Unfeatured: The Exceed Japan Integra Type R…


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Those of you who have followed The Chronicles for the last few years will probably be pretty familiar with this 1996 Honda Integra Type R. I’ve posted photos of it here and there over time, never the complete set, which I’ll explain why today. It was a build that I was around quite often during my adventures in Japan, being that it was built by a very close friend of mine. If you own a copy of my second book, “Glory”, you may recognize some of these photos because they graced a few of those pages. The rest of them never made it anywhere because they just sat unfinished in a folder on my desktop. Eventually I moved those photos over to an external hard-drive and never looked at them again…

Thinking back now, I actually was pretty happy with these photos. There were definitely flaws but I liked mostly everything about it, whether it be the back drop or the subject matter itself. There was just one fatal flaw about it that killed my motivation to finish and submit this set to Super Street magazine. Allow me to give you some back story first, for those who are new or aren’t particularly familiar with this gorgeous ’96 ITR…

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There’s a shot of this car towards the very end of this set that you’ll see which was pretty close to being the cover of my second book. I just made a last minute change when I came upon an older photo that I really liked which I thought suited the cover better. I place importance on this Integra Type R build because it was Yasu Shimomukai’s first self-produced project after his split from Tactical Art back in 2015-16. I won’t elaborate on what happened but it was a mutual decision to part ways. Yasu wanted to start his own shop and things were rough in the beginning. He had been going though some health issues after overworking himself and starting a business from scratch was not exactly an easy task to take on when he had already experienced so much success building award-winning show cars with Tactical Art. I still remember the night when He, Yuta, and myself were standing outside of our old shop in Hawaiian Gardens. It was a usual late night, they were smoking in the parking lot and Yasu told us that he wanted our help developing a new name for his shop. I had faith that whatever Yasu was doing he’d be successful at it. He’s got a certain level of drive that most people don’t have and he’s a true, street-smart, hustler-type. He told us he had a shop space already and was moving things over, he even had a customer who wanted Yasu to do a complete build of his Integra Type R. He would have full reign over the project. When it came to the engine bay, motor set-up, exterior, paint, etc. Whatever Yasu envisioned, the customer was good with it. He trusted his talent and eye…

Yasu took this project on with the idea that he’d also be producing this build as an example of what his new shop, Exceed, would be capable of. It would be a demo car for his newfound total car-make shop. In Japan, things are a little different. The differences in both culture and access make it totally okay for shops to produce complete cars for customers. Here, it’s a very “me” culture where enthusiasts make it a point to let you know that they did everything themselves. They want to be known as “builders” or “designers”. Japan does things a little differently. They have shops that often produce complete cars because these shops are respected and their skill-sets are appreciated so much that you’d want to own a car produced by these tuning shops. “Demo cars” as we have come to know them as, are perfectly okay. They don’t concentrate on the whole “built not bought” type of mentality. It’s not a negative thing there. They’re literally called “demo cars” because they are demonstration vehicles from a shop showcasing the shop’s capabilities. If you can produce a good demo car, that means you’ll likely get a significant boost in business. These cars serve as the ultimate marketing tools for these types of businesses…

The idea for this Integra project, the first major demo car build for Exceed, was to display Yasu’s skill in execution and his understanding of West Coast “USDM” Honda style. He had made many trips to the U.S. over the years to study what we do here in California and had developed an affinity for our unique style. He wanted to take what he learned from us and apply it to Hondas back at home. The goal for this ’96 Type R was to create his very own version of one of his personal favorites which he had seen in California; Mikey “HeyMikeyyyy” Cristi’s Integra GS-R from Southern California’s famed Phaze2 car club. Yasu liked that Integra so much that he ended-up buying the red Integra and having it shipped back to Osaka. It was an inspiration to him and it was a car he felt had a lot of value to him. This new project wouldn’t be an exact copy of it of course. It would merely be a baseline of what he wanted but he’d also apply his own unique ideas to it. There were ideas that he developed from seeing other builds that he wanted to incorporate…

The Exceed demo car would retain it’s original Japanese ITR face and would have a new shade of blue covering the factory Championship White body. He wanted the car low because, well… the lower the better. Yasu wanted a multi-piece wheel on this ITR instead of a traditional wheel like a Volk TE37. The heart and soul of this build, where you’d see the most of Yasu’s skillset, was in the engine bay. Honda engine bays from the U.S. are like art exhibitions and that is what he wanted. The exterior could be simple executed, just a factory refresh even, but the engine bay had to be the best.

