Monday, April 21, 2008

Scion News Bulletin

from the PR department...


Troy Sumitomo, leading-edge automobile stylist and fabricator, will make a personal appearance along with 5 of his customized Scion Five Axis showcars at the 2008 Motoring ‘J’ Style Japanese car show, Saturday, May 24th. Sumitomo and his Five Axis team will meet enthusiasts at the Exposition Pavilion at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, CA. Also on display will be the matte-black modified Lexus Project IS-F which debuted at the SEMA show in Las Vegas last November.

Drivers and passengers arriving in a Scion should check in at the Scion Kiosk located the Scion owners' preferred parking area and show their Scion car keys to receive a hand stamp good for $5 off the $20 admission price. The first 50 Scion owners to arrive and register at the Scion Kiosk will also receive a Ridemakerz xB customizable model car (Limit ONE per carload).
Show hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For additional show information go to
or call (415) 479-9930

Press contact: Justus Dobrin

Early Black-Plate Toyota FJ40 in SoCal

One of our favorite stops every morning on the computer is Bring A Trailer. It's great to spend hours looking at eBay, Craig's List, Auto Trader, and others, but sometimes it's nice to let someone else do all the work. Our friend Randy N. of Bring A Trailer scours the Internet looking for old/interesting/unusual vehicles for sale. His site can be addictive and we find ourselves longing for many of the cars he discovers.

Yesterday he featured this deliciously-patina'ed 1962 Land Cruiser FJ40. While we generally focus on sports cars, we really like the vintage feel of this early FJ, which still sports its original paint and California black plates.

FJ40s are relatively plentiful in the marketplace as they have a strong collector following and many of them have survived through the years, but it's rare that such an early example comes on the market. This '62 dates to one of Toyota's more difficult periods, in between the failure that was the Toyopet and the launch of the wildly successful Corona. During this period, the Land Cruiser was the only thing keeping Toyota afloat in the US market.

It's a non-runner at this point and restoration costs can be astronomical. However, the $5500 asking price doesn't seem out of line with the current market for FJ40s, which is very strong. If it were ours we'd like to preserve as much of the original feel as possible while making it mechanically sound.

Find it here on TLC!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dream Car One: the Ford Airstream.

If I had one automotive wish, I’d beg for a car so futuristic that I’d never look to the past again.

Every generation of enthusiasts has a heyday to look back to. Fifties kids had brightwork: chrome tailfins framed the Push-o-Matic hopes of a spacebound generation. Sixties kids knew muscle; hands were burned on towering carburetors and elaborate valve covers in this era of engine-over-all. The ‘70s drained gas pumps and horsepower figures, leaving the then-grown children with stale memories of a better time in cars.

I began my work in automotive journalism at the age of four. My first issue of Motor Trend arrived in late 1989, and thus began my research in the field. I grew up in an era when Detroit still held a majority of market share against perceivable reason. Burgeoning Japanese companies were producing similarly innocent two-door subcompacts. I was a proponent of the fun-sized imports, and at an early age solidified a rhetoric shared with most enthusiasts my age: “American cars cannot compete. The Japanese have won.” As the attitude gained momentum, my family’s driveways filled with evidence: I was the driving force behind six import purchases by 2000.

I watched Toyota showrooms shift. In 1994, Toyota produced six sport coupes. Three were intimate two-seaters. Two were turbocharged. All were painted in polarizing, love-it-or-hate-it hues. Only the world-class high-tech Supra was priced over $25,000.

Today, Toyota produces only one two-door coupe: the Camry-based Solara, which is about as exciting to drive as its four available shades of grey paint would suggest.

My generation’s heyday ended at the turn of the century. Enthusiasts never suspected that the once-humble purveyors of two-seat sports cars would grow to become monoliths – and abandon their endearing qualities altogether. I grew cynical in tandem.

Bitter words heralding the past and berating the state of the industry filled my columns, but brought only momentary solace. My view of the market was so wistful that I couldn’t see beyond the status quo.

