Most of us here in the office harbor the fantastic notion of becoming great race car drivers. This probably has less to do with our competitive spirit and our will to win than with our awkward social skills and overactive libidos because everyone knows racers get the girlies. It's a dream we hold dear along with the one where we wrest the competitive hot dog eating title away from Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi.
But Osamu Hagiwara has already lived our dream--uh, not the one about competitive eating, the one about driving.
He came in 10th in the driver's standings of the 1993 All Japan Touring Car
Championship behind the wheel of the No. 87 HKS Nissan Skyline GT-R. You know the car--the BNR32 covered in the HKS signature black finish with the purple, green, and red splatter. On his way to the championship that year, Hagiwara-san also took the Round 3 win at Sportsland Sugo.
In our fantasy world we'd also drive the finest cars; in reality, with the exception of Ricky, our personal rides look like the gnarled leftovers from the Monster Garage crew. Again, Hagiwara-san possesses what we so desperately hope for: a hot ride. Who are we kidding? We'll take any kind of car at this point because our moms are sick of driving us back and forth to work. This really crushes our game when we go out on dates. OK, you caught us. We have no game whatsoever and even less of a chance of getting a date. Where were we, aside from piecing together the remnants of our sad, pathetic lives? Oh yes, Hagiwara-san's RX-7.
Because he's a racer, Hagiwara-san could not leave well enough alone with the performance of his FD. The 13B-REW has been served up with steaming hot helpings of HKS in the form of an exhaust manifold, intercooler, fuel rail, Power Flow air filter, Twin Plate clutch, spark plugs, and a Dragger II exhaust. The Knight Sports catalytic converter shaves even closer than a blade, and we're pretty sure it increases flow compared with the dull, razor-burn inflicting factory unit. The entire package puts out a healthy 360 hp at 1 bar of boost. Finally, the HKS Hiper Damper coilovers and Project u six-pot calipers help Hagiwara-san recreate his glory days on the track, while our only fond memory was that time we won the big tetherball tournament, but even that was tainted when that little bitch, Sally Wilson, pantsed us afterward. Oh, the humiliation.
As long as he has his 7, Hagiwara-san need not be concerned with any of the self-esteem issues that afflict us. Take a good, hard look at this car. The stock body of the third generation RX-7 is just so bootylicious, and the complete C-West kit only makes this car, er, bootyliciouser. The bootyliciousest? It's a good thing we have a new copy editor. (Daniel, help us clean up this mess--JN.)
You may have recognized the unmistakable carbon-fiber C-West GT Wing pedestals. However, the cross section may be a bit harder to place. That's because the wing was designed by Hagiwara-san himself and constructed by PAL Sport. Hagiwara-san's pals at PAL also laid up that darling little diffuser of his own design that gives the FD just a little bit more back and a lot more downforce.
It was quite brazen of Hagiwara-san to mess with the perfection of a C-West design, but the end result looks great. Who does this guy think he is, some sort of designer? Well, yes. In case we forgot to mention (or in case you didn't read the deck--pay attention here, people), Hagiwara-san's day job is designing wheels for Advan such as the Model T6 rollers he flosses. He was even kind enough to sit down for a few minutes and indulge our insipid questions (see next page).
This very same car was the centerpiece for Advan's 2002 Tokyo Auto Salon booth, and it also graced the pages of the 2003 Yokohama Aluminum Wheels Catalog. Yes, that catalog, the one filled with Japan's sweetest tuner cars. Today you can find Hagiwara-san tearing up the streets of Tokyo with this one-time carpet queen and catalog supermodel. It seems a shame to turn these wheels loose on Japan's nitty gritty highways and byways, but Hagiwara-san says that's exactly why he built the car. We're really starting to hate this guy. Uh oh, we gotta go; our moms are outside honking.
OWNER: Osamu Hagiwara
RIDE: '01 Mazda RX-7
HOMETOWN: Tokyo, Japan
DAILY GRIND: Manager, Advan Wheel Design
UNDER THE HOOD: 13B-REW Turbo, HKS exhaust manifold, intercooler, fuel rail, Power Flow air filter, twin plate clutch, spark plugs, Dragger II exhaust; Knight Sports catalytic converter
STIFF STUFF: HKS Hiper Damper coilover kit and anti-sway bars
ROLLERS: Advan AVS Model T6 18x9, 18x10, AVS Sport V102 225/40R18, 255/35R18
STOPPERS: Project u six-pot calipers (front) and brake pads (front and rear), Earl's Performance Products brake lines
OUTSIDE: C-West aero kit, hood, and GT Wing pedestals, PAL Sport rear wing and diffuser
INSIDE: HKS EVC boost controller and F-CON S fuel controller, Bride Zeta II seats, Sparco steering wheel
PROPS: Advan, HKS, C-West
We Shall Call Him Poppa Wheelie
When we met him at the Advan booth, we clumsily asked Osamu Hagiwara which of the current wheels were his designs. In the most humble manner from someone who designs some of the world's most coveted wheels, Hagiwara-san politely replied, "All of them." And with that our interview was off to a roaring start. A quick glance at the back of any Advan catalog shows only one name under the wheel designer title--his. But we think that whole pre-interview research thing is highly overrated. We prefer our trusted foot-in-the-mouth technique; it's much more spontaneous. Follow along as we manage to offend yet another Japanese tuning icon.
Super Street: How does one go about becoming a wheel designer, because we got mad skills? Do you want to see our collection of cocktail napkin caricatures? In one of them Jonny and Ricky are riding their bikes on the beach.
Osamu Hagiwara: About 10 years ago I started to design the Yokohama wheels. The first wheel I designed was the Super Advan Racing wheel .
SS: How did you become involved with wheel design? Were you formally educated?
OH: I used to be a racing driver. I do not have any special design education.
SS: We know a lot about special education. In which series did you race?
OH: Formula 3 in 1990. I also raced in Formula Mirage and I drove the Group N GT-R until 1993. I began to design wheels for Advan in 1993 and I retired from racing in 1994.
SS: Where do you draw your inspiration from when you design a wheel?
OH: I'm a freak, a big fan of the cars. I always think about what is cool.
SS: We have a saying that form follows function. Upon which do you place a higher priority: looks or performance?
OH: The most import aspect is quality. Light weight is very important. With the TCII, the hollow cavity construction is also very important. Look at the center design. Usually the lug holes are placed in line with the spokes because it is the strongest point, but not on this wheel because of the hollow spokes. Like all of our wheels, it is a mechanical design. We had no choice.
SS: What other plans do you have for future designs? Any bling-bling wheels?
OH: Because tires sizes do not perform well at over 19-inches due to the low aspect ratio, we will not produce anything larger than that. We will not make wheels larger than 18 inches for performance reasons.
SS: Big ups to that, although Jay-Z will be disappointed. Do you look anywhere outside of the automotive market to find inspiration for your designs?
OH: I look to the design of other high-end products such as the Bang & Olufsen home audio systems. They are very functional and yet very attractive as well. I like those kind of high-end products. I don't consider the cost. I don't want price to be an object. I just want people to say, "I must have these wheels no matter what."
SS: We agree completely. So, can you, like, get us some free wheels? Wait, where are you going? [Shouting at Hagiwara-san as he walks away] OK, we'll call you then.