When it comes to JDM style and flare, much can easily get lost in translation. For instance, the Japanese have a habit of abbreviating two words, then combining the two abbreviations to make a completely new word. So you end up totally confused if you're scouring the Yahoo! Japan Auctions trying to replace your exhaust manifold and have no clue that what you should be searching for is what's called an Eki-Mani.
Usually, finding something like an after-cat is as easy as picking up your favorite car magazine, reading a few reviews and making a phone call to order your parts. For decades, the Japanese have continued to raise the bar of tuning standards, so it's only natural for us to look to them when it comes to building the type of performance vehicles that get us excited.
For a select group of enthusiasts it means doing a lot more research, endless email strings and countless international phone calls and even several hours of road trips to an out-of-the-way shop to get the last of a limited edition or an ultra-rare part. These rare and hard-to-come-by parts are essential if you want to pull off the ultimate tasteful vehicle in a style that's seldom done well. This month we were able to find two vehicles that not only meet but exceed every standard of JDM style.
Shaun Stranahan and Charles Cha both decided that their Evolution MRs had to be absolutely flawless when it came to JDM style. Because both owners share a passion for the JDM school of thought and wanted the best for their cars, it's no wonder they share a few of the same parts.
The interiors of the cars had to have the hallmarks of Japanese perfection, so only parts from the top names in the tuning world would do. For example, only Takata Racing harnesses could be trusted to keep the drivers planted in the special-order Bride carbon-Kevlar LoMax buckets chosen by Charles. His car also sports a Ralliart center roll bar and rearview mirror, including the cute little Ralliart charm hanging from it-make sure you pick yours up when you visit the gift shop at Ralliart in Japan, because that's the only place they sell it. Shaun, on the other hand, opted for the Bride Japan seat. If you thought you knew everything JDM and have never heard of the Bride Japan, don't feel too bad. It's actually a special-edition Bride Vorga, and there were only 100 of them made.
On the outside, these great minds again thought alike. The U.S. rear bumpers had to go because they wouldn't be able to fit the Kansai rear carbon diffusers and exhaust heat shields made for the JDM EVO bumpers. Naturally, a set was put on the next boat just to make sure the parts had perfect fitment. Stillway engine dampeners and Mitsubishi JDM batteries are fitted on both vehicles as well, but that's where the similarities end and the cars start to take on personalities of their own.
The JDM battery can actually be considered a modification, even though it's an OEM part. According to Charles, this is a "summer cell" battery and is slightly smaller than the U.S. OEM batteries we have. (Never mind how you get one shipped halfway around the world and through customs.) Yet it was necessary for Charles because the intercooler piping and carbon intake from Monster Sports, the only one in the States, wouldn't fit otherwise.
The ARC Street Spec intercooler is just as rare, also the only one in the U.S. It feeds air from a Tomei ARMS M7960 turbine, which Tomei says is the largest bolt-on turbo for the EVO, having the potential to make more than 400 hp. As you can imagine, it moves a lot of air. To handle all the spent gases, Charles decided on a 70mm (2.7-inch) Amuse exhaust that weighs just 4.5 kg (10 lbs).
In fact, you start to notice a theme with Charles' car. The limited production 17x9 Forged Monster Sport wheels are the only set stateside, and the Monster Sports carbon wing is not only the first one in the U.S. but is the last one ever produced.
Not to be outdone, Shaun pulled the ultimate "I heart JDM" card for his '05 MR. He has dedicated the tuning of his car almost completely to the HKS tuning shop Kansai Service, and the result is nothing short of spectacular. Kansai was called upon to provide the hood, front splitter and front bumper with an oil cooler duct. A Kansai bumper may not be that unique in the states, but this is where Shaun's attention to detail shines through. While the vent on the passenger side houses the oil cooler, the vent on the opposite side remains closed so Kansai paints it black. While most guys would probably paint the entire bumper, Shaun knew the correct way-staying true to the JDM Kansai roots once again.
Shaun also says that the rear wing on the car is a Kansai Racing Series wing, of which only 10 were ever produced and one was lost several years ago. He managed to track it down to a parts warehouse in So Cal, where the owner put it on a shelf and had simply forgotten about it. When Shaun found it, he instantly realized what it was.
Kansai is represented everywhere under the hood, except for the cam gear cover. The one shown is the Kansai wet-carbon-look cover that has since been switched out for a dry-carbon piece by Ralliart. They had to search long and hard for that one, and it ended up being the only one they could find for sale. Another piece that won't be easy to find is his Kansai radiator because it's the last one to ever be produced.
You can also add Shaun's rollcage to the one-off list. Keep in mind that Kansai sells cages in Japan, not the U.S. or Europe, and had to custom build this one with a cross bar for a left-hand-drive vehicle. Speaking of custom work for LHD vehicles, Shaun even had Kansai make floormats specifically for his car. Kansai's own auto-dimming rearview mirror with a bluish tint to it adds yet another feature to this JDM masterpiece. Shaun also had to order a set of 18x9.5-inch Volk CE28s in a special Diamond Black color.
