Category: ‘Sports Cars’

Japan Car Auction Find: 1984 Toyota Mark II

Posted by Stephen On Friday, April 15th, 2016

Coming up at auction in Japan tomorrow…

1984 Toyota MARK II at auction - front 2

“Grade 3.5, interior B, exterior B, first registered October 1984, five-speed manual gearbox, AC, aftermarket muffler, Mark I alloy wheels, power steering, power windows, twin cam, aftermarket shift knob, interior grime and cigarette burns and scratches, seats have cigarette burns and are worn, rust and paint underneath vehicle, exterior paintwork uneven and modified, front grill missing, wheels scratched, door mirrors scratched, minor scratches and minor dents, marks as per map”

1984 Toyota MARK II at auction - inspection report

1984 Toyota MARK II at auction - interior 1

1984 Toyota MARK II at auction - interior 2

1984 Toyota MARK II at auction - rear

1984 Toyota MARK II at auction - front


Japanese Auto Art: Toyota’s Wooden Roadster

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Of the world’s top 10 largest automobile manufacturing names, Japan currently has six on the list, but only one of those companies has built a fully functional wooden car. Yes, you read that correctly. In an age when chopping down innocent woodland has fallen somewhat out of favor, some bright spark has decided it would be a great time to make a car out of dead trees. Not exactly what springs to mind when you think of “green motoring”.

Toyota Setsuna wooden concept car

Anyway, this particular wooden roadster showcases the beauty of okuri ari — a Japanese housed dovetail technique that requires no nails or screws. Toyota is unveiling this stunning car at Milan Design Week in Italy (April 12 – April 17, 2016). Filled with events, presentations, and exhibitions, the prestigious extravaganza is renowned for revealing forthcoming trends in the world of design. Except, perhaps, the likelihood of wood being the next carbon fiber still seems rather low to this writer.

A modest two-seat roadster, the Setsuna is a concept car that Toyota is tagging as a ‘Time Machine,’ though not for its ability to leap backward or forwards across the space-time continuum. In fact, the underlying focus of the entire campaign Toyota is touting centers around moving away from technology and being more cognizant of how significant and fleeting time is in the real world. Toyota engineer Kenji Tsuji, together with Kota Nezu of znug design, wanted the primary structural element of their design to illustrate aging and the passing of time. Wood, while unconventional, was precisely the material needed to embody their message.

Presumably, the point being that wood ages and decays. Of course, the same sense of the passage of time can also be seen on Japanese family cars from the eighties, as they rust and corrode. But that was a design flaw. This, however, is art.

Setsuna: Time and Timeless

The name Setsuna means “moment” or “instance” in Japanese. With this design, Toyota is appealing to the kind of old-school attachment car owners had with their vehicles over half a century ago.

They are seeking the kind of bond fanatical auto enthusiasts, and club members have for their hot rods. The minds inside Toyota want to tap into that feeling of owning an heirloom, and passing it down through multiple generations. The following are a few examples of just how passionate everyone involved in the project is about how and why the Setsuna is destined to be timeless.

The 100-Year Meter and the Setsuna Emblem

Setting a tone that denotes the “accumulation of moments” in a gradual and consistent manner, these two elements are beautiful examples of form over function. Their purpose is served by the sense they strive to evoke — the feeling of family roots.

The vintage-style meter of brushed aluminum is set in the stunning wood grain dashboard just to the right of the wipe-lacquered wood steering wheel. Two red hands tick off the time of day and the passing of days while a counter at the bottom logs the years as they go by. Perfect for anyone stuck in a Tokyo traffic jam, then.

The car’s emblem, which at first glance looks like a rotary saw blade, is actually a combination of much milder metaphors. The circular pattern is modeled after the rings inside a tree, which represent strength; they also signify a moment unfolding like a flower.

Although, if your eyes are not, in fact, deceiving you and it really is supposed to look like a saw blade, well how appropriate for a car made of wood. The fleeting nature of life as embodied in a wooden car meets its inescapable rendezvous with the circular saw of time, perhaps?

