ZOKUSHA: EXPLAINING THE WILD CUSTOM CARS THAT CREATED JAPAN'S TUNER CULTURE
Before you bring your pitchforks out at these cars, here's an in-depth analysis of these cars and why they look this way.
Japan's car culture is one of the fastest growing as well as the most diverse car cultures of this generation. It's gotten to the point where more people can identify a BNR34 Nissan Skyline better than a Lamborghini Aventador. But how did we get here? Before Tuning Spirit TRIAL's 1000HP Supra's, before CluB ManS's iconic yellow RX-7 and 180SX drift cars, even before the likes of Initial D and Wangan Midnight in the 90s, immortalizing the AE86 and 240Z forever... What cars were Japan's heroes?
ENTER THE SILHOUETTE RACERS.
The Nihon Radiator Silvia S110 Group 5 race car.
In the early 80's, Group 5 races were all the rage. These machines looked like UFO's... And they didn't just look wild, they were FAST. These things were made to remotely resemble the production cars they were based on, but underneath, everything was stripped to the minimum, and extensive work was done on the body as well: an array of splitters and fins directed air around the car, and massive vents were used for cooling. The engines were turbo'ed and tuned to north of 600HP (In the 80's!!!) and videos of these things being driven proves them to handle like absolute death traps.
WAIT, BUT THIS ISN'T ABOUT THEM...
I'll get to that soon. So let's visit post-war Japan. After the war, Japan wasn't in a good place, to say the least. They had lost the war, were in an economic crisis, and those who fought in the military had no job opportunities. This led to an increase in violence, specifically gang violence, as well as street racing- as a way to lash out at society in a form of catharsis. Brawlers and street racers alike would pull up on custom motorcycles, painted in flashy colors, with custom bodywork inspired by racing motorcycles and custom fabricated straight-pipe exhausts that were so loud, that these people were called "Boso-zoku" (violent tribe) or Kaminari-zoku (thunder tribe), as their straight-piped bikes were so loud that they were compared to the sound of thunder.
ALRIGHT, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CARS?
In the 70's towards the early 80's, cars had become a more popular interest in Japan, specifically the Group 5 Silhouette racers that Toyota and Nissan entered into the races. The Boso-zoku saw this and carried on their style to their cars... But rather than modelling the bodywork after the racing motorcycles of the 50's, they styled it after the Group 5 racers of the day, and of course, they custom fabricated insane "Takeyari" exhausts that made the cars sound as wild as their flame-spitting race car counterparts. These cars gained the name "Zoku-sha" (gang car). And don't forget, these things were no slowpokes either. Street racers floored these things down the highways, and the cars gained another name, the Kaido (highway) cars.
AND JUST TO COMPARE THE BODYWORK TO THE ORIGINAL RACE CARS:
Here's a Nissan Skyline Kaido car.
And here's the Group 5 racer. See the similarities?
For another comparison, here's another Kaido car (this time a Toyota Celica LB)...
...And here's it's race car counterpart. Notice the swooping fenders, massive vents and elongated tail?
WHY I THINK THIS STYLE SHOULD BE PRESERVED.
Zoku cars to Japan, are like lowriders to the USA. They may not be everyone's taste, but an extravagant show of what custom work can do, and true cultural icons that will live on until the end of car culture in itself. Though many people truly hate them, I see it in a similar light as telling Chinese people to not make Chinese food-somewhat ignorant to their culture (as well as a bit racist really).
Love them or hate them, these cars played a pivotal role in Japan's love for cars, and started off a true cultural revolution. To this day, you can find old guys pull up in insane Toyota X40's, Nissan S110's, and many others, all preserved to look straight out of the wild, unfiltered excess that was the 80s. What do you think? Let me know in the comments (I'm not going to be surprised if a bunch of 11 year olds call it rice lol).