Sunday, February 14, 2021

Touring in Heda

Between a busy work schedule, winter holidays and COVID restrictions it’s been a while since my last, proper touring adventure. So last weekend I decided to make it right and drove down to Heda, one of my favorite locations.

As always, the day started with an early rise, in line with my “leave early, come back early” philosophy. But thanks to a relatively empty Tomei Expressway I reached Mishima city by 8AM, just in time for a coffee break.

While I usually prefer locally owned shops this Starbucks was actually very nice. As a Tokyo resident I couldn’t help but notice how the service was much slower compared to the big city rhythms.

But that’s a good thing, and helped set the tone for the day. After all, what’s the point of going for a drive if you have to stress about time?

After refueling I jumped back in the car and headed toward one of my favorite routes, the Numazu Toi-sen.

This is a coastline drive that literally follows the contour of the peninsula for a good 5 kilometers, before splitting and going further south.

The view of Suruga Bay and Mt. Fuji early in the morning is fantastic and totally deserved a quick stop to be taken all in.

After another 20 minutes of mountain roads, which are frankly too narrow and twisty to offer proper fun, I reached my destination, Heda.

Located in the north-western side of the Izu peninsula, Heda is a small village apparently famous for crab fishing. Here you can really enjoy a taste of local Japan and discover details otherwise impossible to find anywhere around Tokyo.

The port area and its surroundings are beautiful and somehow reminded me of my mother’s hometown in southern Italy, with fishnets and little boats scattered everywhere.

The town itself is very small and has Gibli-esque feeling to it and is largely inhabited by senior citizens. With Japan’s population rapidly aging one can’t help but wonder what will be the destiny of small towns like Heda over the next 30 years or so...

Getting around is quite easy and you can either walk or drive. The bay area offers another great view of Fuji-san in the backdrop.

I moved the Z around and enjoyed taking a few shots. This time I decided to apply an extra vivid filter for a change; I thought would reflect well the brightness and colors of the day. Thoughts?

The view of Moroguchi Shrine torii gate alone is worth the trip in my opinion, and makes that early morning rise well worth it.

The Shrine itself is quite small, but combined with a walk through the village and down the beach it won’t disappoint you.

Once back to the port area I realized that I wasn’t the only one that planned a visit to Heda on that day. Good to see a fellow Nissan owner!

Now, with lunch time approaching and 120 kilometers under my belt, I thought it would only be appropriate to find out what the local fuss about crabs is all about, no? So I parked the Fairlady and started my research.

After looking at a couple of spots I ended up choosing Kaniya Heda-honten (which means that they have multiple restaurants, but this is the main one).

Once inside it was pretty clear that they had no shortage of raw material: look at the size of those crabs - their leg-span easily reached 80 centimeters.

I ended up choosing their recommended tempura set with 4 crab legs and fresh vegetables. Yes, it tasted as good as it looked.

In contrast with traditional Japanese portions, the size of that ten-don was gargantuan and I left the restaurant feeling a bit like this cat I found in front of the port.

A quick walk to burn the calories off and a coffee to wake me up and I was back in the game.

Before heading home I decided to go for a quick drive up the promontory and stop by Cape Deai, where you can enjoy a clear view of the bay.

With the GT-R enjoying an easy life, mostly made of quick drives around the C1, I’m glad to have the Z on the side for long-distance trips like this. One more shot at the port and then it was really time to go.

Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you enjoyed the shots.

Until next time.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Nardi Wheel Cover

It all started with a friend sharing this excellent Petrolicious video about the history of Nardi. For many it’s just another steering wheel brand, but for me it’s a little bit more personal: it was originally founded in Torino - my hometown - and later equipped some of my favorite cars, including the Pagani Zonda and the original CRS. When it came to my GT-R it was an obvious choice.

Amongst other temporary items, my car was delivered with a Nardi 360mm ND Classico in leather: a bit too big and not the perfect visual fit. After a year of waiting, last summer I was able to pick up the final one: slightly smaller diameter (340mm) and with an extra touch. One thing that always bothered me though was the disposable vinyl wrap I had to use so far to protect it when not fitted.

So when at minute 5:50 of the video I saw their signature cyan cover (standard on the mahogany wood wheels that Nardi is famous for) I just couldn’t resist. Few transactions on Yahoo! Auctions and a couple of days later a nice little package showed at my doorstep.

While in the video the cover easily wraps around lacquered wood, admittedly is a little difficult to fit on the suede, but it doesn’t really matter: it’s plush and soft, and looks great!

This wasn’t an expensive item at all and frankly it was quite refreshing. The price spike for GT-Rs in the recent years has affected accessory and discontinued parts as well, thus killing the pleasure of acquiring few bits to tidy up our beloved cars. 

Thankfully this doesn’t affect me since I was able to time the build of my GT-R almost perfectly and I have a little stash of spares too, but it was nice to buy a great looking item for just a few thousands yen.  

The only issue I have with it is that it’s so nice that now I may need a cover to protect the cover? This hobby really never ends...

Until next time. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

GT-R50 Test Car

Yesterday I stopped by Nissan Crossing on my way to the gym and managed to have a look at the GT-R50 Test Car. As always I ended up taking a few photos, so why not sharing them? 

The car looks a lot closer to something representative of a final production vehicle although, besides a few tweaks, the design remains largely unchanged and is still very much a love-or-hate affair.  