Which wood to choose?

To ensure that the Setsuna lasts as long as its lavish meter, the type of wood used was carefully selected based on where it would be in the car.

Exterior panels: Japanese cedar, known for its flexibility and vivid color along with a wood grain of refined character was a natural choice. Straight-grain panels achieve a sharp and even pattern because the cut is made toward the log’s center. Cross-grain panels have a softer appearance with a more irregular pattern which Toyota lauds as fostering a “quaint and friendly impression.”

Car frame: Supporting the weight of the vehicle and its occupants required an extremely rigid and sturdy variety of wood. The perfect selection was Japanese birch, which is similar to paper birch trees with the signature chalky white bark.

Floorboard: A species of flowering plant commonly used in the art of bonsai or as an ornamental tree, the Japanese Zelkova was chosen for its strength and durability.

Seats: Part of the ginseng family, the Castor Aralia is valued for its timber quality. Growing to nearly 100 feet tall with a 40-inch trunk diameter, this particular species was picked for the smooth texture of the wood. Designers sought to offer a feeling akin to sitting on a wooden park bench — in this case, a leather-covered bench.

Of course, as any environmentalist knows, if you want a material that lasts for centuries without decaying, you need look no further than the almost immortal plastic used to make grocery bags.

Put Together Like a Puzzle

The body of the Setsuna is built using 86 wood panels that have been fitted together in a way that enables single panels to be removed and replaced as necessary. Traditional Japanese techniques that use the interlocking methods of housed dovetail joints add to the overall strength and durability of their auto’s wooden body.

With this being a one-off, I assume that crash safety was not uppermost in the designers’ minds. While Japanese wood-framed houses rarely have to endure impacts, it’s not clear what protection the Setsuna would afford its occupants. Having dropped a few jigsaw puzzles on the floor in my time, I suspect it would be very little. And at speeds above walking pace, getting a splinter would be the least of your problems.

Toyota is sure to receive myriad accolades in Milan because their concept car — conceived by clever minds daring to push the boundaries of design — makes a beautiful statement both visually and conceptually. With a single electric motor as its only power source, the prototype can achieve a top speed of 28 mph and travel approximately 16 miles before needing to recharge.

To state the obvious, Toyota has no production plans for the wooden Setsuna. But this is not a bad thing. It’s a hugely flawed design boondoggle that sneers in the face of environmentalism – cutting down trees instead of hugging them.


1968 Datsun Fairlady in the Japanese Car Auctions

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

This has to be one of the best looking Japanese sports cars ever, with the closest rival being the original MX-5 Miata. Along with its Japanese sport scar contemporaries, the Honda S500 and Toyota Sports 800, SR311 Fairlady encompasses the essence of a genuine sports car. Not the bludgeoning horsepower warfare of supercars and hypercars, and not the cubic inch overkill of the North American muscle cars. No, this car is about the fun of driving. The pleasure of a winding road with the top down and the wind in your hair.

40,000 of these little gems were produced between 1959 and 1970, with this one being one of the latest SR311 configurations that featured a 5-speed manual transmission that replaced the previous 4-speed. With a standard 135 PS engine configuration (in a car weighing only 940KG), a top speed of 120 MPH was attainable, which was quite spritely for its time and represented excellent value for money.

Let’s take a look at this one that is in a Japan car auction in Tokyo. Here is the translation of the auction inspectors report:

“Interior C, first registered 1968 (month not stated), five-speed manual gearbox, ODOMETER CHANGED, marked as odometer changed vehicle as this is an old car, fender mirrors, steering wheel worn and has minor cracks, canvas top cut and has repair marks, possibly aftermarket seats, seats torn, rust and corrosion and paint marks underneath vehicle, interior grime and wear, dashboard loose, rust and corrosion in places, corrosion repair marks, scratches and dents and repairs, exterior paintwork cracked on bonnet and on right side sill and on left rear side panel and on rear boot lid, marks as per map”

Datsun Fairlady SR311 at auction in Japan - auction sheet

Although it says that it is an “odometer changed vehicle”, this is very common among cars of this age, simply because the seller cannot be hundred percent sure that the mileage is completely accurate. This would really only be possible if there were full-service records available. So in this case as well, the seller is probably erring on the side of caution by marking the car as such.

