I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about our dream garages, the cars that would go in them, the tools, ramps, everything. Then I remembered that I never actually posted up a proper look into the Bee*R workshop when we visted it on the Outsiders tour. Now this is easily what I’d call a dream garage.
In 1990, a man named Kiyonori Imai opened Bee*R up for business in Setagaya, Tokyo. Specializing in tuning GT-R Skylines, they developed an R32 in 1991 to compete in the N1 Endurance series, as well as branching out to other forms of motorsport such as drag racing. As the business grew in popularity and gained more customers, the shop was moved over to a larger unit in Yokohama in 1992, and then again in 2003 to where it sits now in Machida.
After much success with drag racing, circuit racing, developing new tuning parts, and moving to an even bigger workshop, Imai-san turned his attention to the fast growing drift scene. One of Bee*Rs first drift creations was also one of their wildest – an S15 Silvia with a 180sx front end, airbag suspension, and to top it off it was even twincharged!
In 2005 Bee*R debuted the now world famous R324 Skyline GT-R in the D1GP series. One of the biggest features of this new car was the aero kit, which visually transforms an R32 into an extremely aggressive looking R34. This car, along with Tsuyoshi Tezuka from Kids Heart on board to drive it really put Bee*R on the map in the drifting world. So it’s safe to say that it was more than a little bit cool that we got a chance to spend most of a day at Bee*R with Imai-san himself.
Judging by the other garages I saw on the trip, Bee*R’s workshop is vast in comparison.
With legendary D1 cars in amongst old race cars, and beautifully clean road cars, there was a hell of a lot to take in – not that I was complaining!
A few customers brought in their cars to be worked on throughout the day such as this beautiful JZX110 Toyota Mark II. I really enjoyed watching the way the guys at Bee*R worked; it’s very meticulous and organised.
Getting the chance to get up close and personal with some of Imai-san’s amazing builds was a dream come true. You can check out full features on both the 2012 D1GP R34 Skyline here and Imai-san’s personal AE86 Levin here.
The main office/shop was chock full of well deserved trophies won throughout the years.
And even more stickers and merchandise that saw the amount of Japanese Yen I had to my name rapidly decrease.
There was even a TV with an Xbox 360, steering wheel, and a Bride bucket seat to go with. I saw Imai-san’s son busting out some skills behind the wheel on Forza Motorsport – I wonder if he’ll follow in his fathers footsteps?
Next door to the workshop was this absolutely nuts RC and model car shop, with a huge race track on the main floor, and an RC drift track upstairs.
There was stacks on stacks of model kits availible to buy. I would’ve loved to have bought one, but looking back on my previous childhood attempts at Airfix models I decided for my wallet and my mental health’s sake that it’d be a bad decision.
The detail on some of the models you could buy was simply amazing. I’ve got a lot of respect for people who have the patience and skill to put together something that looks so realistic in such a small scale.
As well as the race circuit, there was even a drag strip!
Back outside in the pouring rain I came across the Bee*R workhorse sitting on the forecourt. Tuning MPVs is incredibly popular in Japan, so it was only natural for Imai-san to shake up his Nissan Elgrand a bit. Those of you with a keen eye will have noticed it has the same D1GP livery as the Bee*R Toyota Crown, and you may have noticed something else a little out of the ordinary; it actually has an R35 GT-R front bumper and grille grafted onto it…
It even has the lower part of an R35 bumper and the quad exhaust pipes! I’m sure if you look close enough at any car that Bee*R has built, there’s bound to be some form of GT-R influence.
Imai-san isn’t just a man who loves to build cars, he loves to drive them too. Imai-san wanted to get in on the drifting action and built this 180sx as a practice car for himself. Kouki bumpers and skirts, a big GT wing, and rare discontinued Bee*R B5 wheels take care of the looks department.
While a beefed up SR20DET with a HKS GT-RS turbo and fueling modifications help push out 400PS. It’s a pretty cool car in my book!
Whilst I was snapping away Phil and the rest of the crew were having lengthy discussions with Imai-san about knuckles and suspension components as well as showing him some of the Driftworks parts we’d brought along with us.
Eventually we had a moment to sit down and grab an interview with Imai-san and learn more about him and Bee*R thanks to Mitto’s Japanese and our translator for the day Sarah H Iwaskow.
You can see it in his face and just his general way about him that he lives and breaths cars. Imai-san is a true petrolhead if I’ve ever seen one, and one that deserves a lot of respect for his achievements and developments in tuning, whether it’s drift, grip, or drag.
We were very grateful that Imai-san had so much time for a bunch of dorky foreign people and made us feel very welcome. I especially have got to give him a big thank you for allowing me to spend the day shooting this amazing garage and the amazing cars inside it – it was an absolute honour.
– Daniel Bridle