A HACHI-ROKU PER­FECT STORM

This is thE sOrt OF plaCE that yOu'D BlOw straight past iN a Mat­ter OF sEC­ONDs, with­Out sO MuCh as a sEC­OND thOught. YOu wOulDN't eveN stOp herE FOr a sNaCk at a CON­ve­NieNCE stOrE, BE­CausE, well, therE isN't ONE. HiD­DeN iN this sMall FarM­iNg COM­Mu­Nity Nea

Pasmag (USA) - - FRONT PAGE -

Thirty-three-year-old Ikeda Masa­taka is the brain and the hands be­hind Inazuma Worx. He's the sort of guy that, de­spite not speak­ing a word of english, man­ages to make you feel wel­come in his shop with a wry smile and a nod, even if his sharp fea­tures and tra­di­tional top knot hairstyle make it hard not to pic­ture him as a hard­ened sa­mu­rai war­rior, had he not been born a few hun­dred years too late. Ikeda-san has al­ways loved Toy­ota's iconic AE86, and he's owned and built dozens of them since turn­ing 18, enough to war­rant even­tu­ally open­ing his small busi­ness. Inazuma Worx is split into two work­shops; a pris­tine body and paint shed and the more tra­di­tional me­chan­i­cal work­shop around the back. Inazuma trans­lates as `thun­der' in Ja­panese, and is Ikeda-san's nod to the Trueno and Levin nomen­cla­ture, which is `thun­der' in span­ish and `light­ning' in mid­dle english, re­spec­tively.

Amidst all those Hachi-Rokus bought, built and sold over the years, Ikeda-san picked up one par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple about a decade ago; a gen­uine panda-scheme 1983 Zenki Sprinter Trueno, com­plete with reddy-or­ange in­te­rior; the most de­sir­able 86 com­bi­na­tion, thanks to a cer­tain anime and it's choice of tofu de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle.

“The car looked really bad,” Ikeda-san ex­plains. “I bought it for ¥100,000 [around $1,000] and the ex­te­rior was not good, but it doesn't mat­ter what it looked like on the out­side, be­cause the chas­sis it­self was per­fect - that's what's im­por­tant.”

Ikeda-san slowly be­gan work­ing on his Panda 86 in be­tween other projects, and while those other cars would be ag­gres­sive, su­per­loud, su­per-wide weapons like his “other” cur­rent 86, a wide­body jet­black mon­ster used for touge driv­ing and track days, this ma­chine would be built to show that you don't need all that aero bravado to build an amaz­ing Hachi-Roku. You sim­ply need pre­cise, at­ten­tion-tode­tail per­fec­tion.

At first glance, the Panda 86 is some­what unas­sum­ing, and it's not un­til you take a closer look that you be­gin to un­der­stand the qual­ity of crafts­man­ship in­volved. Ikeda-san stripped the car right back and worked from a bare-metal shell, slowly but surely restor­ing the body to a state far be­yond what Toy­ota would have re­quired back in 1983 come fi­nal in­spec­tion time - it's mil­lime­ter-per­fect from front to back. The pan­els are dead-straight, and the paint­work can best be de­scribed as in­cred­i­bly crisp to look at in per­son. Peek through the glass and that fa­mous so-ugly-it's-beau­ti­ful in­te­rior re­mains, though a few small im­prove­ments have been made with the ad­di­tion of nec­es­sary in­stru­men­ta­tion, a sup­port­ive driver's seat and elec­tric win­dows pulled from a later Zenki 86.

This is prob­a­bly about the right time to ad­dress the ele­phant in the room for those who know their 86s and are scream­ing “how?!” For the non-Hachi-Roku nerds; these cars run a solid beam rear axle, which means you will never see any form of cam­ber out back, un­less you're look­ing at Ikedasan's car of course, which now houses an en­tire S15 Sil­via rear end un­der its ass.

“It was a very dif­fi­cult job.” Ikeda-san says. “The Sil­via is a lot wider and I wanted to run wide, low-off­set wheels, so I spent a long time mea­sur­ing, get­ting ev­ery­thing right and fab­ri­cat­ing parts to make it work. I built it all off the car and then in­stalled it and the sus­pen­sion now works as it should... But tire wear is prob­a­bly not go­ing to be so great.”

Ikeda-san is also well aware that the ex­ces­sive cam­ber he's dialed into the Panda isn't great for han­dling ei­ther, but that is what his other is 86 for. This ma­chine was built as a pure show-wor­thy streeter that sits su­per low over su­per-wide (and straight-up gor­geous) SSR Longchamp wheels,

all with­out the help of a bodykit to make it look lower than it is.

As im­pres­sive as the con­ver­sion to IRS is, it's the engine bay, where the con­cept of min­i­mal­ism and sim­plic­ity reigns supreme, that is un­doubt­edly the star of this car. Though the 86 is still 4A-GE-pow­ered, the forged, high-com­pres­sion engine build is based around a newer gen­er­a­tion 20-valve ver­sion (from the AE111 Levin) suck­ing down air through a set of beau­ti­ful FCR mo­tor­bike carbs. An Aus­tralian Hal­tech ECU now con­trols the in­di­vid­ual coil­packs, and the loom has been routed through the cross­mem­ber to hide it from sight. With ev­ery­thing else ei­ther be­ing deleted or re­lo­cated - the wiper mo­tor, brake booster, master cylin­ders - the en­tire bay was then shaved and re­shaped to ab­so­lute per­fec­tion. Sure, the ob­vi­ous things like the per­fectly flat fire­wall stand out, but look closely at the lit­tle touches - the strut tow­ers and in­ner arches aren't sup­posed to be sym­met­ri­cal, and the ra­di­a­tor cer­tainly isn't sup­posed to be hid­den from view. Go on, pick up your phone right now and find an im­age of a stock AE86 engine bay and com­pare.

At face-value, this all equates to some­one stand­ing in front of this engine bay and ask­ing: “does this thing ac­tu­ally run?” But stand there long enough, and you'll start to really ap­pre­ci­ate the artistry and the crafts­man­ship in­volved in cre­at­ing some­thing like this.

This Hachi-Roku is not a mon­strous, flame-belch­ing, big-winged mon­ster of a car. It's sub­tle, re­fined and sur­pris­ingly quiet (though the lumpy idle does tend to give a few things away) and yet, it might just be the best, if not cer­tainly the clean­est, AE86 in the world. Not that you could ever tell some­one like Ikeda-san that, he'd sim­ply smile po­litely and shake his head, then go back to his work­shop in the mid­dle of nowhere to set­tle into an­other few years spent cre­at­ing pure au­to­mo­tive per­fec­tion.

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