The Ford Airstream changed my outlook forever.

the preludes

From the late 1980s until the mid 2000s, most mainstream domestic vehicles lacked the attention to design and engineering necessary to compete with globally-built competitors. In the mid-1990s, Ford’s Taurus lost its vaunted status as America’s best-selling car, ceding the title to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The telling slip was indicative of changing market trends – but it wasn’t enough to stifle Ford’s creativity.

In 1995, Ford introduced the GT90 concept car. The mid-mounted V12 engine used unprecedented quad-turbocharger technology to boost output to 720 horsepower. However, the GT90’s advanced power train was overshadowed by exterior design that abandoned curvy bodywork in favor of structured polygonal panels. This “New Edge” design philosophy allowed exterior elements such as headlamps, taillamps, and air intakes to stand autonomously – to stake out their own space, rather than flow cohesively into the body. New Edge’s departure from design norms gave enthusiasts a glimpse into the future.

One year later, the Indigo concept punctuated Ford’s passion for design-focused supercars – even if they existed only in dream realms. The topless two-seater showcased technologies that would reach mainstream series production more than a decade later, such as LED headlamp assemblies, composite body panel construction, and simplified controls that encouraged drivers to stay focused . Mass-producing the Indigo was never feasible, but the car’s purpose transcended feasibility: it was a test bed for design ideas that would serve the company through tumultuous times to come.

By 1999, nearly every lightweight Japanese sports car had left American shores – the Mazda MX3 and RX7; the Toyota Supra, MR2 and Paseo; the Honda CRX and delSol. Ironically, Ford chose the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show to debut the diminutive 021C concept. As its name suggested, the 021C was created to appeal to people from the ages of 0 to 21. Famed industrial designer Marc Newsom channeled children’s simplistic view of the automobile when penning the car. “In many ways, the 021C is a familiar and comfortable object,” Newsom said.

At the turn of the century, forward-looking companies realized that consumers raised in the Information Age would demand a host of data-centric technologies in a variety of devices. Ford’s trio of 24.7 concept cars presented the automobile as a media hub – a gathering space where friends and family could surf the Internet or share photos. The technology was sometimes ungainly – a flat-panel television added bulk to the cargo bay and forced viewers to stand outside the rear of the vehicle – but the mere inclusion of “social technologies” in a concept car was thoroughly unprecedented.

By 2000, New Edge’s jarring intersecting lines had been largely displaced by more straightforward cues, but Ford’s emerging next-generation design ethic was similar to its preludes: its simplicity inspired a sense of future.

the hero-car

Japanese firms found tremendous success in supplying vehicles that served transportation needs without stirring drivers’ souls. As niche vehicles made way for mass-market commodity cars, mid-2000s concepts from all comers became grounded in realism. Even General Motors, which historically dazzled the world with its visions of tomorrow, had not produced an unabashedly impossible concept car since the late 1990s.

The 2007 Ford Airstream concept is a lighthearted laugh at logic – and a reason for car enthusiasts to maintain faith in the future.

Wally Byam designed the first Airstream travel-trailer in 1936. Aluminum shortages subsided by the end of World War II, and the national climate of conservation at all costs gave way to a rekindled interest in exploration and travel. In the 1950s, Byam rallied Airstream owners to form the Wally Byam Caravan Club, dedicated to help satiate their collective wanderlust. The Airstreamers’ movement paralleled frontier pioneers’ craving for discovery.

It was only natural for Ford to forge a partnership with Airstream. The collaboration leveraged Ford’s futuristic outlook against Airstream’s iconic design and interior packaging to create a vehicle for tomorrow’s wayfarers.

The way forward begins with a look back to New Edge roots. Though the Ford Airstream’s silhouette nearly matches that of an Airstream trailer, automotive elements such as daylight openings and exterior lighting were Ford’s work. Driver’s-side windows outlined in daylight fluorescent orange aircraft paint are of an interlocking parallelogram shape with defined, beveled edges that directly descend from New Edge ethic.

LED headlamp clusters, once previewed by the Indigo, are framed by a backlit matte polycarbonate tube reminiscent of the 021C’s singular headlamp. Ford’s Director of Advanced Engineering Design, Freeman Thomas, explained the history at work in a December 2006 interview.

“The 021C was the first use of a digital box on wheels; it was probably too extreme for some people in its simplicity,” Thomas said. “The Airstream is really five steps beyond, because the outside of the vehicle has a humanity about it.”

