The itch that has been scratched can never be unscratched
The trouble with writing a column every month is not whether or not you’ll find something to write about each time, rather what the subject matter will be. ‘Cars’ is a definite theme. But what emerges eventually is a cycle, albeit a loose one. One month it’s about my current long termer, another it will be about some drive I’ve undertaken, a road I’ve carved along. Or it will be about my bicycle, in relation to my car or commute, or maybe about my kids and their automotive experiences thanks to yours truly. This month however, I return to the subject of my own personal car. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re not aware of what it is and introduce it for the umpteenth time.
Meet my 1983 Toyota coupe. To be specific it’s a Celica Supra, a badge that was eventually split into two very different sports cars, both of which no longer exist in the current Toyota line-up, legendary though they were, although the latter looks to enjoy a revival with the recent debut of the FT-1 concept. So, ‘yays’ all around. Now, I’ve always liked this particular Mk2 shape, and the fact that it had pop-up headlamps and resembled a super-sized version of the most sought after Toyota import, the Hachi Roku (AE86) meant the day I found it on sale in a rubbish state (for rubbish money) I couldn’t resist. Since then I’ve very slowly revived and restored… no not restored. I need to be honest with you.
I’m from the Cape Flats. We don’t restore. A better term would be improving as per the owner’s personal tastes, exclusively. In the six or so years that it and I have been together, it’s enjoyed a life very much on the backburner, with me doing just enough to keep it ticking over – unsuccessfully at times. That recently changed when my mechanic came across a set of OEM factory side-skirts from an Australian Supra and thought I might like them. Obviously I liked them very much, and set about planning the next phase of my Celica’s aesthetic. I’d like to add that by now I’d sorted out as many of the mechanical issues as I could, even fitting uprated rear brakes so I’m a somewhat responsible motorist. Right? What followed next was a typical meeting between my preferred car customizer, let’s call him Jason, and I. Something along the lines of, “I just want to spray them black and fit them. Maybe a custom lip…”
Which he obviously understood as “I’d like to turn it into a race car now.”
I didn’t correct him; instead I fired up my trusty vector illustration programme and began slamming, cutting and shutting the bodywork of my freshly rendered version of my Supra with my pen tool, chopping JDM alloys and custom decals into the mix. I was a thing possessed. I showed it to him. “Can I strip the interior?” he asked. Yes. “Do you need the carpet in the boot?” No. “Need more gauges?” No. But he fit those anyway. “How do you feel about a half roll cage?” Um. Do it. Now, Jason and I barely ever see each other until I bring one of my vehicles under his maniacal knife, but at this point we were finishing each other’s sentences. This wasn’t a bromance. This was a synergy of depraved vehicular proportions. “What do you think of this wheel?” he asked. “It won’t fit” I replied correctly. “But it’s so wide, it will fill the custom wide arches perfectly.” I replied with “What are our options if– wide arches!?” Oh yes, I asked for those. Oh my God, what have we done?
I know what it sounds like. It sounds like I’ve ruined a classic Japanese car. I want to reassure you that I have, debatably, a restrained pimp hand. Now. See, I’ve made my automotive mistakes two or three publications and a decade ago, and now operate with a smidge more caution than before, although I’ll admit I favour the crazy Kyushai-Kai style common in Nippon. Google it. Also, don’t judge. A recent trip to Tokyo where I got to hang out with the local car-enthusiast types only intensified my affinity to the Japanese way, and if I am completely honest is almost certainly responsible for my renewed interest in turning my humble 1983 coupe into my own slice of Japan. And before you accuse me of butchering it, I’d like to point out that when I acquired it, it was barely running, was rusted to its core and would have been at the end of its life within a few months. Right now, it’s one man’s embodiment of the zaniest car culture on the planet, a daily runner still capable of turning the heads of the similarly enthused and offering up pure naturally aspirated thrills like a 34 year old banger has no right doing. And that’s okay, right?