It’s very edgy, with lines suddenly cutting off at the rear and an overall slightly boxy look. The roundness and flare of the fenders and rear quarter panels found on the base R35 have been replaced by sharper lines that in this fantastic pearl white look very Gundam-esque. The quality of the paint is absolutely fantastic. 

Surprisingly it still retains the 390mm steel discs and brake calipers of the standard model; it will be interesting to see if these will be upgraded to the carbon-ceramic setup found on the latest GT-R Nismo.

This project hits close to home (literally) as Italdesign is based in Torino and I have both family and university friends involved in its development. Cool to see the Italian license plate, but I’m not so sure about the oversized GT-R logo with gold accents.

The interior saw probably the biggest change from the concept car and is essentially a re-upholstered version of the MY17 model. Perhaps it was the mix of grey and black Alcantara with white stitching, but I really didn’t like it too much.

The passion and craftsmanship behind this project are undeniable and it really is a special machine, but I’m not sure it delivers the “once in a generation” experience that one would expect from a million dollar car. Does it look and drive better than a R35 Nismo fitted with the N-attack Package? I’m not so sure...

Performance-wise it’s hard to ignore that is based on a now 14 years old platform. Aesthetically it promises virtually unlimited trim options, but I struggle to unsee the DNA of the car it’s based on, which also happens to be a globally available one at that, thus lacking the aura and uniqueness of its predecessors.

Will the GT-R50 go down as one of the greats in the history of the brand? Only time will tell, but I do look forward to seeing the final product and first customer cars. 

Thank you for stopping by today.

Until next time.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

New Year Meet at Daikoku PA

On January 1st Tokyo feels almost surreal, with empty streets and closed shops as most people still indulge in the festivities. But give it 48 hours and on January 3rd the New Year meet at Daikoku PA will serve as a good reminder of how Japan offers one of the most unique and diverse car cultures in the world.

My day started with an early 6AM rise and smooth drive on an empty expressway, with thick cold winter air feeding the engine and a serious need for caffeine. I cruised along a R35 Nismo for a bit, until the owner decided to show me the difference another 300ps make when you floor the right pedal.

I arrived relatively early and parked my Fairlady while the sun was still rising behind the famous concrete pillars that surround Daikoku.

After running into Dino (who was there taking proper photos for Speedhunters) I spent the rest of the morning watching the parking area fill up with all sorts of metal.

This was my first time attending the meet and it surely did not disappoint. As a car enthusiast it can hardly get any better than this.


The diversity and variety of cars that showed up was simply fantastic. What’s even more remarkable is that this is not an organized event, but a tradition passed down by word of mouth, with owners from all over Tokyo and surrounding cities simply showing up at the PA throughout the day.

This Z33 35th Anniversary caught my eyes, not only for its bright paint job (fittingly named Premium Shining Yellow), but also for its impeccable condition. It’s so rare to see clean Z33s around.

The Stagea 260RS is not a totally uncommon car to see in Japan, especially around Tokyo, but I think I counted three or four during the course of the morning.

This particular one had a nice set of LMGT4 in bronze as well as a few modifications.

Remember the R35 Nismo I encountered on the expressway? I later ran into the same car at the meet, although I suspect the owner arrived a few minutes ahead of me.

Taking about diversity, I think the photo below sums it up quite well. I have no idea what car it is, and hot rods are not exactly my cup of tea, but it was very, very cool.

Italian cars have always been a favorite amongst Japanese owners and collectors, so it was no surprise to see quite a few Lamborghinis, like this Countach 25th Anniversary.

Or this heavily modified Lancia Delta. I am not sure if it was a replica or a genuine one, but not much of the original base car was left anyways.

The 458 Italia has one of the cleanest designs amongst the modern Ferraris; the owner of this specific example decided to add a very tasteful gold contour to the center tricolore stripe.

I didn’t see as many Skyline GT-Rs as I would have expected but there were still a few nice examples. 

Is it a sign that owners are driving them less now that they are so valuable? Well, admittedly I didn’t take mine down either, but this owner pulled up in his almost completely stock example.

This Mine’s tuned example looked all-business, with massive Endless rotors and calipers and a stripped down interior.

There were also quite a few older Skylines, but I always get confused and have a hard time recognizing what’s what. Dino obviously didn’t.

It seemed that the more the morning went on, the more diverse the cars that rolled into the PA would get. TVR Sagaris in bright orange anyone?

Dino and I reflected on how there seem to be two parallel trends amongst Japanese owners, with those who strive to keep their cars as good and impeccable as the day they left the factory on one hand.

And those who simply decide to go all out and modify their rides without holding back, nor consideration for future value, on another one.

Unfortunately this sometimes translates into controversial (or rather plain dumb) ideas, as this poor Pagani Zonda is proof. Somehow the owner succeeded in the incredible feat of permanently disfiguring one of the most beautiful, rarest and sought after cars on the planet. 

Around 10AM the meet was still ongoing, with no sign of slowing down and plenty of cars coming and leaving, but I felt it was a good time to head back and avoid traffic. Also, I had planned to hit Tatsumi PA in the afternoon where, again, there was no shortage of unique cars.

Unfortunately Tokyo is back in a (soft) state of emergency due to COVID cases increasing, but the New Year meet was a refreshing way to kick off 2021. 

Until next time.