Parts of a Whole

Before I went on the long trip to Gunma, there were a few things I needed to change and take care of to make sure the car would make the long trip.

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Project µ B-Spec Pads

My car was going to need brakes, and one day one of the calipers stuck, so it was time to get most things taken care of. These pads I have been sitting on for some time now, and I knew that it was time to try them out. Whatever ‘stock’ pads were in there before were OK for daily driving, but when it came to anything more, they were lacking. My MR2 is the second revision, so it comes with the larger brakes, but I still needed more. After these pads, I can if needed lock up the wheels now. For daily driving, they are very smooth and make no noise, but sometimes, they are a little slow to engage fully, but when going down a mountain and when they are warm and getting some regular use, they do come to life and are much more aggressive than stock pads. I think that my HP+ pads that I had on my AE86 were more aggressive, but these are different cars, this one being heavier, and that one being a distant memory at the moment, so it is hard to tell. These pads are very nice though and do give a good amount of confidence when coming up to a tight curve.

Price: ¥12000 (I think, I got them at the Tokyo Auto Salon on special)

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Recaro SR-2

This is easily one of the best seats I have ever sat in. The stock seat had lots of adjustability, where this one only has recline, yet this one is infinitely more comfortable, and more comfortable than the old Bride in my other car as well. I went with a reclinable seat as this is a daily car and I knew I was planning to go on long road trips. It is a little heavy, so for a car that is going to be track only, then this isn’t a good choice, but a daily and spirited driving car, this is amazing! The style matches my 90’s car, and the shame really holds you in. I have a 4-point Sparco harness I need to add still, so I am happy that it has the holes for it. If you read the last post, I drove to Gunma, Yokohama, and back, but what I left out is that I did the whole 15h drive back in one shot, only stopping for gas, and after all that, I had 0 back or butt pain, which amazes me. I should say I am not small, and most seats in Japan are too small for me, but this one is perfect. The only slight downside I have is that this is an old seat, and I had to get it used from Upgarage, which in turn means they are hard to find, and also, that it does show its age in one area. When I drive over bumps, it slowly reclines. Slowly enough that you don’t notice until you look at your mirror and you aren’t seeing out of it like you were before, but this is such a small thing to deal with when it comes to how nice the seat feels to sit in for so long.

Price: ¥23990 at Upgarage

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Cusco Street Zero-A Coilovers with Solid Rear Mount

These coilovers were rated for daily and track use, which is exactly where I want my car to fall. They come with two main choices, one being spring rates, the other being that you can get them with a rubber rear top hat, or a pillow ball one. I chose the slightly more expensive pillow ball for no reason other than thinking it would be slightly stiffer and more desirable if this ever becomes track only. What I expected was not what I got, but I mean that in a good way. There are not many reviews for these online, especially not in this car, but I like my other Cusco stuff and I wanted to see what these were like so I took the shot in the dark and tried to be the guinea pig. I went with the suggested spring rates that I can’t remember at the moment, but there are a few options for stiffer or softer. I went with them to test the middle and if I want to upgrade, I will find some swift springs later to try. I do think that a slightly stiffer rate than what they suggest would be fine as these coilovers are comfortable. They are like night and day as far as handling, but compared to other back-braking, teeth-shattering, girlfriend-complaining coilovers I have run, these are so nice on a daily. I do love them, and find them a huge improvement over stock. They handle the mountains well and what was rough on stock suspension now feels smother. I am very pleased with the quality of the drive. They are 40 way adjustable, and I have them cranked full hard on the front and a tad softer on the rear, but they still feel comfortable. I had the camber set front and rear (rear I used Toyota camber bolts), but I see that you can almost not use the front camber plate at all. I am not sure how the garage set it up, but they did give me 2.5° in the front and 1.5° in the rear with the bolts. Compared to a lot of other options and reviews from other people, I do think these are a nice coilover and the only one that offered street and track performance.

Price: ¥139968 from Yahoo Auctions with the rear pillow ball mounts shipped to me

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Momo Tuner Wheel

I love this wheel!  It is very comfortable, and the smaller diameter is nice for fast turns.  Compared to many other wheels I have felt, I love the shape of this, but the sides are slightly lowered on each side, which was different and took some getting used to.  I did get a different horn button, the proper hub, a different fitting for the horn button and then had to tape the button in to get it to fit snug, but I prefer this look.

