Jamiel Royes' 1985 Toyota Crown Royal Saloon

"In Japan, the way they style older cars is not as over-complicated or crazy as most people in the US think it is-- I wanted to show people that."

He's absolutely right. Much like many facets of other cultures that are widely known, liked, and imitated in the United States, there is a habit of taking elements that we like and/or think are cool and exaggerating them, and forgetting (or omitting) elements that we don't like (or don't find as interesting). But Jamiel wanted to bring the simple, subtle style of many of the "shakotan" cars in Japan to the United States. He wanted to be true to all of the cars that he was seeing that were impressing him so much-- using so little. A true Toyota fan, he couldn't have had a better platform to do this, then his Toyota Crown. 

Alot of people in the United States have no idea what a Toyota Crown is. And that's fine, because before I saw Jamiel's Crown at a local night-time meet-- complete with purple road hazard flasher-- I didn't either. There is a reason for this, and it's simple. They never saw the US market again after 1973. So, if it was made after 1973, and it's a Toyota Crown-- it's right-hand drive. The Crown has been used to fill many different roles in Japanese society since it's inception in 1955; most of which it still serves to this day. From taxis to executive transport, all the way to use as police vehicles, the Toyota Crown is a very versatile road-bound people carrier. It's one of Toyota's longest enduring model lines still in production. This is thanks, in part, to all the various trim levels that have come and gone. They ranged from regular family sedan options all the way to what became the standard for Japanese executive sedans (including, but not limited to: dual-zone climate control, front and rear heated seats, 4-way adjustable power seats, audio systems control in front and rear, acoustically calibrated speakers, automatic headlights, reading lamps for all seating positions, electrically adjusted tilt and telescoping steering column combined with a steering wheel, seat memory features, and more), and remember-- this was the late 70s. In the case of Jamiel, he was lucky enough to find a "Royal Saloon"-- the highest trim level at the time. And he found the car, actually, already in the United States. 

Long before getting the Crown, Jamiel was already a "Toyota guy". He's had several Cressidas (both sedans, and a wagon), a TE72 Corolla, and most recently-- an A60 Celica coupe. But he tells me that he wasn't always a "Toyota guy"; much less an "import guy". Growing up with his father, who was very into cars of all kinds, he gravitated at first towards American muscle cars. But he recalled a very specific "AHA!" moment-- and it happened in one of the 4 Supras that his father has owned. The Supra was of course-- lowered, so when his father took a speedbump at speed-- head on-- Jamiel said his head just about hit the ceiling. But he enjoyed that experience so much, well-- here we are today.

The Crown showed up locally before it was under Jamiel's ownership. But when he saw it, he knew that was what he wanted. Luckily enough, that local owner (who is also an importer) was already a friend of his. He tells me that he's thankful for that for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is that it got him a "good deal" as a result. So, here he was with one of the only, if not THE only, 80s model Toyota Crown Royal Saloon on the east coast. So of course he did what any of us would do to a minty stock Japanese car from the 80s-- swap and chop the suspension to lower the damn thing. In the true "mix-and-match fashion" (that we at notfast. love so much), he looked outward for whatever parts, Crown-specific or not, to lower the car. As it sits now, he ended up cutting the rear springs and leaving the factory rear struts, but the front is where it gets interesting. Currently supporting the front end are a set of Chevy Nova struts surrounded by late-model Ford Mustang springs (and they've been cut, of course). He tells "It's kind of amazing to me how many people will tell me that I'm 'not even low' (laughs)." But of course, as he is telling me this, we are scraping frame going across a flat bridge. So, I will let that fact speak for itself. And the kicker is-- he wants to go lower. 

This year, he was finally able to make a trip to Japan with some friends of his. You may know them as TEAM ROWDY out of Atlanta (If you've never heard of them, do yourself a favor and look them up now-- the cars are all incredible). While in Japan, they did what most enthusiasts would (and should) do: Tokyo Auto Salon, the Toyota MegaWeb, Nissan DNA Garage, Tomei, the TEIN factory, and they went to several of the circuits. He says he was able to meet more people then one usually would (as a tourist) when he went to the circuits, because before ever leaving the US, he was already studying and practicing spoken Japanese. Especially so, at Mobara Twin, where he and the group met SHOUT ROGUE and Freee's, two well-known Japanese drift teams. But needless to say, the other high-point of the trip was getting to see all of the cars we all see in photos (and the cars that we don't) with his own eyes. He was able to compare how the cars were actually styled in Japan against how they are styled in America after being influenced by the Japanese style. And this just made him all the more confident in his styling decisions for the Crown sitting in the garage back home. "Less is more" seems to be the overarching philosophy when building a shakotan car in Japan. 

The details play a major role in why this car is so great. Both the details added by Jamiel, and the details added by Toyota in 1985. The Royal Saloon and its multitude of options were indicative of the abundance of money being made by Japanese automakers as their sales began to skyrocket worldwide in the mid/late 70s.  Many of the options evolved into more and more options offered in the later Japanese executive sedans coming out of Toyota, Nissan, and other lesser known marques. The first thing you notice when you see the car is the iconic front end. Aside from the elegance of the grille/foglight combination and famous Crown insignia, the GX71 lip splitter that Jamiel has added retains the overall nature of the car but with some added retro-sportiness.

The current "brake cookers", as he calls them, carry the car just fine at the current ride height; and the color works nicely. But he is on the look out for a new set of classic shakotan wheels (SSR Longchamps, Tomcats, SSR StarSharks, or SSR Mk 1s), the one obstacle is the Crown's 5 stud lug pattern. One thing that he made very clear to me was that the decals that make their way onto the car were either left on from it's time in Japan, decals that are period-correct, or those that have been received from brands, teams, or groups that he personally has a good relationship with-- no more, no less. Under the hood, one of Toyota's only factory supercharged engines, the 2-liter I6 DOHC 1G-GZE is opened up with a set of the iconic TRUST blue race headers. 

Now let's talk about the interior and accessories. For starters, as far as I'm concerned, one of the best parts about this car came from Toyota. The brown trim with crushed red velvet interior are a stark, and I think, perfect, contrast to the white paint of the exterior. It's a classic "they don't make them like this anymore" characteristic. Although, there are obviously still carmakers today doing brown trim, and various red interiors-- they never do it quite like this. There is something about it that just screams "made in the 80s". The seats are exactly as plush as they look, and that is even with the beaded seat covers, which-- again, add a nice contrast. Little odds and ends adorn the dashboard-- essential "No Smoking" decal, vent-mounted cup holder, and my personal favorite, the delightfully small O.B.A. 290 steering wheel (complete with S.E.V. Marchal horn button). Even the more modern stereo unit could slip right by you as a period correct unit if you don't look hard enough. 

In the rear deck sits the essential period-correct PIONEER TS-X7 speakers. A staple in lowered cars in Japan across many years, the various models of PIONEER add-in rear deck speakers are seen through the rear window of shakotan, bosozoku, bippu (VIP), and most other types of "street style" cars in Japan. He adds in a hint of "bosozoku flash" with the OEM Toyota purple hazard strobe. In the past in Japan, purple rotating strobe lights were offered by carmakers as options to be used to signal for help in case of an emergency, or to signal that one's car was immovable. The bosozoku however would have them on at all times simply to further distract other drivers, and draw attention to their flashy vehicles. I noticed out of the corner of my eye another bosozoku easter egg, wedged between the seat and center console; one of the traffic light sticks! You know the one; we've all seen videos of bosozoku hanging out of the passenger windows waving these light sticks. Hanging in 3 of the 4 windows are heart-shaped tsurikawas (train handles). The car is a testament to the aforementioned "less is more" mentality, and it absolutely shows that it is a formula that works. 

