My Idol Hideki Tanabe RIP – A Very Sad Day

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Please post your comments, this will act as a memorial of sorts. I will share the comments with Tanabe-san’s family.

(EDIT: To those who have asked: Amuse/Ericsson continues on with Tanabe-san’s wife running the business. Because Tanabe-san was sick and out of the office a lot this year, his wife already has great experience running the business and things will continue on just like they have all year.)

On September 20th my idol Hideki Tanabe passed away. Over the past year Tanabe-san has had health problems, but the details of those problems have been kept very secret. I had prayed that his condition would improve and I looked forward to seeing him again in upcoming months, but today I heard the news of his passing and I’m deeply saddened by the loss of a friend, an idol and one of my key sources of inspiration.

We all have lost someone who I feel was perhaps the most valuable and influential person in Japanese tuning history. Specifically for my interests in JDM tuning, Tanabe-san has made me who I am today. There is no one in Japanese tuning who more embodies the interests I have in tuning and what my writing for the magazines and this blog represents.

Hideki Tanabe was the founder, president, designer and race car driver of Powerhouse Amuse.

Hideki Tanabe Powerhouse Amuse

Who is Tanabe-san to me:

Tanabe-san started as a small tuning shop with a specialty in ECU tuning for Nissans and Toyotas in the 1990s. Although his Hi-Tech ROM ECU tuning is still legendary in Japan, internationally he is better known for his Titanium and Dry Carbon products as well as his record setting demo cars and aerodynamic designs.

By the time I learned of Amuse right around the turn of the millennium, Tanabe-san had recently joined up with Nippon Steel and introduced me to the world of what the “ultimate” Titanium exhaust could be. On my very first import shipment from Japan for Bulletproof Automotive back in 2001 I had imported two Amuse exhausts (one for my own S2000), and I was never the same since.  Tanabe-san showed me what his idea of quality was, and it transcended the boundaries of what I thought a premium product could be. In following years I became an Amuse international ambassador, fan, customer, dealer and loyalist. Shortly after I imported an Amuse dry carbon hood for an S2000 and once again I was blown away. There is wet carbon, there is dry carbon…and then there is Amuse dry carbon. Again, Tanabe-san showed me what quality really is. That is a reoccurring pattern of my involvement with Amuse, a continual education of what the ultimate in quality can be.

Over the years I learned that Tanabe-san has one of the most refined and intelligent understandings of quality, craftsmanship and product design I’ve ever seen. I’ve been very fortunate to watch his company grow from a very small Japanese local tuning shop into an international leader of exclusive high end Japanese tuning. I was also very fortunate to make Amuse’s entry into the international market in 2001 and to help show the world what Amuse quality is, as evident from the countless emails I would receive from my clients as they poured in from North America, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East…all just as amazed as I was the first time I discovered Tanabe-san’s products.

In the early years, Amuse didn’t have much of a plan for international business so I operated independently on my own quest to introduce Amuse quality to the world. By 2004 (approx), I teamed up with Amuse USA (run at the time by Best Motoring DVD distributor ZigZag Asia) to become their sole dealer in North America. Between the years of 2001 to 2004, I introduced hundreds of clients to the quality of Amuse’s R1 Titan exhausts and dry carbon parts, as well as their incredible aerodynamic parts.

Within a year or so, ZigZag Asia’s Amuse USA office closed but I continued on selling Amuse in North America on my own as Bulletproof, just as I did before. At the beginning of this year I rekindled my direct and official distribution of Amuse after a meeting in Japan with Tanabe-san, his wife and many of my other friends at Amuse. As their official distributor in North America, the legacy continues on and I owe my promise to the entire Tanabe family to represent Amuse with the dignity and professionalism that their legacy deserves.

Tanabe-san has left a legacy hard to match. Not only are his products legendary, but he is legendary for many respects. First off it should be noted, that he did what he did for the love of tuning, not for money. His own personal “Carbon R” cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars to build and the products he designed such as the full dry carbon widebody he never had any intention of selling and were never available to the public. He built that light weight, FR, full dry carbon GT-R just to test his own limits and to have fun. And fun he had…Tanabe-san uniquely was not only a designer, business owner and mechanic, but he was also a race driver. All of those lap times that Amuse cars ran at Tsukuba were with Tanabe-san behind the wheel!

Some of Tanabe-san’s personal cars that he built for himself and rose to fame included:

AP1 S2000 Togue Monster

AP1 S2000 GT1

AP1 S2000 GT1 Turbo

Z33 Fairlady Z Superleggera

Z33 Fairlady Z CSL

Carbon R (BNR34 GT-R)

R35 GT-R Phantom

Ericsson M480 (E92 M3)

What Tanabe-san left for the tuning world is a road map to what quality and true balanced tuning can become when reached at its highest level.

Tanabe-san, like most of my idols, believed that to be the best you have to work with the best. In cases where he couldn’t make the best products in house, he found the best quality and the best talent in the industry and teamed up with those companies. Those passionate about quality often stick together, so it is no wonder why Tanabe-san developed a friendship with Polyphony Digital founder and Gran Turismo founder Kazunori Yamauchi. Together between Yamauchi and Tanabe, they designed legendary aerodynamics modeled in GT first and then produced in real life (such as the GT1 S2000 widebody for example).

Tanabe-san also perhaps best represented the idea of a total balance tune. His cars were highly usable in all conditions and with little-to-no downside. His belief in weight reduction dominated above all, however he always kept the original integrity of the car and usability in mind. His best cars all shaved off massive weight, increased power, boosted handling and braking but also kept comfortable seats, air conditioning, cruise control and stereo. His cars were some of the fastest at the circuit but they could be driven home in perfect comfort. Of course it is much easier to build a one-dimensional fast car, but Tanabe-san wanted to excel in all areas and with no trade-offs…and he did.

It is Tanabe-san’s thoughtfulness and dedication to quality that will be most missed by myself. In my writing over the years, I have without a doubt been influenced by Tanabe-san’s ideals and I have and will continue to seek to educate tuners around the world about: quality, balanced tuning, weight reduction, craftsmanship, aerodynamic design, and high technology.

Although Tanabe-san has passed away, his legacy will live on through all of us.

(I think this picture best sums up how I remember Tanabe-san. I took this picture at Tsukuba circuit in 2004. In the picture, Tanabe-san just finished completing a hot lap in his Carbon R and after pulling into the pits he is explaining to Nobuteru Taniguchi about how he tuned his GT-R. Tanabe-san is a legend and an inspiration to all of us, tuners, fans, writers, business owners, Super GT drivers, you name it…)

Hideki Tanabe Powerhouse Amuse

My condolences go out to his family.

-Ben

RIP Tanabe-shacho

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