From the outside looking in, Japan is mystical, magical and marvellously mad. But spend your whole life growing up here and you’ll probably find yourself wondering what all the fuss is about.
In fact, you might be so disinterested that you start looking at how things are done on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, searching out some exotic twist to spark joy. That’s exactly what the group of enthusiasts that make up Level One Japan have done, and recently I caught up with members Kohei-san and Hiro-san to check out their USDM Acura NSXs.
Full disclaimer though, the Level One guys are not strictly USDM. As with anything in Japan, foreign flavors are delicately infused into familiar and trusted ways of doing things. The odd USDM front end, side mirror or tail light set have been integrated into what are essentially still JDM cars.
There are a couple of right-hand drive cars in the fleet however, plus a very nicely stanced Acura TSX, a couple of S2000s, two E46 BMW M3s (one in coupe version) and of course the two Acura NSXs you see here. Think of it more as an international smorgasbord rather than a themed restaurant.
Kohei-san and Hiro-san have a shared history when it comes to cars. As teens they both lusted after the NSX, and as young adults they both settled for an S2000, the latter being slightly more within their budgets at the time.
They’re both into American culture, but it was Kohei-san who had big dreams of driving a left-hand drive Honda in Japan.
In fact, the desire burned so fiercely that one day he plucked up the courage to ask his grandma if she would buy his dream NSX. Being a sensible woman, she declined. I’m sure she had better things to spend her life savings on other than a sports cars.
That didn’t deter Kohei-san though, and he managed to get his hands on a USDM-spec S2000, which he still owns.
Fast forward 14 years, and Kohei-san is now the proud owner of an NA2 Acura NSX-T (Targa) in Monaco Blue Pearl, and manual of course. He also has an FC3S Mazda RX-7, an EK9 Honda Civic Type R and a Mk7 VW Golf GTI in his collection, but the NSX is definitely the jewel in his crown.
Kohei-san’s RX-7 is a tucked and shaved work of art, but unfortunately has no current shaken. As soon as it is registered to drive again, I’ll definitely bring you a story on it. The NSX is sedate in comparison, but it does benefit from a set of Endless Zeal Function X coilovers, Desmond RegaMaster Evo wheels and a full Comptech exhaust system for a little extra flow.
But what really elevates this NSX is the bespoke interior trim. Swathes of Alcantara and leather transform what was originally a very ’90s Japanese sports car interior into something truly befitting its pedigree.
Plus, with the roof off, people are always peering into the cabin for a look, so having some fancy trim isn’t such a bad idea.
Hiro-san is a little indifferent when it comes to American cars, or the USDM versions of Japanese classics. Initially he wanted a right-hand drive NSX, but then this NA1 Acura came up for the right price, so he snatched it up without a second thought.
The modifications on this car a little more substantial than Kohei-san’s targa top counterpart. There’s no need to adjust your screen – the RAYS Volk Racing TE37SLs (17×9-inch +22 up front and 18×10.5-inch +22 in the rear) are indeed painted different colors on either side. I guess it makes remembering which side of the road to drive on easy.
Inside the jet fighter-inspired cockpit, Hiro-san has fitted a custom-fabricated, bolt-in aluminum roll cage. It bends itself beautifully through the cabin saving the need to cut holes in the dashboard, perhaps just at the expense of any real added safety.
The C30A 3.0L V6 VTEC engine has unrestricted airflow via a Gruppe M Super Cleaner intake, which means the Spoon ECU can maximize its clever calculations for more power. Nasty gasses are via Revolution exhaust headers and a full GT-ROM Ver. 5.1 exhaust. The ABS system has been deleted too.
Hiro-san has built one of the nicest Acura NSXs you’re likely to see, and the judges at events like Wekfest tend to agree. Between 2016 and 2019, the car has taken Wekfest Japan awards for ‘Acura of the Festival’ three times (a 1st, 2nd and 3rd).
No doubt the various body parts from Racing Factory Yamamoto, Garage Kite and Route K have contributed to the success.
There’s still more to come from the guys at Level One Japan – we just need to wait until the other special cars in their collection are back on the road again. That wait will be worth it though.