The first contact we had with Kenichi "Bakky" Tsubaki was through Facebook when we expressed interest in showcasing his Nissan S15 Silvia in Import Tuner. The 25-year-old university student was ecstatic about the idea, telling us that it was one of his dreams to be featured in an American magazine. Leading up to the day of the photo shoot we stayed in contact, chatting about his car, school, work, sometimes nothing in particular. We learned that the Nagano native had an interest in cars from an early age, but didn't own one until the age of 19 when he finally called an ST202 Toyota Celica his own.
He had recently started attending the University of Yamanashi, and as it was located in a fairly rural area, a car became necessary as a means of transportation. Currently, Bakky is just wrapping up his studies in mechanical systems engineering, having given his master's thesis presentation in February.
Bakky's connection to Garage Mak preceded his time at the university. As many young car enthusiasts tend to do, Bakky showed up at the shop one day, asked about a part or two, and expressed his interest in one day building his car to the level of completion that he saw in the cars leaving Garage Mak. Over the next several months, his visits to Garage Mak increased in both frequency and duration. Within a few years they had forged a relationship with a bit more substance than that of the typical shop and customer variety. Although Garage Mak provides services for all cars, their specialty make is Nissan, as can be seen by the many top-level Silvias that they build. Bakky also recognized this, and realized that although his Celica was a great car, it didn't quite fit his current needs, especially if he was going to be affiliated with Garage Mak.
For many years, Bakky had been impressed by the S15 Silvia, understandably so considering the tried-and-true suspension and chassis design, the strong beautiful lines of the body, even the interior is stylish yet functional. In 2009 Bakky saw the "Silver Shark," Garage Mak's demo S15 in action for the first time, an event that would surely be inspirational for many people, was a total game changer for Bakky. It was an experience that he would describe as "receiving a strong shock." Apparently the shock was strong enough to blast his priorities out of sync. When he went home that night, Bakky knew he was missing something from his life; his heart was filled with urgency and need. Despite having never owned an S15, he missed it. In 2010, Bakky bit the bullet, bid farewell to his Celica, and made a hefty withdrawal from his bank account. The specific platform that he chose was a bone-stock '02 Spec-R.
It was during his time attending the University that Bakky met Kei; Kei was also a student and a fellow car enthusiast. As car guys tend to do, they stuck together and eventually started to consider each other best friends. Kei's car styling cues would rub off on Bakky as Bakky's would on Kei. While Bakky and Kei worked on their respective degrees, they also tinkered with their cars—Bakky with his S15 and Kei with his R32. During breaks Bakky would move back in with his parents and perform the major modifications to his S15 at Garage Mak. Over the years Bakky's S15 Silvia changed dramatically.
Instantly recognizable is the full Garage Mak aero kit, which leaves virtually no panel untouched. The front bumper, rear bumper, fenders, hood, and trunk have all been replaced with FRP and carbon fiber; a rear diffuser, rear over-fenders, and side skirts were added to the body. One of the very few pieces on the body of this car that is not a Garage Mak part are the Ganador Super Mirrors—a choice that we can find no fault in, of course. The whole car was then resprayed with a coat of Metallic Blue paint, a color that is not a custom mix but one that Bakky would not divulge to us, offering instead an almost apologetic smile.
Although the exterior of the car demands attention, what lies underneath is equally impressive. The car came equipped with the SR20DET from the factory. The highly regarded powerplant is, of course, no slouch, but with endless choices of upgraded parts available, the want of more power is one few can resist. In the case of the Blue Shark, the engine is kept somewhat simple. From HKS, the 264-degree camshafts, air filter, fuel pump, injectors, and GT2835R kit were installed to increase intake air pressure and the fuel supply.
Supporting modifications were wisely chosen; parts such as the Tomei head gasket and rocker arm stoppers, SARD fuel pressure regulator, and Yashio Factory ignition system keep the engine running smoothly and safely. A GReddy short port intake manifold maximizes air volume going into the head, while a Garage Mak exhaust system helps the engine exhale as efficiently as possible. This formula is good for 482 ps at 7,500 rpm, tuned on an A'PEXi Power FC ECU. The power is transmitted to the Dunlop Direzza ZIIs wrapped around 18x9.5 and 10.5 Enkei RPF1s through a Nismo clutch, transmission, and two-way differential.
