Feature: A Test of Time – Hiroshi Amemiya’s Garage Mak S15

I had the real pleasure of shooting Ame’s car underneath the Yokohama Bay Bridge back in 2014 before the Winter Cafe.  Back then we had talked a bit online, but that was the first time I met him in person, and being a bit humbled at the time, wasn’t really up to asking many questions.  Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to stay in touch, and continue our friendship from a distance. The car has also undergone some fairly dramatic changes, so when I visited Nagano at the end of last year, I jumped at the chance to photograph the car again in it’s evolved state.  This time, I had the intentions of re-writing an article not just about the car, but about the owner as well.

In typical Japanese fashion, Ame is an owner that prefers to be behind his car instead of in front of it.   If you don’t quite understand that, I don’t blame you.  There is an argument to be made that, in our present day, there are a vast percentage of people in the world who have hopped onto a bandwagon of ‘building’ cars for the sole purpose of garnering attention.  Whether it to be famous on Instagram, sell uninspiring box decals, or they’re caught up in the pseudo, self-created, ‘lifestyle’ that comes along with it,  these people bring nothing of value to the table, are usually not in it for the love of motor sport, and more often than not, have poorly built cars.  I’m almost certain you’ve seen a few of these accounts  browsing social media.  Well, imagine the complete opposite of that, and you have my good friend Hiroshi Amemiya.

I’m usually not one to start off posts in a negative light, but I thought the easiest way to describe Ame was to actually explain who he is not.  Ame has built this car simply because he loves the joy that it brings him, and the more I got to know him over the years, the more that statement rang true.  He is a great example of those of us who are in this trade because, through some way or another, we just simply love cars.  With Ame, the joy of tuning is surpassed only by one thing, and that is the community that comes along with it.  Always the friendly face among the crowd, he will find interest in any tuned car you show him.  This shows through his build, and the dedication he has had to this one particular car.  Not unlike myself, Ame has owned this car for 18 years now, and has yet to fall out of love with it.

Purchased in 1999, the brand new Silvia Spec-R, with an automatic transmission no-less,  was driven off the lot by Ame himself.  Initially, Ame had very little interest in modifying cars while getting his drivers license.  Thinking anything would be fine to drive, he never gave much thought into what car he’d want.  However,  after reading various articles about the cars specifications, he came to realize that the form of the S15 stood out to him more than others.  He began to study things about the car, and soon decided that this was going to be his next car.  The automatic transmission that the car came with had it’s benefits for Ame at the time, as the car was double tasked as his commuter.  His commute to work from his hometown of Yamanashi would be eased by keeping the car simple for as long as he could stand it; a problem I’m sure we’ve all faced having to daily drive our projects.  He soon learned that modifying a rather normal car can have very drastic effects, and it didn’t take long for him to become slightly obsessed with making his car better through all aspects of tuning.

A few years passed, and Ame was still enjoying the car as much as ever, but the urge to modify it was growing too large to ignore.  He was presented with an opportunity to begin his journey when a mutual friend at Option/Hyper Rev reached out to him with a proposal.  They explained that they would be making their first Silvia-only Hyper Rev issue, and wanted to have a section dedicated to power gains on stock motors with automatic transmissions, only utilizing tuning adjustments with the ECU and boost-up.  This type of tuning appeals to many Japanese enthusiasts, as it keeps the car in a trim that easily passes the bi-annual registration tests needed to keep the car road worthy (shaken).  Gladly accepting, they instructed him to visit the shop in the neighboring city of Nagano that would be doing the test and tune; Garage Mak.

It was this initial meeting that led Ame on the journey to make the car what it is today, and for the past 15 years become indebted to the Miyagi brothers for their guidance and knowledge.   At the time, the Miyagi brothers may not have had the notoriety they do now but they were still among the top tuners in the area, so the choice for HyperRev to select them was an easy one.

The car has undergone a dozen reiterations over the past decade and change, and it was no easy task getting it to where it is now.  In its current state, the Silvia boasts a combination of body panels that are unmatched by any other.  The ability to make the car as aggressive as it looks, but still maintain a show quality to it, is a testament to the values that Garage Mak upholds.  Ame has centered his build around this characteristic, and as a result, every facet of the car is top tier.

He has dubbed the Silvia ‘Grey Shark’, as he thinks the front end of the Silvia looks similar to a shark nose.  The Garage Mak Type 6 GT aero has been fitted in both fiberglass and carbon pieces.  Ame wanted the front and rear fenders left in the exposed carbon to accent the grey paint and the other carbon parts on the exterior.  The new Type 6 GT special-made canards are, at the moment, a one off piece that may extend to the Type 6 lineup in the future.

The elevated side strakes extend to the rear, giving way to the carbon fenders.  You’ll notice as well that the smaller, rear windows have been swapped out to carbon as well.  Garage Mak’s rear S15 bumper and canard setup also hosts a carbon rear diffuser.

