Roots in the Museum: A Tour of the Roots of Monozukuri and Fine Tuning Exhibits at the Petersen

Carbage was invited to a media tour of two new exhibits before it opened to the public.

I know this isn’t something I would normally cover here on Carbage, but you can’t say no to checking out classic cars from the other side of the planet. We may not want to admit it, but a bit of Japanese and European cultures has influenced our cars and vice versa.

The New Exhibits

There were two new exhibits on display that the Petersen allowed the media to view before the public would officially see. “Fine Tuning” is essentially a part of the grand exhibit, “The Roots of Monozukuri.” Monozukuri, as defined by the Petersen, is the “art, science and craft of making things” and that definition is true, if just a little glamoured up. The word is usually defined as “production,” “making of things,” or just “manufacturing” but was a word used during the Japan’s recession of the 1990s to encourage industry and workers in their home market. Many Japanese people feel this word and the imagery behind it were responsible for their current stage in their recovery, so there is a large sense of pride when the word is used by those who had to work and grow in that era.

That is the basis of the main exhibit is the show where Japanese automotive manufacturing has come from since the 1930s up to the 1970s. The “Fine Tuning” exhibit is closer to the modern times with the combination of Japanese and American custom and race car building. That exhibit’s basis is to show how US and Japanese builders influenced and learned from each other to create the modern world of custom cars we know and love right now.



However, I feel that has always been the case. If you look at many Japanese classic cars and it’s hard not to see American and British influence. For example, the 1936 Toyoda (which would become Toyota) AA has a mix of Ford and Chevrolet Sedans from the same time frame. The rear reminds me of a Ford Model 48, but with a different rear window while the front looks like a rounder Chevrolet Master Sedan with the three louvers on the front panels. The fender flares and running boards are Chevy like.

With the 1966 Nissan Silvia CSP311, you see a lot of BMW influence, however. That’s thanks to its design from Count Albrecht von Goertz, who designed BMWs 503 and 507 in 1955. However, this Silvia is unique in that it wasn’t a stand-alone chassis. This was built off the SP311-chassis Fairlady 1600 convertible (also designed by Goertz) with some modifications and each one was hand built until 1968. The Silvia name would not be seen again until the first ever S-chassis, the S10.

Papadakis Racing

However, we’re very much a power culture, which is why the “Fine Tuning” exhibit was perfect. Not only was the Titan Motorsports 1993 Toyota Supra on display, but also the crazy race cars of Stephan Papadakis. The drag racer, based off the 1998 Honda Civic hatch, was a 650-horsepower H22A1, a 2.2-liter four-cylinder. The combination of Papadakis and AEM, this car was the first to break the eight-second barrier in a front-wheel drive car.

Much of this was carried over to his other championship winning car, the Scion tC driven by Fredric Aasbo in Formula Drift in 2015. Based off a 2014 model, the tC was converted to RWD using a rear subframe based off the Toyota Avensis AWD sedan and is the same platform the tC was built off. It’s just converted to a two-door when it was made into a Scion.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, the engine is a monster of a 2AR-FE. This isn’t the same 2.5-liter engine you find in the Rav4, Camry, and the normal tC. Nope, this one is punched out to 2.7-liters – thanks to a 1AR crankshaft from a Highlander – with a Borg Warner EFR Turbo and a squeeze of nitrous when Aasbo felt the need for it. However, it was still putting out over 800-horsepower and 700-torque to the wheels without the laughing gas. In a series dominated by V8s, the tC has been the only four-cylinder engine to have won the Formula Drift series with Aasbo behind the wheel. So far.


Four Cylinder Fury

The world of drag racing for import and FWD cars continued after Papadakis left drag racing for more curvy roads. In 2006, Jeremy Lookofsky and Drag Cartel Industries would push a new limit for four-cylinder engines and their transverse setting with this Honda K-series engine. The block is based off the K24 – a 2.4-liter displacement engine – with a K20 head – a two-liter displacement engine – with an internal change to make the combination 2.7-liters.

With Drag Cartel designed parts, this race edition engine put out 420-horsepower to the front wheels. In 2013, an engine this was based off broke the 9.00-second barrier for naturally aspirated, FWD cars. On October 6th, 2012, Lookofsky set the first ever 8.964-second ET at 150.53-MPH at Englishtown Raceway during the Sport Compact Fall Nationals.

The Roots of Monozukuri Exhibit is open to the public now and will run until April 14th, 2019. So, you don’t have to panic and rush out the door. However, you’ll need a lot of time with the exhibit because there is so much history to take in and observe. Even if you’re not the biggest supporter of Japanese cars, you need to get there because it is a part of automotive history.

Also, how can someone say no to classic cars?

Carbage Host

Justin Banner
@jb27tt on Instagram or RacerBanner on Facebook and Twitter


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