When I first arrived at Car Craft Boon, better known as Osaka JDM, a strange thing happened. I was overwhelmed. After years spent professionally seeking out and capturing amazing cars I had thought that the days of becoming instantly awestruck were gone. I was wrong. It wasn’t any one car or part in particular that blew me away but rather the volume of awesome, it was too much to take. Prior to arriving at Osaka JDM I figured I’d probably end up shooting a car or two, depending on what we uncovered upon arrival.
What I didn’t expect was a whole fleet of feature-worthy rides. After meeting the owner Kazuhiro Furukawa and the mechanic, Takada-san, I took a quick look around. Tetsu and Jonathan were talking amongst themselves and then asked, “so which ones do you want to shoot?” I looked around again in three-hundred-sixty-degrees, let out a sigh and shrugged. “All of them?” I said, only half jokingly. Normally this would be an awesome way to spend an afternoon, but since we were running on a Japanese schedule this could only mean one thing—a mad dash to shoot as much as possible as quickly as I can.
But, let’s back up a minute and look at just how it became that the Super Street staff, in almost its entirety, ended up at this obscure place. I recall walking into former Associate Editor, Charles Trieu’s office at the old Super Street headquarters and picking up a copy of G-Works from his desk and flipping through it waiting for him to finish a phone call. In the back of the magazine, I noticed a very sick collection of E-ATs (3rd generation Civics) or as the Japanese call them, “Wonder Civics.” I thought wow, these guys have great taste, and I wouldn’t expect to see relics like these still being tuned in Japan.
A heavily-modified E-AT is a rare sight; so seeing a whole crew of them running wild on the streets of Osaka was quite exciting. With a lack of aftermarket support (comparatively speaking to EG/EK etc) and crude torsion bar front, solid beam axle rear suspension design, the 3rd generation Civic is overlooked by most Honda fanatics. Outside of Auto-X guys who prize the car for its low curb weight and short wheelbase, enthusiasts scoff at the chassis. In fact there’s only one guy I know that’s ever taken a 3rd gen build seriously, and as it turned out that’s who Charles had purchased the magazine for.
This was almost four years ago, and since then “those guys from Osaka with the Wonder Civics” have been busy, very busy. I started seeing a few people “in the know” posting up an image or two here and there on miscellaneous Internet forums. It used to be very difficult to locate images of these cars and when you did, they were essentially thumbnails, but even still you could tell there was something special about these cars. They had that raw Osaka style that the likes of Kei Muira have become famous for, but only in recent years have they begun to take on a mass appeal.
Most enthusiasts probably got their first taste of Osaka JDM, whether they realized it or not, via a Work Wheels ad for the CR-01. The ad is a drawing that depicts an E-AT and an EF hatchback in front of their shop, “Car Craft Boon!” (The “drawing” is a still scene from an actual manga series that uses Osaka JDM as a backdrop, and will soon incorporate Furukawa-san as a character. Pretty cool, huh? - JW) I’m sure many of you are going “ahhhhhh, I remember that” right about now. The resurgence of retro wheels has become a bit of a hot commodity in Japan in recent years and Work decided to promote their wheels in a different way, and rightfully so, by having them installed on a few cars from an underground shop.
Since that ad, the wheels have become the quintessential part on all of Car Craft Boon’s cars and the two are literally inseparable. In fact, Osaka JDM actually have a limited-edition version of the wheel, called the Loop 5, which we’ll get to a little later. For all intensive purposes the wheels are a perfect fit for their lifestyle, they’re racy enough for the circuit but stylish enough for meets and daily driving. With the recent surge in popularity of the “Hellaflush” style in Japan, the custom sizing and color options have proven very successful. They’ve even stepped away recently from their usual track builds to create a one-two knockout duo embracing the fitment lifestyle.
The CR-X and EF9 that Osaka JDM displayed at Hellaflush Fuji set the forums ablaze with comments. Their clean USJDM style (think SoCal Honda scene) surprised many and the cars feature buff USDM conversions including lighting, moldings and even aftermarket pieces from stateside brands like Password JDM. When mixed in with goodies from fan favorites like Mugen, the cars appear as if they were literally just plucked from our shores. While some didn’t know what to make of them, the pair of EFs enamored the rest of the tuning scene, including our very own EF owner, Jonathan Wong.
So here we are, Tetsu, Sam, Jonathan, Bernice and myself in a place that anyone other than a car enthusiast would likely describe as a small junkyard. As I unpacked my gear a familiar thought passed through my head—so many cars, so little time. Fortunately I had a team to lighten the load a little. We formed a loose plan that closely resembled contained chaos and set free on what could be referred to as an automotive photography free-for-all. Sam would start outside shooting a Civic shuttle (soon to be K20-powered) with so much steeze it might as well be called a Swagovan. Jonathan would follow Tetsu into the office area for an interview while Bernice would assist me with lighting a car I can’t yet talk about (you’ll have to wait for our Honda issue).