There is a reasonable amount of rust and corrosion on this car, so this would be more of a project vehicle. However, it’s not so bad that it is readily visible in the photographs. Take a look for yourself below:

Datsun Fairlady SR311 at auction in Japan - front

Datsun Fairlady SR311 at auction in Japan - rear

Datsun Fairlady SR311 at auction in Japan - interior


Japanese Car Collectors Predict Upcoming Trends

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Global trends do not only exist in the world of gaming, fashion, and animation. Japanese car collectors seem to have the inside scoop when it comes to the global car collector market. In the collector’s inventory lies the innovated limited production vehicles from the 1960s such as the Toyota 2000GT and Mazda Cosmo that are now priced at six and seven figure numbers. Even the humble vehicles like the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 of the 1960s have become $100,000 cars.

Toyota 2000GT with Toyota 86

“We’ve seen a huge spike in certain great, collectible Japanese cars,” says David Gooding, the CEO of the Los Angeles-based Gooding & Co. auction house. The information does back his statement. Study results from classic vehicle valuation experts Hagerty shows a 57% hike in the prices paid for Japanese collectibles during the last three years alone.

With increases like this, many Japanese collectors have been priced out of their own iconic history. Since Japanese trends have been foretelling of global styles like the infamous Fast & Furious “tuner” craze from the early 2000s, where cars were customized with wildly colorful cosmetic and mechanical accessories—the Japanese collectible market has become a good source for analyzing emerging trends.

The top collectible cars in Japan may line up with those that are popular globally, but there’s a significant difference. Japanese car collectors seem to be drawn to cars from the 1990s era and later while Ferraris from the 60s and 70s are a hot ticket item in America and Europe. European and American collectors currently fetishize purist 60s to 80s Porsche 911s that look like they just rolled off the assembly line; the Japanese clearly like their 911s customized. (Although the auctions in Japan can be a great place to find clean, low KM Porsches as well).

“The Japanese have never been shy about modifying cars,” says Ben Hsu, founder, and editor-in-chief of Japanese Nostalgic Car, the most notable English-language publication about vintage Japanese cars. “Interest in Porsches in Japan has just skyrocketed in recent years, largely due to a tuner named Nakai, who grafts on flared fenders and giant rear spoilers—inspired by modifications done by the Japanese Bosozoku, which were the old local bike and car gangs. He runs a shop called Rauh Welt, which is German for rough world.”

This love for modification is, among many Japanese collectors, ingrained in a particular aspect of their culture “There is this Japanese word, otaku, which means hardcore—obsessively enthusiastic about something,” says Hsu. According to Hsu’s, otaku is also the motivation behind local collectors’ love of oddball and underappreciated cars.

What do you predict will be the next classic? The Nissan Figaro? Honda Beat? Whatever classic Japanese cars you are after, we can help.


1996 Dodge Viper In The Japanese Car Auctions

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

The Dodge Viper is becoming a modern-day classic. With its stonking 8 liter engine, it may well rank as the last hurrah of fossil fuel power before hybrids arrived, and then gave way to all-electric power when historians look back at modern times in centuries to come.

The exterior has aged well, but the shiny plastics of the interior wouldn’t even make it into an entry-level car these days. Find out more about this particular car that was auctioned in Japan, and enjoy the video below:

1996 Dodge Viper at auction in Japan - interior

1996 Dodge Viper at auction in Japan - rear

1996 Dodge Viper at auction in Japan - auction sheet

1996 Dodge Viper at auction in Japan - front


2016 Honda Civic Coupe Review

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

The most recent Honda study suggest that customers that favor coupes over sedans seem to be mostly seduced by the image and style, feeling that the absent second set of doors pushed the idea that the driver and car have a sporty identity. While that’s not always the case, the vibrant character of the new Civic coupe justifies the sporty part of the suggestion. I mean just looking at it makes it really hard not to believe that this shape won’t be what first attracts its buyer.

