A Car Nerd's Guide To JapanAn insider look at car culture in Japan.  

This looks like a Lamborghini Miura Jota SVR, but it’s not a Lamborghini Miura Jota SVR. It’s not a replica, or a kit car. It wasn’t made with revolutionary and dangerous shrink ray technology. It’s simply the work of a man who grew up dreaming of owning a Miura Jota SVR, but it was always just out of his reach. So he decided to build his own instead.

By now most of you would’ve seen the recently restored Lamborghini Miura Jota SVR, a conversion was done by a German Lamborghini importer back in the 1970s. It was then bought by a prominent Japanese collector and has remained in Japan ever since.

It’s a big deal over here. This very car inspired a generation of gearheads, spawning posters, countless model cars from Kyosho and Tomica, and even inspiring the manga Circuit Wolf. After sitting in a garage for several years the Jota SVR went back to Lamborghini to undergo their Polo Storico restoration program.

But of course, a car of the Miura’s caliber and the restoration it underwent would cost somewhere in region several million yen. As a car that inspired a generation of Japanese car enthusiasts, it was unfortunately out of the reach of many.

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One of those enthusiasts was a guy who goes by Kin-san, and he was keen to remind me how much he loves the Miura Jota SVR. He first knew of the Miura Jota SVR when he was a child and the love and appreciation for that one particular car has grown over the years. But at the same time as his love and appreciation grew, so did the car’s actual value. Owning the real thing would be impossible, so he decided to build it instead.

It’s easy to see why; the Jota SVR is the ultimate version of the Miura. It’s a car that epitomizes the ultimate in bespoke customer specification of an already legendary car. The fact that it was then brought into Japan and created a pop culture craze only cemented this car’s status as an icon of the ’70s and ’80s to budding gearheads in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I met up with Kin-san to see his pride and joy up close. I had been familiar with his car on Instagram and had seen his car a couple of times are random meets every now and then and always made me excited to see it.

The meeting point was Longwood Station, about 90 minutes east of Tokyo in Chiba. It’s a parking area on a lake far away from civilization. Kin-san suggested it’d be good to take photos here away from prying eyes.

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Kin-san bought the base car, a Suzuki Cala, about 25 years ago. Basically, a badge engineered Mazda Autozam AZ-1—for all intents and purpose just think of this as an AZ-1-based replica.

Though I’m not entirely sure replica is the appropriate word to use for it.

It’s not a kit car—Kin-san made this all himself by hand. Perhaps “homage” would be more apt. It has gone through three build stages and he’s spent about four and a half years in total on this project. The first stage was completed about eight years ago and Kin-san said after stepping back and seeing the whole project finished as a whole has been his favorite memory of with this car.

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With no help from any body shop, Kin-san did all the body panels himself. It’s a truly personal project, one he put his blood sweat and tears into. The second stage took about two and a half years to do, comprising mainly of the new front. The third stage was perfecting rear.

Since the modifications had made the car larger than the kei-car regulations, Kin-san decided to tune up the engine as well. A peek behind the rear louvres may suggest it has a 12 cylinders, it’s still very much a three-cylinder car.

Thought the original car had a 660cc motor, this one has been upped to 700cc. Kin-san didn’t discuss any performance figures, but I guess that’s not the point. He says he drives it about once a week and the actual driving isn’t difficult. Though he does says he’s careful to not make any quick maneuvers as these cars are known to snap quickly.

One difference between this Japanese-based Jota and the real deal is the maintenance cost. (Fuel is considerably more affordable compared to the Miura’s thirsty V12.) The only big thing he’s had to do was replace all the hoses but that’s to be expected from a car that’s quarter of a century old.

Amazingly, Kin-san hasn’t displayed this car at any shows or competitions. It’s very much just a car for himself to enjoy. There’s Instagram and some internet features, but that’s it. He said it gets quite a bit of attention when he show up to various car meets at Daikoku and Hanyu, sometimes more than the actual supercars. It’s not surprising—while it may not be as low and wide as “proper” supercars it still has the presence and impact of a supercar. In everything but performance I’d call this a supercar.

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He’s not shy to share this car with other enthusiasts though. He’s more than happy to open the car up and talk to people about it. During hotter days Kin-san will remove one of the roof panels for extra cooling but also to give a glimpse into the interior.

There’s a Lamborghini-badged steering wheel, a sort of gated manual shifter, and “Lamborghini” seatbelts. It’s just as sparse inside as the real deal.

Whereas the Miura has the iconic “bull horn” doors, Kin-san’s baby Jota retains the donor car’s gullwing doors. The more I looked around the car the more neat details I noticed. Most notably are the wheels and roof-mounted spoiler which are identical to the original car.

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The red and gold paint scheme is unmistakably Miura. It’s almost as if Kin-san just took the original car and shrunk it by 40 percent. Lamborghini and Bertone badges adorn the exterior.

That’s what I love most about this car. It’s truly personal and is just as special as the car that inspired him to start this project. It’s also uniquely Japanese in its execution from the base car to the miniaturization of an existing thing. It’s a bit like the Sony Walkman of Miuras.

It’s people like Kin-san, Yamada-san and his crazy Pagani Zonda, and Junya with his road-converted Subaru WRC car that are still fueling and inspiring the car culture in Japan.

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It may not be as colorful or as groundbreaking at it once was a decade or so ago, but these people are proof that with a bit of patience and determination you can get your dream cars. If not, then just build one yourself that’s close to it. Some people may get it, most won’t, but who cares?

Which begs the question, what supercar would this generation build based on kei-cars? An AZ-1 would be the perfect base for a Pagani Huayra build or maybe a Ferrari F60 America based on the Suzuki Cappuccino?

Kin-san said he has no plans to build anymore of these mini-Miuras nor does he have any plans to let this car go. “I am planning to drive this until I die,” he told me proudly. Just like the car that inspired it, Kin-san’s Jota-go is very much a unique one-off. I hope Kin-san gets his wish to be able to have the two cars side by side together one day.

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I’m not sure if anyone from Lamborghini has seen or is aware of this machhine, but I have a feeling they’d understand Kin-san’s sense of humor. That’s the thing you have to remember, this isn’t some sort of fake copy trying to pass as the real thing. It knows exactly what it is and it’s just here for a good time.

Life is too short to be too serious all the time.

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