Feature: The 86 Hiro – Steve Nakamura’s Take on the FRS

Automotive, Feature, JDM
The last time I talked to Steve in person was at Autocon back in…April, I believe?  Anyway, for the 30 or so minutes we chatted, he had mentioned wanting to put his 15″ Watanabes that were on his Corolla, on his FRS; unfortunately the lug pattern was wrong.  Not wanting to run conversion spacers on the stock body, he had shared his idea of getting new hubs machined to fit the four lug pattern of the RS’s; a rather costly solution, but a solution nonetheless.  Fast forward to last week and you can clearly see the end result of Steve’s ideas, albeit a bit different solution than originally planned.
The Rocket Bunny kit, a decision that not too many people knew Steve had made, was a surprise even to me when I saw it.  When I asked him why he didn’t tell anyone of his plans he simply replied, “I don’t know, I didn’t really feel like I needed to tell anyone.”  A response you don’t hear to often in a time where the need to be acknowledged for your acts is deemed as being important.
With the Rocket Bunny flares providing much needed room at the corners, Steve was able to use a conversion spacer to get the RS’s to fit snuggly inside, giving his car an extremely unique look in a world of repetitive RB kitted builds.  Plus, the conversion spacers give him the option of swapping the RS’s back onto his Corolla in favor of a 5-lug wheel; best of both worlds.
To say that Steve is a reserved man wouldn’t be an understatement.  There’s a quality of patience in him that leads to decisions being made from certainty, rather than from haste.  Combined with a background in graphic design, you can get an idea of why the cars he builds are on a different tangent than most.
Steve was born here in Los Angeles, growing up in South San Gabriel.  He’s happily married to his wife Jennifer and has two of the greatest kids ever; Hiro and Rika.  Actually, Steve is planning to give the FRS to his son when he grows up (barring that his father’s taste in cars is passed down along with his good looks); hence the license plate ’86 HIRO’.

Growing up, as most kids do, Steve had a huge collection of Hot Wheels.  He’d spend afternoons surrounding himself in car culture with shows like Knight Rider and Dukes of Hazard.  The year Steve was born (sorry, going to date you a bit here man), his father had purchased a brand new 1974 Corolla Deluxe TE27, with the 4 speed manual gearbox – the same car that Steve would eventually learn to drive in.  His real love of cars, however, began in his senior year of high school when he purchased his first Corolla.

Back in the early 90’s, Steve and his friends would rent Option VHS tapes from a local video shop in Little Tokyo.  He eventually became hooked on the culture and participated at the very first drift day in Irwindale.  In a time where the US was more interested in drag racing, drifting had a slow start, but as you all know now, that has dramatically changed.


The car sits an aesthetically pleasing distance from the ground thanks to the Stance coilovers.


Steve’s approach to his FRS is a lot different than his Corolla build.  His Corolla, which was built around drifting, has a plethora of suspension parts, a 16 valve blue top head with HKS cams and a 20 valve silver top block with dual 44 Mikuni carbs and a 2 way LSD.  Good recipe for a track car.

When asked about his approach on the FRS and how it differs from the older chassis, he replied:

“I’m trying to keep it simple and reliable. It is very different from the AE86 but they share similar, important qualities. They’re both FR and are relatively light weight. Even though people say it’s not really a Toyota because Subaru manufactured them I still believe it’s truly a Toyota. The concept and design came from Toyota and would have not been possible without their vision.

As far as driving experience between the two cars, I have to admit, there’s nothing like driving an AE86. You hear and feel everything. It’s a lot more engaging. But having a working A/C is great on a summer day in California.”


Future plans include some sort of cup kit to raise and lower the front of the car from inside the cabin.  Steve works at a graphic design firm in Santa Monica, and his commute sees a fair share of unfavorable terrain and steep driveways.  While a little apprehensive to spend money on something like that, it would relieve a great deal of potential damage to the front end, and wouldn’t really detract from the performance in any way.  He did mention for that type of money though he could get a really nice LSD.  Decisions….
Closer look at the Wats in front of the Chateau in San Gabriel we were thinking about purchasing that afternoon.  Steepness of the driveway was OK, but no water feature in the front yard was a deal breaker for Steve.
The cabin of the FRS is home to a small amount of interior upgrades, including a Charge Speed bucket seat, and Momo steering wheel.
The car fits Steve to a T.  I couldn’t think of a better transition from his Corolla, and hopefully in 14 years, Hiro will feel the same.
Thanks for your time Steve!



