Tokyo and Osaka are the two biggest cities of Japan, a natural reason for a bit of rivalry. Pretty much the Los Angeles of Japan, Tokyo even has all the Hollywood glitz down to a T. In contrast, Osaka is the city of business, where everything only takes half the time of the big Mikan – including the love hotels. This need for speed has given Osaka just a bit more rep for speed and looks, with more serious racing action than Tokyo. And once down there, it’s hard not to believe so given the incredible number of speed shops dotting the landscape. One of those shops is KAN Project, located near the beaches of Hyogo city, just a bit south of Osaka. This area of fishing boats and beaches looks the perfect hangout for surf shops, and KAN Project looks the part, with general manager Fujitani ‘GML’ Tsutomu and boss Kanji Ozaki looking like nothing more than a pair of well-seasoned surf bums. Once out of the sun, though, it is obvious this is a very serious operation, the shop specializing in gull wing conversions, custom paint jobs, low ride air suspension systems and many other types of custom car projects.
Tsutomu and Ozaki have been in the business a long time, and there is nothing they are unwilling to tackle. With a full paint booth to service the most discerning customer and a history of hot custom car projects, they are well respected in the Japanese tuning industry.
A lot of their hard work and respect went into this 5th generation Honda Prelude, making it into one of their more interesting street/show car projects. While it was designed more to be a street and show car, enough effort went into the actual performance bits as well to endow this Honda with a good amount of race DNA. Looking at some of the car’s war wounds, it looks like it has waged a few battles on the mean streets of Osaka. The KAN crew refuses to admit to it, or more accurately, simply pleads the 5th. “No commento” managed to enter the Japanese dictionary many years ago.
The exterior overhaul began with a full Bomex body kit from front to rear. But KAN wanted to do much more with it, so they created their own original-design over fenders and carbon fiber hood. Somewhere along the line they inhaled a bit too much CF resin, and went a step further – they redid the entire engine bay enclosure in carbon fiber as well. Crazy as it sounds, it did have some actual purpose, as it helps to strengthen the entire front of the chassis, both for handling precision and to deal with the additional power of the massaged 2.2-liter motor. All of the work is absolutely top-notch, without the ripples you see in some of the cheaper carbon fibre work, and finished off with a good clear coat.
All that work to the body would be just a bit out of place if the engine was the same old anemic four it came with stock. One look at the engine dispels that worry. This polished and chromed jewel has had almost as much work put into it as the exterior. Now producing about 235hp, it does this the old-fashioned way, without any nitrous or forced injection. They started with the internals, fitting Euro-spec camshafts to better aid the flow of air in and flow of exhaust gases out. To better feed it, an AC Auto cold air system and intake manifold were fitted. All that extra air coming in would be useless if the exhaust was a bottleneck – a 5zigen exhaust manifold feeding into an AC Auto exhaust system easily takes care of that problem. Finished off with a custom-mapped ECU, the KAN H22 is a remarkably tractable motor that easily lopes along at low revs in Japan’s notoriously bad traffic, yet winds out like a full-bore race engine when the crowds thin.
Japanese road quality can range from surfaces suitable for billiards to something from a war-zone. This has prompted KAN to specialize in air-suspension systems installations as well. They picked an ACC air suspension for this application, with the controls placed in the front seat passengers foot well for easy access. The resulting ride quality is surprisingly good when necessary, despite riding on 19-inch Racing Hart wheels with 225/35-19 Toyo tyres. Underneath those are some mean-looking, hard-working 330mm slit- and cross-drilled Rotora rotors, clamped down on by Rotora racing calipers and brake pads. This combination is quite adept at leaving seat belt marks on your body when you hammer on them, which may have your girlfriend wondering what you have been up to lately, and with whom.
Also getting a makeover is the interior, which KAN richly appointed with a mix of their original carbon fiber and alcantara panels. They are all finished with top-notch quality, looking much better than the standard paneling. To keep things snug when you decide to drive it like you stole it, Japanese-made Dangan racing seats were fitted. They turn out to be fairly comfortable for even a six-foot bloke like me. There is even a Alpine 900J DVD audio/video system fitted so you can enjoy sitting in traffic (well, to a degree), or to keep you occupied while you are waiting to line up your next race. AC Auto meters fill the interior, keeping you informed of all that is happening. They are all mounted in rather spiff carbon fiber enclosures created by the KAN crew. They have even fitted an American-spec instrument cluster for a touch of something different (for Japan).
Kan has taken a rather mild sports coupe and worked some magic, creating a car that goes as well as it looks. And despite a hard-driven life for more than six years, it is free of creaks and groans of old age, a sign of a truly well-screwed down custom car. GML and Ozaki really love their job, evident by the many years they have been at it. In fact, 35-year-old Ozaki has been in this company all his life. It is not hard to understand why, they have one of the most genuinely friendly companies I’ve ever seen in Japan. And given the traditional manners of the Japanese, that is saying a lot.