This car has one of the shortest parts lists of our feature cars to date, and it still more than holds it's own. The key to building an impressive car, whether people realize it or not, is not always the amount of money spent on parts. I don't think that matters at all. In my never-ending search for cars that have been built with creativity, originality, and effort, as well as speaking with those that build them; I realized that some people can make a lot of what others feel they can only pay for. And futhermore, the placement and juxtaposition of parts, decals, and other accessories are very important to the overall feel of a car. Although some people would disagree-- I see building a car (with serious intent) as an artistic medium. Stay with me for a second. It begins with the canvas (the car), then you have ideas about what you want to create, and then you add and subtract things in a creative manner to make something different, and in most cases-- more appealing than the canvas you originally started on. All the while, the builder is putting in blood, sweat, time, and tears into bringing their idea to fruition. And at the end of the day, just like art, some will like it, some will not, but ultimately the only opinion that matters is that of the artis-- sorry, car-builder. In some cases, like this one, there is also a message. Not necessarily meant to be shoved in your face, and not even really the most important thing-- but it's there. The message in this case, as I see it, is to look at the culture you are imitating and see it for everything that it is, and the value therein, before you just take what you like, leave the rest, and say "it's JDM!"

As someone who hasn't been to Japan yet, I can say almost nothing with authority. But I am confident in my thinking that this is truly a comprehensive study of this particular style of "car dress up" in Japan. But something that Jamiel, myself, and many others all share a yearning for is the environment that usually surrounds these types of cars and their styling in Japan. "People over there do it solely for themselves. It's kind of like a 'mind your own business' mentality. When people go to meets, they go because they are passionate about cars, not to compete with everyone else there. In their culture, respect is the most important thing, and that's what they do-- they respect each other. It's not like that here. Alot of people, here, are 'into cars' for the wrong reasons. People here are so worried about what everyone else is doing. They spend more time 'hating' and criticizing others' cars then they do working on their own. I don't get it. They're stressing over nothing that needs to be stressed about. Just do your own thing and nothing else matters. That's how they do it over there-- you do what you want, and you don't care what anyone else thinks." Jamiel doesn't believe that we (in the States) could ever really recreate the "vibe" that he felt at car gatherings in Japan. There are just too many obstacles for that environment here-- the rampant criticism being one of the main cuprits. And I tend to agree with him. But I digress, i hold out hope that eventually there will be enough people with the "build for you" mentality, that events can be held and retain an environment similarly open/passion-driven to those in Japan. 

-MC

Photos by: Charley Hoehaver (@centru)

 

He's working on a 5-speed swap right now, so check it out on IG: @mastery0ta

Jared Hincher's 1971 Chevrolet Camaro

"I thought it was gonna look like every other '71 Camaro you find in a barn." 

Inspiration can (and should) be taken from anywhere, even if it gets to you in  a really roundabout way. "Trans Am" or Trans American racing has been taking place in the US since 1966. It began with two very different classes: "Over 2.0 Liters" (American V8 cars) and "Under 2.0 Liters" (more commonly European and Japanese cars with inline 4s and 6s). With this new class of racing came a new, iconic, type of styling to the cars-- lowered sport coupes with lots of stripes, lots of sponsors, big numbers and big tires. But what initially attracted him was the other end of American muscle; drag racing. And what did you expect? He lives down the street from the Bristol Motor Speedway. With the initial plans being to build a tubbed drag car, the more he looked around and saw Camaros built for drag racing, and he quickly got tired of the idea. And then inspiration struck-- thanks to photos of an American domestic car meet in Japan; featuring Trans Am styling and dirt-track cars. It was at the moment that Jared realized he wanted to build a Trans Am-styled Camaro-- loud, aggressive, fast, and low. 

Japanese domestic cars began their evolution on the heels of American cars-- in some cases, specifically; American muscle cars. It is not difficult to find similarities and obvious "take-offs" of American car design in the Japanese cars of the 60s and 70s. Take the 1970 Toyota Celica, for example; it was the Japanese (more specifically, Toyota's) response to the Ford Mustang. A rounded sporty Japanese coupe, built for the enjoyment of the driving experience. Cars like the Celica were prime examples of Japanese manufacturers taking inspiration from the US, and implementing them in an undeniable "Japanese-designed" way. Sure, they were missing the all-important V8, but, that didn't deter them from building revolutionary, iconic, "Japanese muscle". 

An example of American muscle influence in Japan.

An example of American muscle influence in Japan.

Many people don't realize just how greatly America affected the growth and evolution of Japan's car culture. Aside from a great number of socioeconomic factors that this article has no business going into, one such effect is that of the origin of the "Yankii" style of Japanese shakotan  (low cars), which came from a trend in which Japanese youth would wear Hawaiian shirts and sun glasses in "American style" or "Yankee style", contrarily, some took on a 50s era American "greaser" persona. On one end, the cars got more colorful, on the other end, the cars got more "muscular". On both ends of the spectrum, the cars got lower. There is undeniable evidence of American design influence in many 70s model Japanese cars-- more specifically, the sport coupes. But in the sense of manufacturer competition; the ever-evolving pursuit of a more powerful, smaller displacement engine was only spurred on more and more by Trans Am racing (and others like it). 

Now that your history lesson is over, we can look at this Trans Am car. After saving up money to buy a car on his own, he found himself with a viable daily, donated to him by his grandmother. So now, he had car money burning a hole in his pocket. Ever on the look out, he came across a "For Sale" ad in his local trading post pamphlet for a 1971 Camaro. Complete with minimal information, no photos, and an address "up the mountain" in Virginia-- he figured it would be exactly how you would think a 1971 Camaro that's been sitting in a barn would look. But damn, was he wrong. Complete with the original chrome bumpers and trim, original chrome "Rallye" wheels, the new paint job (including the stripes), and a well kept interior, the only issue was that the car would crank but not start. That was more then enough for Jared to pull the trigger on his barn discovery. 

Unsurprisingly, he addressed the engine first. In high school at the time, he was able to tow the car to the garage used by his Automotive class, and he completely disassembled the stock Chevy 350 V8. He had the block painted "Chevy Orange", and rebuilt/resealed the entire engine assembly.  he removed, cleaned, or replaced everything from the 'quadrajet' carbeurator, to the fuel pump and distributor from 1971. After getting the heads checked and machined, he put them back on, but this time with some chrome Edelbrock valve covers. He just kept right on with the chrome, by adding a chrome Edelbrock intake and carbuerator. After replacing the spark plugs, and plug wires, he was finally able to get the car to start and run. He very quickly realized that someone had put some cams in it. Some really big cams. He says he likes them because they sound, frankly-- evil; but at the expense of performance. When he goes wide open throttle, he says, there is a degree of lag because of the sheer size of the cam lobes. The 'evil' exhaust note flows to the mid-exit exhaust through some Hooker Comp headers. He also switched from the factory 3.08 rear differential to a stronger, more sturdy (and spooled) 4.10 differential (for those, like myself, that do not know much about domestic cars and their terminology, 'spooling' the rear differential effectively is 'locking the diff' for even power delivery to both rear wheels). Outside of the rebuild and the current modifications, Jared's taken care not to put too much money into the current engine because it's "up in the air" whether or not he is going to keep this engine. He plans to do one of two things; a later model LS swap, or sacrifice the "evil" exhaust note for a more performance-oriented set of cams. 

The Camaro stands out no matter where it's parked, be it a parking lot, an import car show, and even-- a domestic car meet. While people in the domestic car community have no doubt seen more than their fair share of show-ready, modified 70s-model Camaros, this Camaro is the perfect balance of show and utility. The silver Lincoln paint with the essential stripes (common to this body style of Camaro) were laid by someone (who has since passed) that had been painting muscle cars for a long time. The interior, somewhere along the line, had been painted black to cover up the factory-original green-- yes, I said green, interior. Oh, did I mention that the Lincoln silver covered the previous orange paint? Jared tells me that "At some point, this was the ugliest Camaro around (laughs)". The paint is complimented by the at-one-time chrome bumpers and trim now being powdercoated gloss black-- down to the headlight lids. There are two things that will get you everywhere; flattery, and attention-to-detail.

