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Thread: Babalouie's Hakosuka

  1. #1
    Administrator Justin Fox's Avatar
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    Babalouie's Hakosuka

    Babalouie's Hakosuka
    Photography by Kelvin Ng
    Interview by Justin Fox

    Check (if you live in usa): Publix Weekly Ad, or Supercheap Auto Catalogue

    Justin Fox: Babs let's start with your personal history of the Hakosuka. How did you first find out about it?

    Babalouie: The Hako first came to my attention in the early 90's, all I knew was that it was a homologation special with a very exotic technical spec: 5 speeds, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder (back then even Ferrari and Lamborghini only had 2 valves per cylinder). At the time I just filed it away as another cool car that the Japanese kept to themselves.

    In 2007 I got involved with Mike Stevens (vanarchy on JDMST) on the GrandJDM blog, and later Japanese Nostalgic Car Magazine. I spent a bit of time researching the history of the Hako. I found out about its racing record and its reputation in Japan back in the day. So cool. I think the original 2000GTR is like the aussie Falcon GTHO in a way, it was the first time a Japanese car maker had made a truly kick ass car. In the touring car championship, it had an unbeaten winning streak of almost 50 races that lasted for 3 yrs! So in Japan it will always be up on a pedestal, and back in the day it was iconic enough that even non-enthusiast Japanese could appreciate what it was, what it stood for in a country that was really hitting its stride economically and hence was hungry for new cultural icons.

    In June of that same year that we started GrandJDM, I found myself in Japan. It was about a month after the Tokyo Nostalgic Car Show. Lots of classic cars were dusted off, tuned and taken out, Tokyo was seemingly crawling with classic cars enjoying the Japanese summer. On that trip I stumbled upon Victory 50, which is the biggest Hako tuner in Tokyo, and I spent quite some time drooling over the cars inside. But it wasn't until a few days later when I came across a silver Hako (looked much like mine does, actually) at the Super Autobacs.

    JF: Love at first sight?

    Babalouie: Well this one was the nicest of the lot, and we spent some proper time looking at it... and I remember walking around it, and thinking... damn! It was a silver 2dr, with a real nice slam and wide Watanabes at the back, hunkered down with lots of camber, and for the first time I spent some proper time looking at it, soaking up all the details. I remember walking back to the station and taking lots of backwards glances at the car. I guess it was at that moment that the seed was planted, and a few months later I'd pulled the trigger on buying my own.

    JF: That's really fast work Babs.

    Babalouie: Hako is one of those cars you really have to see in the flesh to appreciate. Of course I'd seen lots of pictures of them over the years but in real life I was quite blown away. The thing that struck me at that point was that it isn't like a British classic car, or a German car of that era, or an American muscle car. It's uniquely Japanese and could only come from one place. Park a nice Hako next to a nicely modified R34 GTR and you can tell that they are pages from the same book, made from the same recipe for making a car look fast and tough that is uniquely Japanese.

    At that point I was coming to the end of my time with the MX5 so I was on the hunt for a new project, and that car at the Autobacs really did linger in my mind for a long time afterwards. So yeah, it was love at first sight..or at least lust!

    JF: The first time I met you, you were wearing a Car Make Corns T-Shirt. That's a pretty specific T-Shirt to be wearing and it suggested a lot about you as an MX5 enthusiast.

    Babalouie: Yes! Car Make Corns (to the uninitiated) is a Tokyo MX5 tuner, and was maybe my first experience of JDM tuner culture, way back in 2003 on my first trip to Japan. Even though I don't have an MX5 anymore, I still try to drop by when I'm in Tokyo. I was a good customer there!

    JF: Have you found yourself buying JDM magazines on the Hako? Die-cast toys, DVD's, memorabilia?

    Babalouie: A part of my work with JNC magazine is to research classic Japanese cars so I have a lot of JDM books and magazines. I do have quite a few Hako ChoroQ's (including the giant sized one!) and a few other bits and pieces, but I'm not generally a collector since my kids can't help playing with my stuff, and so I don't really buy anything really fancy or expensive that I'm not happy for my kids to mess with. That's how it is!

