What do we define as ‘cool’? Is it when we transform a car from its stock form and try to unlock its true potential? Is it when we take a car and just slam it to about a mm off the ground and make it a parking lot hero? Or is it when we listen to the forums and let them dictated what we should and should not do to a car?
Since becoming an automotive photographer in Japan and shooting for websites and magazines, I have been fortunate to meet people who follow their own personal idea on what ‘cool’ is. When a person has a vision in mind and follows that vision to the ends of the world despite the criticisms one might receive when it appears online or at car shows, the only thing you can do is respect the owner. We customise cars (I included) in the pursuit to place our own personalities into the car, whither it be for unlocking the cars potential, breaking necks at car shows or whatever the reason is. That is what makes the car scene so fascinating and this fascination is only amplified in Japan.
Thus ends my soap box rant and brings us to this left hand drive 2013 Scion FR-S (code name IK-A01) from the master minds of Aireal Auto Works and Zerofighter. You may have seen a brief coverage on this ‘Kamakazi’ car during our Tokyo Auto Salon 2015 Coverage (Which if haven’t had a chance, you can read HERE), however, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Somehow, I knew I just had to do a full feature on this car. What I did not expect however, was a full weekend trip to Nagoya and adventures with the Aireal Auto Works team and the CEO / Designer Kenji Ito.
When we arrived to the Aireal Auto Works shop in Nagoya (which if you stay tuned, you will see coverage on this as well ) , the car was still being prepped for Nagoya Auto Trend. This gave me time to catch up with the team and explore around the cool ‘toys’ they have in their shop. For god sake they have a real Elenor just chilling (yes, pictures of that will come too) which I’m sure if I had to guess, it might just be THE only one in Japan. Anyways, while the team continued to prep the car for the show, I was able to get inside the mind of the designer of this stunning looking car.
Kenji Ito is incredibly nice and very shy guy who’s passion for customizing cars can clearly be seen in the way he designed the IK-A01. The vision Kenji san had was to create something that could pay homage to the pilots that lost their life during WWII as Zero Fighters and let that warrior spirit show.
The rear wing reads 第二神風特別攻撃隊義烈隊 which translates to ‘Second Kamikaze Attack Unit’. Below that, イッテマリマスノチノニホンニエイコウアレ which translates to ‘I’m heading off, let glory be with the future of Nihon (Japan)‘.
One would think this would cause controversy and even some anger. “Why would someone try to bring back images of kamikaze pilots or remind people of the devastation that WWII brought?”
People, however, seemed to be drawn to it more because of the historical memories and when paired with the audio / visual going more in depth about the last few minutes of some of the pilots lives before knowing they were not going to return back home, brings an interesting waves of emotions.
While paying homage, he also wanted to chase his definition on what ‘cool’ is. “There are so many different and unique ways to customize our cars in quest to express our emotions and inner personality. We can have extreme customizations such as cutting the roof, adding fenders or as simple as adjusting the height of the car or the size of our wheels.”
This can explain why Kenji san decided to go with the widebody style and add a version 2 Rocket Bunny kit. To compliment the extra girth added by the kit, Kenji san decided to add one off fender mirrors which look absolutely stunning on this car. The whole thing sits on bags which allows Kenji san to air out the car and give it that parking lot stance look while leaving the ability to drive the car over speed bumps. “Lowering a car should be done in a way that the car can still run on the road, and as the designer of the shop, I recommend my customers that they lower the car and still be able to drive.” Sounds like good advice to me.
The choice of wheels Kenji decided to go with has caused some controversy on the ‘net’ from previous coverage but I think the WORK Seeker and color combo work well with the overall concept of the car.
Along with the custom red eyes head and tail lamps, a one off custom exhaust system designed by Aireal Auto Works was added which when he plants his foot down, it creates a sound much more aggressive and ‘meaty’ when compared to different aftermarket exhaust kits. Stopping all this aggressiveness are large CSD brakes, 6 pot in the front and 4 pot in the rear.
We then move to the interior which sharp eyed viewers will see that the steering wheel is on the wrong side (or right side depending on the country ). As stated before, only a left handed platform would do. Why? because its cool! I mean, why do we want a right handed car in America if we are honest with ourselves? Because its different from the norm and its freaking cool!
The old standard seats are replaced with what can only be described as some of the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in. From the ergonomics to just the material used itself makes it a very nice place to be.
You are again once reminded of the Zero Fighter theme with the red and white color scheme and paneling using the Japanese Navy and Army flag that was used during WWII.
Model Zero Fighters can also be found which gives that extra little detail to the overall build.
“Some people say it is impossible to fulfill all of my needs in customizing cars. However, I will not stop attempting to do what is supposedly impossible and I will continue to enjoy customizing cars to what I think is the ‘coolest’.”
Hopefully, Kenji san will continue to ignore the haters and keep pursuing his vision on making cars the ‘coolest’. I would hate to live in a World where brilliant and edgy designers such as Kenji san did not follow their dreams on what they thought was ‘cool’ due to others telling them it is impossible.
It was an epic weekend of shooting, meeting new people and making new friends and as we said our goodbyes to the Aireal Auto Works team, I could only be humbled by the experience.
It always amazes me how people with completely different backgrounds, cultural or life experience, can become great friends over the commonality of cars. I think that is probably the sole greatest thing about being apart of the car community and especially in Japan. The bonds we form over what most people consider just a means of getting us from point A to point B is astounding. SO, with that being said, what do you define as cool?