They say racecars can't have interiors. But not yet a full race car, the Camaro still has the original (well-- converted) black leather interior; save for a Sparco racing seat to keep the driver firmly planted in high-speed maneuvers. With a new custom dash bezel, all of the gauges have been updated, and Jared is currently working on wiring up the iconic "racecar switchboard" that they go down the line, flicking, in all the movies to start the car. He tells me the next move planned, for now, is a full cage for the interior, and possibly a fuel cell. The dilemma he says, is "if I want to make it fully track-ready, I'll have to plexi-glass the windows, and do alot that would make it not street-legal; and vice versa, if I leave it enough alone to keep it street legal, I can't make it a full track car. The problem is I really like driving it on the road (laughs)". But, he's giving a lot of thought to the decision-- you know, as he drives it down the street. 

The current suspension setup is a household name for domestic car fans. Hotchkis (this particular set-up was built by Fox Racing for Hotchkis) suspension was the clear choice to replace the tired, 'boat-like', factory Chevrolet suspension from 1971. Much to his annoyance, the first set of rear struts, though, had a dampening adjustment knob that was too close the inner lip of the 10.5" wide rear wheels; so after some research, he was able to switch them out for some QA1 Stocker Star struts that have the adjustment knob on the other side of the strut and leave-- a spacious-- 5 mm between the inner lip of the rear wheels and the end of the strut. But they don't touch, so if he's not worried-- neither am I. When he first installed the suspension, he says he liked the initial height; but after traveling with the car to Riverside Chattanooga-- it settled. And now, he really likes the height. He tells me he didn't expect it to settle nearly as much as it did, but it settled so much lower, he ended up having to remove the steel inner fender wells from the front wheels (which he says was not fun at all), but now there is plenty of space. In my opinion, it's pretty cool-looking to see all the suspension components in the engine bay.

The car is very much a work in progress, but, in the best way possible. For many enthusiasts, every car is a work in progress, but simply by virtue of all the possible changes the car is headed for (soon, mind you), there is no doubt; it is only going to get better. And most likely, more evil. There's just something about this car that really excites people. There are a lot of things I can point to about it, but I truly think it is the "what you see is what you get" mentality of the styling. Even for people who have been around domestics all their lives, even more specifically-- Trans Am cars; the car has a perfect balance. It balances a no-nonsense Trans Am-styling, with the cleanliness, period-correct plate, and remaining factory interior that still lets it be a car for cruising, just like it would've been from the dealer in 1971. And don't forget all the decals. He joked about how much the old-timers at any given domestic car gathering love and condone all the Japanese on the windows of the car. And the coolest part? The current American-made V8 engine, and whatever V8 may follow it, will still support both of those purposes. 

This isn't our first American car to be featured, but it is certainly our first "born and bred" American V8 muscle car. One of the things that initially drew me to the car was how much attention was paid to every facet of the Trans Am look. At an event that had a majority of imports and "stance" cars, needless to say-- it stood out. At notfast., standing out at all costs is not the aim. But building something different, in a style that is not often (or never) seen-- that's what attracts our attention. This car was built in the style of a branch of motorsport not often seen outside of it's own events; much less in a street-driven car. Jared, upon getting the car, did what a surprisingly small number of enthusiasts these days do; he saw that the style he initially wanted to do was, for lack of a better term-- done to death, and instead of jumping on the bandwagon, he changed directions. Being equally interested in imports (more specifically Japanese cars), as with us all, he spent a "healthy" amount of time on Instagram 'oohing and ahhing' over what they are doing in Japan. Who would've thought he would've arrived at something so undeniably American after seeing it well-executed in Japan? What many people do not realize is that, this obsession for "what they have" goes both ways. You would be absolutely amazed at the amount of enthusiasts in Japan who celebrate and ultimately shape their lives and personas around American classic car culture. Hot rods, East Coast lowriders, Trans Am racecars, classics/restomods, you name it-- they have an enthusiast community in Japan (whose size would surprise you). MOONEYES, a wildly famous classic car/hot rod shop that started in California in the 1950s, has an absolutely massive following/fanbase in Japan. Some of the largest American classic/hotrod gatherings in Japan are orchestrated by MOONEYES Japan. So long story short, if you need some inspiration for a new direction; look everywhere. Inspired car-building and 'changing the landscape' are what keep car culture interesting. There is a lot to be said for resurrecting and, even better, further modifying different types of auto styling from different places and different times. People will always have something to say about the car you build, but at the end of the day-- it's your car.  

Word by Matt Clavijo

Photos by Ben Whiles

 

Stare at this car some more on Jared's instagram: @jared_hincher729

 

 

 

 

John Perez's 1989 Honda Civic Sedan

"I didn't want it to be 'just another Civic', I wanted people to know it was me."

Attention to detail is one of the most important aspects of car building. Sadly though, these days, it often seems like the "details" are becoming all too similar from build to build; that is, if they're even paid attention to at all. John is a designer by trade, and the attention to detail he puts into his design work translated perfectly over to his Honda Civic sedan. Being a "details guy" myself, naturally, we were off to a running start when I first saw this flawless JDM front-end EF sedan at Import Alliance in Atlanta. To the untrained eye, it simply looks like a regular (albeit incredibly clean) 80s model Honda Civic. To a car enthusiast though, even more so-- a Honda enthusiast-- it's a gold mine of rare, hard-to-find parts and accessories.  And the subtlety of these additions, in and of itself, acts as a convenient vetting process for those who come up and talk to John about what he's carefully and painstakingly built over the last 20+ years. 

My inner Honda fan (mind you, not expert) noticed the "wrap around" headlights first. I had seen plenty of USDM EF sedans, hatches, and CRXs in my time, because of my affinity for the cleanliness and general Honda sensibilities of the platforms, and those headlights were not "normal". As I walked closer, talking to my good friend and photographer (a CRX owner), I trailed off as we both began to take in everything that this car had to offer. And even better, it was mostly OEM Honda. Down to the iconic "H" engraved on the cap on top of the front parking pole that was retracted in to the front bumper. I immediately knew I had stumbled on to something really special.  

Speaking with John, started out just like any other time I begin to ask someone about their car, in that, I'm excited because it's a different story every time. But in a truly "I didn't know what I was expecting" moment, he tells me that it all started with him as a young skateboarder in Florida. The attachment to the EF sedan platform began early on, as his good friend with a car at the time had an EF sedan that they would all pile into to go on skate trips. And it did what any Honda is supposed to do, take them where they wanted to go, and didn't ask any questions. He recalled "the innate friendly environment of a sedan"-- everyone was close enough to talk, interact, and have a good time, but everyone also had enough space to be comfortable. Eventually, one-by-one, John's friends all found their way into EF sedans of their own.  Then, when it was John's turn, he went to a Honda dealership in hopes of picking up a newer 1991 Honda Civic DX. But as it so often does, his wallet disagreed; but the salesman showed him a used 1989 Civic LX (or for those of us who don't know Honda trim levels-- "the fully loaded" model). It was in his price range, so of course, he pulled the trigger. And thus began convoys of EF sedans going to skate spots around Florida. Now that he had a sedan of his own, he fell head over heels in love with it. And he was very clear-- "I didn't want to be 'just another Civic', I wanted people and friends that saw it on the street to know it was me. I wanted to do something different."