Event: Hyper Meeting 2014 – ハイパミ V.2

Action, Automotive, Event, Japan, JDM, Motor Sports, Time Attack



Continuing on with Hyper Meeting coverage, we’ll head out to the circuit where some of the time attack and races were taking place.  HKS’s R35 GT1000 was on hand putting in a couple hot laps are Tsukuba as well.  As I said in the previous Hyper Meeting post, it’s obvious this event focuses on the chassis’s that are popular for tuning today.  As a result, you see many all wheel drive cars like EVO’s and Subarus, alongside the new 86.  This post has a lot of Subarus haha; which is actually cool because I don’t think I post too many.




I’ve actually looked all over and can’t find results for lap times.  I saw this car at Fuji, but I don’t know what it got around TC2000 – I’ll keep looking though.




The GReddy/TRUST Rocket Bunny 86.




Pretty unique color way – looks good!




There were quite a few Subarus on hand, like this Garage KM GC8.  The tire warmers lead me to believe they’re pretty serious.




This Hawkeye was looking good on track.




Enkei RS05RR’s on the Tex Modify Subaru.




This was one of my favorite Subarus at TC2000 for the event.




Crazy hood vent.




Overall a really cool build.




Kumakubo and the Team Orange guys took place in the D1 exhibition.




With both the Evo 9 and newer EVO X.




Another cool Hawkeye on color staggered wheels and Voltex aero.



Really cool EVO 5/6 that I’ve seen a few times at Tsukuba for other Attack events.




Itasha on circuit!




Stay locked in – next up is a closer look at Hiroyoshi-san’s Kyushu Danji EVO.  Thanks again to Sekinei for the photos!











Event: Hyper Meeting 2014 – ハイパミ V.1

Action, Automotive, Event, Japan, JDM, Motor Sports



This past weekend Mr. Satsuei was at Tsukuba Circuit to get coverage of Hyper Meeting 2014; an event that offers an extremely wide variety of popular cars, shops and a few events in both time attack and drift.  It’s crazy to see how saturated this event was with EVO’s, Subarus, and 86’s.  If you think about it though, these are some of the most popular cars on the market today, and by it’s self described name, Hyper Meeting is actually a ‘celebration of custom car'; and what better cars to customize?  The posts covering Hyper Meeting will have no particular order, just as I see fit really.  Imagine a basic exhibition of drifting, time attack events, and various vendors with display cars hosted at TC2000 – sounds amazing right?  Well, let’s check it out!




Team Orange was on hand with their pair of Evolutions; a 9 and 10 respectively.  They were part of a drifting exhibition part way through the event.




The iconic Yukes livery has gotten much brighter over the years with the addition of gold chrome.







Carbon doors with the windows wrapped in chrome; I can’t imagine anything better.




The RS05RR‘s on Orido’s D1 car look fantastic.





One of the cars that D1GP brought out for a demo run.





Orido’s been pretty good at running this thing into walls this year – fortunately he kept it on track this time.




Good look at the interior of the D1 machine.






My personal favorite 86 that was on hand belonged to Blitz.  While they had a couple on hand, this one is beyond cool.






The ‘Metal Silver’ Blitz BRW 08’s are a great contrast to the bright chrome vinyl that covers the Blitz Aero Speed R body panels.




One of the best looking 86 kits on the market at the moment.




Another 86 that was on hand was the Rasty built circuit runner.  This car, while in appearance is magnificent, has been plagued with mechanical problems.  Even at this even it suffered some sort of transmission or engine issues.




I love the new look though.  Half the livery was missing due to the new doors, now issues in carbon fiber.  I’ve been posting up a lot of shots of the new rear diffuser as well that looks like it takes it’s styling ques from a Super GT car.




You’ve probably seen this car in my Battle Evome coverage.  It’s an Unlimited Works built EVO, but what I didn’t know is that they were using a Full Race manifold.  Not sure if it’s some sort of sponsorship deal, but I thought that was pretty cool.  Especially from a shop like Unlimited Works where if anything you’d think they’d make their own manifold.  This is a customer car though so who knows.




A closer look at the bay.





The S-Craft STi that was at Auto Salon was on hand as well –  not sure if it ran TC2000 though.





Here’s a random EVO with an Evangelion cut out in front of it.  I wouldn’t have posted this except that it reminds me that Kodi needs something like this for when he goes to the track.






Varis won the award for most bad ass display of all time with what seemed like an unlimited supply of all-wheel drive builds.




See a common theme at this event?




Pretty interesting Subaru build – check out that hood.




Early morning shot of the Blitz 86’s.




Not to be left out, the Trust built, Rocket Bunny adorned 86 was on hand and even got some laps in on TC2000.  After staring at the Blitz kit for so long, the RB kit looks pretty mild.