Check it out …

Honda Civic Coupe 2016

The 2016 Honda Civic Coupe’s sheet metal alone is even sexier than the sedan’s, with more sculpting, neater dimensions, and wheels that fill the wheel wells right to the very edge of the fenders.

Now what the coupe does share is the sedan’s 106.3-inch wheelbase, which is a sizable 3.1-inch stretch as opposed to the previous generation. However, at 176.9 inches, this new coupe is about an inch shorter than its predecessor, 1.8 inches wider at 70.8 inches, and a drop (0.1 inches) lower at 54.9 inches. Additionally, it has much wider tracks: 60.9 inches at the front and 61.5 rear. Although the overall length has shortened, the overhangs have reduced even more, and matched with the new sedan, the coupe falls 5.4 inches shorter. The rest is a coupe that looks compact in a sporty way.

Power Over Weight

While it would make sense that smaller dimensions and widespread use of high-strength and ultra-high strength steel in the body shell should equate to reduced mass, the official provisions are a little foggy on this score. Honda’s registered curb weights for the older coupe vary from 2754 to 2916 pounds. Depending on the trim level, the 2016 coupes will weigh anywhere from 2735 and 2896 pounds, as per Honda. As usual, equipment and new safety requirements seem to have trounced any attempts at genuine weightloss.

Nonetheless, the new coupe seems to have a performance edge over the previous generation, which is due to its new engines—a naturally aspirated 158-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder (in LX and LX-P models) and a 174-hp 1.5-liter turbo four (EX-T, EX-L, and Touring). 

US-Market Pricing

Just like several other components of the ongoing Honda Civic saga, pricing is still unclear until at least mid-March 2016 when this model goes on sale. There is some speculation on pricing, but that’s tricky to predict because of the upgraded trim levels. There are currently five culminating in the new Touring model. Then again this much is certain: The new 2016 Honda Civic coupe makes the retiring version as easily forgettable as last year’s curling-tournament results. While the body of the Civic coupe is quite sporty in its appearance, the sportiness goes above and beyond the appearance.


Top Secret Rocked the Tokyo Auto Salon 2016

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Just when you thought “Top Secret’” was a term only used by super agents and comic book heroes, let’s look back to the 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon had a booth that had a Top Secret Nissan Skyline GT-R on display in all its glory. This Bayside Blue and brilliant car was resting in the showroom of the International Convention Complex Makuhari Messe where everything comes alive! At first glance, the body of the car is what grabs a car lover’s attention, but when looking deeper into the details, you realize there is more to this beast than meets the eye.

The owner, Kenneth Blanck, has had this work of art since March of 2011 when he purchased it from Global Auto who is a renowned dealer in these custom vehicles. Back then, the GT-R was only a dream to Blanck, who had coveted it he was a drag racing teenager. It was fast on its wheels, and Kenneth saw it as the perfect car to take on as a project. He was determined to make this his baby and as soon as he was financially able to, he invested in this Top Secret Nissan Skyline GT-R. “I loved the R34 shape as it was featured in the Fast and Furious movie series.”

Top Secret R34 Tokyo Auto Salon 2016

Kenneth did this model justice by transforming it into one of the freshest and most refined R34 Skylines ever seen before, while avoiding flashy car bling and drag racing stripes. Besides the aesthetics on this Top Secret GT-R, the most notable component is the impressive uprated turbo engine. Blanck’s R34 Skyline is the very first to run a Borg Warner EFR-9180 turbo engine in Japan. His model also had customized dual wastegate dump pipes added to the side skirt on the passenger side in addition to titanium 80mm exhaust on the same side. Just the sound is enough for a car fanatic!

The car in its entirety is quite the showstopper, as was evident to all who passed by its booth at the Tokyo Auto Salon. But it’s not just a looker. Kenneth also mentioned that he has pushed the car on the Fuji Speedway and has seen 217mph on the race track.

I wonder what will be enticing visitors to the 2017 Tokyo Auto Salon? More power. More bling. More incredible machines.


