Despite my head exploding inside from the previous nights beer fueled kareoke and the gloomy looking weather, our fourth day in Japan was one that I’d been excited about since the day I first laid eyes on the trip itinerary. On this day we’d be spending our time in Nagoya on one single road visiting the likes of Kids Heart, MCR Factory, and MHC Company. Some amazing tuning shops home to even more amazing cars and people.
The first shop we’d be stopping at would be the legendary Kids Heart. Home to D1GP driver Tsuyoshi Tezuka, and Takayama-san, the man behind the business and the builder of the official Sileighty for Nissan.
Takayama San opened up Kids Heart in the late 90s as a tuning shop and used car dealership specializing in drift cars. His first project was a C33 Nissan Laurel, which he converted from an N/A automatic model into a manual turbo car using parts from another crashed Laurel. Since then he has gone on to build many, many, special drift cars, including D1 cars.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Takayama-san also built the Sileighty for Nissan – this was something that really put Kids Heart on the map. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, a Sileighty is basically an S13 Silvia front end fitted onto a 180sx rear. This was something that was popular in the late 90s with drifters who’d crashed their cars, and found it cheaper to replace the panels with Silvia parts. Takayama-san took notice of this and decided to approach various Nissan dealerships and asked if they would be interested in giving him the approval to officially build the Sileighty as a car for Nissan to sell. They did, and Kids Heart went on to build a total of 500 official Sileightys.
Another thing that’s made Kids Heart so well known is the partnership between Takayama-san and D1GP driver Tsuyoshi Tezuka. The pair met through one of Takayama-san’s customers back in 2001 when the D1GP was just getting of the ground, and as Takayama San didn’t drift himself having someone to drive the cars he built in competition would be a great way of promoting the business. Tezuka now drives for the Bee☆R team and has since 2005, but he still works at Kids Heart as a manager.
The first thing that hits you as your walk into the shop is the collection of trophies that Tezuka and the other drivers at Kids Heart have won in the D1GP and D1SL series.
Inside, the main shop is stacked full of aftermarket parts, Yokomo RC parts, and tons of stickers and other Kids Heart merchandise.
You know you’re a famous D1 driver when you have a bunch of cartoon keyrings of yourself. I’m afraid to say I fully geek’d out and bought stickers, a Kids Heart lighter, driving gloves, and a keyring…
Outside the front of the office there’s even an RC track. The crew at Kids Heart are pretty big on RC drifting, in fact Tezuka was away the day we were there competing in a championship! One of the employees and D1SL driver Michiko Yasue brought out her “missile” as she called it and kindly let us have a spin, literally – I suck at RC drifting.
Here’s where the Kids Heart magic happens. It might not be the prettiest workshop in the world, but it’s got a certain characterful charm to it.
As I made my way around the back of the workshop I stumbled across the Kids Heart/Goodyear Racing ER34 D1SL Skyline. This car is driven in the D1SL series and the D1 Ladies League by another Kids Heart staff member called Rie Shinmi.
And it’s without a doubt the most aggressive looking drift car I’ve seen with kittens on.
Rocking a full URAS GT aero kit, Work XC8s, and a 530PS RB26DETT, kittens are just about the only thing that’s cute on this car.
It’s 2-door counterpart was parked on the pavement outside of the shop. This car is driven in the D1 Ladies League by Michiko Yasue. I think it’s awesome that Kids Heart have two female drifters competing in D1! This R34 has a similar spec to Rie’s, with another beefy 530PS RB26DETT, URAS GT aero, Work XC8 wheels, GP Sports coilovers, 3UP steering knuckles, and a HKS 6-speed transmission.
It was pretty tricky to get pictures of the cars parked up outside the shop as there was just so many crammed together. From Silvias, 180s, Skylines, Chasers, it was like a drifters dream.
Some of the cars like this 4-door ER34 Skyline looked like they’d been sitting for a while.
Continuing with the trend of putting different front ends on cars, Kids Heart built this M35 Nissan Stagea with an R35 GT-R front end – mental.
This seriously cool S15 Silvia belongs to staff member Kazumasa Sekido. We’ll have a little closer look at this car in another feature soon. While we were at Kids Heart one of our guides and friend of Mitto’s, Travis Woodham, invited Sekido out to drive with us at Suzuka Twin later on in our trip. That’s all to come later on, but I’ll tell you now it was a lot of fun watching Phil rip it at Suzuka with Sekido.
Although it’d been a bit of a pain in the arse lugging it around Japan, the movable crane that Al had brought along to shoot with produced some incredible scenes for the film. The shots outside Kids Heart are some of my favourites in the whole DVD.
Visiting Kids Heart is something that’s going to stick in my memory for a very long time. Being welcomed so warmly, checking out all the cars, and just being able to hang out there for ages with the Kids Heart crew was an amazing start to the day, and it was only going to get better. Our next stop was MCR Factory, home to the awesome street team Mind Control.
– Daniel Bridle