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  • [SC BLOG] A Petrolheadís Visit To Japan

    So earlier this year I went to Japan, it was technically a family holiday but I had my own agenda: I wanted to meet Kiko Mizuhara. If you donít follow my Instagram (and why havenít you?!) and donít know who she is, basically sheís my idol. Long story short, I failed to meet her and decided to go car hunting and spotting in Japan instead, since Japan is full of unique cars.

    Now there are some interesting places in Japan where you can see really cool cars; Ginza, and Bingo Sports with some other hotspots for car meet ups, more on that later on. First, the obvious place to visit was the Toyota Automobile Museum in Nagoya, where it had a very interesting concept: the evolution of the automobile over itís relatively short lifespan.

    The museum has three floors, first floor was itís entrance with the first ever Toyota ever made in display, the Toyoda Model AA, then go on to the second floor youíre greeted with some of the earliest form of cars, such as the Baker Electric and a De Dion Bouton.

    The museum was in an oval shape, walk along it and youíll see how cars have evolved over the early years, as the exhibits are sorted out in a chronological order. You then get to the era where cars started to look more like the ones we know today, there were specimens of the Ford Model T and the Cadillac Model Thirty.

    The 30s-40s is not really an era I cared much for, itís an acquired taste, really. But if you do like it, then youíll be treated with Alfa Romeos, Mercedes, and even a Bugatti racecar. Quite lovely.

    I would not want to own it but this Morgan Aero is really cool.

    And of course there was the car that started the 911 (well, this or the Beetle, depending on your view), the Porsche 356. Youíve probably seen a couple of these in Indonesia so this might not be that big of a deal.

    However, hereís one car you donít see everyday in Indonesia: the 300SL Gullwing. Now, youíve probably heard rumors or even see some photos of this car in Indonesia, weíve seen it as well. But as far as we know, none of these 300SL Gullwing in Indonesia is running, or at least, the ownerís not bringing it out on public roads.

    Anyway, if Iím being really honest, the 300SL Gullwing doesnít have that much presence and isnít really that impressive to look at. Still, if youíre a big fan of this car, youíre going to love it.

    Go on to the top floor and you are greeted with an Eldorado Biarritz, something that I didnít really expect to see at the Toyota museum. I donít have much to say about this car but itís really cool and quite the photo object.

    There were a lot more cars, from a classic Mini to an early and boring Ė but significant Ė BMW, and of course, the Toyota 2000GT. If you like classic cars, you are going to be pampered here.

    If youíre looking for exotics however, thereís really not much to entertain you. The only Ferrari on display was this 512BB, which Ė if Iím being honest Ė is a car that Iíve only known about in the past year since I started playing Gran Turismo Sport. However, in this silver-black two-tone spec, it does look really cool. Still not one of my top 10 Ferraris, but it is a cool thing to look at.

    And finally, we get to the reason why I came to the museum. In fact, this car is the only reason why I went to Japan in the first place. A car that Ė as far we at Speed Creed knows Ė no one owns in Indonesia, so I had to come all the way here to just have a look at it.

    Itís a Lexus.

    Yes ladies & gentlemen, I came all the way to Japan to see a Lexus, but not just any Lexus. ITíS THE LEXUS LFA YES. Itís the car that Jeremy Clarkson crowns as the best car heís ever driven, and if he were given the choice to own any car thatís ever been made, he would take a dark blue LFA. Itís the only car that The Stig says can hold a candle against the Ferrari F12, which was the only Ferrari that the Stig would buy, if he understood the concept of money, that is.

    The 4.8L naturally-aspirated V10 can rev all the way to 9,000rpm, and it can rev from idle to that limit in just 0.6 seconds, it revs so quickly they had to fit a digital rev counter, not because they can, but because an analogue one canít keep up with the engine speed. We all think the Germans are so great at engineering, but the Japanese are just as good, if not better; they somehow managed to design the LFA's V10 to be the size of a V8 and as light as a V6. The engine itself sounds mental, and the triple exhaust pipes are arranged in an upside down triangle and I like that.

    This car took nine years to develop, the project began in February 2000, and by 2003 they had a prototype ready and by 2005 it was rumored to be ready, however Lexus never gave the green light for production, and the project, as it turns out, was lengthened until 2008 since they wanted to make a switch from an alumunium frame to a carbon fiber tub, improving itís power-to-weigh ratio figure.

    Finally, after nine long years of blood, sweat, and alumuniums wasted, on August 5th 2009, the LFA was confirmed for production. The production version was unveiled in October 2009, with a price tag of around £340,000 Ė which I think was the reason why it failed to shine, but more on that later on Ė and only 500 units being made.

