There are infinite number of things to see in Japan. I'm talking about cars, of course! In Tokyo alone, you can visit the Toyota Megaweb, Honda Aoyama, Super Autobacs, Bingo Sports, Tsukuba Circuit, and the list goes on and on. Among all of these places, there is this one particular place that I always dream of going - Star Road.
The name "Star Road" is not foreign to the Kyusha (Classic car) enthusiasts in Japan and other countries. Why? Because they make and build one of the most perfect Zs in the world. I've seen it upclose myself and here's a little story about the shop's brilliant Z.
No one knows Tokyo better than the locals here. I am no Tokyo-jin and therefore, I met up with my good friend Nick Itoh from Hai-Oku.com/Suruga Performance to give me a tour at the famous classic car shop.
Star Road is situated away from the Tokyo city center inside Edogawa-Ward, and the nearest station is Shin-Shibamata Station on the Hokuso Line. 30 minutes train journey and a short 10 minutes walk (from the station) will get you to the place.
Welcome to Star Road! I was all hyped up to find so many vintage beauties parked at front greeting us "Irasshaimase!". This humble workshop which exists around the Kitakoiwa neighbourhood is nothing like the big factories. The space is so limited that they had to leave some demo cars outside exposed to the sun. Not to forget the extra cars that will soon be given a new breath.
The visit would be meaningless without meeting the man who started Star Road, Mr Shoji Inoue. Dressed in his usual blue overall suit, Inoue-san depicts the look of a man who is willing to get his hand dirty working on cars.
An interesting story about Inoue-san is that he was a truck driver before starting the Star Road company 24 years ago. With his endless love for cars (S30), he managed to build a company specializes in vintage car restoration and tuning, especially the earlier Fairlady Zs and Skylines.
Inoue-san takes car restoration to a whole new level, towards perfection. All of his clients' restoration project undergone a complete makeover, from stripping the car out, removing rust, welding spot, engine rebuilding, to tuning up the car. Instead of handing the car over to other specialist shops, he takes the responsibility to do everything at his shop, to guarantee a better work quality, even though it consumes more time.
One of the customer's 4-door Skyline just back from body repaint, and it will soon breathe a new life ...
... together with another Hakosuka and Kenmeri tucked away at the back of the workshop.
There are only 3 employees in Star Road including Inoue-san. The young and energetic mechanic in the picture is Yuusuke-san, and he was working on the client's Hakosuka engine. It must be an incredible experience working closely with Inoue-san.
You can see that Yuusuke was moving the two customer owned Fairlady Zs away from the workshop, to make way for ...
... the star of the day - Star Road's famous blue S30 Z.
This iconic 1975 Fairlady Z has been completely rebuilt from scratch and special tuned with custom parts by Star Road to achieve Shoji's goal of a well-balanced easy to ride performance car for the daily road. And, this proud Star Road Z has frequently appeared in many major auto shows and even magazines in Japan.
According to Nick, Inoue-san was a Z racer during his earlier times and he has never lost a single race before. That probably explains why he has a special love for Fairladys and naturally chose the Z as Star Road's project car. Together with his vast experience in this field, he was able to bring the best out of it!
See what I meant by 'The Best', I was literally jaw-dropping when Inoue-san popped open the hood revealing the ultra clean chrome-finished straight-6 L28 engine. It was bored to 3.2L powering a huge 380hp to the rear wheels, without any help of turbo system. Pure NA is how Inoue-san likes it on his cars.
Every piece of screws, bolts and nuts have been replaced to look like new! The L type engine is equipped with triplex Mikuni Solex carburetors and boy, the Zed makes great music tune. The fierce rumbling sound produced was so good that it reached deep into my heart everytime Inoue-san stepped on the pedal for a bit of acceleration.
Inoue-san also explained to me that carbureted engine is actually more reliable and having a better throttle response due to its mechanical design over the electronically controlled fuel injection.
In addition to what is already a breathtaking engine, the chassis is partially welded to increase rigidity for better drive feeling which works on both street and track. The 'round marks' are the after-welding result. This technique is solely based on Inoue-san's long term experience. Too much stiffening will affect the overall car behaviour.
To compose a better soundtrack, it uses Star Road's original exhaust system. Instead of using straight pipe all the way to the muffler, the exhaust pipe was branched into two smaller pipes (shown above) to avoid damage of being too low to the ground. Steel exhaust makes much better sound than titanium, he thinks.
Those beautiful 15" retro wheels are called Glow Star, a special Star Road designed wheels made by WORK wheels. The 3-piece mesh wheels measured front 8.5J & rear 10J, and wrapped in 195/55 RE11A & 225/50 RE01 Bridgestone tyres correspondingly. The usage of carbon fiber fenders and rear duck lip spoiler further add some vintage feel to it.
Reminding you again this is a 40 years old car, but it didn't feel old at all. The interior is properly restored and added with few extra modern touches into it for better functionality and comfortability.
Those modern features include Momo Jet steering wheel, Momo aluminium gear knob, and Recaro semi bucket seat. The original 240Z gauges have been replaced with Defi ones on the dashboard displaying rev-counter, oil temp., oil pressure and water temp.. The center panel has three smaller Autometer gauges showing fuel level, fuel pressure and battery voltage.
The factory look-alike air condition unit bolted in front of the passenger seat is Star Road's original, and it helps to provide a better air conditioning during the hot summer of Japan. One feature which I like most was the center rear view mirror. It has a built-in GPS system and displays cool visuals when you're driving. It looked like this (Credit to 7Tune video).
So, this is what Star Road can do for people who wants a stunning looking S30 Z, packed with the right amount of power that drives pleasantly on the road and an excellent piece of soundtrack that reverberate in your heart.
Of course, this comes at a price. The complete hand built restoration from zero to hero costs a whopping ¥20,000,000 and takes about a year for completion.
Passion, dedication and perfection is what drives Inoue-san to produce such a masterpiece. I appreciate the amount of work has been done to not only bring the car back to life, but makes it even better in every way.If you have a chance to drive his cars or at least (like me) to hear the noise this 240Z produces, you will understand the genuine purpose of Star Road.
This is how a perfect S30 Z should look like. And, I believe I won't be able to find any other Z better than Star Road's creation. Don't you think so too? :)
Thank you Star Road's Shoji Inoue-san and Yuusuke-san for letting me spend some quality time at your workshop. And, thank you Nick for the companion. It was indeed a memorable experience being around with Fairlady Zs and I'm proud to say that I'm a huge fan of the carburetor engine now!
Enjoy more Z awesomeness in the gallery below. :D