Getting around major cities in Japan is pretty easy. Google Maps works like a charm and you can get virtually anywhere via their subway systems or simply by walking. But there are some places that foreigners rarely get a chance to explore. I like to call these places "uncharted territory," not because you can't find them on a map but for gaijins like us who don't speak an ounce of Japanese, nor have the ability to drive in Japan, these places are nearly impossible to get to. Which is why we were extremely lucky to find ourselves at Todoroki Jidousha.
Our videographer, Max Frauchiger, and I made our way 30 minutes east of Osaka on the subway. From there, we were swooped up by our local guide, who drove us another 45 minutes into the hills where Daisuke Miyazaki makes a living wrenching on Toyotas. His shop is very quaint and unsuspecting, situated between other small businesses. It's not a busy shop. In fact, when we arrived, there was no staff present except him. But he is a legend in the Kansai area. He's famous for impeccable driving skills as well as his expertise with Toyotas. Back in the day, Miyazaki-san used to enter local drift competitions, but today he doesn't boast about it much. Only the old-school and local guys will know, yet customers from all over Japan, especially AE86 owners, still bring their projects to him to get worked on.
Max and I met him right outside the front door, and he's not what you'd expect. For someone so well known in the area, he's quiet and modest. He doesn't speak much English, but our guide told us he's one of the most straightforward, no-bullshit guys in Japan.
He slid open a large bay door to show us what's inside. There's a tiny office upstairs that requires you to climb a very steep staircase. All around you'll find nothing but spare parts of all types. Four of his personal vehicles fill the rest of his facility, the first being his KP61 Starlet. While this small hatch is underpowered, it's Miyazaki-san's car of choice and favorite vehicle to take on the touge. The second vehicle we noticed - an AE86 Trueno - still has a lot of work cut out for it as he plans to build it for Time Attack. Digging further, we spotted a white AE86 Levin. This is perhaps the fastest beast Miyazaki-san is recognized for, with an insane big turbo SR20DET powerplant. We're told this is his drift toy; although the Levin has 500 hp and a stripped chassis, locals say it is nothing but scary. And then we get to this 86...
I've seen photos of this car floating around before. It's not a brand-new build, but seeing it with my own eyes with its maker felt magical. While only a few years old, the Todoroki 86 is already legendary as one of the few V8-swapped street cars in Asia. It was also front and center at Tokyo Auto Salon in '14 — a show I missed, but images of Miyazaki-san's 86 were ingrained in my memory. I finally got the chance to talk to the master himself and was able to dig up a little story behind the monstrous machine.
The car was purchased in May '12, well before most people even saw 86s at their local dealerships. This particular model is a RC version—something that's not offered in the States. It's the most bare-bones trim level you can get with unpainted bumpers, steel wheels, no floor insulation, radio, or air conditioning. A handful of these cars were made available to race teams and tuners. Miyazaki-san was quick to pick his up and had a plan to prepare it for the touge and eventually the track.
In the car's first phase, Miyazaki-san told us it exhibited the perfect balance for drifting. It featured an LSD, upgraded suspension, bolt-ons, and a nitrous setup. However, months later he would be inspired after watching MAX Orido shake down his RS-R-built, NASCAR V8-powered 86 at Suzuka Twin Circuit. It was here he saw the attractiveness of American muscle. Miyazaki-san had a new game plan and launched his V8 project in '13.
Unlike in the States, it's not easy sourcing an eight-cylinder motor in Japan. There's also very little aftermarket support, let alone much American muscle driving on the street. But Miyazaki-san figured out a way to import a 5.7L LS1 within a couple of months and went bananas. Before the motor went in, he swapped out the standard automatic tranny for a Richmond six-speed. He also added individual throttle bodies for better throttle response, more power, and a meaner roar.
His first shakedown took place at Suzuka, and it was literally the first time he got behind the wheel of his newly V-8-powered 86, minus a few startups at the shop. Without any warm up laps or even taking it easy for the first few seconds, he went straight into a full angled drift for the spectators to watch. He knew the car wasn't ready but decided to go for it anyways, which made for an epic drift, but also destroyed the rear shafts. Miyazaki-san brought the car home and strengthened everything with Toyota Mark X parts, including the rear diff, shafts, and hubs. Since then, it's been invincible!
We should note the exterior isn't your run-of-the-mill Rocket Bunny or Varis kit. Miyazaki-san used this car to design his own line of aero called KMO "Dream Project." The front fenders add the benefit of a widebody, but its design flows with the Toyota's OEM lines. The rears are still being developed, but we were able to have him show us a first mockup. The roof wing is inspired by his fascination for Mad Max with its warrior-like design.
Miyazaki-san had a friend pull the car out of the garage for us, and it purred like nothing we've heard before. For some reason, it sounded angrier than a Formula Drift car—maybe it was because we were in the countryside, but the sound was deafening as it echoed off the neighboring buildings. We asked the driver to do a couple slow rollers outside his shop—you know, 20- to 25-mph cruises so we could snap a few photos. What happened next simply blew our minds as the 86 came diving in front of us sideways! Mind you, we were on a small, two-lane road. The madness level was simply off the charts! After a figure-eight donut an arm's length away from our cameras, the driver peeled off down the street and left us in a cloud of smoke. We didn't know how to react other than to stand there in awe at the car's raw power and ability to maneuver like a professional drift car. Seeing this type of magic on display in front of us, when we're in uncharted territory at a grassroots Toyota shop we never would have imagined to visit... These are the reasons why Japan is simply amazing and why they still have some of the best-kept secrets in the tuner world.
Snooping around Todoroki Jidousha, we came across three other project cars Miyazaki-san is working on. The most impressive is this AE86 Levin that's powered by a 500hp SR20DET.