Titanium Art by Patrick Callahan

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We all know and love what titanium does for cars. It’s light, strong and durable. But it’s when titanium is “burned” that it becomes truly desirable and it is largely for this reason that enthusiasts use it to accessorize their vehicles. The colors produced are unlike any other material or finish.

So what if you want to bring a little bit of this goodness into the rest of your life? Your wall, your girlfriend or even your kitchen? You might want to take a look around the Horie.co.jp website. It’s filled with all sorts of JDM titanium goodies from cups, to silverware to hairpieces. As a little teaser, check out this titanium flower arrangement. It looks better than anything in her ex’s house and definitely cuts down on the maintenance.

If you’d like something a little bit more functional, check out their mugs and cups. Besides looking cool and being light, titanium has the useful property of being anti-microbial.

Or if you’re looking for something more 2D, check out titaniumart.com I’d take this over a Picaso any day.

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BMW Z4, Today’s Supra? by Patrick Callahan

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Sometime back in 1998, Toyota stopped bringing Supra’s into the US. Then, in 2002, they stopped making them altogether. The car has experienced huge surge in popularity after production ceased which can be seen by the strong resale values the car enjoys. Clearly the combination of a turbocharged inline-6 and RWD wrapped in a sports-coupe skin is an attractive one. However, Toyota no longer makes such a car and doesn’t seem to be changing that fact anytime soon.

Interestingly, the Z4 Coupe makes a compelling case to take on the Supra’s legacy. Its layout is extremely similar, and power, weight and length are within 10% of each other. However, one of the things that contributed most to the Supra’s enduring legacy was the ease with which power could be added. BMW’s new motor certainly stacks up with many of the new turbo sixes performing extremely well in Redline Time Attack events.

Unsurprisingly the car has done extremely well in Japan. Garage Studie, Sunbeam and others have embraced BMW’s new line and provided wonderful support for the car. Even in Japan’s domestic-dominated SuperGT series, the Motorsport Z4 has found a home. And just like the JZA80′s of yesterday, the Z4 takes extremely well to outrageous widebodies and crazy color schemes.

JFactory has also shown that the car can be done well even with relatively tame modifications like the Varis hood and splitter. Even the cars Ben posted a while back from Studie show the potential of the car.

Could Toyota have made a business case to keep the Supra alive? BMW did and has reaped the rewards while Toyota chose to develop the SC430 that was a production failure.

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Free Craft S15 – The Grass is Always Greener… by Patrick Callahan

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I recently found what has to be one of my favorite S-chassis Nissan’s ever while exploring the wonderful Nori Yaro blog. The Free Craft S15 is exactly what you would expect from a sexy JDM Silvia for the most part (i.e. fantastic JDM aero, hardcore drift suspension, etc). However, there are a few differences that set this car apart for me.

The first and perhaps least surprising is that the car sports a 2JZ. More torque, more power, not a whole lot of explanation needed there. The swap is getting to be pretty common.

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The wheels almost certainly set the car apart. They’re Racing Hart (R.I.P.) CP-S10′s and I never thought I’d see them used to good effect on any vehicle. The non-traditional wheel choice and color combo really make this car stand out.

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However, the single biggest thing that sets this car apart is that it’s left-hand drive! How many LHD S15′s did Nissan make? If my calculations are correct, that would be exactly zero. Why? Why not? I’m sure you’ve all seen cars in the US converted to RHD and we’ve seen many “spo-com” trends re-surface on the other side of the pacific. The conversion has been done extremely well with a very attractive leather-wrapped dash and custom gauge housings.

I guess sometimes the grass really is greener…

Visit Alexi’s blog here: http://noriyaro.com/?p=4816

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A Real JDM Hybrid by Patrick Callahan

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Lately, the CR-Z has been getting quite a bit of attention since it’s a hybrid with sporting pretensions. It’s certainly a step ahead of the Prius. However, one of the first hybrid cars recently caught my attention. Way back in 2001 Toyota decided to produce a hybrid version of the Crown Royal (no, seriously, that’s the name of the car). Far from the stodgy 1NZ series found in the Prius, Toyota used what may be the most advanced normally aspirated version of the venerable 2JZ series, the 2JZ-FSE.

I must admit that even I had to dig a little deeper when I saw that engine code. A quick search reveals this engine featured direct-injection (remember we’re talking about 2001!) and an extremely high compression ratio for a car designed to run on pump gas. Between this and a mild hybrid system resulted in the car being rated at 27mpg city despite a curb weight over 4000lbs.

This is all impressive enough, but the engine is still only rated for 217hp. This might be adequate for cruising in the Royal, but is hardly an inspiring figure. However, what if this engine were to find its way into an MkIV Supra, IS300 or even a Silvia. It wouldn’t be breaking any ground to fit one of these engines in one of those chassis as the block is very familiar, but imagine a lightweight dual-purpose drift/daily S13 that gets Yaris-esque mileage on the way to the track, offset any emissions that may have been avoided with big white clouds of tire smoke and then proceed to commute for the next week on the same tank of gas. Now that’s a hybrid in every sense of the word!