    JF: Hahah. So where does the Hako sit in terms of your age and when the car was first released? Personally I can't fathom the idea of owning a car older than I am, but I'd love to own one from the year I was born, an itch I have yet to scratch.

    Babalouie: Funny you should say that, tha Hako is a 1971 car and I was born in 1971. I am old enough to remember sitting in 60's and 70's cars as a kid, so when I climbed into the Hako for the very first time, a lot of memories came back as the smells and feel of everything hit me.

    JF: I have to say that the classic cars, and the wealth of culture that come with them really seems to suit you.

    Babalouie: True, the Hako is part of my fascination with Japanese culture and JDM car culture, and I guess I'm hardly alone in having that fascination. Building a classic Japanese car and researching its origins is like the final level of a JDM video game! You've done the easy levels with a newer car and lots of accessible parts, and now it's the harder boss level where there is no Haynes manual, all the parts are hard to get and nobody knows anything about it except you! Now if only we had an unlimited-cash cheat code...

    JF: Your Hako thread in the members rides section is the most viewed members ride thread on JDMST. The sheer amount of work you've put into this car, and how you've taken everyone on the journey with you has been great.

    Babalouie: Yes, that's one of the nice things about the Hako. I love Japan car culture and want to share it with others. A lot of people won't ever see a real Hako, but it's a way for them to share the experience, and see what it looks like inside, underneath, etc. That older era of Japanese cars is a little hidden and unknown for even an avid JDM enthusiast, so this is my way of helping to bring all that cool stuff out into the public domain. Japan made great cars back then, and I want people to know that. The build thread is on a few other forums too, and altogether I think there's 320,000 views or something.

    It's been so nice to get positive feedback about the car. I'm always learning with it, and everyone's been very supportive. I think the Hako has turned out to be a much better car today as a result of all the advice I've gotten along the way, and all the encouragement was great at times when it seemed like it was all too hard. And I've definitely avoided a lot of mistakes as a result of all the help I've had. In fact it's quite humbling that people would be so willing to help out someone that they've never met.

    I owe a lot to everyone who follows the build thread. But the fact that it's so public is of course a double-edged sword.

    JF: Why would you say that? In what way?

    Babalouie: A few months after first getting the car I came to the unmistakable conclusion that I'd been taken for a ride and what I'd spent a lot of money on was a complete and utter bucket of shit. The workmanship was lousy, there was a lot that had to be redone, and even when I got it going it drove horribly.

    My worst memory was taking it for its first drive to get engineered. There was this steep hill and the car virtually spluttered to a halt, foot to the floor, coughing and splitting up this hill in 1st gear, with this long queue of cars honking impatiently behind me. And when we got to the top of the hill, the brakes didn't work! At that point, if I could have returned the car to Japan to get my money back I would have. I felt angry and taken advantage of. But by that stage the build was so popular I felt that the only way out was to fix the car, which even back then, I knew was going to take a long, long time.

    JF: This Hako is for sure your biggest and most ambitious project to date right? I know you put a lot of love into the MX5, and the journey with that was huge for you, but this is something else.

    Babalouie: Yes. It's my 3rd ground up build in the past 6yrs and has been a much bigger project than the MX5 or the Luce. The challenge with the Hako was that it needed a lot of fixing before I could register it. Driving it around to various workshops to get it looked at was not an option because it was unregistered, and I knew that there were enough niggly little things to get sorted that getting it done professionally would have cost a fortune anyway.

    So the only way out was to fix it all myself because the only way it was going to get out of my garage was under its own power, and that needed a lot of work. But it think it all turned out quite okay.

    JF: With the MX5 feature interview you stated that you'd never sell it. I still miss my MX5 a lot and I didn't do anything to mine in comparison to what you did with yours. Surely you're still missing that car a lot?

    Babalouie: Do I miss the MX5? Sometimes. But I think I'm coming to the stage where the cars are more of a hobby than a driving tool, and in that sense the MX5 was finished and nothing more could have been done to it. In terms of a project and in terms of the amount of effort I've had to put in, the Hako is definitely the biggest project I've taken on. I think maybe there's 400 hours of my own time in the restoration, and that's not counting all the time spent researching the car in books and the net. But it will be a long, long time before I consider it finished and my work done.

