"What do you want to ride in? Yeah, I got a lot [of cars]," Yuuki Suzuki says with a laugh. The 31-year-old comes from the Minamiashigara Prefacture—a small region in Japan surrounded by lush, green trees; steep hills; and winding roads. It's about an hour and a half away from Tokyo, so you won't find the hustle and bustle of a big city there, which perhaps makes it perfect for him to concentrate on what he loves most: modifying and beating on his cars.
LIVING (AND WORKING) THE DREAM
Yuuki recently opened up his own shop called F Development. With Mount Fuji as its backdrop, his business specializes in engine swaps, body and paint, upholstery, and restoration—basically, anything you can think of, and Yuuki can do it. As I pulled up to the gate, there was nothing but farmland surrounding the isolated and inconspicuous building he calls work. Judging by its exterior, it could be a barn full of animals, but when he opened the gate and the doors to his building three employees were prepping a Mansory Aston Martin and Maserati for paint. It's a testimony that anything goes under the roof of F Development.
That day, Yuuki wore dark denim overalls with his company logo screened in gold on the pant legs. He gave me a quick tour, taking me inside his office first where there were lots of awards from when he used to compete at car shows with big-bodied VIP sedans in a club called Black Jack. There was also a ton of magazines and car memorabilia scattered everywhere, not to mention the original Fast & Furious playing on the TV (in Japan it's called Wild Speed). He admitted he's a big F&F fan, which made a whole lot of sense when he walked me toward his latest project car, a flawless '95 Toyota Supra.
How flawless? How about only 19,800 miles on it! Since he's owned it, the modifications were kept to a minimum (for now). There's a rare Kakimoto Racing exhaust and 18x8.5-inch front, 18x9.5-inch rear BBS LM wheels on it. You'll notice the wheel and tire fitment aren't very aggressive, but slightly flush with the fenders. Yuuki told me he wanted to get the fitment to match as close as possible to the original Bomex-kitted Supra in the Fast & Furious. Speaking of keeping it F&F again, he demonstrated the Supra's Targa top next, which he snapped off and stored in the trunk. Yuuki enjoys cruising with the top off on sunny days, much like how Paul Walker and Vin Diesel's characters did on the Pacific Coast Highway. I'll admit all these movie references were a bit cheesy, but he manages to pull everything off with style.
There are a couple other surprises about the Mk4 that include the active front spoiler that pops out after hitting 100 km/h, and the fact that its original naturally aspirated 2JZ-GE and five-speed automatic are intact. For the time being, Yuuki wanted his Supra to remain a cruiser and not a highway racer, which the ensuing stroll to one of his favorite ramen joints proved to me. He bought the Supra for a steal at $15,000 USD, which he explained he could easily turnaround and sell for double in the current market. However, he's going to enjoy it for another year until he has all the necessary parts to make bigger dreams into a reality. And by bigger dreams, I mean V-8 dreams!
A 5.0-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic tranny with paddle shifters out of the Lexus IS F are currently slated for this 23-year-old Supra. Yes, he could've just as easily built a 2JZ and made 800 hp, but having a lot of power is boring to him. Being able to update Toyota's most iconic sports car with modern technology? Now that's exciting, and we'll just have to wait and see, if, and when he does it.
After a very hearty lunch with some local ramen, it was time to climb back in the Supra and head back to his shop where I'd be able to enjoy another one of his projects, a Honda Integra Type R. Yuuki's DC2 is more or less stock, minus a carbon-fiber hood and re-valved suspension, but that's what he enjoys most about it. He can rip the hell out of it and not worry about things falling apart. He decided to take me to his house next, which was about 10 minutes away. What was most impressive about his commute to and from work was that the roads he drives every day are basically a real-life touge filled with all different types of twisties, and never any cops. Yuuki's neighbors know and respect what he does as well, so he didn't hold back when we were hitting every corner at speed. It was a bit scary, but he knew every square inch of these roads like the back of his hand. I was in good hands.
As we approached his house, I noticed a slammed Toyota Crown parked in the driveway, plus a handful of other project cars under construction in the backyard. After parking the Type R, he welcomed me into his quaint, two-story house. It was definitely a bit messy with clothes and toys everywhere, but Yuuki's a family man with a wife and two kids. When I entered the living room, that's when I my jaw dropped. A custom-installed window peeped into a one-car garage revealing his bright red '99 Ferrari 360 Modena. Cue "awwww" music...
HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, IN A 360
Now owning an Italian supercar in Japan is quite rare, let alone a red 360 with a six-speed manual. Yuuki's Ferrari is an absolute gem and it's been modified with Japanese flair, which I completely approve of. The body kit is made of carbon fiber, along with a matching grille and custom rear carbon wing that Yuuki developed himself. JDM influences continue to the 19x9.5-inch front, 19x11.5-inch rear three-piece Work Meister L1 wheels. Of course, the suspension wasn't left alone, either, with a custom setup from Ohlins. The Kreisiegg headers (manufactured in Japan) and one-off exhaust Yuki fabricated at work enables the 3.6-liter V-8 to sing like a choir of a thousand angels. It's been said the 360 is the best-sounding Ferrari, and with Yuuki's modifications I can attest it sounds better than 99 percent of the cars I've heard (think Formula One...) Inside, he's integrated a cut-out switch for the exhaust so he can either run semi-civil or wide open. The factory trim is all carbon, which complements the kit and wing. I found it comical there's an aftermarket Panasonic head unit, which when he turned the car on, had the 2 Fast and 2 Furious soundtrack playing. I'll give him another pass on this one, because no music is better than the sound of that 8,700 redline, which I would soon experience on one of the most famous roads of Japan, if not of the entire world.
My entire day had culminated to this very moment, riding shotgun with Yuuki in his screamingly loud Ferrari to the iconic Mazda Hakone Turnpike. About 30 minutes away from his house sits this 10-mile-long toll road that is Japan's Garden of Eden for touge fans. Surrounded by hot springs, it's beautifully kept and secluded, its tarmac as smooth as butter, and its sequences of turns make you feel like you're on something really, really special. It's been rumored that the Turnpike is the birthplace of drifting. Regardless, it's a haven for motivated enthusiasts and their cars to go for a drive they'll never forget.
I don't have to elaborate how riding with Yuuki was nothing short of epic. I wish I could've driven the road myself - maybe one day, but for now I was simply appreciating what Yuuki and so many other driving enthusiasts of Japan have experienced for so many years. Upon reaching the Turnpike's peak, we found a slew of other cars pulled over, which included an Integra Type R, R31 Skyline, R34 GT-R, Hachirokus, and a pair of FD RX-7s—all modified. They were all there for the same thing, and they all enjoyed not only the cars they built, but also driving them on the open road.
After visiting Japan so many times, I thought I had seen mostly everything, but this was an experience I wasn't prepared for. I was left feeling a bit surreal and thinking there's something supernatural about hanging with Yuuki. He's unknown in a world where everyone is on social media. He's been a humble and dedicated enthusiast since day one. And despite an odd fandom for Fast and Furious, he's built a successful business, has a stunning garage of cars, and continues to live his dream in one of the most beautiful regions of the world... Yeah, this is what it's all about.