It started out simply enough. Travel two hours north of Tokyo before an official lockdown is implemented to see the Mike Tyson Special Koenig Testarossa, for sale at a dealer in the countryside of Gunma Prefecture. What I found was far more interesting, the kind of almost-unbelievable stories you can expect to hear in the hidden-gem shops Japan is famous for.
The Mike Tyson Special Koenig Testarossa is one of two “official” convertible Koenig Competitions in existence. This yellow car, made famous by its original owner, made its way around the internet a few years ago thanks to a feature in Japan’s Motorhead magazine as well as being for sale at Office-K. Its new home is much more interesting.
Recently, photos of it sitting at a dealership in the Japanese countryside started popping up on Japanese social media. It would’ve been rude not to go check it out. The car is on consignment sale at Auto Roman, a dealer that celebrated its first anniversary the day we visited. It’s by appointment only, but the owner of the shop, Takeshi Moroi, seemed like a nice enough chap.
From the outside it’s a regular Japanese supercar and classic-car dealer. There’s not much stock inside, only about a dozen cars ranging from a Datsun Fairlady to the Koenig Testarossa. Even in a showroom with a Lamborghini Countach, a Mercedes 190E DTM car and a bright orange Porsche 911 GT3 RS, your eyes are immediately drawn to the yellow wedge shape in the corner. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the red car there too. While it may look like a Ferrari 288 GTO, on closer inspection it’s not that at all. In fact, it’s a Ferrari 308 with the 288 body on top; the engine and F1 paddleshift gearbox are from a Ferrari 355. A Ferrarikenstein car if you will.
The car is still owned by Moroi-san’s friend. The story goes the car was purchased by Michael Jackson as a present to Mike Tyson after his championship win. During Tyson’s bankruptcy clearance, the Koenig was bought by the current owner in Japan. The car was then offered by the tuner Office-K for a whopping ¥150,000,000 ($1,400,000). The car sat around for 10 years unregistered, and it hasn’t been driven on the road. Eventually the owner took the car back. He then asked his friend Moroi-san to offer it as a consignment sale after the opening of the new dealership.
Moroi-san never sought to be a car dealer. He has a manufacturing company, and the dealership started out as a way of helping out his friends. It all started 25 years ago when he bought a Toyota 2000GT in “not so good condition.” Utilizing his manufacturing company, he started making spare parts for his 2000GT to restore it to running condition. His work was so good that Toyota effectively asked him to supply 2000GT owners with spare parts. Moroi-san pretty much has the 2000GT spare parts market to himself, so he is able to offer relatively low prices. For example, a new wheel costs only ¥30,000 ($282). He currently has over 50 2000GT windscreens stockpiled. With his expertise in the field, it was no wonder Toyota chose him as a supplier for 2000GT spare parts after the recent announcement it would be selling more in response to customer requests.
After his success with the 2000GT parts, he started expanding his manufacturing to more exotics, including Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini. Word started spreading of his affordable, high-quality parts. Being out in Gunma, not too inaccessible from Tokyo, he found customers from all across Japan for his parts, making friends and contacts along the way.
Half of the cars on display at Auto Roman are from his personal collection; the other half are cars his friends have asked him to sell. One example is the Mercedes 190E DTM car. He bought it from a friend and is currently overhauling the race engine. It was purchased with the road car engine installed, with plans to finish fixing it up by the end of the year for the annual Suzuka Sound of Engine event. But because of the pandemic, the Sound of Engine has been cancelled this year.
Chatting with Moroi-san was like opening up a Pandora’s box of insights regarding the exotic car scene in Japan. He’s definitely heard and seen some crazy stuff in his years and is connected to some of the biggest and most influential collectors in the country. Toward the end of the visit, he offered to take us to the warehouse where the rest of his cars were kept — and it was without a typically Japanese warning of “I’m the poorest in my group of friends.”