    JF: Throwing out memories, say old high school photos, never needs to happen. Sure they take up space, physically and mentally, but putting them into a shoe box in the store room seems to make sense. When does a car become a keeper? How much more love and hard work does one have to put in to make a car a keeper? The Hako is surely a contender? Or do you still see it as "just a car".

    Babalouie: Honestly? I think all enthusiasts feel the same way in that as much as you love your car, the lure of the next car is sometimes too great to ignore and often the journey is the most fun and the most satisfying part. So I can understand when people say that they'll never sell, and then they do the opposite and start a new project. From my point of view, as much as I loved the MX5 (and I guess I still do) the option of starting again with something new, something that I've never done before, something I knew nothing about, was really exciting. So won't rule out that I'll move on one day from the Hako too.

    Hey, don't get me wrong, I love it! The way it's turned out really did exceed my expectations. I was expecting a cool looking classic car that sounded great but had vintage performance, but on a track, it seems to be at the same level as say a stock S15 or 350Z and I didn't see that coming at all. It's as fast around Wakefield as my old MX5 (and that thing was a piece of work). It's a lot of fun to drive, and I can imagine owning it for a long, long time before I get bored with it. In a straight line anyway, it's definitely the fastest car I've owned.

    JF: It seems like you've been consistently into cars for a very long time. I recently took a year off cars and it felt good. I felt like I needed it but you've always been into it.

    Babalouie: I can understand why you took a break from cars. I guess if I look back, I've done the track-whore thing, I've done the drifting thing, I had an AE86, I had a Type R, a couple of V8s, I did the turbo Skyline thing, and the MX5 was a bit of a traditional JDM "catalog" car in that everything on it was out of Hyper Rev and that's what I wanted to do at the time. The Luce was my first rotary, and then the Hako is a vastly different project again.

    Change is good. But while changes don't always have to be car-related, in my case I've always managed to find a new niche in cars to dig into.

    JF: Some people might find your passion for cars and car culture a bit of an inspiration. Your love of cars is obviously not forced, it's not like you're trying hard to get into cars, you just are into cars. How do you explain it?

    Babalouie: Cars tend to be the first thing that I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about as I fall asleep, and that's always been the case. I'm not sure why that is so, and it probably isn't normal or healthy, but it's just how I've always been, even as a little kid. If I could spend 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, and all year immersed into cars I would. There are so many interesting cars in the world and each one has a fascinating story. It would be such a shame if you didn't try them all!

    JF: What you just wrote. That is gold! GOLD! I'd love to end this interview here but I want more: The JDMST community is made out of a diverse a lot of people. Many who are new and lack the experience you have had with executing build projects. Do you see them getting to a level of build that you're at with your Hako?

    Babalouie: One of the things I think the build thread proves is that anyone can do it. Go back to the beginning and read my posts. I'm quite the noob. I learned a lot along the way. You won't get better until you take the plunge and go for it. Just take your time, ask questions and be receptive to ideas and advice. The internet has been a wonderful tool for my Hako build. I have so many contacts around the world in the classic Nissan scene who have helped me and I wouldn't have any of this if I didn't have a build thread that was popular.

    Listen, all the professionals who are experts in these cars all have grey hair and are in their 50s. In ten, maybe fifteen years time all these guys will have retired and will be lying on the beach with a well deserved cold beer. And 20 years after that, all these old skills and knowledge will be lost. By taking on these projects, by putting them on the 'net, we are keeping this knowledge alive for a little bit longer. The more of us that do it, the easier it gets for everybody...the people who make reproduction parts and manuals do so because there is a demand. By keeping old cars on the road we are literally keeping a whole industry alive.

    If all old cars were just sitting in museums there would be no need for the industry that maintains them. The fact that you are keeping a classic car on the road is cool in itself! Just get out there and do it at your own pace.

    JF: So the Hako, where does it sit now?