    Despite the ridiculous price tag, analysts suggest that Toyota wasnít making any money off the LFA, which is entirely possible as it took nine years to develop the car, the platform switch must've cost a fortune for the research budget, and not to mention the actual cost to make the car. Despite this, the LFA serves as a learning platform for Toyota for future sports cars, and while the RC-F wasnít a big hit, itís spiritual successor, the LC500 Ė not the LC500h, mind you Ė has been praised by journalists, and I quite like it as well actually.

    I feel like the LFA is overshadowed by other cars such as the 599 GTO, the F12, and even the Nissan GT-R. In the case of the GT-R, it offers you the same sort of power output as the LFA, with matching, if not more performance overall. For example, a NISMO GT-R can lap the Nurburgring around 5-6 seconds faster than even the LFA Nurburgring Package.

    While I realize the LFA is limited to just 500 units so it wonít make mainstream success, I feel like itís one of those underdogs that never got the appreciation it deserves, again, other cars are able to give you the same sort of performance for a fraction of the price, but the LFA is still simply incredible. The only car I would take over the LFA is the ultra expensive Zonda F Roadster.

    I love everything about this car: I love the engine, the noise, the exhaust tips, the quirky yet cool looks, the retractable rear-spoiler, the gap between the bumper and the bonnet which serves as a cooling duct, I love the interior even though it has no cup holders, I love the fact that this car took nine years to develop, I love the passion and effort put in by the Toyota engineers into this car, I even love the ridiculous price tag. I love the Lexus LFA.

    Afterwards you are directed to another room where they display a couple of racing Toyotas but honestly after seeing the LFA everything else is simply not that special for me.

    The Toyota Automobile Museum in Nagoya is must visit for petrolheads that value the history of the automobile and itís progress, everything was so well-laid out and very informative, definitely worth every penny and every second of your life you spent there.

    However, if youíre more interested with car spotting and the car culture in general, there are other places you might want to visit, Ginza for example.

    Ginza is an area within Tokyo where all the rich people go shopping. You can find stores of Gucci, LV, Fendi, and all sorts of expensive brands, and what does expensive stores attract? Expensive cars.

    You are going to spot a lot of sportcars and supercars in Ginza, from older Porsches (yes, the Japanese really like Porsches for some reason) to muscle cars such as this Camaro.

    I came back to Ginza to do a bit more car spotting on my last day, and I managed to photographed some GT-Rs (you must take at least one photo of the GT-R while in Japan), more Porsches, and even a DeTomaso Pantera.

    Now, if youíre in Tokyo, chances are youíre going to see a lot of exotic cars no matter where you are, whether youíre in Shinjuku or Shibuya, thereís bound to be a cool, exotic car driving about or being parked near an expensive shop. I myself however had a slow day when I was in Ginza, and the best one I saw was a raging Diablo SV that I didnít manage to photograph. But, if youíre lucky, youíll be able to spot some of the more expensive and rare stuff such as the Pagani Huayra.

    If you donít mind Ė and not embarrassed to Ė ogling some showroom cars from behind a window, might we suggest pay a visit to Bingo Sports in Chiyoda, Tokyo. They are probably the best exotic car showroom in Japan, if not in Asia. From Bugattis to classic Ferraris, thereís bound to be something interesting for the exotic car enthusiast. Sadly when I went there it was a weekend and it was after 3PM and it had closed, so I only managed to see a glimpse of a Ferrari F40LM. However, near Bingo Sports was a Pagani showroom (I didnít realize this when I made the trip to Bingo Sports), and it was closed but at that time I could still get a clear view of two Pagani Zondas. Worth it.

    For general car spotting, almost any area in Tokyo wonít disappoint. Take a stroll around Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Minato (where the Tokyo Tower stands), among other areas, youíre bound to see something interesting. Whether itís a really old car that you canít identify because youíre not a historian, to Bentleys and a lot more that I didn't capture or didn't fit into this article, youíre going to spot an eye candy sooner or later.

    Might I also suggest the Tatsumi Parking Lot Number 1, I didnít go there but it is the place to be if you want to check out the Japanese car culture. Youíre definitely going to see tons of the domestic stuff, but supercars as well as slammed and other heavily tuned cars will be there, most likely on a weekend night. Mind you, the Tatsumi Parking Lot is on the highway, so you canít go there by train and walk, your option is to either rent a car or take an expensive taxi ride. But it might be worth checking out, let us know what itís like if you go there!

    Japan of course has so much more to offer: the food, the temples, the castles, the hospitality and much, much more. But if youíre a petrolhead looking for a petrolhead holiday, Japan has a lot to offer as well and you would not be disappointed.