Monday, June 16, 2014

Awaji SA Car Meeting with Makoto & Friends Pt.3 「淡路SAでカーミーティング Pt.3」


The Low Life Pt. 2

When it comes to car meets, you never know what kind of cars are going to show up that's why for Makoto and friends car meets are all day events. If it was on my own time, I would've joined them the whole day sleeping on asphalt, grubbing on service area food vendors, and keeping warm off of One Cup sakes. By looking at the variety of cars that showed up, you could distinguish them by car clubs, yet everyone is part of the same community of car enthusiasts that make up one club. From kei cars, wagons, VIP sedans, to classic 80's rides, this car club has a wide variety of members with different visions and tastes.  

You've probably seen Makoto's Toyota Estima and his friend's Nissan Cube on my blog before but I wanted to get closer on some of the details that make their cars look so unique. I've always lived by the theory that with the right wheel choice and size, and a decent adjustable suspension set up can significantly change the car's overall appearance and impression. Even cars that you normally wouldn't drive stock, given the right wheel and stance treatment, suddenly make you want to own one.

In Japan, kei cars are small, toy looking cars whose main purpose is to navigate through the narrow streets of cities. Since it's so tight in Japan, you can't expect that much power from kei cars because not much is needed to get around. This Nissan Cube is a prime example of a family kei car and how the right wheel setup and ride height has achieved this car's new look.
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Makoto went as far as to do the whole air suspension setup for the purposes of his wife driving the kids around throughout the week. The Estima is a shared family car so his ideal setup had to be compromised for comfortability so everyone could enjoy. Without the air suspension, his wife would not be able to turn or get out of parking lot dips. His wife allowed the wheels and the loud exhaust but a middle ground had to be reached. Oh, the hardships of being married to your car AND your wife.
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My first attempt of leaving, I was drawn back to get shots of this late model Toyota Celsior which was properly fitted with huge 20' wheels that were barely contained within the wide body fender kit beautifully mated to the original sheet metal of the body.
Besides the metal work done on the fenders, there really wasn't that much aero work done to the car. The wheel and brake setup alone drew the crowd in and to everyone's surprise was the owner that stepped out of the driver's seat who was a lot younger than the veterans who drove the old school and classic cars.
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Then on my last attempt to leave, I was drawn back once again to this maroon Toyota Cressida that rolled on contrasting gold BBS's. I have a soft spot for gold wheels because the way they contrast well against any color.
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At this point, I kept going back to shoot and my wife was prying me off the scene so we could finish the rest of our road trip. I was grateful enough to get all the shots I did and I will definitely be looking forward for my next trip to Japan car hunting in other regions.
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Awaji SA Car Meeting with Makoto & Friends Pt.2 「淡路SAでカーミーティング Pt.2」


The Low Life Pt.1

Now that we've got the tamed part of this experience out of the way, the fun part of begins. Like I said, I love a well-kept, clean classic and I'm pretty sure there's car enthusiasts that believe in keeping the car in it's original form as much as possible. But what really catches my eye are cars slammed to the floor with wheels so wide they stretch the body fenders just to barely fit snug in the wheel well. The 80's was my favorite era for cars, drivers were experimenting with power and style and came up with some really interesting results. One style that I admire the most in Japan is kyusha - wide wheels, not the huge ones you find on VIP cars, but 15-16inch barreled wheels that poked out and gave cars a Japanese lowrider feel. To compliment the wheel stance and set up, loud exhaust pipes, front mounted oil coolers, tilted headlights, and elongated bonnet noses made a new breed of Kaido racers.

Throughout the years, up until now, there's still a subculture in Japan completely dedicated to that era. The scene has evolved but the style is very distinct and can always be recognized. Although born in the 80's, this pair of black Nissan Cima's have been treated with a more VIP feel but a hint of kyusha still exists. I couldn't keep my finger of the shutter around these two cars, there were so many details that had me drooling over them.     

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For example, the custom angled, triple pipe exhaust tips that gave the V6 a burpy rumble at idle. And like any well executed VIP car, fatty rear wheels that poked out the fenders and enough negative camber to make use of only half of the tire.
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And peeking from behind, the other black Nissan Cima twin was sitting just as low as the front one. Although the wheel setup was not as aggressive, the wheels sat flushed and filled in the wheel gap giving it's clean appearance.
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If I wasn't out of saliva yet, I would have definitely would have had a drought from this next car. It's a hard choice for me to choose my favorite car at the meet because so many styles that were executed properly and so many different eras of cars I admire. I guess it's safe to say I've been biased to VIP cars since 2008 when I had my 95' Lexus GS300 which I eventually had plans of building my own VIP ride. Word of advice for people building a VIP car: DON'T CUT CORNERS! You're going to have to suck up the fact that to build one properly and to earn a VIP title, you're going to be spending a lot of money. Don't settle for less, don't buy knock-offs, and do it tastefully once you do your research. Real VIP owners will recognize the details so don't half-ass it.