Special emphasis is placed on the importance of adventurers’ togetherness. Two front passengers sit on swiveling chairs that can be turned toward backseat passengers. Up to five rear occupants are seated laterally, facing each other. Standing midship is a cylindrical DynaScan LED screen that provides passengers with a 360-degree view of interactive entertainment. Classic video games, including Pong, are pre-loaded into the display. The Ford Airstream’s rearview cameras are detachable, and can wirelessly stream video feeds to the display. It’s an elegant evolution of the 24.7’s approach to in-car entertainment.

Airstreamers of yore traditionally placed essentials at the rear of the trailer. The Ford Airstream pays homage to that tradition by employing an efficient essentials management system at the rear of the vehicle. Digital video production equipment and Firewire connectivity ports are installed next to first aid and roadside emergency kits.

An integrated rechargeable flashlight hints at the sense of exploration Airstreamers crave – and the machine’s ability to provide safety in an unknown situation. Indeed, the brazen bare aluminum exterior finish could be a beacon in itself – a bright icon of safety for uneasy retreating wanderers. Subtly opulent B&B Italia interior upholstery adds to the comfort of this “home away from home” – and increases the ability of the Ford Airstream to refresh those exhausted by their travels.

In triumph, the Ford Airstream becomes complete through the most honest of means: its powertrain. Arguably the most futuristic element of the vehicle, the zero-emission hydrogen propulsion system is also the most feasible for production. Ford’s Hy-Series Drive system uses a hydrogen fuel cell to power an electric generator which then recharges a battery pack that drives the wheels. The generator is optimized to operate at peak efficiency, maximizing the amount of power that is derived from the hydrogen fuel cell. Drops of pure water flow from the three triangular tailpipes – and comprise the Ford Airstream’s only emissions.

Hy-Series drive has already been installed in a prototype vehicle, and may see series production. Unfortunately, other aspects preclude the possibility of mass production. That is the genius of the Ford Airstream: it is an unapologetic thrust forth into the future that inspires enthusiasts to question what is possible.

I am but one person inspired by the Ford Airstream’s innocence. Several quiet moments after sitting in the driver’s seat, I arrived at a realization that I have come to live by.

Living in optimism of what the future might bring is intensely more satisfying than reminiscing about the past.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Future Classic: 43k-mile '85 Honda CRX Si

The Honda CRX is arguably the best crossover sports car/daily driver of the last three decades. It was great to drive, economical, had plenty of space inside due to its hatchback design, and was also quite attractive. We like to think of it as Honda's version of the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato.

As a result of all these great qualities (not to mention unfailing reliability and ability to take incredible abuse), most of the original CRXs have been driven into the ground. Very infrequently a low-mileage, unmodified example will surface, and this 43,000 mile 1985 model out of Virginia is the best one we've seen in quite awhile.

Despite a one-liner description, it has been bid to over $4,000 with almost three days to go at the time of this writing. These cars are just about old enough to stir nostalgic memories for those born in the 70s and 80s. They have reached the low point on the depreciation curve and will now rise in value as they reach collector status. This car already seems to be there!

Black-Plate RT52 Toyota Corona Seeks Home

Out of Torrance, California comes this original and straight-looking 1967 Toyota Corona Coupe. We really admire the lines of the RT52 coupes; this was one of the first Japanese cars that truly had style. The elegant design of the Corona (both sedans and coupes) prompted American consumers to take a second look at impending Volkswagen purchases, and buyers began looking to Japan for economical small cars.

This one looks to be complete and very original, and we especially appreciate that it retains its original California black plates. The eggshell blue is a factory color, and a very attractive one. The interior looks to be in nice condition and not baked to death by the Southern Calfornia sun - the seller claims this car has lived indoors and that definitely appears to be the case.