Ultra Rare Nissan Skyline GT-R Nismo Z-Tune For Sale in HK

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

One of the rarest R34’s in the world popped up for sale this morning in Hong Kong, according to Contempt Concept HK motors. The 2005 Nissan Skyline GT-R Nismo Z-Tune is being sold at a bargain of a mere $510,000.

Nissan Skyline GT-R Nismo Z-Tune For Sale in HK

What makes this rare?

Let’s paint the picture. Not many R34 GT-Rs were ever manufactured. They stopped production in 2003. The, R34 V Specs represented only a handful of them – 1308 units to be exact. As far as the Nismo Z-Tune is concerned, there were only 17 production models. Two of them were never sold.

That makes this vehicle one of 15 in the world in private hands.

Although the R34 program ended in 2003, Nissan authorized an exclusive version of the R34 car dubbed the Nismo Z-Tune in 2005. Kinda like the Beatles getting back together for one, final concert in 1979. And only 15 people were lucky enough to get tickets. There have been more multi-million lottery winners in the world so far this year than that. That’s how rare these cars are.

At an original price tag of $108,500, they sold out instantly. This particular car is No. 9 of the bunch.

The entire car is handmade. Nismo purchased (20) secondhand Spec V’s and stripped them down. Each car was sprayed with a unique color called Z-Tune Silver and given an exclusive 2.8L twin-turbocharged engine. The car was given the ability of over 500 hp and could achieve 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds. It maxed out at over 203 mph.

The bodywork comes straight from their GT500 racing program. It has both a vented hood and fenders. Let’s not even get started on the suspension set up.

This car has hardly been driven in the last 10 years. It has less than 2000 miles on the odometer. One might think that the asking price is a bit high at $510,000 – but not really. Think about it: This is one of the rarest Japanese supercars ever made.

The steering wheel features the signature, iconic red and black leather that matches the front and back seats. The front seats feature the bucket seat race car design. You got racing paddle shifters and the red leather on the insides of the doors. Honestly, the car has a look of a Japanese supercar straight out of the Kill Bill film franchise.

Everything’s been verified, right down to the nameplate and identification tag.

Take a good, long look. This may be the last time you’ll ever see one for sale, and it won’t be for sale for long.


Subaru BRZ World’s Tightest 360º Spin

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Setting a world record is no easy task. In fact, it can be downright impossible. But don’t let that stop you.

The Subaru BRZ just set a world record. For Subaru, that’s great, but it’s not the first time. It won’t be the last.

The vehicle set the Guinness World Record for the world’s tightest 360º spin. The car, being driven by stunt driver Alastair Moffat, was driving the car on a closed course at about 48 k/h in a narrow lane of cars, clearing the spin with just 2.25 meters of clearance. When the feat was accomplished, he continued on to the end of the course.

This broke the previous world record of 2.5 meters of clearance, which, by the way, was also set in a Subaru BRZ in 2014 at the Autosport International’s Live Action Arena.

Subaru BRZ

The requirements to qualify for the record-breaking stunt are stiff. The vehicle must not have been modified in any way. It must be using the same equipment that it came with when it rolled off the assembly line.

What you can do is make adjustments to the current, standard controls of the car. For this feat, the traction control switch was powered OFF and the anti-lock braking system was disengaged.
The previous record was also set by Alastair Moffat, who holds other records under his belt. He is credited with the “Tightest Reverse Parallel Park,” a record he set while behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper in November 2015. In that maneuver, he left a mere 35 centimeters of space between his Cooper and the two vehicles he squeezed in between.

He is also the recipient of the “Tightest Parallel Park,” another 2015 record, while behind the wheel of a Fiat 500.

For Subaru, this came together beautifully. Put the right driver behind the wheel of the right car and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Subaru can put this world record under its belt with all the other ones the Japanese carmaker has. A recent example of another world record happened just last year when Subaru Russia organized the largest parade of vehicles – 549, to be exact – at the Moscow Raceway, at the SubaFest held Aug. 15, 2015.

