NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS: JADEN MAR­TIN PHO­TOS: ADAM CROY

The mark of a true crafts­man is the ability to form ob­jects of great qual­ity with noth­ing more than a set of sim­ple tools and their own hands. And through ex­ten­sive prac­tise of their craft, the crafts­man may har­ness their ex­pe­ri­ence to reach the level of a shokunin — the Ja­panese term for an ar­ti­san — and com­bine both func­tion and aesthetics into an ob­ject that not only serves the di­rect pur­pose for which it has been built but also ex­presses the shokunin’s own jour­ney and serves as a new bench­mark for those around it. In the words of shokunin Tashio Odate, “Shokunin means not only hav­ing tech­ni­cal skill, but also im­plies an at­ti­tude and so­cial con­scious­ness … [an] obli­ga­tion to cre­ate great­ness both ma­te­rial and spir­i­tual.” For Auck­land-based con­nois­seur of the ‘dirty bird’ and crafts­man of fea­ture cars Philip Huynh, the road to be­com­ing an un­of­fi­cial shokunin was not en­tirely a con­scious one. In fact, the man be­hind the ‘Hy­per Camry’ JZX100 for­merly known as ‘WAAA’ ( NZ Per­for­mance Car Is­sue No. 204) and its ver­sion-two coun­ter­part, a Lexus IS-F, has al­ways been a self-de­scribed Toy­ota guy at heart, so to un­wit­tingly achieve this level of crafts­man­ship through the build of a Mazda MX-5 makes it all the more im­pres­sive. But how does a Toy­ota guy get con­vinced to build such a car? Well, while the badge that once adorned the go-kart’s boot lid rep­re­sents the fa­mous Hiroshima au­tomaker, it’s per­haps what lies in wait un­der the bon­net that drew Phil to the car and con­tin­ues to cast a shadow of con­fu­sion over all those who hear it pass by. Yep, within this en­gine bay you won’t find a four-banger typ­i­cal of the chas­sis but Toy­ota’s cov­eted 1UZ-FE V8.

Phil ex­plains that the con­ver­sion was done by the orig­i­nal owner, who wanted a few more ponies in the go-kart-like chas­sis. He laid a solid amount of ground work, widen­ing the en­gine bay clear­ance through cut-and-shut chas­sis rails, com­mis­sion­ing a cus­tom six-litre short-sump, and fit­ting a Toy­ota W58 box that em­ploys a 1UZ-to-W58 bell­hous­ing adapter and cus­tom one­piece drive­shaft to de­liver power to the rears.

It was even­tu­ally sold on and went through a long suc­ces­sion of ne­glect­ful own­ers be­fore Phil got his hands on it. “A friend of mine had it be­fore me and de­cided to bail out. Own­ing a va­ri­ety of Lexus’ and Toy­otas, it was a taste­ful ad­di­tion to my fleet, be­ing pow­ered by a re­li­able Toy­ota en­gine,” he tells us. “And I fig­ured [that] it would be a nice base for me to im­prove on while ad­ding my fin­ish­ing touches. But I started to find lots of small things which needed at­ten­tion.”

Want­ing the MX-5 to tick all the boxes — to be good­look­ing, clean, re­li­able, and able to be beat on at the track but still com­fort­able enough to be driven out to Mis­sion Bay for an ice cream or a blast out to Ka­iaua for fish and chips when he feels spir­ited — con­stant nig­gles were never go­ing to cut it for Phil.

“The goal was to get away from the ‘stanced’ MX-5 stereo­type, which can have neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions for some peo­ple, and build a us­able car that ex­pressed my own flavour,” he says.

That would see the car stripped back to ba­sics while Phil care­fully cu­rated his idea of the per­fect ex­am­ple. Gone is the fac­tory plas­tic and Enkei J-Speed wheels on which it ar­rived, with the vi­sion call­ing on a se­lec­tion of aero up­grades that do well not to de­stroy the fac­tory body­lines. In­stead, they en­hance the Mazda base by beef­ing up the face with an RS Ac­tive Type-II

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