Fitted with the 2-speed automatic transmission, we're hard-pressed to call this a "sports car" but the 2-door body has sporting overtones. Hopefully, this car will go to a good home where it will be appreciated for its originality. Someone please buy it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Five Axis Project Scions and Lexus IS-F to appear at MJS 2008

This just in from World HQ: Famed custom car builder Troy Sumitomo of Five Axis will be making his presence felt at Motoring J Style. Sumitomo will appear on May 24th with a collection of wild custom Scion cars and one very special one-off Lexus IS-F widebody. The Lexus (pictured above) debuted at the 2007 SEMA Show in Las Vegas and has also been shown at the New York International Auto Show. Full press release and more details below:


ALAMEDA, Calif., April 16, 2008 - Leading edge contemporary automotive stylist Troy Sumitomo will appear with a collection of his custom Five Axis Scion showcars at Motoring ‘J’ Style. Sumitomo, a California native and founder of Five Axis, has established himself in little over a decade as a rising star in the world of custom automobile design and fabrication. The one-day event, which is dedicated to Japanese car culture, will be held Saturday, May 24, at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, Calif.

Five of Sumitomo’s Scion Five Axis creations will be on display in the Exposition Pavilion. The futuristic Scion xA Speedster is a highly modified open-air roadster with a unique underhood-mounted projection screen. The tangerine-hued Scion DJ xB has a mobile DJ booth complete with turntables, mixer and speakers integrated into the car’s frame. Other Five Axis Scions in the show include the Blackberry xB, Spec tC and Papaya xD. A full lineup of 2008 production Scions rounds out the exhibit.

Also on display will be the matte-black Five Axis modified Lexus Project IS-F which debuted at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas last November. Five Axis body kits, wheels, paint, and aftermarket modifications will also be shown.
Besides these Scion and Lexus vehicles, Motoring ‘J’ style will include vintage pre-1985 Japanese roadsters, coupes and sedans, contemporary collectables, and tuner creations. Live drifting competitions and rally demonstrations will also take place at the expansive Fairgrounds.

Show hours for Motoring ‘J’ Style are 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, May 24, 2008. Admission is $20 for adults while kids 12 and under are free. Priority parking has been arranged for those arriving in a Scion. In addition, Scion drivers and passengers can receive $5 off the admission price by checking in at the Scion booth outside the main entrance and show an attendant their Scion key. For show information contact (415) 479-9930 or go to
# # #

Press contact: Justus Dobrin/ MDPR (510)865-8005

The Five Axis Scion xA Speedster, a Troy Sumitomo modified widebody conversion roadster, will be featured at the second annual Motoring ‘J’ Style show, Saturday, May 24, 2008 at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, Calif.

The Five Axis Scion DJ xB, a mobile DJ booth featuring Pioneer components and speakers, will be on display at the second annual Motoring ‘J’ Style show, Saturday, May 24, 2008 at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, Calif.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

World's Best '81 Isuzu I-Mark Could Be Yours

eBay Motors is just such a wonderful tool. As my father says, it's "the Hemmings that never ends". Aside from being a source of constant procrastination in the workplace, eBay offers a forum where otherwise unloved vehicles can actually command a decent price. I saw a Renault LeCar sell for close to $5000's amazing what happens when the audience is global.

Well-preserved cars just seem to come out of the woodwork, and this very rare 1981 Isuzu I-Mark Diesel is no exception. Unfortunately, "rare" doesn't always translate to "desirable" or "valuable", but this fairly attractive diesel I-Mark has got to be the best survivor of this model. Keep in mind that 1981 was the year Isuzu entered the U.S. passenger car market, so this I-Mark represents the company's initial effort to win over American consumers. And I must say it's a fairly attractive car....Japan's Opel Manta, if you will. And what a run the I-Mark had! It wasn't until 2008 that an '89 I-Mark RS nailed the coffin shut for Isuzu in the tragic Motoring J Style 24 Hours of LeMons Gold Leaf Team Lotus Disaster.

But, let's remember the good about that 3-spoke sports steering wheel? I find this interior much more attractive than most Japanese car interiors of the 80s (especially for crap-tastic 1981!). It looks very European and sophisticated. Oh, Isuzu, how promising you looked then...

Find it here on eBay with a Buy It Now of $3,500!

Monday, April 14, 2008

BRE Datsun 510 T/A Package Street Car Listed at $65k!