Just like we all do when we fall in love with inanimate objects, he went straight to the internet to see who else felt the way he did. He ended up creating, curating, and moderating a website that featured only EF sedans. By doing this, and receiving a lot of photo submissions, he began to get a taste of the massive variety of parts and accessories available for the platform. But aside from his own website, "89civicracer" (his username on well-- everything) frequented all of the quintessential 90s-00s Honda websites: nwp4life.com, honda-tech.com, jdmuniverse.com, d-series.org, and efcivicsedan.com. He smiles and laughs as he admits to me that he did all the 90s/00s fiberglass aero and bodykits-- but even with those, he tells me he never bought a "full kit". He would mix and match different kits to achieve a style all his own. But after a while, he got tired of constantly having to fix the fiberglass after it would continuously take damage from all the perils of daily driving. 

Then it happened. John accidentally backed his car into someone in a parking lot and cracked his taillight. He did what everyone did back then, found a parts distributor, and got in touch. Sure enough, they had the correct tail lights for his model of Civic, but-- they were from Japan. He had no idea (at the time) that they would be any different then his current taillights, all he knew was that he needed new, un-cracked taillights. When he opened the box he immediately realized they were different. Good different. And that was it-- the "JDM bug" bit, and never let go. His mission now was to find out more about these different "JDM parts" for the EF sedan. And obviously-- he did. Through his contacts in the Honda forums world, he only fell further and further down the rabbit whole. Eventually, a friend, showed him both "Honda Access" (a subsidiary of Honda Motor Co.), and the existence of the Japanese-only 'factory accessories' catalogs. He needed to get his hands on one of those catalogs. Well eventually, he did, and ever since then, the pursuit of Japan-only Honda accessories has been a constant cycle of actively looking and buying, as well as, simply keeping an eye out and taking opportunities when they present themselves. Browsing for parts though, he says, is constant.  

The car comes from the factory with a "gas sipping" D15B2, a 1.5 liter SOHC inline four cylinder engine. That was nice and all, but any Honda enthusiast knows that their car needs VTEC. So the first swap was a built, high-compression D16A6 (out of and CRX Si) complete with Eagle rods, forged pistons, Stage 2 cams, and titanium retainers. John says that single cam ran 130 whp on a Dyno. John says, "I always liked the underdog, so I had to squeeze what I could from that D-series."

As of now though, a stout reliable B16A donated by a 1990 CRX Si-R  powers the sedan through it's weekend drives. Oh, and all the 5+ hour drives to the shows that John attends on the East coast, too. It may not be a daily anymore, but it still pays it's dues. Under the hood, you'll find Skunk2 parts all over the place; radiator hoses, intake manifold, throttle body, fuel rail, VTEC solenoid, all the way to the lost motion assembly. Air is fed to the engine by one of 2 different intakes, it all depends on how John is feeling that day. I, myself, watched him make the switch from the custom modified DC2 Mugen air intake to the incredibly rare (and now discontinued) ARC air box/intake/filter in less then 10 minutes. Exhaust escapes via an HKS Power muffler at the end of a custom exhaust and a set of RS&R 4-2-1 headers. The engine and it's processes are controlled by a Hondata S300, while an AEM fuel pressure regulator keeps tabs on the fuel pressure going into the Skunk2 fuel rail. Chase Bays kits have  cleaned up the engine bay by way of a brake booster delete and grounding kit. The battery has been relocated as a result of a boring weekend that led to tinkering. My personal favorite part of the entire under-hood set up is the Mugen radiator cap and the TEAM No Good Racing oil cap. I'm a details guy, remember? All of this sits nicely inside an JDM EF2 front clip that came to John with some rare parts already installed-- including original JDM EF2 fog lights, and the retractable parking pole for the front. The current front clip is the second front end that he's bought for the car, as the first that he bought had to be sold almost immediately when the car blew a radiator hose, overheated, and warped the head. He sold that clip to a friend who installed it onto his own sedan. The current front end was found after the same friend sent John a link to the seller, months after John sold him the front end and attempted to buy it back (not knowing it had already been installed). "These things aren't exactly easy to source (laughs)".

But now to the important part-- the interior and exterior accessories. For those who are interested, you can find all of the parts that I don't mention, on the full parts list. The first thing you notice while sitting in the driver's seat is the Mugen race steering wheel, Mugen race pedals, and Mugen shift knob. Your eyes float up and see two interior-matching gauge pods with a compass, and an ambient temperature gauge. Then down in the slots for the factory radio/head unit, sits a Honda-Gathers system with a Honda Access equalizer that is linked to 2 head-level hanging speakers in the rear of the cabin. Turning around to see the Honda-Gathers rear-deck speaker brings you to the JDM Civic seat covers, floor mats, and rear seat with JDM 36i Limited arm rest. On top of the dash is a Honda Access radar detector, that's correct-- a Honda OEM radar detector. Among the additional OEM switches (that he wired himself) above the driver's  knees, you have switches for the front and rear fog lights, front parking pole (the rear automatically raises when the car is in reverse), power folding mirrors (on a Honda Civic... in 1989), and what could be one of the most "80's executive sedan" accessories on the car (besides the OEM Honda Air Refiner, of course) is: a secondary windshield squirter assembly behind the passenger headlight. It is essentially another source of wiper fluid, and a second washer motor, to shoot the wiper fluid at the windshield with more pressure to more effectively clean it. They simply don't make accessories like this anymore.

The exterior itself is really quite simple, and that's the beauty of it. Complete with the JDM EF2 front-end (with OEM round Stanley fog lights), JDM rear taillights and fog light, John was also able to get his hands on some OEM Honda "Limited Edition" and "35 XT" decals (the model of his favorite Japanese Civic variant). More subtle touches like the Honda Access front and rear mud flaps, and the Honda Access rear spoiler with integrated 3rd brake light add something extra to the profile of the sedan's boxy shape. The current Mugen MR5's have been rebarreled to be a bit more aggressive, but I agree 100% with John when he says that he thinks that the rebarreling only helped them to look even more period-correct. The Civic has sported a couple different sets of rare Mugen wheels in the past. The car sits at an aggressive, but practical, height on a set of Tein Super Street coilovers (with electronic dampening control). The rest of the suspension set-up has been touched up with both front and rear camber kits, Cusco front and rear strut bars,  Energy suspension bushings, an ASR subframe brace, and the essential Beaks Bar. Even with all these changes, the fact that so many of the parts were OEM Honda really just serve to retain and showcase the truly awesome design and body lines of this otherwise common-place family sedan. And come to find out, many others around the world feel the same way about the EF sedan platform. John tells me that the majority of parts he has yet to be able to get his hands on remain that way solely because they sit in others' personal Honda Access collections.

John and I agreed on a great many things. But nothing more so than what a shame it is that, in the stateside car culture, the idea of staying with a platform for a long time has not only become unpopular, but has all but disappeared. Very much still a practice in Japan, people will build, tear-down, and rebuild a car as often as their preferences and style change. In spending a lot of time with a certain platform, there grows an almost intimate understanding of the styling cues in the car's design. This paves the way for even higher quality modification and changes in the next "iteration" of the build. On the contrary, there is a trend in the stateside import car culture in which people will "build" a car with the sole intention of the car garnering attention, and when it does not get the type of attention they were seeking, they will go so far as selling the car, getting a new one, and begin the process all over again. It outwardly appears that they do this not for the personal satisfaction of building a car that they love everything about-- but instead, for attention or validation. While I would never say whether that is "right" or "wrong", I can tell you that when that happens, people are robbing themselves of a very unique timeless experience, and a car that they can enjoy on many different levels. The widespread nature of that particular phenomenon has definitely changed the very fiber of the stateside import car culture in recent years. Innovation will always be better than imitation, and innovation is what keeps car culture alive. 

