It’s 30°C out but feels like 38°C (100°F). We have seven cars to shoot in one day and this is one of only two that are legally allowed to drive on public roads. We head for the nearest train station, all the while keeping a vigilant eye out for the SNS police.
If you think that’s the name of some trendy Japanese idol group touring the local area, think again. The SNS (Social Networking Service) police are ruthless civilian peacekeepers with moral standards as high as the Tokyo Sky Tree. I’m told that doing anything out of the ordinary or remotely dangerous in these parts will unleash a torrent of messages across the local community online message boards where the real police might well be browsing for trouble.
Even standing still, this AE86 Toyota Levin coupe ticks all the naughty boxes – in all the right ways.
It sounds so ridiculous that I laugh at what I assume Eiji Daito, the owner of Total Create E.Prime, has said is a joke. Unfortunately, it’s not. This grown man is genuinely worried about gossiping grannies posting negative comments about his activities online.
You and I might think that living in the countryside means a little more freedom to let your hair out, relax a little and be bit crazy. Well, this seemingly does not apply in Japan.
After realising the fear in Daito-san’s voice is real, I begin to understand that, as owner of the tuning shop he spends his days working out of in rural Hiroshima, everybody knows him, and everyone is watching him. Heaven forbid Daito-san might make too much noise or inconvenience someone from the community.
And as it turns out, Daito-san was not only worried that the disapproving chatter would reach the police, but that he may be ostracised by local businesses too. I was told that if you end up with a bad review on the local forums, you might just be blacklisted, making life very difficult indeed. It doesn’t matter how talented you are at making custom FRP fenders, or how tight your wheel fitment is.
It certainly makes what should be a relatively easy and fun practice of shooting a modified car out on the road in the Japanese countryside unnecessarily painful.
It doesn’t help that this E.Prime customer’s AE86 looks like it just rolled off the circuit. The ironing-board-size Voltex Type 7 GT wing is hardly inconspicuous either.
As for me, I’m sitting in the back of a kei van getting tracking shots. It’s not high-speed road racing, but we exhibit the same amount of caution as though we might be smuggling contraband into the next village.
We finally make it to the local train station, a very quaint little Showa period building. Once parked up, I get my first visuals on one of the SNS police’s henchmen.
She may look harmless, inconspicuously pushing her bicycle along and wearing a floral top and white cotton bonnet, but this woman and her network of elderly spies has the power to ruin lives.
I didn’t see her jotting down any details, but as she peered through the window of the Levin’s track-focused interior, I’m sure she made all the mental notes she would need: Cusco Safety 21 roll cage, Bride seat, Defi gauges… the list goes on.
But I doubt she noticed the 6-speed shifter, hinting at the retrofitted J160 transmission from an SXE10 Toyota Altezza RS200.
To be fair, this is probably the same, to some extent, of any small town in any country. I’m sure there are just as many curtain twitchers in Dubbo, Australia as there are in Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. But the extra insanity of posting your gossip on an SNS network for the police to browse through, is just, well, insane.
I’m pretty sure the network of SNS warriors gave no thought to how far I had travelled to shoot this car, or to the Levin’s high-compression 4A-GE engine with Wiseco forged pistons, Tomei cams, AE111 quad throttle bodies and Kimura Engineering header.
They certainly wouldn’t care that the wide-body kit was handmade by Daito-san, and I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate the classic bronze 15×9-inch RAYS Volk Racing TE37Vs wrapped up in Yokohama Advan A050 semi-slicks either.
But you and I can appreciate all that. And Daito-san does his best to keep a low profile around town, keeping the noise confined to his little workshop, set far off the main road, amongst rice fields and mountains.
Personally, because of the lush nature and relative open space compared to urban areas, I once thought I would love to live in the Japanese countryside. Now I’m not so sure.
Perhaps the uncaring facelessness of a big city does have its benefits. No one bats an eyelid at the kaido racers, monster trucks, lifted Jimnys or raucous supercars that cruise the streets at all hours. I guess there’s safety in numbers if you’re a bit odd.
How cool is this AE86, though? You can check out the full spec below.
E.Prime AE86 Toyota Levin Coupe
Toyota AE111 4A-GE block, Wiseco forged pistons, BC H-section forged connecting rods, balanced crankshaft, AE92 kouki cylinder head, ported, Tomei 296-degree/10.5mm cams, Toda adjustable cam gears, Tec-Art’s oversized valves & springs, 1SZ-FE solid valve lifter conversion, Cometic metal head gasket, ARP head studs, 12.4:1 compression, ACL bearings, MEV ladder frame, modified oil pan, Jubiride intake manifold/adapter, AE101 4A-GE quad throttle bodies, Kimura Engineering exhaust manifold, Link G4+ engine management system
Toyota J160 6-speed manual gearbox, OS Giken Super Single clutch, TRD 2-way LSD with 4.778 final drive
Silk Road dampers & Espelir 9kg/mm springs (front), TRD rear dampers & KMS 7.5kg/mm springs (rear), TRD front stabiliser bar, ARC rear stabiliser bar, Noby Booth lateral rods, Cusco tension rods, Noby Booth rear tower bar, Mazda FC3S 4-pot callipers, Honda 265mm EG6 rotors, Endless ME22 brake pads (front), Nissan S13 260mm rotors, Noby Booth brake pads (rear)
RAYS Volk Racing TE37V 15×9-inch -15 offset wheels, Yokohama Advan A050 225/50R15 semi-slick tyres
E.Prime custom wide-body kit J.Blood Type 2 carbon fibre bonnet, Voltex Type 7 GT wing
Cusco Safety 21 6-point roll cage, Bride bucket seat, HPI 6-point harness belts, Juran steering wheel, ZN6 shift lever, Defi gauges, PLX air-fuel ratio gauge, Megalife lithium-ion battery