Some of you might remember this car from several months ago when it was listed on eBay and sold for a top bid of $13,000. The story went that this was essentially the prototype vehicle for a proposed Datsun factory program to offer a BRE Trans-Am lookalike street car turnkey from the dealer. The first seller recounted that the program never really got off the ground and people who wanted to customize their 510s instead went through BRE/Interpart independently. He was apparently the liason between BRE and Nissan in trying to launch this program.

This may be the only legitimate factory-produced BRE 510 street car, and as such, it's a pretty significant vehicle. The car itself has a number of tasty modifications, including a purportedly factory limited slip, "BRE suspension package", 5-speed gearbox, and a host of BRE accessories and badging from the period. We really like that it's presented with original factory marketing materials and other memorabilia.

When presented originally, the car was needing some putting together and dusty from sitting in storage practically since new. After all, it shows just shy of 8000 miles on its odometer! It looks like absolutely nothing has been done to the car since last time it was presented on eBay, except the price has gone up by about 600%...kind of amusing after reading on JNC's blog today about Datsun 510 futures.

We're curious to see what happens with this one, as it seems to be a sign of things to come.

Find it here on eBay, offered as a pair with a strange yellow 240Z, for $65,000 with reserve not met. Buy It Now for $79k!

Japanese Nostalgic Car Magazine is Here!

Spoke today with our friend Ben Hsu of Japanese Nostalgic Car. He delightfully informed me that his highly anticipated magazine, appropriately named Japanese Nostalgic Car, has been printed and will mail out tomorrow to subscibers.

This is a huge accomplishment: the first print magazine in America devoted solely to classic Japanese cars. We've signed up and look forward to seeing the first issue. Well done guys!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lakes Speedster - Datsun motor looks like Offy 6

This sweet salt-flats style speedster rod just popped up on Jalopnik, and what looks like at first glance to be a period Miller/Offy straight six is actually a Datsun 260z lump! Jim Pendleton of Texas is responsible for the build, and did a spectacular job. Read more /see more photos on Jalopnik.

The Datsun motor posing as an Offy really sets it off - nice detail work Jim... This represents the next frontier - making modern motors look vintage in period style builds. Along those same lines is this Model A Ford powered by a twincam Cosworth four that looks the part.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Z side by size

I have to say the new NISMO Z takes the 350z up a notch, and makes it feel more tuned and more special than the regular car. The drooped nose and giant front splitter gives the Z a more aggressive stance, while the back aero package takes a little more getting used to. However, when compared to the original, it’s apparent how much safety equipment and modern crash standards influence the sheer size of modern automobiles. The new Z feels fairly compact inside, in some ways even more so than the original – but on the outside it’s apparent there’s a lot of stuff packed underneath the skin. Roughly 3320 lbs of stuff versus 2300 lbs on the original.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Prius Tree Hugger: Gives "Green" New Meaning

Obama bumper sticker, bike rack....that tree just couldn't resist. Only one thing missing: where's the Apple sticker?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Motoring J Style MR2: A Study in Carnage

If you follow this blog you're probably aware of our exploits at the 24 Hours of LeMons in some of Japan's finest machines of the last several decades. We thought it might be inspirational to shed light on how a vehicle comes to be a participant at this fine motor race, with the goal of properly documenting carnage.

We found our MR2 while perusing craigslist one day last January. It lived on the mean streets of Berkeley with a rather optimistic asking price of $700.00. We arrived in the Lexus LS460 press car (hardly a good choice to roll up in when you're buying a $500 car), and succeeded in parking far away so that the owner would not realize we arrived in a $70,000 Lexus. That way, we thought, he'd be more susceptible to our bargaining tactics. We found the owner (pictured above, right), in the middle of a major street in Berkeley preparing his two cars for sale: The MR2, which simply had "$700" written in shoe polish in the back window, and a much worse '95 Mustang V6 Convertible (salvage title), which he was painting in high-quality Krylon flat black for that sinister "aggressive" look.

We drove the car around the block, and despite a truly horrible clunking sound in the right front suspension, decided it was worth buying. After offering $350, we settled on $450 and (cautiously) drove the car home.