The suspension is equally impressive, the centerpiece of which is, of course, the HKS Hipermax NOB-spec coilovers—stiffening, lowering, and providing a smooth ride. As for the rest of the suspension, no arm has been left stock, from the Ikeya formula tie rods to the Cusco rear lower control arms, everything is adjustable, spherical, and all around superior to stock. The interior is as spartan as one would expect from a car of this nature, consisting of not much more than the Garage Mak carbon-fiber dash, a pair of Bride Vios III seats, MOMO steering wheel attached to the column via a Works Bell Rapfix quick release, and a Nismo shift knob. Bakky says, "My car does not have interior decoration (but that is) one of the characteristics," and that he did the work on his interior himself, from removing the panels to laying down the coat of white paint.
When we finally met with Bakky in Yokohama at 5 in the morning, we were running on practically no sleep. Bakky had arrived with Kei at the meeting point a bit early at a quarter past 4, having driven from Yamanashi the night before so that he could have adequate sleep for the day. Bakky was as pleasant in person as he was online—soft spoken, well dressed, and an air of refinement about him. We had originally planned to photograph the car at sunrise, however, as luck would have it, it was cloudy that day. As we sat and waited for the sun to rise, Bakky told us that just a few days ago the heavy snow had actually cracked his front bumper, so he scheduled an emergency trip to Garage Mak to repair the bumper and lay down a fresh coat of paint. The rest of the shoot went quite smoothly despite Bakky being a bit nervous about driving his car within the city; he usually drives this car in very rural areas where vehicle code laws are more lax.
We started in Shiodome, proceeded to the Wangan and the Rainbow Bridge for some rolling shots, to Minato Mirari in hopes to shoot in front of the Akarenga Souko (we were asked to leave within minutes) finally wrapping it up at one of our friend Sekinei's secret spots. Kei headed out from there, while we decided to have breakfast at Jonathan's. Bakky's well-mannered personality showed even in the way he ate, cutting small sections of his food and very deliberately placing them in his mouth, perhaps so that he would be able to answer any questions promptly if the conversation was steered toward him. At times he would get excited when asked questions about his car, but he would regain his composure immediately and answer them clearly and with a smile. Bakky should have graduated by the time this article goes to print. He mentioned he had a full-time position lined up at Epson as an engineer, but he was also going to work off-site for Garage Mak, handling their international relations. Considering his very professional demeanor, we cannot imagine that Bakky, excuse us, Kenichi Tsubaki, will have any trouble excelling at both jobs. Truly a man of great taste and many talents, an engineer, a dog lover, and, quite apparently, an artist; we will look forward to seeing his future creations.
Behind The BuildName.
Matsumoto City, Nagano, Japan
Tennis, photography, tuning
"I yearned for a race car since I was a child. When I saw Garage Mak's Silvia for the first time five years ago, I thought, 'I want to have such a car' so I bought an S15 Spec-R."
2002 Nissan Silvia S15Output: 546 hp at 7,500 rpm/396 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm
Engine SR20DET; HKS 264 camshafts, Super Power Flow intake, exhaust manifold, GT2835R turbine, wastegate, Type R intercooler, oil cooler, 850cc fuel injectors, fuel pump; Tomei head gasket, reinforced bolts, rocker arm stoppers; Nismo engine mounts; NAPREC throttle body; Trust GReddy short port intake manifold; SARD fuel pressure regulator; Garage Mak carbon suction, intercooler piping; NGK Racing Plug No. 9; Yashio factory World Unification Ignition; Blitz SBC-ID3 Boost Controller; Billion thermostat; Nutec NC-41 motor oil
Drivetrain Nismo six-speed transmission, transmission mounts, two-way differential; Redline gear oil
Suspension HKS Hipermax NOB Spec; Cusco front strut bar, rear strut bar, front lower control arm, rear lower control arm, rear camber arms, rear toe control arms; Ikeya Formula front tie rods; Saito rollcage 7-point 'cage
Wheels/Tires 18x9.5 +15 and 18x10.5 +15 Enkei RPF1; 255/30-18, 265/30-18 Dunlop Direzza ZII
Brakes Nissan R33 Brembo front calipers, R34 Brembo rear calipers; Endless Type R pads
Exterior Garage Mak Type 5 Hybrid Carbon front bumper, front lip spoiler, side skirts, rear bumper, rear diffuser, fenders, hood, trunk, side carbon panels, side generator, eye line, hachimaki, graphics; Blue metallic paint; Ganador super mirrors
Interior Bride VIOS III bucket seat, seat brackets; MOMO Drifting 330mm steering wheel; HKB steering boss; Works Bell Rapfix II quick release; Nismo shift knob; Garage Mak carbon-fiber dash