I always enjoy speaking with people that have been around the "car scene" longer than myself, and most of those around me. People will often say "the grass is always greener" but I like to learn just how green-- or not green-- that it was. John says, "The scene nowadays, in my opinion, is about instant gratification and "insta-fame". People do things now more to get noticed, and get likes on the internet, but not for the personal satisfaction of building something unique and long term. I have seen many people leave the scene because they are not getting the likes that they expected!" The internet is undoubtedly a double-edged sword when it comes to it's effects on car culture. Finding parts used to be more work, especially rare, actual JDM parts; now it's almost all a click away. Forums, while still very much in use, aren't the center of the car modifying universe anymore. It's almost too simple to get your hands on any parts you can think of, and yet, people seem to stick to what's popular, regardless of the cost. But jumping from trend-to-trend certainly will not help anyone build a car for 20+ years that has won several 1st place awards at various Wekfests, has been featured by both Honda Tuning and Super Street, and has received an award that was judged by The Chronicles' Sticky DilJoe himself.

Both of us being "details guys", John and I got on very well from the start. He's about as laid-back as you would expect a skater from Jacksonville, FL to be-- extremely. It was really nice to have a conversation with someone that is as inhumanly obsessed with small details as I am. But that's the best thing about it, if you walk by and see what all this '89 Civic Sedan has to offer and don't pass it off as "just another Honda", he will be just as delighted to talk to you about it as he was to me (but, he says "it's cool if you think it's just another Honda too (laughs)". And just like any car enthusiast, he has passed his affinity for the platform down the line, to his teenage son, Trae. I know this because when I asked him what type of car he wanted to get when he could drive, he looked at me with a big smile on his face and said "Definitely an 89-90 EF Sedan (laughs)".

 

Words by Matt Clavijo (@initialmjc)

Photos by Charley Hoehaver (@centru)

 

See what John's latest rare find is on Instagram: @89civicracer

 

Full parts list can be found here!

 

Jordan Fleenor's 1995 Mazda Miata & Brandon Whited's 2004 Honda S2000

"The Boys from Bristol"

Building a car is fun. Hanging out with your friends is fun. Put them both together and you have one of the foundations of what makes being a "car enthusiast" so awesome. You have something to truly enjoy, and good friends to enjoy it with. These "car friends" can be a helping hand, a tool loaner, an experience vault, and a constructive critic-- but, the good ones will always inspire you. It's inarguable though, that your "car friends" are the second best thing (after the car itself) about being a car enthusiast. I wanted to explore that, so I found a pair of friends that do it all. It just so happens that both of them built extremely high-quality cars along the way. 

Both of them came by their affinity for cars honestly. Both Brandon's father and Jordan's father were into domestics (muscle cars, hot rods, etc.), and they shared that love with their sons. Jordan says he would travel to shows with his Dad, while Brandon spent time building an engine with his dad when he was younger-- in his bedroom. Both fathers had Chevelles and nurtured a love of cars in their kids, and those kids ran with it. Both Jordan and Brandon have an enduring interest in classic American cars, but at the end of the day they both chose (and continue to choose) the 'import' route.  

When I asked about how they each got into "stanced imports", the initial source for both were the classic print and internet sources. Modified magazine, SuperStreet, Fatlace and the Hellaflush blog-- all the usual (awesome) suspects. Jordan also cites his cousin who was modifying cars in the mid-2000s, as well as Brandon, as some of the matches that lit the flame for him. But they both remembered the interest growing when they saw "slammed" cars in real life in their area. Once the initial flame was lit, they both began to pursue "style" more aggressively. At the time that they both began to build their first cars, the "import car scene" in their area of Bristol, TN was small; and unfortunately, according to them, it has only gotten smaller since then. Moreover, they tell me that the sentiment in their region is very much "speed over style"; but people who are building cars in their area are putting more effort into them, so there seems to be hope for growth in their local "scene". The two, and their group of friends, have some of the most high-quality builds in their area, so there is no shortage of advice and ideas amongst friends when changes want to be made. 

"Oldest first." Jordan's NA Miata is one of those cars that you absolutely have to see in person to appreciate the degree of attention to detail that was put in from top to bottom. (We may explore these details further in a later add-on to this feature) He spent hours and hours researching styles,  and the parts they were comprised of, for his Miata-- before he even owned one. He cites the "NOISEMAKER" NA Miata , Rus from Goldstar's NA Miata, and most NAs that one would see in OPTION Drift or Drift Tengoku as major tastemakers for him. To me, he perfectly channeled the style he was going for with the PS Duce full body aero kit-- but reducing the "Japanese feel" of the car only to that would be an absolute crime. The Carbon Vitalonni mirrors, and the Flyin' Miata headlight duct add just enough to give the rest of the rather simple Miata body exciting differences. To make room for his flawless wheel choice(s), he widened the front factory fenders, and turned to a set of NUE 40mm overfenders to tuck the rear wheels. The wheels on this car no doubt make a serious statement, but the Work Goocars also have a special place in Jordan's heart. He first saw them on Nagano Koubou's Onevia, and liked how they combine the almost-- American-- old school style face, with deep lips for more aggressive fitment. He figured they would be perfect-- and I absolutely could not agree more. "No body really knows what they are (laughs)". The subtle accent of the pink Work Wheels locking lugnuts set them off in just the right way. I also came to find out (later), that he has a habit of running 2 different pairs of wheels at times (a la Japanese drift cars), so who knows what kind of awesome set up he may be running whenever you finally see it in person. Under the hood is the factory Mazda 1.8 liter "BP" engine, but he added some bolt-ons to give the Miata a little bit "more". An HKS intake feeds air to the factory four-cylinder that has been opened up with Racing Beat headers and ISR Performance exhaust. As we discussed earlier, the car wasn't much built for speed, but anyone who has ever owned an NA Miata can tell you, you don't need alot of speed to have a blast. He doesn't have to worry about cracked oil pans either on a count of the Studio skidplate and a raised engine setup. It's a Miata, so it's unsurprising that the car is static, but the fitment on this car is definitely something to be appreciated-- mainly because of the work he put in to achieve it. Extended top hats and fully-adjustable upper control arms work with the Stance GR+ coilovers to achieve this ride height. Much to driver's delight, the iconic Miata's handling has been improved even further with Racing Beat endlinks, and Flyin' Miata sway and strut tower bars.

Alot of coordination was involved in finishing the interior. Jordan planned absolutely everything out. Everything. All the way down to what decals he wanted on which seat. For us, there's no such thing as too much attention to detail when it comes to car building. As a matter of fact, if you ask us, that is what separates the "good" from the "great". The driver sits in one of the two BRIDE Zeta Max II seats equipped with Willans harnesses anchored by a Harddog rollbar/harness bar. A little touch of class that I can't seem to get over is the Bentley Mulsanne shoulder pads Jordan added to the harnesses. More things like a VERTEX steering wheel on a Works Bell hub (with a Techno Toy hub extender), and a Powered by MAX shift knob add to the list of "details attended to". And then there's the decals. Decals are a fickle thing; when you start adding them (in large quantities) to your car, you walk a fine line for many people. If you ask me, there's an undeniable degree of art to setting decals in a way that will compliment the 'feel' or 'look' of the car. In Japan, they seem have an uncanny ability to make even a lot of decals (when strategically placed) look awesome. This Miata is an absolutely brilliant example of well placed decals adding another level of style to a car. From brands, to clubs, to events, to "just for fun" decals-- the aesthetic Jordan created using them is something that would be hard to match. 

 When I first saw it, a graphic of a cherry blossom adorned both sides of this roadster. Since then, "setups" have come and gone, and now we're at possibly the most popular. Brandon's S2000 is unmistakable with it's black-on-white Work Equip 05s, whose aggressive offsets are addressed with Circuit Garage and ZG fender flares. The body lines of the Honda S2000 are undeniably some of the best that Honda ever drew up, but I find that when you add over fenders or fender flares to the mix, it adds an entirely new feel to the roadster.  Like it's a whole different, more muscular version of the original car. Opting to mix and match instead of buying a whole kit (like anyone else would do), Brandon created a very unique look using the Circuit Garage flares in the front, and the ZG flares in the rear to cover the 11" wide Equips. The vented factory S2K hood and an ASM Shine front bumper keep the front simple, but different. Brandon particularly likes what the Top One front and side splitters bring to the exterior of the car, and for being such a subtle detail, I have to agree. There's just something about splitters that even a car out (both literally and figuratively). But what pulls the entire car into the next level in many ways, is the Spoon Sports hard top. The legendary Honda-focused motorsports development company made this hardtop for use on it's track S2000, but it looks right at home on Brandon's more "street style" build. 