The car was horribly rusted out, so bad, in fact, that there wasn't enough of the driver's floor left to bolt in a roll bar. Of course, we didn't find this out until after we dragged it home and ripped out the carpets. Well, nobody said it was going to be easy. The photo above shows master mechanic Mack of the Motoring J Style Racing Team trying to diagnose the loud clunking noises in the right front. I'm not really sure what he did, but it got quieter and we deemed the car "safe to race".

I'm going spare you all of the boring mechanical parts and maddening problems we encountered in trying to get this former East Coast car into race-ready condition. It was a real pain in the ass and I don't want to relive it now. Painting it was fun, and as you can see we assembled a large army of rattle-can wielding LeMons enthusiasts to help us with this task...

....which took us a long-ass time! Note to self: when you use grey primer, it takes a few hundred coats of flourescent yellow and green paint to cover it all. We painted, and painted, and painted until our index fingers were frozen to the Krylon nozzle and we had ruined several formerly-presentable outfits.

No, that's not our car. This is another LeMons devotee who shall remain nameless. He showed up in his MR2 to help us with our little artistic masterpiece. We quickly surrounded his car and demanded numerous parts be taken off, at which point he smartly backed up as quickly as possible and got the hell out of there. Look closely and you can see him looking over his shoulder trying to get out of this predicament as quickly as possible. Life went on.

There are few things in life more satisfying than a freshly painted race car. Isn't she a sexy beast?

Even better with numbers on! Finally at the track: Altamont, July 2007 before the MR2's first race. She wouldn't look like this for long.

And we're off! A little traffic, no big deal...

12th place finish and not too bad damage to show for it!

Race #2: October 2007 24 Hours of LeMons, Altamont

Moments like this gave some cause for concern...

But mostly we just chugged along without any mechanical issues, everyone driving well, always in the top a fine wine, she was getting better with time.

Then our man Jordan rammed a Honda Prelude with about a 30mph closing speed, causing grave damage to our front end and seriously rearranging the rear end of the Honda Prelude. Oddly enough, the Prelude guys got the sour end of that deal and lost precious time in the pits repairing their car. Prelude guys, if you're reading this, I'm still sorry about that.

We thought the race was over. Surprisingly, the MR2 has pretty good frontal crash protection (and I'm the one to know, I tested one before at the age of 16). Despite a gouged radiator core, the car seemed to be holding its water and continuing despite a few bent panels.

Looking pretty worse for wear here. This is in the last 30 minutes of the race. Amazingly, we finished 4th! More amazingly, we drove the car home on the public freeway.

Photo Credit: Jalopnik

Post Race Carnage:

And if you don't think we're stupid enough already, we're bringing this car BACK for the 24 Hours of LeMons on May 10-11, 2008, at our old stomping grounds, the riotous Altamont Motorsports Park in lovely Tracy, California. Come see us!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Toyota and Isuzu Sportwagons Rocked the 1971 Tokyo Show

In 1971 Toyota hit the Tokyo Show with the RV1, “Recreational vehicle 1” was Toyota’s first attempt at a sportwagon.

The concept featured a small trailer filled with an inflatable camp-hut that would expand to 13 feet in diameter and 6.5 feet high to sleep 4-5 people, and 500-watt portable generator to run an electric air pump for inflating the hut. The lid of the trailer also turned into a small boat, complete with small outboard motor.

The Celica based chassis made do with a 105hp inline-4 from the Corolla. The design featured a narrow tailgate (between the elaborate taillamp assemblies with 30 lights in total, and unique gullwing opening rear hatches. Nissan must have studied this showcar in detail for their Pulsar NX “Sportback” option. Needless to say, the RV1 never saw production, but the idea of the sportwagon was never forgotten in a host of liftbacks and hatchback designs.

Also at the ’71 Tokyo Motor Show was a sportwagon from Isuzu based on the Bellett. At the time it was called clean and European – and looks like a cross between a Lotus Eclat and a Gremlin. Based on the Bellett GT chassis, and fitted with a 1.8 liter dual carb’d twincam, the Isuzu was more sporty than the Toyota RV1 across the show on Toyota’s stand. At the time it was compared to the Volvo ES – a 2+2 with some luggage space. Like the RV1, the Bellett sportwagon never made it to the production line.