The suspension was to follow the same formula-Kansai everywhere. But again, not just any off-the-shelf parts would do. Shaun managed to get Kansai to sell him the coilovers off its demo car that have been re-valved to the company's own racing specifications. Getting his hands on strut tower bars for the front and rear was an even more remarkable feat because Kansai Service had discontinued them. So what does Shaun do? Well, lets put it this way-anyone who has bought a Kansai Service strut bar in the last two years, you can thank Shaun. He actually commissioned Kansai to remake a run of 10 each so he could complete his setup.
Shaun is so dedicated to Kansai Service that he is now considered one of the company's VIP customers, and it shows with the Kansai badges this car wears. Like Tommy Kaira cars, you can rock Kansai badges only when a car is built by and bought from Kansai Service itself. There are no part numbers to order them with, so don't even think about trying it. Shaun's EVO is the only car that has ever received this honor without the car actually being built by Kansai Service, and the Japanese aren't ones for breaking tradition quickly. Consider this the JDM seal of approval.
While I'm told that this isn't the end for either of these cars, its hard to imagine what Shaun or Charles has planned to improve on these already well-done examples of JDM quality and style. Shaun says there are many more things he wants to add to his MR and Charles plans to track his car and make use of the power potential of the Tomei ARMS turbo. These guys plan to continue modifying, so you can be sure it will remain the ultimate in JDM perfection.
»HKS Kansai Service is the ultimate pinnacle of awesomeness for many JDM fanatics. Offering everything from oil changes to full overhauls and custom one-off parts, the Kansai garage is literally a one-stop shop for even the most demanding of customers. A Kansai badge is a sign of a highly tuned and carefully created machine, a car that means business.
»Monster Sport Japan takes racing seriously. Founder Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima has won the famous Pikes Peak hill climb an amazing five times in his career, including a record-breaking '07 run that toppled Rod Millen's previous reign of 13 years to become the new King of the Mountain.
Monster Sport carbon intake, intercooler piping, carbon cooling panel, titanium heat shield; Ralliart carbon spark plug cover; Mitsubishi battery conversion; Stillway engine dampener; Amuse full titanium 1-piece exhaust; ARC front-mount intercooler; GReddy injectors; Tanabe downpipe Engine Management A'PEXi SAFCII piggyback controller, World Electronics boost controller
Monster Sport strut bars (f/r); Beatrush lower arm bars, lower chassis stiffeners/braces and rear sway bar with polyurethane trailing arm bushings; A'PEXi coilovers tuned by Road Race Chassis
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
Monster Sport 17x9" forged racing wheels; Endless front 2-piece slotted rotors, braided lines, brake pads, rear slotted rotors, braided lines and brake pads
Bride stradia carbon-Kevlar racing bucket front seats; Ralliart instrument cluster, titanium pedals, carbon look shifter panel, carbon look mirror cover; Monster Sport titanium shift knob; Takata racing harness, custom rear seats with Bride inserts; Ralliart pitroll bar
Mitsubishi EVO 9 headlights and taillights, EVO 8 rear bumper; front carbon-fiber lip, carbon look mirrors; Kansai Service rear carbon rear diffuser, carbon exhaust heat shield; Monster Sport carbon-fiber hood, carbon-fiber racing trunk, carbon-fiber wing, side spats
Bun Fukuyoshi of Lot U.S.A.; Jason MacGill of Team Hybrid
Kansai carbon-fiber intake box, Kansai/HKS intake, maf pipe, intercooler piping, Kansai-spec'd HKS racing blow-off valve, spark plug cover, cam gear cover, radiator; HKS cams and cam gears, valvesprings, downpipe, custom euro coolant and power steering reservoirs; Mitsubishi battery; Stillway engine dampener; MINES full titanium 1-piece exhaust; Samco hoses
Kansai racing coilovers, strut bars (f/r), end links, sway bars, custom rollcage
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
Diamond Black, forged monoblock VOLK CE28 18x9.5" racing wheels
Bride voga seats (Japan edition), rails and sliders; Kansai floormats, auto-dim rearview mirror; Ralliart titanium pedals, shifter; Takata racing harness, Beat Rush rear panel
Mitsubishi EVO MR headlights and taillights, EVO 8 rear bumper; Kansai rear carbon diffuser, front bumper, front splitter, badging, carbon-fiber hood, side spats, rear race wing, carbon exhaust shield; Ralliart carbon look mirrors; HKS/Kansai Service carbon exhaust heat shield, Kansai oil cooler duct
Bun Fukuyoshi of Lot U.S.A.; Jason MacGill of Team Hybrid