Tuning this engine would require a herculean effort and you’d do well to pick up some textbooks on combustion theory while you’re at it, but there’s really no need to. The stock the engine produces an effortless 217lb-ft of torque at only 3600rpm and that’s more than enough to put a lightweight car sideways in a hurry.

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The Ultimate Resto-Mod by Patrick Callahan

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It’s no secret that OEM’s build amazing cars. Engineers spend literally thousands of man hours optimizing every aspect of a vehicle’s design. They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to and for good reason.

However, with these advances have come the unfortunate side effect of relative homogenity. Fresh, exciting designs that truly break the mold are few and far between. This trend is likely to continue as aerodynamics and safety dictate design more and more. Cars are also getting heavier all the time thanks to both the aforementioned regulations, increasing sizes and added content.

This progression has made many feel that the car they really want combines the best of both worlds. From the classic side of the table we need an iconic design that has successfully weathered the test of time, relative mechanical simplicity. To that we would ideally add the best mechanicals the modern industry has to offer with their superior performance, efficiency and reliability. We’ve seen examples of cars built to this design brief from Top Secret, Rocky Auto and other JDM powerhouses.

One of the finest examples of this idea without a doubt is the 300SL 6.0 AMG. The car was made in Germany but has proven very popular in Japan with numerous examples appearing on magazine covers and the garages of Japan’s elite despite the fact that only 11 were ever produced. It’s no wonder as this car embodies everything that is right about the resto-mod concept.

You and I may not be able to replicate such a build but there are many lessons to learn. Look at the mirrors. They’re not original but they blend in with the design perfectly and do wonders for everyday driveability. Besides the wheels they are one of very few alterations to the magnificent original design. Speaking of the wheels, despite the fact that they are certainly modern, the design is conservative and complements the rest of the car rather nicely. All visibly identifiable parts are clearly Mercedes originals and sticking to a given manufacturer’s parts bin is usually a very good idea. I might personally consider SLR wheels but wheels designed specifically for Mercedes are a must since Mercedes has done an excellent job maintaining a consistent design language even up to today.

More pics here.

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Headlights Today by Patrick Callahan

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Once upon a time car designers were limited to simple sealed beam headlights. These were available in two basic flavors, round and square. Eventually European companies started using a new style of headlights that offered a far greater degree of design latitude. The same basic concept of unsealed headlights with replaceable bulbs has dominated the market since their introduction in the mid-80′s.

The next step in headlight design came with the introduction of HID lights. These lights use electrical arcs to produce light instead of filaments like traditional lights. This design allowed much more freedom in headlight design and provide good lighting. BMW started using “angel eyes” which made for a very dramatic look and improved on the basic design characteristics of the lights. Infiniti further explored the design potential of HID’s with their Q45. Its lights looked more like a gattling gun than a traditional headlight. Both of these ideas have since been adapted to many different platforms in the aftermarket.

More recently though, Audi has fully explored the concept of both the projector headlight as well as LED lights. Honestly, they’re light years ahead of anyone else in this department and manufacturers are starting to realize that it’s time to catch up or they’ll simply be left behind. Enter Honda’s new Super GT contender. This to me is the first real effort by another manufacturer to apply Audi’s concept to an entirely different design language and it WORKS! This whole car’s design is simply amazing and looks and sounds just like a racing car should.

Toyota has also successfully adapted this style to the FT-86. This design language is once again very different from Audi but the headlights fit perfectly. Now, I wonder if the aftermarket can produce similar products to fit cars that are already on the road. Imagine what a well-designed modern headlight could do for a classic but aging design.

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The World Car by Patrick Callahan

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After my Lateral Thinking post, I saw several comments from people who feel very strongly about makes associated with certain countries. This is certainly easy to understand as nationalism has always been a very big part of civilized culture. However, I truly feel we’ve reached a point at which a car’s manufacturer is increasingly irrelevant and there are no longer truly Japanese cars, American cars or German cars.

Not only are actual part origins and points of assembly being scrambled internationally, but design centers and partnerships between manufacturers are increasingly blurring the lines of what country a vehicle should be associated with.

Another interesting phenomenon is perhaps best personified by Toyota. Their management style and quality control processes have revolutionized the way car companies are run and the whole industry has adopted very similar policies. In essence, this moved the entire industry in a “JDM” direction.

Now, while Toyota is certainly still considered a Japanese brand by many, it is becoming increasingly American. The Camry is now America’s best selling car and every nut bolt and washer of the Toyota Tundra was designed specifically for American consumption. Even branding wise Toyota is running carbureted, pushrod V8′s with everyone else in NASCAR and they have factory efforts in the NHRA as well. At this point, the most Japanese thing about Toyota is its risk-averse management which is honestly holding the company back.

So, what makes a car Japanese anymore? This globalization may be disappointing for the purists, but really the general buying public will only benefit from the increased competition and collaboration. What does this mean for JDM? Simply that there’s less reason than ever to restrict yourself to one make or model or even time period. We don’t have to wait for Honda to bring us Type-R’s or Nissan to bring back the 240SX. Other manufacturers are just as capable of filling those voids and I hope the industry sees and exercises all the opportunities.

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