It wasn’t long into shooting that I noticed another person had come to the shop, a tall Frenchman. At first, I thought he was either a tourist like us, or perhaps a customer. I didn’t think much of it and continued shooting. When I was finished documenting the first car I decided to poke around the shop for a bit, which, as a Honda fanatic, was infinitely entertaining. Downstairs laid a stockpile of OEM parts like headlights, taillights, miscellaneous trim pieces and lots of spare engines, which I was told will are being horded for future sale to Americans (see “connect”).
When I got my fix downstairs I followed a sign stating “used parts” up an absurdly steep staircase (more like a permanently fixed ladder). When I made my way to the top without killing myself, I was met with a scrap heap of rare goodies. Lining the walls were shelves containing unicorn parts like Mugen and Vision OBD0 ECUs, first series Bride seats, Mugen torsion bars, ZC cam gears and more. While much of these items are low key even for Honda Tuning subscribers, there were some more blatantly obvious pieces as well. As I carefully made my way through a maze of used rollcages and exhausts I managed to locate a set of BNIB Mugen CF-48s, a prize of the highest order for collectors and one that is likely older than most of you reading this.
If left to my own devices I would have continued investigating the mezzanine well into the night, but I had a task that needed completing. I navigated my way back down the stairs with cat-like skill (sike) and was greeted at the bottom by the Frenchman who would introduce himself as Franck Decadi. With Tetsu busy inside it was nice to have someone who could answer some of my questions and help with the translation process. I made haste and we moved my personal favorite, the E-AT, to a parking lot across the street.
What an amazing car, if you can get past the fact that the back more closely resembles a microwave oven from the ‘80’s than a car. But seriously this thing is badass, stripped to the bone and ready for battle. On the inside, the cabin has been completely stripped only leaving the essentials, a cage, a seat, gauges and a fuel cell. On the outside the car remains mostly stock aside from some custom fender work. It has been swapped with a lovely B16B, creating more than enough power to scoot this 3rd gen hatch around the track. And keep in mind, the B-swap in this chassis isn’t your typical bolt-in affair; this is a one-off example. The car isn’t street registered but that doesn’t keep the boys from occasionally blasting it down the toll roads, but its main purpose in life is circuit racing.
The guys from Osaka JDM have built up quite a reputation in the Kanjo racing scene, due largely to the existence of this hatch. While Kanjo racing originally described the mayhem happening on the Kanjo (toll roads), the name has been adopted to any form of no-holds-barred full-contact car-to-car racing. This is balls-out stuff where pretty cars don’t last very long and the winner usually has battle scars from the sacrifices it made to get there. As it turns out Franck is actually a racing driver and regularly pilots cars from the shop. He told me an interesting story regarding the dent in the front filler panel of the Wonder Civic.
Apparently there was a pesky RX-7 holding up the driver so he decided to execute a little “pit maneuver” at a Historix Japan race in 2010 at Suzuka Twin circuit. You can actually view a video of the incident on Franck’s youtube channel (see “connect”), ballsy stuff. A Historix sticker now resides on top of the resulting damage, which has been left not only as a momento, but also a reminder to the competition to look out. After learning more of the car’s heritage it made this scrappy little Civic even more special. When I felt like I had enough photos I thanked Takada-san and he fired up the car awakening a raspy exhaust note. I followed as he lunged the featherweight car back down the street to the shop where more cars await.
The next pair of cars are polar opposites of the E-AT and it’s almost hard to imagine they were built by the same people. The shop’s newest additions are Furukawa and Takada’s personal rides, an EF9 hatch and EF7 CR-X, respectively. Americans might be offended to hear these cars referred to as “stanced out hardparkers”, but to these guys I don’t think you could pay a greater compliment. They are so enamored by the USDM lifestyle that it’s bizarre; from the Bisimoto license plate frame to the BlackWorks shift knob, these guys are obsessed with our culture.
The super-clean aesthetic is difficult to dislike, and although it is a bit strange to be staring at a USDM front end on a real RHD EF9, I dig it. They’re enjoying car life in a whole new dimension and along with most of Japan, are adding their own twist to the Hellaflush scene. Although lightly tuned, all of the important elements, like stance, are completely nailed. Some of the details like the signature Osaka JDM roof spoiler on the hatch or the genuine Mugen Pro.2 kit and exhaust on the CR-X really put them over the top for streetcars. It really is funny to think that the same guys that built the racecar I was shooting only moments earlier also built these examples, and one may never see a link between them if it weren’t for one inextricable clue to their origin—the wheels.
The Loop 5, or CR-01, is an amazing wheel if for no other reason than versatility. It looks equally at home on a Kanjo racer as it does on a stance mobile, which can’t be said for many other rollers. As Jonny found out first-hand, the seemingly endless options of disk type, offset and barrel shape can be overwhelming. When you throw in the thirteen color options it’s enough to turn an indecisive person insane. Jonny inevitably decided to take a brochure back to the states and sleep on it. In a way the wheels are almost a metaphor for the shop that sells them, simple and timeless, yet quirky and complex. Whether you like hardcore track cars or flashy hard parkers Osaka JDM has something you’ll dig. And they’ll have the perfect set of wheels for it, too.