What really caught my eye about this second generation Toyota Aristo was this rare Vertex bodykit and color paint. The black OZ wheels were tastefully powder coated in black and the wheel rivets were left in aluminum to contrast against the black. By looking at the front, you'll notice a front mount intercooler snuggled behind the front bumper. This Aristo breathes through a V8 and a single turbo which made it the loudest car at the meet.
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The carbon fiber exhaust tips are one of my favorite details on this car.
Just so you know it's real, an authentic Vertex badge.
The carbon fiber accents on the exhausts, the window sills, and the carbon fiber hood all blend in smoothly with the body paint.
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Another favorite part of this car, which I fancy on race cars for functional purposes, are these fender louvers that help the car's brakes cool off. Judging by the brake set up, this car is not just for looks, it's got the power and stopping force to do some driving.
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After spending most of my shots on this car alone, I was approached by the owner who was curious of what I was doing with the pictures. I was in shock - the owner was a girl! Not too many girls tune their cars to this level but she was passionate about the scene and coming out to these meets. I asked if she was the mastermind behind the overall build and she admitted she had some help but the fact that she drove this as her daily blew me away. Hats off to you, Lady!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Awaji SA Car Meeting with Makoto & Friends Pt.1 「淡路SAでカーミーティング Pt.1」


Keep It Classy, Kansai

Coming to the tail end of my trip, I was lucky enough to get one more chance to geek out on cars with my cousin, Makoto. If you remember back in January, when I shot his Estima and his friends' cars in a factory setting, he was my ticket into the car scene in the Kansai area. This time, we weren't hiding in shadows and running around on dark streets in the freezing cold. The last shoot there were only 4 cars I was able to see and shoot, this time it was a sunny Sunday afternoon and Makoto and friends called other car clubs to meet up at Akashi SA. 

Sachi, Okaasan, Obaachan and I made the trip out from Himeji by car on our way to Onaruto Bridge to cross from Honshu to the island of Shikoku. If I would've carpooled with Makoto, I would have been at the spot from 7am - 9pm - which is pure dedication to spending a whole day waiting for cars to come in and out. If there's one thing that Makoto and I clicked on from the first time we met, it was definitely cars - it was shortly realized at the bottom of our last sake bottle, that alcohol was the second thing.

For the first part of my experience, I've divided it into different segments based on the cars, so I'll start with the clean, classic cars. When it comes to styling cars, I have a wide range of tastes and I can appreciate all of the sorts. I've always loved classic 80's Japanese cars because of their box like shapes, you can eventually style them as a drift car, a VIP car, or keep it simple like these owners did - nothing over the top, now crazy ride heights and fatty lipped wheels. We'll get to those cars later but for now, let's appreciate how pristine and original the owners have kept these cars.
Let's start with this 3rd generation Toyota Chaser part of the Avante series that was designed to be more of a luxury model back in the mid-80's.
Not too sure what the fishing pole was attached to the back bumper of this Nissan Cedric, possibly an antenna? 
Next to the Toyota Chaser, this Toyota Cresta was sitting pretty in it's flawless factory paint. This was the top of the line model for Cresta's at the time - as tamed as it looks, it's equipped with a supercharger which earned it's name as Super Lucent G.
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Another important player in the luxury sedan market back in the 80's, was the Nissan Cedric. This bulky guy hauls it's passengers behind a V30 turbo engine.
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You can't miss this car because it draws the eyes away from the monotonous scene of white cars with it's ruby red paint. This Nissan Cima has been fitted with some retro BBS to match the car era and lowered to sit flush with car's frame. Perfect example of how little tasteful and thoughtful modifications can keep the car's original shape and original impression intact.  
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Last but not least, and definitely not overshadowed by it's neighbor, the Honda Inspire which is a rare car because of it's engine configuration. Also known to the rest of the world as a Honda/Acura Vigor, this was the only Honda that showed up the whole time I was there. Also suitably fitted with a nice set of BBS's and it's original factory paint that gleamed in the Kansai sunshine.  
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