Intro: Project Hachiroku
This is my first blog entry and while most blogs are short, this one will probably be my longest considering that I should probably introduce myself if we’re to spend some quality time together. If my life story bores you then skip down to the section titled AP86.
My family and I own Tokyo Automotive in Placentia, CA. With the exception of our own personal project cars, we are for the most part a repair garage… although some customers have some nice cars. My start in automotive, while obviously via my father, was really with a burgundy ’94 Honda Accord that my folks bought me while in college. It was a CD7 body. My first mod was given to me by Mr. Oku of Racing Beat, a family friend, who at the time was the exclusive distributor of RSR to the states. It was a set of springs. I recall the euphoria surrounding that first install. The build up of excitement as I turned each bolt, to the first driveway I scraped after lowering it.
Driving, it didn’t disappoint. That was the ultimate high. The cornering “guripu-kan” changed dramatically. It held more speed in the turns. My career as a mechanic, I attribute much to the love of and the modification of that accord.
Some of you might recognize my name (Tatsu Tsuchida) from my work with Sport Compact Car, Modified, Turbo, and Import Tuner. My association with the magazine world began at a coffee shop, when in a random chance meeting with former SCC editor Jared Holstein, spotted my ride from afar. By then my modifications to the CD7 where well into the thousands.
“What are you working on?”
“Homework. I’m a business student.”
(I was still a little unsure what I wanted to do with my life at the time)
… silence ...
“What are you working on?”
“An article. I’m a writer.”
… more silence ...
“Nice Car. What you got done to it?”
“H22A, full suspension… (yada, yada, yada), why you into cars?
“I write for Sport Compact Car, here’s my business card.”
It took everything in my power not to look giddy, or star-struck at the time, but my meeting of Mr. Holstein seriously opened my eyes to the potential awesomeness of the automotive industry. I mean, here is a guy who knows and works with all my heroes in the industry. To list a few: Dave Colman, Mike Kojima, Scott Oldham, and Josh Jacquot.
A few months later I get a phone call.
“Tatsu, what are you doing in June?”
“Uhm Tatsu, You know Japanese. You know cars. TEIN USA is inviting the automotive press to tour their Japanese facility, go to Motegi to witness the N1 Taikyu race. I need a translator. You interested?
I couldn’t contain my excitement anymore. “YES!” I screamed.
That trip to Japan and Jared’s friendship thereafter impressed upon me, an aimless twenty-something year old, that my life’s work was in automotive.
My automotive writing career happened much later. One of my life goals was to live and work in Japan. I wanted to know the land where my parents grew up without the noir of a vacation mentality. I wanted to know the real Japan… and see some cool cars too. After college I applied for the JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) program, which I highly suggest for those that have a curiosity for Japan. After JET, I went to work for a used engine exporter in Osaka. But because I went in blind to the constraints of a Japanese workplace, I soon found myself unemployed.
That’s when I started writing for the magazines. I put in an ad with Photo Japan stating “Motorsports Photographer Wanted” and surprisingly a kid named Chris Jue from Buena Park (currently in Tokyo) replied to the ad. Called Sport Compact Car offices back home and told them I was ready to write. My first article was on a S13 built by Garage Mak. I lived in Japan for 3 years.
While the official title of this blog is Project Hachiroku, I fondly refer to this vehicle as AP86. AP is a reference to the S2000 chassis which the engine is borrowed from, and obviously AP86 is a modification of the infamous AE86 name. The purpose of this build, unlike the “bolt in upgrade” Accord I ditched in favor for this, is to teach myself some fabrication techniques… however naïve that may sound. Fueled by inspiration from TV shows like Monster Garage, American Chopper, Motorcycle Mania, and all those blue-collar-hero type, Discovery-Channel programs, I set out to build my own F20 Corolla.
Some of you might say, well JSP has a kit. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but again my goals are to teach myself some fabrication techniques… not only to have an awesome car afterwards. The AE86 frame has always been criticized for being flimsy, and in looking at the cross member, I noticed that It’s made of a very thin metal. I decided to address this by making my own cross member… again as naïve (or bold) as it may sound.
I am currently a few months (of actual work time) into development with cross member, and have already made my first prototype. But, given the constraints of running a business, a wife and daughter, and night classes, the car has sat on the hoist for 2 years. With the unveil of the Scion FR-S (Toyota FT-86) signaling a release in dealers soon, the proverbial hot coals under my ass have been lit. I’m anticipating a battle between the two 86’s (new and old) and I wanna be there. Elton Lo of Raceline is having a track day at Chuckwalla and I thought that would be an appropriate D-day for a shakedown of my project.
I’ll spend a handful of blog entries getting you up to speed… all the trials, tribulations, and I’ll be brutally honest about the mistakes I’ve made. And yes you’re more than welcome to call me an idiot at those times. A few friends in the industry have already seen the prototype and have said that the concept is good; it’s on my execution where I failed. I’m a novice welder.