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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LF-A Heritage by PCAL

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I’ve been a fan of the LF-A since seeing a concept back in 2005. Since the car has finally been released in production form, I’ve been reading reviews and comments about the car. One criticism I seem to hear over and over is that the car has no heritage. Others seem to feel that the Supra is the spiritual ancestor of the LF-A.
2000gt rear 3/4
I have to disagree with both of these camps. There has been an extended break in the bloodline, but I think the true ancestor to the LF-A is the Toyota 2000GT. At the time it competed with the best from Germany and Italy. Interestingly, the production run was extremely limited, the interior was appointed very well for such a sporty car and the car was priced relatively high. Despite being conceived entirely as a street car, the 2000GT was also raced extensively in endurance racing just like the LF-A. It is also interesting to note the Nissan GT-R of its day competed with the 2000GT on the track and actually was actually slightly more powerful in stock form.
2000gt front
Fast forward 30 years and both cars have aged very well and are now classics. That said the 2000GT occupied an entirely different realm than the GT-R in the late ’60’s and it continues to do so today. It’s nice to see Toyota and Nissan getting back to their roots with two very different cars that each represent the heritage of their respective makers very well.

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VIP Crown by Matt Rus

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Remember mysterious cat that we met in earlier post? Here we meet it again but we don’t know what he is up to now.

In all seriousness, this Toyota Crown caught my eye for three reasons. First is the rear burnt titanium exhaust tip which isn’t in the usual location on the back. Instead, it’s just after the rear Work Meister S1 wheel. The second reason is the Trust intercooler mounted behind the Car Sense bumper. It is relatively hidden, but still noticeable if you are paying attention. The third reason I like this Crown is the insane camber!



Here you can look closer to the side exhaust and also our mysterious cat wearing different camouflage.


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Tommy Kaira and ASI Prius by Matt Rus and Ben Schaffer

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ASI Prius

Words by Ben:

I noticed Matt (Farmofminds) already preparing a Prius feature on the Tommy Kaira car and I thought I’d join in since I’ve been intending to write something about the ASI Prius as well as the TK car. So here we go, another Prius blog post…

Really Japan? Has this what it has come to? All tuning news and innovation coming out of Japan seems to be either R35 GT-R or Prius/Insight. The rest of the tuning scene has very little news coming out. Can we get a little variety please? I’m already holding back on some GT-R blog posts because we have so many as it is, thats the big news these days.

Although you’ll find me being a huge supporter and fan of the R35 GT-R tuning scene, the Prius tuning scene is a bit different for me.

Dont get me wrong, I really respect the Prius (and Insight) for what they are (nature saving, efficient and affordable daily drivers). In fact I wouldnt be opposed to getting a Prius for a daily driver and if I did I’d probably be looking at one of these two companies for modifications (and Top Secret as a great third option for more simple lip kits). There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Prius and absoultely nothing wrong with making it look cool and perhaps even improving aerodynamics for better performance and economy (although these two probably worsen rather than improve Cd).

So what’s my beef? I like the Prius, I’d rock these kits…why the negativity? I’ll tell you why. Because this year for Tokyo Auto Salon I’m bringing my whole crew with me, as I usually do. This year we’re rolling 8 deep to Tokyo to see what is new at TAS. And you know what, when I ask my industry insider friends in Japan they all are telling me that TAS wont be the same and it’ll be dominated by “green” cars and eco cars with much less sports car tuning.

I understand the Japanese consumers demand eco tuning and styling, thats cool…but it is so overboard at this point that it feels like the Japanese government must have made a mandate that all tuners ARE REQUIRED to offer a tuning package for either the Prius or the Insight. I mean, who isnt doing parts for these cars right now? Enough already! (and it’s just begun) I’m telling you, if I see a JUN stroker kit come out for a damn Prius I’m throwing in the towel!

So now on top of having a Top Secret Prius demo car (picture that along side the monstrous Nardo Supra) we now have ASI’s demo Prius (picture that alongside their monsterous Tetsu widebody Bentley GTR or their slick Ferrari F430) AND we now have Tommy Kaira’s Prius demo car (picture that alongside their intense looking R35 GT-R car in development).

See what I’m getting at? Where’s the hardcore? Where’s the sports car tuning? Lets enjoy the Prius for what it is (a great eco car) but for my sanity’s sake, PLEASE DO NOT REPLACE OUR SPORTS CAR TUNING FUTURE WITH THIS. I understand Eco is the future for the masses, but can we keep our sports cars too? I thought the point was to have a sports car for the weekends and a Prius to daily drive. Lets keep it that way, keep the R&D coming on sports car tuning parts too please! I really dont want this blog to be required to feature hybrid news 3 days a week because there is nothing else fresh coming out.

Know what I’m saying?

Let me hear what you have to say on this please…

Ending rant, nobody can argue that this rear end of the Prius (below) by Tommy Kaira (under new management in Japan)  is the most amazing thing we’ve ever seen on a hybrid. This is as good as it gets design wise for the Prius. If I was an aero parts manufacturer, I wouldnt even bother making a rear under spoiler for the Prius after seeing this by Tommy Kaira. Game over.


PS: It would make a LOT more sense to me if Top Secret, ASI, Tommy Kaira and the like all would release their Eco projects under a sub-brand name. Like Top Secret: Green or ASI Eco Line, etc. Just something so I don’t think about these demo cars and parts in the same thought as a monster tuned Supra, Ferrari, etc.

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Toyota HiAce by Matt Rus

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As most of you know, vanning is very popular in Japan. The most recognized JDM vans are those extreme vans with custom body work, crazy wings, airbrushed paint and loud exhausts. Sure, I love their different approach of styling but I would never be seen driving one.

Instead I would be happy to have Toyota HiAce with minor styling modifications. First I was skeptical about these vans but in the course of time they actually grew on me simply because they are different compared to EUDM style vans which daily pass by my eyes. This HiAce is an example of how I feel it should be done. 20-inch CRS ESSEX ES-20 white wheels to match the body paint, lowered stance and some sleek body parts to make it complete, and yet it’s functional and perfect to go to shopping with.

What do you think? Is it too “rice” with 20-inch white wheels? I think they fit well on the van.



EDIT BY BEN – The real reason to get a HiAce becomes apparent when you see how people have been modifying the large interior space to recreate full out living rooms in the back, couches and all. Just think of how many Japanese women will fit in one of these vans…If I sold used cars, that’d be my pitch (sorry, just watched “the goods” last night with the whole Bulletproof team and car sales pitches are fresh on my mind)

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