I suppose now would be a good time to address what most would notice about the car at first glance; the enormous 2150mm GT wing affixed to the back of the chassis.  Just to give you an idea of the size, the Voltex Type 16 wing, popular among the time attack community, measures 2000mm in length.  This is a prototype piece developed by Garage Mak, and at the moment has been the only unit made.

The wing, due to its size, naturally has to be mated directly to the chassis.  The carbon trunk was sliced (I’m sure rather reluctantly) in order to accommodate the large wing stands.

Taken out of context, this wing is incredibly big; this photo seems more akin to that of a tie fighter than a Nissan.  However, if you really take a step back and look at the car as a whole, the entire build is actually quite proportional.  I would probably be among the minority in saying that this wing isn’t overkill for the car.

Sitting on custom valved HKS Hipermax coilovers, the car has all the ingredients to be fast around the circuit, and provide an incredibly fun experience for Ame every time he gets behind the wheel.  He actually has a track day coming up, however in the past, Taniguchi (N.O.B.) has piloted this car around Tsukuba in well under a minute.

A closer look at the rear of the car.

Custom fender spoilers sit atop the front fenders directing airflow above the Craft Square mirrors.

Exterior-wise, I’m not sure you could get more aggressive for a car that remains registered for street driving.  All that is missing is an engine to match.

Long gone are the days of a stock motor and automatic transmission.  Over the past few years, the SR20 has gone from your typical high-power SR build, to perhaps one of the most reliable SR’s hovering very close to the 4-digit power mark.  Ame is constantly pushing the envelope, in some cases swapping out parts annually to try and achieve the perfect power balance.

The SR20VET has been stroked to 2.2 liters by none other than NAPREC; Nagoya-san’s specialist machine shop.  NAPREC is known to produce and assemble some of the most high powered and reliable engines in Japan.  Shop owners from all around the country (and world) entrust the work of the Tokyo-based shop.  Under Suzuki had his billet block assembled by NAPREC, and coincidentally enough, Ame’s build is quite similar.  Nagoya Precision is also responsible for assembling the valvetrain of the motor, utilizing their own valvesprings, and Kelford cams (265 · 290).  This is a pretty dramatic change from the N1 cams (220 · 280) he previously had.  With his latest round of tuning, his old HKS 1,000cc injectors were swapped in favor of Injector Dynamics 1,700cc units.

The end result is 915 horsepower and 650 foot pounds of torque at the rear wheels.  The brunt of power is made from the GCG GTX 3584 RS turbine.  The new, ten-blade GTX Gen II compressor wheel designed using Honeywell computer simulation software gives this particular GTX unit the ability to create more air mass flow, allowing Ame a much wider range of power options when tuning.  The 915 mark is the highest they wanted to push it, but the turbine performs just as efficiently in the mid-600 horsepower range.  Boost is controlled by Turbosmart regulator and boost controller unit.  To get all this power to the ground, an HKS 6-speed sequential gearbox is utilized – because, why not at this point?

The engine bay has been cleaned of the original seams, and fully tac-welded with new tubs.   The core support has been modified to accommodate the v-mounted radiator/intercooler setup.

The interior is actually pretty comfortable and contrary to what you might think, is still nearly 100% intact.  Albeit the stock dash has been replaced with a Garage Mak carbon unit, everything else is pretty much accounted for.  Door cards, headliner, carpet, rear seats, and believe it or not, climate control.  Yes, that’s right, this car still retains the air conditioning unit…don’t ask me how, but Ame is very proud of this.  A in-dash TV and stereo replace the OE unit, so Ame can catch up on the news if he encounters any traffic.  A plethora of HKS control units and Defi gauges surround the cluster.  A Nardi steering wheel takes center stage to give Ame (sometimes Tanaguchi) a better feel for the car’s grip.

A pair of Bride ZETA III Low Max buckets replace the OE S15 seats.

Ame has had the Enkei RS05RR wheels on his car since their debut a few years ago.  Actually, Ame’s S15 was the poster child for this wheel’s launch and subsequently graced the pages of many Japanese automotive magazines.  He has recently switched to a set of the newly released NT03RR in an 18×11 inch variety.   HKS brake calipers, made by Endless, have been entrusted to handle breaking on the street and on circuit.

A closer look at the carbon weave in the hood and front fenders.  Nothing but the best.

The trunk has been modified to allow access to the trunk without having to remove the wing.  Given the width of the stands, this was the easier option as opposed to having the wing element tilt back.

The trunk houses the NAPREC dry sump setup, as well as the wing stand mounting brace.

When we wrapped up at Garage mak, we cruised around a bit, headed back towards Yamanashi area to meet up with some friends for dinner.  Seeing this thing on the highway was oddly normal, although I know it shouldn’t be.  I don’t know how much better this car can get, but if there’s one thing for sure, Ame is never short of surprises.  I look forward to catching another bowl of ramen with him sooner than later.




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