If this Toyota Aristo looks familiar to you, it's probably because the previous owner was Manabu "MAX" Orido. Quite possibly one of the greatest Japanese drivers of all time, Orido started his career racing on the streets and touge, then later became a famed Super GT driver as well as a heavy contender on the D1 Grand Prix tour. Today, the torch of this awesome Aristo has been passed to Tetsuya Iha, a metal and paint worker by day, but also an aspiring driver. He's sponsored by a supplement company called Shugo Densetsu, which produces pills to help people with hangovers. Quite an odd sponsor for Orido's former drift car, but Shugo Densetsu must believe in the new driver and has even nicknamed the car "Heavy Drinker Legend JZS161 Aristo." (Must be named after Sam. —JT)
It was refreshing to see the Aristo (our Lexus GS counterpart) on our trip to Japan as it's been an underrated drift car. It surely stands out from the heavily populated Nissan S-Chassis drift scene. Despite its luxury sedan frame, on paper it has the ingredients that drifters demand—a rear-wheel-drive layout and a little kick via Toyota turbocharged JZ muscle.
For many of us, it might be intimidating to acquire a pro drift car, but Iha-san stays true to what the car was built for. Iha-san went through the trouble of transporting Orido's drift sedan all the way from the island of Okinawa to Oyama to participate in Formula D's Fuji Speedway round (more than a thousand miles away). Unfortunately, during qualifying, we saw Iha-san struggle against the more experienced drivers of D1 Grand Prix and Formula D USA; he was unable to advance to the Top 32. Nonetheless, he stayed an extra day for our photo shoot and a grassroots drift event on Fuji's skidpad (more to come on that next month).
The exterior consists of a Varis kit, lightweight doors, hood and trunk, plus a D-Max GT wing. Behind the plethora of stickers is the original Ferrari red paint Orido had on the sedan. For weight reduction, the non-essentials were stripped from the interior and fitted with the omnipresent Bride seats and the limited-edition Orido-style steering wheel made by Nardi—you can see how worn the wheel is from all the abuse over the years. Under the hood is the 2JZ-GTE motor that comes standard in the V300 Aristo but is converted to a single turbo with an HKS T04Z conversion. A Blitz intercooler and Sard radiator were installed to keep things cool, an essential component when drifting. The power that comes through is transferred through an ORC twin-plate clutch and a Getrag six-speed transmission.
Let's be honest, there are many shops and drivers that retire their drift cars after a couple seasons. It's heartbreaking to hear about these teams selling their cars, but it's reassuring to know that Tetsuya Iha understood and appreciated the importance of this Aristo and is honoring one legendary driver while still putting Orido's car to good use—sober, of course!
In the August '08 issue, we just happened to feature this exact same car after it debuted at TAS. Orido originally built this Aristo in hopes of bringing it to the U.S. And since he had a good relationship with Toyota, plus the twin-turbo 2JZ came factory with the Japan-sold Aristo, it was a win-win situation. Unfortunately, it took three years to finish and the car never made it here. But as you can tell from how the car looks today, it's been through plenty of action and also received a few changes, such as ditching the Vertex body kit and Yokohama TC-5 wheels for a fresher look.