Subaru set a world record in 2011 at the Isle of Man, one of the most perilous race tracks in existence. The Subaru was driven by British Rally Champion driver Mark Higgins, setting a new lap record for a 4-wheeled vehicle – something that many manufacturers have tried since to beat, but so far, have been unsuccessful.


“Lexus” = “Boring”? Never Again Says Akio Toyoda

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Akio Toyoda, CEO of both Toyota and Lexus, tells a story of how he has received letters that complain that the Lexus car brand is boring. This guy is the grandson of the company’s founder, which says something. Toyota runs in his family. More than that, it runs in his blood.

Akio says he “took them to heart,” and he’s “ensuring that the word ‘boring’ and Lexus’ will never occupy the same sentence very again.”

Lexus bling grill

Truth be told, we’ve heard this rhetoric before – five years ago, to be exact, on the Pebble-Beach Concourse d’Elegance at the launch of another ‘boring’ Lexus, this time, the fourth-generation GS sedan. Back then, the occasion marked the new look of the spindle grille, fresh air intake design, and the very curves that make ‘Lexus’ synonymous with ‘luxury.’

The motor vehicle giant has enjoyed 11 years of market leadership in the United States, but then, just like now, there is evidence that points to Toyota fighting a losing battle against the Germans.

Germany is home to the Mercedez-Benz, Audi and BMW. Not only have they made better-looking cars, but their cars were more interesting and exciting to drive.
Don’t get me wrong here. Lexus is still the market leader in quality, gas efficiency, trunk space and all-around engineering qualities. But that didn’t matter anymore. Other, much cheaper vehicles were figuring out how to to it too, and all of a sudden, Lexus didn’t stand out anymore.

For Akio that wasn’t good enough.

Akio Toyoda is a race car driver. It’s not just in his family – it’s in his blood, remember? He knew that Lexus needed a jolt. He knew what Lexus needed. He wasn’t about to let his brand take second place to anybody without a fight.

In short, Lexus needed a car that wasn’t just synonymous with luxury but was fun to drive. Lexus engineers needed to give drivers a reason to smile. They’ve done it before; there’s no reason they can’t do it again.

Aiko charged Koji Sato, deputy chief engineer at Toyota, with the job. According to him, his speech five years ago on Pebble Beach merely marked a starting point for the company.
They both were thinking the same thing.

He wasn’t being charged with upgrading a car. He was being charged with making a whole new generation of Lexus.

Sato took this tall order to heart and realized that he needed something more than his current team could offer. He thought outside the box and looked beyond the borders of his corporate office for help. What he did was nothing short of revolutionary.

He hand-picked a team that would later become to be called his ‘irregular army.’ It consisted of a small group of race car drivers, journalists and car dealers.
For Lexus, the strategy was more than risky. It was more than bold. It was genius.

And, it was exactly what Sato was looking for.

Sato placed the entire company in jeopardy of exposing the entire project by doing this. The team persevered through every logistical difficulty an undertaking like this could have presented. The test team coordinated three unique driving events in the United States.

This was the beginning of the 2018 Lexus LC 500. This was the beginning of a whole new generation of Lexus.

The prototype has been created. It’s been driven. It was completely covered in disguise tape, with its interior panels draped in such a way as to keep the entire project under wraps. The vehicle was only a concept car, but it was driven in Rose Bowl Stadium of Pasadena, California.

It sports a 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Its 5.0-liter, V-8 engine produces 467 horsepower at 7100 RPM and 389 pound-feet of torque at 4800 RPM. It makes 0-60 in 4.5 seconds flat.

In short, it is awesome. It is fun to drive. It put a smile the drivers’ faces.

Sato is pleased, but his work is far from over. “We have got the basics right,” says Sato, “but it’s the last 10 percent that is so difficult.”

The LC 500 is nearing the end of the engineering phase, and, as such, Sato’s ‘irregular army’ has disbanded by now. The engineering team has a lot on their hands this year. Aiko is scheduled to drive the vehicle in late February this year.

Let’s hope the boss likes it. We’re rooting for Sato.