Prices: Wheel ¥12500  Button ¥950  Hub ¥2606  Button Ring ¥864

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Things continue to change on my car, but I am enjoying driving it for now!

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86 Day And A Childhood Dream

When you are young, you have no concept of how big the world is, all you know is that some places are probably too far and that you will probably never go.

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A nicely done AE86 at Lake Haruna/Akina

Finding the AE86 for me was an accident. I found it on the original Forza first, and when I asked my Dad what it was, he said “it’s probably only in Japan, because we don’t have Trueno’s in Canada.” In a way, he was right, but after finding an AE92 to be my first car, I found out what a 4AGE was, what the differences were between all the AE chassis codes, and of course I eventually found Initial D and spent many nights studying cars, engines and watching episodes when I should have been studying for exams. Fast-forward to now, I have owned many different Toyota’s, I have worked for Toyota, and I am now living in Japan again, but until a month ago, I never really thought about how easily I could turn those dreams of being in the anime into a reality.

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Part of the long drive from Hitoyoshi to Gunma!

On August 6th, also known as 8/6 Day, I decided I was going to go to Gunma and see the locations from Initial D. I assumed there would be a few nice cars around on that day, and what was mostly for the self-satisfaction of saying “I did that” became a fun and interesting day after a 15h drive from Hitoyoshi to Gunma. Turns out Gunma is what I would call a car enthusiasts play place. It was 86 Day, and I expected to see AE86’s, but I saw a lot more. There was a rally event that we stumbled upon, a Nissan meet somewhere that paraded past us, and there were simply many cars in that area.

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The famous start line at the top of Akina.

The famous mountain in Initial D is Mount Akina, but in real life, it is called Mount Haruna. I stayed on the other side the night before, so driving up the other side of the mountain was actually as fun as the front, but it wasn’t as famous. Because I came the back way, the first thing I found was the hotel that Takumi delivers tofu to near Lake Haruna. It is a beautiful place, and yes, the swan boats are a real thing. As I parked to take my picture, I found another MR2, which is rare even here in Japan.

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Half way up Akina. I must say that this exact spot can be found in the Initial D video games here.

After the lake, you pass through the start line and then it is the beginning of the famous touge from the series. The water tower with the two barriers is a real place, and it’s funny how close to real life the anime is. Even when Takumi is late for the race, it shows him coming up the mountain from the side he really would have had to come, and turning around to face the way down. You start to realize how true to life it really all was.

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On the way down, you see the guardrails that have all recently been replaced, but are all smashed up again already. After driving for 15h and knowing I had to drive the car home, I had no plans of pushing my car on this unfamiliar touge, besides, it probably would have been an embarrassment compared to anyone around that had been doing it for years, but instead I focused on feeling like I was in the anime and how much was actually true. Another note, this road is horribly congested during the day. It must be fun at night, but it seems to be the only way up the mountain from the densely populated side.

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The five consecutive hairpins are also real, but the problem with them is they have put speed bumps/waves in now, so it wouldn’t be as smooth of a section as Fujiwara ever made it look.

Anyone that has watched the anime can think of the scene where Takumi hooks the wheels of his Trueno into the ditch that he says is special to mount Akina, and he is 100% right. I have always looked at the ditches on the mountain roads if they even have them, and they are usually giant holes (more like the ones in the later episodes), but on Haruna, they are the slight inward slopes that you could drive over, and they are right near the bottom where they are pictured. I was driving, but looking back, I wish I pulled over to hook my wheels in and snap a pic, but again traffic was bad.

I would like to say that I did this trip with a fellow AE86 enthusiast/owner and friend from Canada and his Honda Beat was a nice little car to see.

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D’z Garage Café was the obvious choice for places to eat lunch as it was Initial D themed. The cars that were outside were quite nice. A replica AE86 and FC from the show, there was a 350Z made to look like the one from Fast And Furious Tokyo Drift, and there were many other cars that were just stopping in for food, both AE86’s and others. The restaurant has a cool feeling to it, and of course the sets of Initial D pudding are a big hit!

