The art of everything 86 – TecArts

If you had to associate Japan with one particular make and model of car you would be hard pressed to argue anything other than the Toyota AE86.  This humble little fifth generation Corolla is Japan’s darling of drift cars, undeniably the best car for delivering tofu in, and has captured the souls of tuners and car fanatics all over the world.  So when Kamata-san, his brother and their father decided to specialise in tuning one model of car it wasn’t a difficult choice to make it the humble hachiroku.

The goal of Tec-Arts is simple, push AE86 and 4AG tuning to the absolute extremes.  One of the great things about this garage is that it’s a family affair; dad looks after the restoration side of things, while the brothers play with the competition and horsepower side of things.  It is located on the outskirts of Tokyo and unless you know exactly where to go you wouldn’t even know it was there.  After seeing their ‘bubblegum’ purple creations at events all over Japan, I decided it was time to go and see firsthand what treasures were stashed away at their workshop.

In my time I have come to realise that the best tuning shops are the unassuming ones, cramped, equipment and parts spread all across the shop, it’s a place to get down to business, no need for spacious offices and photo studio style setups.  These guys are interested in one thing and one thing only – to make the top-shelf AE86s.  Space in Japan is premium, cars are stored on hoists above other cars, and no one knows how to maximise space like the Japanese.  Even the office was now a makeshift parts room.  For any 86 fan, the name Tec-Arts is special, this humble little shop is one of the most respected shops around.  I mean, Keiichi Tsuchiya trusts them with his personal hachiroku, enough said.

Standing at the workshop door I shout out an ‘ohayou gozaimasu!’ and quickly out walks a friendly-faced Kamata-san.  After a little chitchat and introductions were sorted he simply asked ‘What would you like to shoot?’  This is one difficult question to answer!  Sitting to my right is Tsuchiya’s personal 86, a tuned ‘black limited’, and their N2 machine sitting perched on the hoist as well as the hachi that was featured in the latest Initial D movie.

Of course I decided to start off by just having a look around the workshop and having a chance to soak it all in.  Glancing around the purple N2 car was sitting pretty on it’s purple hoist, while on the ground was a few purple axle-stands, and even the griders were purple.  You soon realise these guys don’t do ‘stock’.  Of course the heart and soul of the business and their success is undoubtedly with the N2 machines.  ‘The N/A 16-valve 4AGE makes 239PS @ 10,000rpm’ he tells me while peering underneath the car into the engine bay.  An 82mm high-compression pistons, some serious head work, 304 degree cams with its JUN Auto balanced crankshaft, and titanium conrods has put this car into ‘god-like’ status among the Japanese fans.

Looking around the pedigree was incredible, taking a chassis that is already three decades old and continuing to improve them and make them quicker is not an easy feat.  Despite being giant killers in the motorsport and heavy tuning world, they also do a lot of specialized, tailored work for customers.  Just as we were standing in the entrance a familiar exhaust note reverberated in the long skinny driveway.  ‘Ahh okyakusan da!’ he muttered as one of his latest customers arrived.  Keeping with the top shelf tin in the carkpark this customer 86 was equally as tidy, and very original.  ‘Many customers come to us for preparing their cars for shaken (WOF), basic maintenance, and anything else that is haciroku specific’.

It was impressive as Kamata-san and the other staff all put down tools to come and say gidday.  In a country known for its amazing customer service the vibe around the workshop certainly mimicked that.  It’s clearly not just about making money at this workshop, Tec-Arts is a passionate group of people who always insist on pushing the boundaries while still keeping a very family-orientated and customer focused approach to everything they do.

After snapping away in the workshop and getting closely acquainted with Tsuchiya’s personal hachiroku, the mechanic said they had one more machine we might be interested in seeing.  ‘I will just run down the road to our lockup and get it!’ he exclaimed.  A few minutes later, an angry, rough idle could be heard coming up the street.  It was none other than their famous D1GP AE86.  ‘Sorry it is missing a flare, wait wait wait’ he impatiently told me.  Racing back out of the workshop with a fistful of cable ties and a drill he quickly fetched the flare from the passenger seat and reattached it.  It has been a few years since Tec-Arts has actively competed in D1GP although I really wish they still were.  This car was right out of the glory days of D1GP, old style and the traditional engine note we all remember from the earlier days of when drifting was establishing itself in the motorsport world.  It was a pure machine minus all the fancy technological gizmos we are so accustomed to today.

Just as we were about to finish up the boss tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘could I ask a favour?’.  ‘Of course’ I exclaimed.  ‘Would you take a few photos of my own personal AE86 to include in your shoot?’.  I couldn’t help but smile as Kamata-san wheeled out the rarest 86 around, a black limited.  Only 400 of these were produced and in specific areas in Japan.  Under the hood was a turbocharged 7AFE block with a 4AGE head complete with 4AGZE pistons and Tec-Arts 7AGE conrods mated up to a 7AFE crankshaft.

HKS 264 degree camshafts, cam gears, valve springs, fuel rail, and SARD 600cc injectors keep everything tuned up top.  The list doesn’t stop there however; Kamata-san has thrown in a Trust T518Z turbine mapped on a MoTeC ECU cooled by a Blitz EP82 Starlet intercooler and three-layer type MAX intercooler.  I was impressed not only by the high spec of this car, but also that Kamata-san has taken the crown jewel in the hachiroku lineup and then modified it to suit his personal taste.

Time and time again I am reminded by visiting these tuners how much of an amazing experience the Japanese tuning scene really is.  While being innovators, pioneers, and constantly being at the sharp end of their profession Tec-Arts has gained so much respect for staying close to their people in the AE86 community.  It was a humbling experience to meet such down to earth people, and have them as excited to meet me, as I was to meet them.  I will be back you can count on that!

Additional images

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