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Push­iNg thE eN­ve­lOpE iN thE au­tO­MO­tivE af­ter­Mar­kEt OF tO­Day's wOrlD rE­quires sOME Out­siDE-thE-BOx thiNk­iNg, es­pE­Cially iF yOu waNt tO MakE a BreaK­thrOugh iN stylE. ThesE BreaK­thrOughs arE Of­teN sur­rOuNDeD By CONtrOversy, whiCh CaN help thE prOJECt gar­Ner at­teN­tiON aND gO vi­ral. TakE this Kuhl RaC­iNg aND AR­TiS COl­laB­O­ra­tiON prOJECt FOr ex­aM­plE. iN 2014, Kuhl RaC­iNg part­NereD with izawa TakahikO OF AR­TiS, a Ja­paNesE Cus­tOM paiNt artist, tO put tO­gEther a TOy­Ota Gt86 with aN iN­tri­Cately eN­graveD sil­ver MEtal paiNt JOB, seeM­iNgly tak­iNg a pagE Out OF thE Clas­siC lOwriDers play­BOOk FOr iN­spi­ra­tiON. ThE prOJECt gar­NereD a lit­tlE Bit OF a Buzz aND a few Cus­tOMer iN­quiries FOr BOth Kuhl RaC­iNg aND izawa, But af­ter a whilE, they BOth DE­CiDeD they NeeDeD tO takE thE iDea tO thE Big leagues.

Their next step for­ward was an en­graved sil­ver Nis­san GT-R, re­vealed at the 2015 SEMA show to a mixed bag of reactions from fans. Be­tween Kuhl Rac­ing's wild body kit de­sign and Izawa's AR­TIS paint and en­grav­ing work, the GT-R had been rad­i­cally reimag­ined. The project gained a sig­nif­i­cant amount of at­ten­tion among au­to­mo­tive me­dia and en­thu­si­asts alike, both good and bad, but there was still more to come from the Kuhl-Izawa part­ner­ship. For their third and most re­cent en­graved project, Kuhl Rac­ing de­vel­oped their mag­num opus, a sec­ond ver­sion of their ex­treme GT-R body kit, once again to be fit on a car de­signed in part­ner­ship with Izawa Takahiko.

Takahiro Kataoka, the boss at Kuhl Rac­ing, de­signs the body kits him­self. Hav­ing pre­vi­ously done full kits for the Mazda MX-5, Toy­ota GT86, Suzuki Swift, and Prius mod­els, he had cer­tainly amassed a re­spectable amount of ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore tack­ling the GT-R project. The end re­sult of sev­eral years of ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise is one of the most wildly ec­cen­tric body kits avail­able for the GT-R, which quickly be­came one of the Ja­panese shop's most pop­u­lar prod­ucts. With the pop­u­lar­ity of their ver­sion one kit ris­ing af­ter the de­but of the sil­ver GT-R, the team knew they had to go above and be­yond with the crafts­man­ship on Goldzilla's ver­sion two.

At the 2016 Tokyo Auto Sa­lon, Kuhl Rac­ing and AR­TIS re­vealed one of the most in­tri­cately de­signed GT-Rs of all time. Their in-house ver­sion 2 body kit is a dras­tic al­ter­ation to the R35's body styling on its own, but the kit is only the be­gin­ning of a long list of cus­tom­ized touches and de­tails. The sec­ond ver­sion of the kit shares some sim­i­lar­i­ties with the pre­de­ces­sor kit of the pre­vi­ous year. Both share the same front and rear fend­ers, as well as a stylish cus­tom swan-neck GT wing, but the gold iter­a­tion dif­fer­en­ti­ates it­self with the help of brand new front and rear bumpers with some wildly ag­gres­sive styling cues.

For the crew at Kuhl Rac­ing, mod­i­fi­ca­tion of this project was in­tended to show­case Ja­panese “del­i­cate and high qual­ity” tech- niques. En­ter Izawa Takahiko. To achieve the show-stop­ping look that both sides of the part­ner­ship were look­ing for, the cus­tom en­grav­ing of the body was taken a step above that of their pre­vi­ous projects. Where the sil­ver GT-R of the pre­vi­ous year's SEMA show was se­lec­tively en­graved, the gold ver­sion would be en­graved top-to­bot­tom and front-to-back. Al­most ev­ery square inch of ex­posed body was met with Izawa's skilled hand and scalpel.

