Throughout history those who think differently and attempt to change things are branded as troublemakers, and going against the grain isn’t something that is well accepted in Japan. Kei Miura has always taken the road less travelled, is a true underground hero, an outlaw kanjo racer but most importantly is a true pioneer and innovator.
At the age of eighteen he got his first taste of tuning when one week after purchasing his hachiroku it was kitted out with a bodykit, lowered suspension and some aftermarket wheels. This is where the tuning bug bit, and Miura-san was lucky to start working molding FRP at a local custom shop. At this time he also had a chance run-in with the owner of Hayashi wheels where he picked up the important points for drawing the schematics of wheels.
While he was perfecting his craft of working with FRP and designing wheels, he built up a B16A EF Civic and mixed it up with the infamous Kanjo racing scene. Utilising window nets and ‘Jason masks’ to conceal their identities, the Kanjo loop highways echoed with the sound of midnight racing. ‘I grew up at a time when there were no cellphones or computers, so cars were our source of fun’ Miura-san exclaims.
As time went on Miura-san established ‘TRA Kyoto’, a company dedicated to producing aftermarket bodykits and wheels. His philosophy was to keep a classic twist on the products for new cars, while ensuring he didn’t ruin the car’s keypoints.
‘My true love is in classic cars, I have always loved the old designs’, and you only need to take one look at his own personal style to understand this. A combed out frizzy hairstyle, matched up with some dark blue overalls, leather sheepskin-lined jacket and some badly-fitting riding-boots, he is definitely one of the original oldschool-inspired tuners. Some people work hard at making something stylish, and some people just have style seething through their veins, Miura-san is the latter.
One of the coolest things about TRA-Kyoto is the fact that they are a total in-house operation, from the start to the end of a product, it all happens in one place, and his process for creating masterpieces is equally as mind boggling. He might be an analog human but don’t think this old dog doesn’t know all the new tricks. ‘Many people use clay or urethane to create products, I laser scan the whole base car in original form and then put that data into a 3D CAD drawing program. I build the kit onto the car in the program and make adjustments how I see fit’.
All of this is then exported to his CNC machine and huge polystyrene blocks are cut out into perfect full-scale 3D bodykits for him to then fine tune into a finished product. Glancing around the CNC room it resembles more of a winter wonderland than a FRP workshop although realizing that you are standing in the room where the infamous Rocketbunny kit was born was quite a special feeling.
Since the 86 aero kits, there has been a medley of follow-up creations. One of them is the green BMW E36, and with the success of the first edition Rocketbunny 86 Miura-san then went on to create a second version. The first thing that strikes you riding shotgun with Miura-san is his driving style, a man of few words behind the wheel his eyes scan the traffic intensely while he drives hard and fast wherever he goes. Secondly the exhaust note of the E36 is super loud and crisp. ‘Have you tuned this much?’ I asked him. ‘It has nothing done to it except for a very narrow exhaust being fitted to make it scream’ he laughs. His good friend and worker Satomi Nakawatase was tagging along behind in the baby blue Rocketbunny 86 en-route to the only place these cars are good for being shot – an Esso gas station.
His own interpretation on what an 86 should be was superb, and the finished product looks nothing short of stunning. He has managed to take the timid 86 and make it look like downright aggressive. One thing that impressed me was he hasn’t just carbon copied the first kit; in some areas he has pumped the new one up, and in others tamed it down.
Obviously the biggest change is the absence of the huge rear spoiler, rather he decided to go back to his ‘nascar’ roots and run the ducktail spoiler he is more commonly known for.
His own interpretation on what an 86 should be was superb, and the finished product looks nothing short of stunning. He has managed to take the timid 86 and make it look like downright aggressive. One thing that impressed me was he hasn’t just carbon copied the first kit; in some areas he has pumped the new one up, and in others tamed it down. Obviously the biggest change is the absence of the huge rear spoiler, rather he decided to go back to his ‘nascar’ roots and run the ducktail spoiler he is more commonly known for.
Besides the amazing aero you won’t find too much more tinkered with, the engine is stock as this isn’t a powerhouse build, more so it is a wild interpretation of how a street car should look in his imagination and this is perhaps the most important aspect of these cars.
When you break it down, his creations are a direct reflection of the man himself.
They go against the grain, they aren’t what they seem to be at first glance, and they are all infused with the best ‘badass’ bits of times gone by.
Even the TRA Kyoto office is an old school badass time capsule!
I guess with Kyoto being the cultural home of Japan, and a build philosophy like Miura-san’s -this is the real McCoy of Japanese tuning.