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After all this, I made the drive towards Yokohama where I would spend a few days and give the car a rest. I must say that not pushing her was a very good idea as driving through Tokyo basically killed my clutch master sometime, and I made it home and to a garage where she gave up and wouldn’t go into gear again to pull out. It was a long hard trip on the old car, and I can’t say I was nice all the time, but she impressed me with only one rather small problem for what may have happened, so I can’t really complain about the reliability of this car at all.

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AE86 Hunting in Japan: Drift Edition

Sometime ago, through some strange happenstances and Instagram conversations, I met a local drifter with a pretty pink AE86 who invited me to a drift event. The event was a little far, but I decided that I missed my 86 too much to pass up the opportunity. After a five-hour drive I was at a ski hill in Saga prefecture. I can easily see the reason why the car scene is much stronger here.

If a driver wanted to participate, they could pay the ¥400 parking fee to get into the lot. Half the lot was like the pits; the other half was for the driving. Compared to most things back home, if you want a day of skid pad even, you are going to pay more, and for an actual course, prepare to pay much more.

There were two very distinct car types when it came to these drifting 86’s in Saga. There is the missile that has been beaten and abused and keeps asking for more, or there are the cars that are beautifully painted, in usually a solid but bright colour with nice rims and something that almost makes you cringe when you think of it sliding around with other nice cars on the track. Any car that I know that has been drifting in Canada, no matter how pretty doesn’t stay pretty for long, but I guess this is a testament to skill as that day, there was not a single bump anywhere, no damage, no carnage, not even a blown engine or a broken suspension component that I saw. Someone overheated once, and someone had some little electrical problem that was dealt with, but this was the first drift day where all the cars left in almost the same condition they came in aside from a few different sets of tires.

As I was walking around, I passed a red car that I love the style of. As I started talking to the owner in broken Japanese/English, I found that his engine was set up a lot like mine with 20v internals and a small port head, but he was running a standalone. After a fast talk and him commenting on my AE86 tee shirt, he invited me for a ride. I had no clue who he was but didn’t say no. The day was set up in 10-minute intervals depending on skill level. We went out for a run in the advanced class and I quickly realized he knew what he was doing. He controlled his car amazingly, and was always the follow car. He stayed inches away from the car in front of him most of the time and was in perfect control. About a minute before the run was done, his tires were belted and smacking the inside of the wheel well. We pulled in so his two small boys could change the tires for him (start them young), and only then was I told that he is the local legend and that other drivers call him Sensei and ask for his advice and help. He was such a nice person and so easy to talk to. After that he spent the day riding and driving with others to help them learn.

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I have never been to an event that ended with all of the drivers going out and sweeping the parking lot to remove the tire debris and garbage that may be out there.

I hope that I can find time to get out to another one of these events. They had mentioned that they will do a grip day at some point and I can bring my MR2 out to that. It is a little far away, but the trip to Saga was totally worth it.

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I Wish Canada Had A Stronger Car Scene…

The car scene where I am is not as dense as Osaka or Tokyo, and winter is pretty much over now, so hopefully this summer I will be getting out to events and finding some very interesting cars and people. For now, here are some more totally random pictures of some cool car things that I didn’t know where else to put them, so I stuck them all together.

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This 86 was at a dealer. It was all decked out in the TRD parts. I wish we had this stuff when I was selling FR-S’s back in Canada.

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These were some Fast and Furious clone cars made from Nissan’s. They were in Osaka.

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This is someone’s car collection near my house. I need to talk to him because there is an AE86 in the far back.

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Honda with a cage in a scrap yard near my house.

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My favourite way to get to the city. I will not say how much time I have gotten off of it, but this is much faster than the IC now.

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Snow on my favourite mountain pass.

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My MR2 on the way home from Nagasaki.

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Where there were a couple AE86’s there were also a few other cool cars.

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You don’t get to see these in the wild in Canada.

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Nice to see, that is all I will say…

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I had some fun with this R34 on the way home from Nagasaki, and I was surprised my car was able to keep up, but he was blowing a fair amount of oil…

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These are the beautiful mountains I get to drive through almost daily.