In a nondescript warehouse in the town’s industrial area sit around 100 cars, comprising one of the most eclectic and varied collections in Japan. The collection includes everything from supercars to classics, racing cars and project cars. Moroi estimates that around 30 percent of the cars in his collection aren’t in running order, either as projects he hasn’t started or projects he started but didn’t have time or resources to finish. Those are just on hold.
I should clarify who Moroi-san is. If the name is familiar, it’s probably because you’d recognize him from the old Motorhead video featuring Le Mans cars. His car was also featured in a recent Top Gear episode. Yes, this is Moroi-san from the road-legal Porsche 962 fame. The iconic shape of the 962 stood out among the cars in the warehouse, even under its red cover. As he exposed the car, Moroi-san explained that he bought it as-is.
Originally, this car started life as a Schuppan 962. It’s the second of the five or six Schuppans made by Vern Schuppan in Australia. Being an early car, the tub was constructed from a composite, much like the racing cars. The previous owner had swapped out the curvy and awkward Schuppan body in favor of a race-spec body with the full Rothmans livery. Moroi said the previous owner used to commute from his home in Numazu to his office in Ginza, a four-hour round trip. Every effort has gone into making this car as comfortable on the road as possible — it even has air-conditioning. Moroi has owned the car for 15 years and says he has enjoyed driving it on both the street and the track.
The rest of his collection was just as impressive. He also a Porsche 924 Carrera GTR LM, one of a handful made; a one-off original factory Lamborghini Countach painted in the same color as the Lamborghini Cheetah; and a Mazda 767B shell. He was asked to make parts for the rebuild of the 767, but the project had to be called off as the owner of the car ran short of funds. Nevertheless, Moroi still has all the measurements, and he said in theory he could rebuild one from the ground up using the shell he has. We toyed with the idea of making a street-legal version to match the 962.
I counted no less than half a dozen 2000GTs in his collection, including the second of the only two original 2000GT Roadsters. Moroi’s roadster was the promotional car for the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, and it was also displayed at the Geneva Motor Show. The car had undergone a thorough restoration thanks to Moroi-san’s manufacturing company. The coupe parked next to the roadster with the blue livery was that very same 2000GT he bought 25 years ago that started all this.
It’d take far too long to go through every one of his cars in detail; as Moroi-san said, “Each car has a different story and memory attached.” That makes it hard for him to let them go, so through the years he’s ended up hoarding cars. There are cars literally missing half their body, have no engines or are just there as spares.
Moroi-san said his next project will be making Evo2 kits for the 190E. His company will make 10 of them. His daily driver is the demo car, which looks nearly identical to the real deal, minus the badging. He said he’s already made two of the kits. The other project is making Ferrari 308 Gr.4 cars from the ground up without the need of a base car. He plans to make 5 units of these and each one will be priced from ¥30,000,000 ($282,000). He’s already taken his demo car to several events such as the Asama Hill Climb and Automobile Council shows to gain exposure.
It should come as no surprise then that he says he favors racing cars. In the far reaches of the warehouse sat his other Porsche 962, this one a racing car sporting the Advan livery. He also has a “genuine” Ford GT40 made from spare parts Ford had laying around. Moroi’s collection is a weird and wacky mishmash of pre-21st century cars that could’ve only been curated by a man eccentric enough to drive a Porsche 962 on the street.
The main outlier in his collection was also his most recent purchase - a Pagani Huayra roadster. He got the car through Kessel, a dealer in Switzerland. They have a close relationship, Kessel providing support for his Ferrari 458 Challenge car. I guess it was a mixture of miscommunication and Japanese honor that Moroi-san unwillingly or accidentally agreed to buy the roadster from them. When he decided to cancel, it was too late and he ended up with it. He’s now trying to sell it. It hasn’t been registered in Japan and he hasn’t even driven yet. It must be nice to be so rich you accidentally buy a Pagani and not drive it. But remember, he’s the poorest in his group of friends.
Moroi ended his show-and-tell saying that he wants to downsize his collection and focus more on his projects, particularly the 190E and 308 projects. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has planned for the future. A road-legal Mazda 767B needs to happen. At the very least, post-pandemic he’s looking forward to getting out and driving again.