit in my first-ever Speedhunters article.

Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-43

But it was a particular car at KMS that made a return visit so important.

Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-24

Taking me to his back storage area, Koshimizu-san pulled out an arsenal of keys, swinging open the garage door to reveal Keiichi Tsuchiya’s original TRD N2 AE86. In much the same fashion this time around, he explained how KMS are still the caretakers of this iconic machine.

Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-1
Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-3
Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-10
Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-17

On this occasion, I spent more time taking in the details – namely the numerous old school TRD parts and plaques, all still entirely in their original form. It’s not often you get to spend a good amount of time up close and personal with a relic like this, and other details like the special TRD Nardi steering wheel, Stack dash and TRD striped seat are drool material for an AE86 otaku like myself.

Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-4
Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-5
Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-13

While the car still does make very occasional outings, it spends most of its retirement tucked away at KMS. That being said, it was cool to spot evidence of some spirited driving splashed across the rear fender.

Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-33
Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-40

Jumping back into the workshop, Koshimizu-san showed us through some of the current customer AE86s he was working on. The cars are conveniently lined up in order of completion, giving you a good idea of how much goes into these restorations. The furthermost two-door coupe had recently been treated to an entirely new front clip from a donor car after a small circuit mishap.

As mentioned earlier, Koshimizu-san’s motorsport-driven approach means each of these cars receives a seam-welded engine bay, reinforcing chassis that in the earliest AE86s are now 40 years old.

Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-46
Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-29

Each of these builds receives a completely refreshed 4A-GE, either 20-valve or a classic 16-valve depending on the customer’s preference and requirements. These are usually paired with one of KMS’s iconic exhaust manifolds.

With each of these restorations taking approximately 18 months to complete, it’s no surprise that almost every bolt, nut, fitting and part is either replaced or restored to factory new. As AE86s begin to demand even higher prices, shops like KMS have become more and more busy, with many chasing that OEM+ restoration that we see on similar chassis like the 240Z and GT-R.

Speedhunters - Alec Pender - KMS-41

Once I acquire an AE86 of my own here in Japan (I promise, we’re getting closer), I’m almost certain I’ll be spending some time at KMS.

Alec Pender
Instagram: noplansco