AE86 Hunting with a Surprise

I saved all the pictures from the last couple posts that were of AE86’s just for this as I am biased and love them so. The cars from the meet, friends that were in the TAS, random cars that I found, and then a pleasant surprise are what you are about to see here.img_0123img_0139img_0143img_0161img_0167img_0169img_0178img_0180img_0188img_0222img_0223img_0224img_0229img_0232img_0234img_0237img_0238img_0240img_0242img_0244img_0250img_0252img_0270img_0272img_0273img_0315img_0320img_0332img_0346img_0347img_0349img_0363img_0364img_0365img_0387img_0388img_0390img_0391img_0392img_0393img_0396img_0397img_0399img_0400img_0428img_0430img_0432img_0468img_0469img_0478img_0480img_0481img_0502img_0503img_0507img_0511img_0512img_0513img_0552img_0561img_0858img_0859img_0861img_0863img_0864img_0868img_0869img_0870img_0872img_1054img_1057

Here is a few random pictures.

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As I drive around Japan, I tend to see a taillight or a roof line that is an AE86 and I know I have to stop to see. I am still hunting for my own, so when I saw the line up of hatches at a used car dealer, I had to stop. Sadly, they weren’t for sale, but I accidentally stumbled upon an iconic car and an icon himself.

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After seeing these cars, a bunch of S15’s and one smashed BRZ, a man came out to ask what I was doing. I told him I loved the 86 and was just taking some pictures. He told me the owner was coming out and would be here in a second. He came up and asked if I knew whom Ueo Katsuhiro was, and to be honest, I didn’t remember the name. At this point, I was standing at the corner of these white and orange cars.

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He pulled up YouTube and showed me him winning D1 in a white AE86 with graphics on the side, and I instantly recognized the car and told him in Canada I have a small model of his car. He pointed to the gutted white hatch back in the corner and said that was it. He won with a NOS powered N/A small port that made 350hp. It was nice to hear that he won with the engine that was in my car. I showed him pictures of my 86 in Canada and he then told me he has moved onto S15’s, and that the one he was building now for next season was going to be a 1000hp monster that has an R35 GT-R drive train (I was too awe stricken to ask what transmission he was going to use, but I will next time we talk). We added each other on Line and I left with a smile on my face.

I am still looking for my own 86, but at the rate I am finding them in backfields and parking lots, it is just a matter of time…

Tokyo Auto Salon 2017

I have been to many car shows throughout my life, I have been to many Muscle car events with my father and even the almighty SEMA, but as far as aftermarket goes, the Tokyo Auto Salon really is something special. For people in North America who are like me and like building your own car, and if you have the chance to get to SEMA, you will see a bunch of stuff that you want, then go home and order it, but the TAS is a little different because most of the stuff there can be bought on the spot, and some stuff can even be ordered for discounted prices and sent to you home (I did it). Usually at a show, things are for sale slightly under retail, or maybe you save tax, but at the TAS, things are actually much lower! I bought quite a few things for the MR2 and I know I saved a fair amount considering it was all stuff I had been looking to get before hand.

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One vendor that did impress me was Project µ, they had a fairly large booth and were showing things that I didn’t even know they made. I have been in need of new pads for the SW20 and I wanted to try them out because lots of people love them here. My car is not recent or popular really, so I asked, but didn’t expect them to have anything. They told me that they didn’t have them, but I could order them, and they would ship them to me for free and give me the price that was the show price, which was almost 30% less than the cheapest place I found online. After all this, the icing on the cake was that they even liked the picture I posted on Instagram. I have done a lot of aftermarket brands, and usually tag most of them so other people can find them when they are looking for parts, but it is nice to see that they actually have people that pay attention to the customers and their cars.

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Aside from all this, there are endless things to see. I went two days this year and I know there is still more that I missed. Now in no particular order, a large dump of pictures!

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Fresh Tokyo Meet

This is the second year I have gone to the Fresh car meet in Tokyo before the start of the Tokyo Auto Salon

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The Salon is an amazing place, and I will go over what I like about it in the next post, but this meet before has been the highlight of both the years that I have gone. It is in a parking garage down near the ocean, and the line up to get into the place was much longer than last year. They stopped letting people in, and the police had to be called and there were many nice cars I didn’t get to see, but at least got to hear as they ripped down the road after being told to leave. There is always tons of coverage and videos of this event, but at the same time, most people back home wish they could come to this. If you are considering coming, send me an email ( kurumaback86@gmail.com ), I will be going next year for sure, and have no problem getting a group of people to go with me and we can see it all. Tons of different styles and types ca be found here and there really is something for every car lover.

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