Carv­ing in­tri­cate pat­terns as deep as these into FRP pan­els is one thing, but work­ing with alu­minum and steel parts pre­sented its own chal­lenge. “We could carve deep into bumpers made of FRP, but it was im­pos­si­ble

on alu­minum and steel. We learned by trial and er­ror and fi­nally used a thick layer of putty," re­calls Kataoka, think­ing back to some of the project's early chal­lenges, such as Izawa need­ing to make a cus­tom putty to en­grave into. “We tried many types of putty, and se­lected the best one which kept the orig­i­nal shape even af­ter en­grav­ing. Also," he adds, “we are carv­ing by hand, so this is a real chal­lenge to make it sym­met­ri­cal!”

Af­ter pre­sum­ably hun­dreds of hours of en­grav­ing work com­pleted over an im­pres­sive two-week times­pan, the GT-R went in for eight lay­ers of paint, which starts with a sil­ver metal­lic coat as a base. The fi­nal re­sult is an eye-pop­ping, shim­mer­ing gold paint that catches the light and re­flects in ev­ery di­rec­tion. The body­work and paint com­bi­na­tion could be ex­am­ined in de­tail for hours on end, as any on­looker is sure to get lost in its in­tri­cacy. Re­sem­bling a fine watch or luxurious gold jew­elry, it is truly a work of au­to­mo­tive art in the most lit­eral sense.

Off-the- shelf wheels just weren't an op­tion for a build so heav­ily fo­cused on cus­tom style, so a spe­cial forged set of one-off wheels were com­mis­sioned through WORK Wheels Ja­pan's Spe­cial Or­der Pro­gram, SION. The wheel de­sign was taken di­rectly from a draw­ing by Kataoka, and turned into an ag­gres­sive look­ing set of con­cave 21-inch WORK Wheels. Other neat cus­tom touches in­clude Lexus RC-F LED pro­jec­tors, beau­ti­fully retro­fit­ted for the GT- R head­light hous­ings. Kataoka was never really blown away by the GT-R's fac­tory head­lights, and has been mod­i­fy­ing them since the first en­graved GT-R was in the shop. With his flaw­less fit­ting of the Lexus lights, the car's look is taken that ex­tra step fur­ther into gen­uine ar­ti­san­ship.

Set­ting the golden GT-R even fur­ther apart from its sil­ver pre­de­ces­sor re­quired some engine work in ad­di­tion to the ar­ti­sanal crafts­man­ship. Thank­fully, Kuhl Rac­ing is pretty handy when it comes to tuning. Where you once

opened the hood to a mostly stock mo­tor on the sil­ver GT-R, you are now met with Kuhl's cus­tom turbo setup, which uti­lizes a pair of GTX3076R tur­bocharg­ers. With the help of some other Kuhl Rac­ing good­ies, 800 horses bel­low the VR38DETT's sig­na­ture song out of a hand­made tri-tip ex­haust, which is in­te­grated into a cen­terexit within the mas­sive rear dif­fuser.

Part of good ar­ti­san­ship is know­ing when to put the tools down, so for now, this spec­tac­u­lar build is done. In the short time since the car has seen the spot­light, it has cer­tainly carved its mark into the au­to­mo­tive world. In­quiries have been pour­ing in at Kuhl Rac­ing, and they will soon be sell­ing en­graved wings, in­te­rior pan­els and other Kuhl Rac­ing prod­ucts, sug­gest­ing that AR­TIS Izawa's in­volve­ment with Kuhl projects is far from over.

The pair have al­ready in­formed us that they ex­pect to ex­per­i­ment with a metal and candy paint com­bi­na­tion for their next project, reach­ing fur­ther into the low-rider styles of yes­ter­year for in­flu­ence. They also tell us they have big plans for Acura's next-gen­er­a­tion NSX, in­tend­ing to de­sign and fab­ri­cate a com­pre­hen­sive body kit, which will also re­ceive Izawa's spe­cial touch. Un­til their next project, you can catch the Goldzilla at this year's SEMA show. We plan on get­ting lost in the de­tails for a lit­tle while, our­selves.

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