The inspirations for Brandon's build seem to be mostly stateside. But make no mistake, he draws alot of inspiration from Japan. He says he really liked Karl Johnston's S2000, as well as Everett Scott's S2K. And it's easy to see why; both are truly stand out cars in a platform that has been all but "done to death". I'd say that he succeeded in making a stand out car himself. In a time where you see more big wings then ever since the early 2000s, there are varying degrees of commitment. Some are OEM+, while others are bracket mounted to the trunk or hatch. But others, like Brandon's Battle Aero wing, are chassis mounted. Yep. That means you are cutting into your rear bumper and bolting this huge wing straight to the chassis of your car. No half-assing anything, he made the decision, and pulled the trigger. And we, here at notfast, can absolutely respect that. And it just so happens that we love what it adds to the overall shape of the car. The interior of an S2000, if you haven't seen one, is unrivaled. There are many cars with impressive interiors, but the Honda S2000 has by far one of the greatest factory interiors ever produced. All that being said, Brandon didn't have to do very much work to create an interior he could be excited to sit in every time. He tells me that he and Jordan, both, have a bit of an obsession with steering wheels. Both at one time or another have spent "absurd amounts of money" to get their hands on rare FABULOUS Japan steering wheels. But right now, he's content with his limited run (1/50) Fatlace x VERTEX steering wheel. Another thing they share is the affinity for decals. Brandon's windows, as well as interior, are covered in decals, and he's a self-professed hoarder. Through out the the progression of his build (as long as I've known about it, anyway) he is always running a banner or decals to support an up-and-coming club, or brand. 

Both roadsters have one undeniable thing in common: they were influenced heavily by the Japanese street car scene. As we were discussing the differences, both positive and negative, between the stateside “scene” and the community in Japan, I was struck by an observation that Jordan made. “Well, as much as I want my car to look as “Japanese” as possible, it’ll never be exactly like what you would see there. I think it has a lot to do with everything surrounding the cars, and the attitudes of people there. They seem so genuinely happy. Also, it’s cool seeing photos of Japan because it isn’t always just one car, but multiple awesome unique cars together in the same place.” We couldn’t possibly agree with him more that it has a lot to do with the surroundings, both geographical, ambient-- but more so, the “atmosphere” of doing exactly what you want regardless of what anyone else thinks. Anyone who knows anything about the “car scene” in Japan can tell you that there is an undeniable difference. Many photos from there even seem to have a different “feel” altogether. Both commented that one of the major differences seems to be the degree of judgment and competition in the States. “It’s a contest for a lot of people; and they don’t try to follow, or make, a style because of that. All that matters is who can go biggest, or most expensive, or do the craziest thing.” Competition absolutely has it’s place, or there would be no innovation-- no motivation to do something new; but when all you care about is winning, you often lose sight of the reasons you may have had when you originally got into it. Although they both pled guilty to jumping from car to car at times, another thing we discussed was something that is often relatively unnoticed here; because so many people want (and have access to) so many different cars. In Japan, there many examples of people putting a lot of time and attention into one specific car or one model of car. And they do this for years and years. The car goes through many changes; some big, some small, but by the time they have had that car for say, 10 years, there has been no stone left unturned—no part untouched. In those cases you have a truly impressive, thorough, soulful build. Kodawaru (こだわる) can be loosely translated to “focused attention to detail” or “to take special care of something (in a positive way)”, and this is something that is a part of Japanese culture. As such, many Japanese enthusiasts exhibit this trait through the car-building process. They pay special attention and try to address, and “polish”, every detail they can think of. This is one of the things that is more commonly found in Japan then it is here—and it shows. But have hope! There are many builds out there that, just like these two, encompass those things that make car-building great. And we're doing our best to find them. Jordan and Brandon became friends through cars. Many of us have made good friends (some have made best friends) through our love and enthusiasm for cars. And that's what it's all about; it's not about winning, or spending the most money, or doing what's popular-- (although that last one may cross paths sometimes...) it's about building a car without caring what people might say, and spending time with those friends who would help you build it. 

- MC

Photos by: Ben Whiles (@bennywhiles)

TO GO SEE WHAT KIND OF WHEEL COMBINATION JORDAN MAY BE RUNNING RIGHT NOW, GO CHECK OUT HIS IG: @yo_low

TO SEE THE LASTEST 'INCARNATION' OF BRANDON'S S2000, OR MAYBE SOMETHING NEW,   CHECK OUT HIS IG: @nightfurys2k 

LINK TO FULL MIATA PARTS LIST

LINK TO FULL S2000 PARTS LIST

Craig Stewart's 1997 Nissan 240SX

"It's kind of like a myth; you see it in pictures at shows, but never in real life."

In my experience, details make all the difference. If you can learn anything about Craig Stewart only from his car, it would most likely be that he agrees with that sentiment. I, personally, get a very distinct (good) feeling when I see a car that is heavily built versus, let’s say, a super car. With super cars, you more or less know what is going on every time you see one, aggressive styling, a lot of power, maybe some “factory premium” variations here and there, but let’s face it; someone with money just bought that car, and gets to enjoy someone else’s hard work (in most cases). Now, there is nothing wrong with that at all; but I, myself, get a lot more enjoyment out of cars that were built from the ground up.  Cars that you can spend 15 minutes just walking around quietly trying to explore the depths of just how far the builder went to make that car EXACTLY what they wanted it to be. When I saw this car, that “very distinct feeling” just would not go away. 

I couldn’t get enough; and I had to know just how deeply this car was modified.  I asked around amongst some new friends, and was able to finally meet Craig for the first time. One thing that immediately struck me was how quiet, and humble, this guy was. As I was asking him more and more questions about the car, and how it got to where it is, he was really patient about the whole thing, not to mention chuckling at my often exaggerative reactions (especially when he popped the hood pins to show me the show-quality polished engine for the first time). But make no mistakes, he built this car, and he knows every inch of it.

The car had much more humble beginnings then what you see here. This is not a “hopeless mess” origin story by any means, but it definitely wasn’t too exciting. It started life (with Craig, at least) as a LHD Nissan 240SX Kouki S14 with an aftermarket turbocharged KA24, coilovers, and aftermarket wheels. But, unsurprisingly, as it seems like we all do, he got bored quickly. He found a good deal on a RHD S14 clip, and just couldn’t pass it up. At this point, he decided to go full-bore into making this car something you don’t see at every other meet. So, the massive amounts of research and parts ordering began. With the RHD clip in hand, he got a friend experienced in bodywork and restomods to help him make the switch. After they made the swap, he addressed the rest of the bodywork on the car, and before long, it was ready for paint.

With the new paint and the RHD clip, Craig decided to fully convert to JDM spec. He ditched the KA24 for a JDM “notch top” SR20DET and went to work. As luck would have it, the engine and trans he imported also came out of a Kouki of the same year-model in Japan, so the harness was virtually “plug-and-play”. The rear harness on the other hand had to be made, but nothing on this car was neglected, so of course it was built to Craig’s high standards. That engine, with it’s modifications and 18 pounds of boost, dyno’d at ~400 HP. A couple months of “spirited driving” later, the cam oil squirter failed, fell into the timing change causing the engine to jump time, causing bent valves and a cracked piston. But that’s when the real fun began. As you can imagine based on how the build had gone so far, Craig just decided to fully rebuild that SR20; with Wiseco pistons, Eagle rods, ARP rod and main studs, as well as ACL race bearings. A head fully stocked with Brian Crower parts including: stainless steel valves, valve springs, titanium retainers, but more importantly, Stage 3 272 cams and adjustable cam gears, with fuel being dumped in through 820 cc injectors. Boost is created and regulated now using, NISTUNE, a CXRacing GT35 top mount turbo, a TiAL blow-off valve, and a front mounted intercooler. All of this comes together to create an incredible exhaust rumble from the 3-inch ISR blast pipes to dual 4-inch tips. The power gets to the ground via a SPEC Stage 3 clutch and a Competition Clutch aluminum flywheel.  