Speaking of mild, and by mild I mean not mild at all, here is an EVO that you should all be familiar with – Hiroyoshi Shimada’s, of Kyushu Danji fame, circuit fighting EVO 9.  I’ll have a closer look at this coming up.





Stay tuned for the second part of Hyper Meeting and some on track action.







Encounter: Bad Quality’s Nakagawa-san – TAS 2014

Automotive, Encounter, Event, Japan, JDM



Nakagawa Shuichi’s S13 build is most likely one of the most well known on the internet.  In fact, it was even on the cover of this month’s Super Street magazine.  What amazes me though, is almost every time I see it, it looks completely different.  Here it is at Tokyo Auto Salon, and while the body panels are the same, aesthetically it’s gone through another transformation.


Mainly the color way and livery, but still, there’s an intense amount of work that goes into this car on a daily basis that allows such constant changes.




The Equips that once filled the Rocket Bunny flares have also been traded out for the show.  As well as the addition of a gurney flap of sorts on the rear duck bill.  I look forward to seeing yet another new look, and my guess is we won’t have to wait too long.




Encounter: BEE☆R-Z – みんカラミーティング

Automotive, Encounter, Japan, JDM



Bee☆R had a good showing at the みんカラミーティング at Lake Yamanaka near Fuji, with Imai-san bringing out a couple of his cars…




…among them his now iconic Rocket Bunny BRZ.  If you remember, this was one of the first of the new gen 86’s to sport the Miura styled kits in Japan.  Still looks good today!




Event: Wekfest LA 2013 – Long Beach v.1

Automotive, Event, JDM


I can honestly say the last few weeks, for me, have been the busiest I’ve experienced in a long time.  Losing a week in Charlotte for work, playing catch up back at the office, and add on a handful of other outside projects with the website, features, getting my car ready for yesterday’s track event, diagnosing the issues with my S2000 so I can finally have a daily that’s not a race car, and what seems like an endless amount of work to do at home; it all added up to be a bit overwhelming.  So overwhelming in fact, that I had completely forgot about Wekfest LA; the show that is quite literally, 5 miles from my house.


By the time I realized it, it was already 11pm on Friday night.  I text Geoffrey in hopes that it wasn’t too late to attend, and I woke up Saturday morning to a pleasant text from him saying it was all good and to come on by.  I gathered my stuff, and Yuta and I head toward the Queen Mary to enjoy a nice day of cars and friends.  We showed up a little late, so I’m going to jump right into the coverage.  I really liked the look of this EVO with Voltex aero on Genesis wheels.  All it needed was mirrors and a gurney flap and it’d be perfect.


This MR2 on XD9’s caught my eye as well.


Pretty neat DB8 that had a track look to it with gutted interior.



Teddy’s EK that was recently featured in Super Street.


Volk party


Really clean engine bay that had a lot of Spoon parts.


Long Beach makes a nice backdrop to the cars.


This EF was one of my favorite from the show.  It really had a Japanese feel to the build; not something you get to often in the states (lots of attempts, not so many successes).  This one however, managed it quite well.


A few years ago I was talking to Ken, Adam, and Geoffrey about the state of the US tuning industry, and Ken brought up a good point about how much drive the VIP industry is getting these days.  The tuners who were once younger and into going fast, are growing up and naturally wanting to move toward something a little more ‘mature’ I guess you could say.  This theory is easy to see as the VIP showing at Wekfest was very large.


I like the pin-striping that I like to think the Japanese company K-Break made a standard for VIP builds.


Pretty basic LS400 on Weds Kranze Rapiers – Yuta really liked this car; because Rapiers.


I really liked the look of this 430 – I think it might have been in a magazine recently as well…



Probably my favorite LS400 at the show; really liked the red triple exhaust tips.  On my way out the door, but I’ll post up the rest of the photos this evening.

Event: Formula D – Drifts Cars In Static

Automotive, Drifting, Event, JDM


As I type this I’m watching the qualifying of the F1 Chinese Grand Prix, and Vettel just got pipped in Q2.  He’ll start the race in 11th place; It’ll be interesting to see how he can pull himself through the pack.  On a semi-related note, I get to watch Rubens Barichello race his Indy car around the streets of Long Beach tomorrow afternoon;  I couldn’t be more excited about that.  Lastly, on a note more related than the first, here is some more coverage from Formula D in Long Beach this past weekend.  I mentioned before that I didn’t have a media pass, so I apologize for not having action shots, but hopefully you’ll enjoy this look at some of the drift cars in the pits and at the show.  Click past the break for more.