    Babalouie: Well, there is still a lot more to do. The Hako is at a point where it's presentable and drivable but in terms of restoration there is much more to be done. There's some bodywork I want to re-do, and the suspension tune needs sorting. I need to sort out an LSD, etc etc. Lots more to do. I'm a little torn though between whether to install a cage, hot up the car more seriously and start doing historic motorsport events, or whether I should just keep the Hako as a nice road car.

    I'm thinking of taking up welding so that I can have a go at the bodywork myself. I've even had 3phase power installed in the garage...I don't know if I'll seriously take the plunge but that's what it's all about isn't it? As long as you're kept busy, and your mind is interested, then you're happy! Well I am, anyway.


    - L28 block, 89mm bore-up 2950cc
    - 11:1 ART/HKS custom flat top pistons, 1mm HKS Moly rings
    - Balanced & lightened crank & rods
    - N42 head, 3mm shave, welded & reshaped chambers, 44mm & 37mm big valves,
    custom retainers & valve springs, 41mm inlet ports
    - 278 duration works rally cam, adjustable sprocket
    - Redline intake manifold, match ported, FET Weber linkages
    - Triple Weber 40DCOE carbs
    - Trust headers & dual exhaust
    - Recurved Skyline Japan electronic distributor, MSD Blaster3 coil
    - Hi-volume oil pump
    - Carter 72gph fuel pump
    - Nismo extended sump
    - 250hp

    - Brass 3-puck clutch, sprung centre
    - Stock pressure plate
    - Lightened stock flywheel
    - 4.625:1 open R180 diff
    - 280ZX 5spd gearbox

    - Front: Z31 300ZX Koni Yellow shocks, coilover conversion, 250 pound springs,
    DatSport camber tops, Victory50 strut brace
    - Rear: KYB Mono-gas shocks, 600 pound springs, Protec-S20 urethane short

    - Endless Street-spec pads & shoes
    - Speedbleeders

    - Front: 14 x 7.5 -3 Watanabe A-type, 185/60-14 Yokohama C-Drive
    - Rear: 14 x 9.5 -19 Watanabe R-type, 245/50-14 Yokohama A352

    - Nismo Compe vintage steering wheel, 2000GTR replica hornpad
    - Vintage Pioneer TSX-9 speakers, Sony single-CD deck
    - Recaro LS driver's seat

    - Replica 2000GT-R racing flares, front spoiler & boot wing
  2. #2
    Member cazSW20's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Yokoyama Kouji-san's Joint
    Reverse Bum-dragger

    That'll look nice sitting next to Mike's datto on the homepage JF.
  3. #3
    Administrator Justin Fox's Avatar
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    MKV R32 Golf
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    Adding to homepage in a sec The interview was a pleasure (I actually forced Babs to download MSN/messenger!). And I think Kelvin has done agreat job on these pics.
  4. #4
    Member Blake-2234's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    sutherland shire
    my05 wrx impreza
    2nd Car

    awesome read nice job both to justin and babs

    makes me think a lot about why im into cars and things, opened my eyes to whats around me

  5. #5
    Senior Member HuH's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Audi A4 Avant B7
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    Honda City Turbo

    Fantastic. Arguably the most deserving car in this Featured Rides section. Great work, both of you guys.
  6. #6
    Member mattymc's Avatar
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    Jan 2009
    S15 Silvia

    Was just talking to a few jdmst members today about the awesomeness of this car, rather they were telling me about its awesomeness.

    its awesome
  7. #7

    that engine bay makes me hard
    Survived Parramatta Crew

    Whiteballz is an irresponsible Mod.
  8. #8
    Member Omawari_San's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    Next to the Autobahn

    Thumps up for Babs and his car!
  9. #9
    Member RE99IE's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    Shitty Rail
    2nd Car

    love the photos Kelv and great interview. Threads like this makes me want to start a build myself.
    Quote Originally Posted by narada View Post
    Nothing else mattered but the next corner coming up. - the road is my paper, the roadster is my pen, and the journey is my story

    [email protected] - photography by me
  10. #10
    Moderator Babalouie's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    Sydney Australia

    Mad props to the Eggman for the awesome pics!
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