Now, between the fresh paint, and all that under the SEIBON carbon-fiber hood, you’d think that that would be enough to have a 240SX one could be proud of.  But as I’m sure you can imagine, he was not done. Already having the OEM Nissan JDM Kouki aero, he began to add on carbon fiber accessories and aero to add to the already aggressive presence of the car. He added VIS Racing lip, Carbon Creations side diffusers, APR dual canards in the front, and TCS carbon fiber mirrors replacing the bulky OEM mirrors. The front and rear diffusers actually come from 2 different cars; neither of which is an S14. The front diffuser comes from a Mitsubishi Evo X, and the rear from a Mazda RX-7 FD. A Megan Racing rear-window spoiler accents the 3-piece carbon fiber JDM Kouki spoiler on the trunk lid, and LED tail lights add a subtle modern touch to the 1997 S14. The interior is equally as detail-oriented; A set of BRIDE LowMax “sparkle back” seats and Takata harnesses compliment the Nardi suede steering wheel, carbon fiber gauge pods and dash trim. One of the most underappreciated parts of an interior (in my opinion) is the shift knob, and the white OEM NISMO shift knob on the B&M short shifter really adds a nice touch. What really caught my eye though, were the Weds Kranze Borphes, as I’m sure is the case with most people. I’m no wheel expert, but I had never seen these wheels before; fully polished and fitted perfectly on Fortune Auto custom coilovers, they’re kept in check by ISR rear toe and camber arms. OEM Nissan 4-pot 300ZX brake calipers look right at home behind them in the front and the rear. 

All of this effort and creativity came from a desire to do something “that’s different from what everyone else is doing”. Through the course of our talking I came to the conclusion the Craig more or less does “his own thing”. He told me that he keeps up with a lot of the bigger pages (Stancenation, Slammedenuff, SuperStreet, etc.) but that’s about it. When I asked him how he felt about “the scene” here versus Japan, he felt that “It’s kind of out of balance here. People in Japan are willing to do whatever they want, and they don’t worry about what other people are going to say. People do it here, but not nearly as often. A lot of people are afraid to do different or “off the wall” builds like that here, but at the same time, people will do crazy stuff just for the shock value, not really because they want to build a cool car.” But, he doesn’t concern himself too much with all of that, and for that we are thankful. People like Craig, that aren’t overtly influenced by the internet when building a car are a rare breed these days. He isn’t solely invested in Japanese cars either, as he also owns a 2014 Mustang 5.0 and a Ford F250 as daily drivers, but it can be easily argued that this S14 is his pride and joy. When I finally asked how much he has spent on this car up to this point, a smile and a laugh came across his face as he looked at me, ”Are you ready?” I thought I was. But I wasn’t. He told me, I reeled, and he laughed. I responded with “You must not have a girlfriend!” “I have 3 jobs, a wife, and a child on the way!” he said, with the same happy, calm demeanor he showed the entire time I spent with him. As his friends told me before I even met him, no one deserves a build like this as much as Craig does. And I could not agree more. Anyone who works hard (especially this hard) for what they have, deserve to enjoy it. Sadly, he tells me that he doesn’t get to drive it as often as he’d like. But he enjoys bringing it out to meets. Next time you see this car at a meet though, make sure you find Craig way before it’s over, because as I came to learn, this is the first time this car has ever been shot outside of a meet because this man habitually packs it up and leaves very quickly.  But can you blame him? I’d be itching to drive it too.

-MC

Photos by: Christian Raper (@christivnr)

 

Check out Craig on Instagram @RHD_KOUKICRAIG , to see the next show he'll be leaving quickly after it's over!

FULL MODIFICATIONS LIST CAN BE FOUND HERE

Shaun Howell's 1994 Ford Probe GT

"Who builds a Probe...?"

Shaun Howell did. And he did a damn good job. If you have ever seen a stock Ford Probe, and you're anything like me, you'd struggle to find anything really impressive about them. Granted, the pop-up lights definitely add to the "cool factor" but, in all honesty, that's about the only "cool factor" they have. But, these are factory Probes we're talking about. Shaun's Probe is a different story. 

Shaun saw much more when he looked at a Probe. He saw, in his words, "the pop-up lights and cool body lines adding up to something clean." So off he went, he began modifying a red 2.0L Probe SE. It wasn't easy, when I asked him about the Probe aftermarket, he didn't even look up-- "there isn't one (laughs)". He originally put it on a set of SVT Cobra 5-spoke wheels, installed coilovers, and just tried to clean the car up. The simple beginnings were nothing too special, and he says that, inevitably, he began to get "why the hell are you building a Probe...?" and other 'words of encouragement' from every direction. He just kept right along building his Probe though, because he liked it-- and it was HIS car to build. 

Then came the setback; in the form of an accident that totaled the red Probe. But that setback became a turning point. Shaun decided to show everyone just how clean a Ford Probe could be. He found a black Probe GT 5MT and got right down to work. Initially, he moved all of the intact aftermarket parts over from the old Probe to the new Probe GT. He improved the interior with Bride VIOS 3 seats and Takata harnesses. The Nardi wheel and NRG quick-release hub were also a nice touch. But the real beauty of this build is the paint. A full repaint is always nice, but he added a red pearl on top of the black basecoat to create a paint job that truly deserves to be seen in person. He was also able to reimagine and adjust his fitment to be more aggressive, using new wheels with better offsets. But that wasn't enough-- he wanted to go lower

There was only one option. Shaun and his father worked together using Airlift's "Builder's Kit" to completely custom build the airbag suspension for the Probe, because unsurprisingly, there was not a prebuilt kit. To create the impressive fitment that it sits on he uses the Autopilot V2 management system. And with bags, came the necessity to have some seriously aggressive wheels, and we like the choice that he made-- staggered 18x9(&9.5) Work VSKFs with a flaked gloss white face.

It may be a Ford, but make no mistake, this is a Japanese car. It's okay, I didn't know either. The Ford Probe is built on a Mazda GE chassis, the same chassis as the '94 Mazda 626 and the '94 Mazda MX-6. The pop-up headlight mechanisms also come from a Mazda RX-7 FC. The Probe GT's 2.5L V6 engine is in fact, a Mazda KL-DE DOHC engine. Full bolt-ons to a straight pipe create a nice, solid sound from the 165 hp V6. A lightweight flywheel, gutted KL-G4 intake manifold, and square-ported heads are a couple more of the labors of love Shaun put into the engine.

Driven by doubt, Shaun built an amazingly clean Ford Probe. The first thing I thought when I saw this car for the first time at SoWo (RIP) last year was, "who did this?!" I couldn't believe that someone built a Ford Probe! But my reaction had a more positive spin than what Shaun says he was used to. "I kind of built it out of spite (laughs). All these people would tell me that you can't make a Probe clean or cool or whatever, and I was going to prove them wrong. I knew it could be a clean car, so I built it to where I wanted it. Now, I get alot more positive feedback, I'm just kinda thinking 'I told you' (laughs)." Shaun did what alot of people won't do these days; he went against the grain and built EXACTLY what he wanted; because that's what he wanted to build-- regardless of other people's opinions. And as far as I'm concerned, it paid off in a BIG way. He is a part of rare breed that we at notfast. hope to bring into the spotlight; those who build a car out of passion, creativity, and originality (not to mention, effort). Not because everyone else would think it's cool, but because it's what you like, and what you enjoy. Because if Shaun never built his car, you still wouldn't know how amazing a Ford Probe can look. 

