NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: AARON MAI

The drag rac­ing scene in Ja­pan was white hot from the mid 1980s to the end of the ’90s. The driv­ers were brave, and many of the ma­chines they built are now the stuff of leg­end. Dur­ing this time, the tun­ing scene was all about big power, drag rac­ing, and 0–300kph tri­als. How­ever, evo­lu­tion within the scene saw many tuners cross over into time at­tack and drift­ing, while ze­royon, which refers to drag rac­ing in Ja­pan (with the word mean­ing ‘zero to four’, or ‘0–400m’) slowly saw only diehard fans come out to play. This re­ally meant drag rac­ing had its back up against the wall, but, de­spite this, a small group of ded­i­cated rac­ers is un­will­ing to let the sport grind to a halt and is work­ing on that goal in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion.

Sur­pris­ingly, one of these ded­i­cated rac­ers is Shin­taro Mizuno, a man more com­monly known to read­ers for his shakotan cre­ations, but, when we visit his work­shop, some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent catches our eye. Nes­tled along­side the work­shop sits an S30 drag car pow­ered by an L-se­ries en­gine — not ex­actly what many would con­sider a main­stream drag weapon.

Un­like other mo­tor­sport dis­ci­plines in Ja­pan, which en­joy an abun­dance of tracks, drag rac­ers there only have two op­tions. The first and most pop­u­lar is Sendai Hi-Land drag strip, which sends cars slightly down­hill to­wards the top end, be­fore they snake through a very slight left kink in the track. Add into the mix a bit of un­du­la­tion, and you get some proper seat-of-your-pants rac­ing. The sec­ond strip of tar­mac is found at Cen­tral Cir­cuit, north­west of Osaka, where driv­ers use the front straight of the cir­cuit to lay down times, and plenty of rub­ber.

Both venues have pro­duced some mem­o­rable passes, and have been the test­ing ground for cars such as Mizuno-san’s S30.

Some might re­mem­ber this car as a pur­ple Tokyo Auto Salon show car back in 2008. Clearly, it’s no longer a show pony, and it’s been given the true Mizuno Works treat­ment to make sure it hooks up, goes straight, and flies down the strip. Mizuno-san has some of the most tal­ented fab­ri­cat­ing hands in the in­dus­try, and what en­dears you to this car is the fact that is has been built in his work­shop without a mail-or­der train of shiny parts from a cat­a­logue. Ev­ery­thing on this S30 is old school, wild, and built for pure pur­pose.

As Mizuno-san fires the car into life, the L-se­ries en­gine pro­duces a lumpy howl that per­fectly matches the per­son­al­ity of the S30. What the Ja­panese drag scene lacks in num­bers, it cer­tainly makes up for in

terms of char­ac­ter-in­fused cars. The an­gry-sound­ing L-se­ries has been stroked to 3100cc ca­pac­ity us­ing 89mm pis­tons, Watan­abe H-beam con­nect­ing rods, and an LD crank. The head also re­ceived ex­ten­sive work, in­clud­ing bump­ing the com­pres­sion by re­mov­ing 38cc from each cham­ber. The valves are Kameari L-type light­weight big valves, the cam a WAKO 74S, and the springs are Isky. Nes­tled right up front of the en­gine bay sits the fuel cell, com­plete with a short pickup to the fuel rail. Mizuno-san grins, and calls it an “added in­cen­tive to keep the car straight and off the walls” when slam­ming gears off the green light. Oh, and as the car pro­duces 270kW, would you ex­pect any­thing other than triple 50mm Solex carbs to feed a proper vin­tage racer like this?

The car’s old-school hand­crafted na­ture is es­pe­cially ev­i­dent when you crack the driver door and peer into the cock­pit. The first thing that

strikes you is how raw the car is; there’s no frills and no bulls**t — rac­ing is what this is all about. As the king of old school, Mizunosan runs the car without a cage, and has taken light­ness to the ex­treme, with speed holes through­out the in­te­rior.

Look­ing at the roofline, you might no­tice that it is a wee bit off. “I chopped the top by 3cm to im­prove the lines and aero,” he says, and it also helped get the wet weight of the car down to 800kg. The driver seat is an old-school plas­tic un­branded one that Mizuno-san came across, and just like the front wheels — “It does the job.” A clas­sic Schroth four-point har­ness laced through the seat — which is mounted fur­ther back for bet­ter weight dis­tri­bu­tion —keeps him firmly in place. On the seat place­ment, he says: “Ah, that was not in­ten­tion­ally done; the S14 box was 6cm longer, so, be­cause of my size, we shifted the seat back, but it worked out great.”

Sit­ting be­side the driver, there’s an MSD 7AL ig­ni­tion with two-step, and, in front, sits the bare min­i­mum of gauges, with four Kameari items for oil and wa­ter, a shift light, and an Auto Me­ter tacho — not that Mizuno-san has a lot of time to check the num­bers while he’s run­ning down­hill into the kink.

Since 2011, the car hasn’t had the amount of de­vel­op­ment Mizuno-san would like, as Sendai High­lands was closed for two years due to quake dam­age. “When I ran at Sendai be­fore the quake struck, I put down a time of 11.47 for 0–400m,” he re­calls, not­ing that the car still has lots of po­ten­tial — and more kinks that he would like to iron out while re­main­ing con­fi­dent of a low 10-sec­ond pass. All things in good time, he tells us, as this isn’t a car that is out chas­ing records; rather, it’s an out­let for the pas­sion that seethes through his veins.

In a world of chang­ing trends and fads, to have a core group of the orig­i­nal pi­o­neers still rac­ing like they al­ways have is a priv­i­lege. We all love to re­mem­ber the good old days; well, guess what? They have some fight left in them yet.

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