-MC

Engine Photo by Tyler Hawk

 

To see where you can see the probe and it's amazing paintjob next, follow shaun on iG: @isupa_shaun

 

Full modifications list can be found here

Kevin Harris' 1979 Toyota Corona Wagon

It all started with Wangan Midnight...

Kevin's 1979 Toyota Corona wagon isn't just a pretty face. An artist by trade, his creativity is apparent in every aspect of this car; down to the smallest details. Nailing the "Wangan racing car" style with the Corolla SR5 fender flares, gooseneck exhaust, wide set tires, and bumper delete to make room for the intercooler; it's any kyusha fan's dream. And it's hard to lose races with what resides under the hood. 

Very few of the parts that were on the car when it rolled out of the factory in 1979 remain. This wagon has been rebuilt from the ground up in Kevin's garage in the quiet suburbs of Knoxville. And I mean everything; right down to the rear seatbelts that come out of an '89 Camry wagon. This is a result of "looking around and just finding what fits" in Pull-a-Part and the like. Using this same check-and-fit method, he also hid some quality USDM parts amongst this JDM masterpiece. Between the rear bumper off of a '91 Ford Escort and the Mach 2 Mustang front lip (that faithfully holds up to the beating it receives from Kevin's "spirited driving"), I didn't and wouldn't have noticed anything out of place if he hadn't told me. Those are just two of the many aspects that illustrate how much creativity, care, and thought was put into building this car. 

The suspension as it sits is also a masterful work of "check-and-fit". Although he may disagree because of the bumpy, stiff, "racecar" feel, the car handles corners with authority. Using Infiniti G35 sedan rear springs to control the front end, and 370z rear springs  to handle the rear, it's not a setup that was just thrown together. Also, keeping the wheels planted in the rear while taking tight corners at intimidating speeds is a 4-link set up, as well as a sway bar off of an AE86. And of course, the 225/45 "R-Comp" BFG G-Force Rival tires help alot in the area of getting that power to the ground.

Now to the heart of the matter. Literally. As I said, this wagon is not just a pretty face. It's hard to make a formidable "wangan racer" using the factory cast-iron 4-cylinder Toyota engine from 1978-79 (around the time when emissions were getting annoyingly restrictive). So he did what any Toyota fanboy would do: swap in a 1JZ-GTE. Coming out of a JDM Mk. III Supra, this twin-turbo powerplant, makes about 280 hp and 268 ft/lbs of torque from the factory; but with some good tuning from the MINE's VX-Rom ECU, an upgraded spark/fuel delivery system, and running a solid 15 lbs of boost, this 1JZ makes in the neighborhood of 375 hp (~400 hp using 100 octane)Nowadays, swaps have become so common, that people have ready-made kits with step-by-step instructions how to do a given swap. Well, not this swap. At the time he decided to do this swap, there was little to no information on how to do it-- it was uncharted territory. One can imagine how much fun he had when all of his wiring diagrams were in Japanese. And no-- he doesn't speak Japanese

In order to get the power to the wheels, unsurprisingly, most of the factory drivetrain wasn't going to cut it. Aside from using the Supra's R154 transmission, Kevin had SPEC make him a custom Stage 3 clutch with a Stage 4 pressure plate; but then remained the problem of the factory rear end. It simply couldn't handle all the power it was putting down; so, after a couple blown differentials, broken axles, and more trips to Pull-a-Part, he ended up with the 8.8 rear end of a 2002 Ford Explorer, and some Moroso drag studs to keep the wheels where they should be during acceleration. And to bring all of this to a reliable stop, he has front and rear brakes off an '84 Cressida. 

I would say it's all the little things that make this build one of my favorites, but all the functioning modifications are just as/if not more impressive. All of the decals and little "JDM" touches are a huge part of what make this car awesome. Kevin tells me, "I didn't build it for anyone but myself, but as an artist, seeing peoples' reactions-- positive or negative-- is one of the most awesome things for me." This is someone who truly enjoys building, and more important pushing, what he has built. This wagon has set a solid number of track autocross records. Not just because of it's quickness, but because Kevin drives the shit out of it. And according to him, "it feels like the car wants to kill you... but it's so much fun I'm always excited to drive it again. (laughs)

A well-built car is a reflection of the driver; the builder. And in this case, that couldn't be any more true. A true enthusiast, the passion and love that Kevin has for not just this car, but cars in general is something that I, personally, enjoy seeing in people more than anything else. He surrounds himself with other creative enthusiasts (alot of whom just so happen to all be building pre-80s Japanese cars) and aside from being as someone once called him "a breath away from a laugh and a smile", in my experience, he's one of the most genuine guys you'll ever come across. And he's been around car culture since before I knew what a "coilover" was. While he says that "the scene" has always been a certain way, he admits that he hopes there is a shift in the right direction and that more attention is given to lesser known builds that deserve recognition (no mention of his own, of course) for the blood, sweat, and tears spent on them. He says he's "pretty glad it's not run by gangs anymore, though (laughs)"

-MC

Photos: Ben Whiles (@bennywhiles)

One hell of a car, one hell of a driver. You can usually find him on the Tail of the Dragon, or on IG: @imperator_jamaal

Full modifications list can be found here.

Donte Winters' 1984 Toyota Celica Supra MK II

THE FIRST STATESIDE BOSOZOKU, PERIOD. 

Firstly, I'll offer a small explanation for those who are not obsessed with Japanese cars and the culture behind them. "Bosozoku" or "violent running gangs" began in Japan as a motorcycle subculture in the late 70s. They used wild styling and loud exhaust on their bikes, often riding in large groups at 5-10mph to troll the streets of Japan, in most cases, frankly for no reason other than to do it. Later, car enthusiasts began to build on the trend, and added crazy wide body kits and stupidly large (and intricate) exhaust setups. Many of the kits were modeled after the FIA's Group 5 Special Production cars. But at the end of the day you had another wild leg of Japan's rich history of modifying their domestic cars. 

This is a 1982 Toyota ad for the Celica Supra Mark II (the production model of what you see above)

For many years, the idea was absolutely foreign to the Japanese car enthusiasts in the United States. Until about 5 months ago; when Donte wanted to change up his Supra. Co-owning a body shop and his background in welding and fabrication came in handy over the many hours spent building the car BY HIMSELF. Looking at the car, people most often ask him what he used to make all the custom skirts and flares, and it was always fun to see their faces when he would tell them "I used all sheet metal". They usually didn't believe him, so he showed them by jumping up and down on the sideskirts. Making an inner structure to set the metal in place, makes sure that everything is structurally sound. And to get a wheel that would fit nicely in those flares, he had to tell the company they were for a dirt track car, because they weren't about to build him a 15x12 set for well... this. He doesn't worry too much though, because he tells me that he's got some new WORKs on the way. All the paint was done by, you guessed it, Donte. He commented that he hadn't even wet-sanded it yet when this feature was shot, so needless to say, he's pretty good at what he does.

And then, there's the hatch. Which was built from scratch over a period of 80+ hours. If you're familiar with American muscle cars, you may just notice something familiar. That's because he custom built the hatch using the center portion of a hood off of a '67 Camaro SS. When I asked him about it, he tells me "well, when Dad is into American muscle and you need an idea, this kinda stuff just happens (laughs)". The piece de resistence though, has got to be the MARLBORO decaling on the top and rear of the car. When I originally asked him about it, I was suprised when he told me, "They just made sense with the colors, I don't even smoke (laughs)". 

There are so many more small details that he can tell you about the process, but being that he will always be one of the nicest guys at a given meet, all you have to do is go up and talk to him and he'll be happy to tell you about it. 

-MC

To see the process, the future of the build, or just to tell him what a good job he did - he's @funkycatz on IG!