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It took a two years for Yasu to complete the Integra, a short amount of time considering he was also moving into a new shop at the time and developing a business from the ground-up. In that time this Integra was also being built from the ground-up. I’d often get updates on the car, even when I was here back at home in California. There are even detailed photos from the start to finish of this project that he’d send me from time to time. Luckily I was there to see the final touches being applied and watching the car trailered-off to its first Wekfest Japan event in 2017. A year later in 2018, I shot it with every intention for it to be in print in Super Street magazine…

One of my favorite things about this photoshoot was the setting. I had always wanted to shoot a car in downtown Osaka. It was always such an interesting place. We’d often go down to this area to eat dinner or just hang-out because it was a popular part of Osaka to visit. I absolutely loved this part of town because it exudes a certain level of grit that you wouldn’t see in many other parts of Japan. Osaka is unique. It’s grimy and the people are a little different. To me, there was no better place to shoot a car built in Osaka. We were actually eating dinner in this area the night before when we passed the vending machines and parking lot that you see in the above photos. I told Yasu that this was a cool spot for a shoot because the vending machines were tagged-up with old decals and there was graffiti everywhere. When you see this area, you don’t think of Japan because people always think that Japan is so proper and clean. It was the antithesis of what people thought was “Japanese”. I looked over across the street and what did I see? A clothing store devoted to Americana with a massive sign that said “The American Wannabe”. What a perfect spot. An Integra built by a shop in Japan with intentions to look like a Honda build you’d see in America. The American Wannabe…

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I pictured this photo being the two-page spread to open-up the feature when you flipped through the magazine. You wouldn’t even need artwork to add a title to the story. It would be entitled “The American Wannabe“. But in this case, the word “Wannabe” would be almost ironic. You’d consider it a wannabe because of how intentionally it tries to look like a Integra from California but it was built with such precision and detailed execution by a shop in Japan that it’d be far better than most of these American Honda builds. Maybe it’d go over people’s heads but nonetheless, how often would you ever see a magazine feature where the title comes from its actual physical setting? That’s cool to me…

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So…what the hell happened? Why did it not see print? Well… I’d like to think that it was both parts my fault and Yasu’s, but ultimately I think it was just my obsessive nitpicking that killed the momentum of this feature…

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Somewhere between the time the car was finished and when I shot the car, some of the body panels on the Integra had to be resprayed. I don’t recall what happened or if something had been damaged, but parts of the car had to be repainted. Those repainted panels in certain angles, when the light hits it just right, are off. It’s not terribly obvious, but it was apparent. Enough to where it drove me to insanity, lol. I don’t know if anyone else noticed because the car mostly sat inside the shop, so we couldn’t really see it in all the different spectrum’s of light. It wasn’t until I started shooting the car that morning when I really noticed it. Everything else was going so well with the shoot and the setting was so perfect that I continued to shoot. I figured I’d just get all the photos I wanted and then I’d color correct it in post-processing. Nothing Photoshop can’t fix, right?…

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When I got home to California, I started going through the photos. I thought to myself that it wasn’t that bad, I could fix it, and the shoot would great once it’s all done. I worked on some of the photos, fixed the panels and tried to match the color as much as I could. I stared at it up-close, I got up off my seat and started at it from across the room, and I even slept on it, giving my mind some time to process what I was looking at. Maybe if I let my mind reset, I could clearly see if the color-matched after post-processing…

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Maybe it’ll be apparent to some of you, most of you probably won’t notice. I still feel that I matched it as best as I could. Honestly, in print, it probably wouldn’t show anyway. But I kept thinking to myself that maybe it somehow would show, and it’d make everyone look bad. Me for not being able to fix it, the shop for its error in paint, and Super Street for allowing a car to run in print with obvious errors in color…

The thing that always bothered me about cloning and over editing in Photoshop is that no matter how good it looks, I myself will always know what it actually looked like. That is one of the main reasons why I never wanted to do rig shots because I know that even though I Photoshopped the rig out of the photo, I still saw the rig where it used to be and it wouldn’t look natural. I just felt like no matter how much time I put into correcting each panel to make everything match, I would still see the differences. Ultimately it just felt like too much of a risk.

So I just put them away.

It wasn’t until I decided to start doing this “Unfeatured” series when I thought of this photo set again. I figured now would be a good time to show you guys the photos I shot of the first Exceed demo car. It’s a fantastic build. Everything that you would expect from Yasu, who has continued to hone his craft since then. He has an incredible painter now and every car that comes out of that shop now has immaculate paint work. It’s so good that most of the jobs that come in these days are specifically paint jobs and repair work. I look back and think now that had we had this painter from the get-go, we would have never had any issues with this Integra…

The craziest part about this whole scenario is that I’ve never seen this car again since that day, lol. The customer took the car back after completion, after the paint was corrected, and he’s never brought the car out again for another event. He doesn’t have social media either so the car is just something that stays tucked away for the owner’s own enjoyment. Unique indeed but I can respect it. Not everything needs to be displayed for public consumption…

With that said, I guess you can rely on me to show you guys this Integra Type R in detail…

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The engine bay, as mentioned, is the meat and potatoes of this build. This is where all the good stuff is happening. Nothing overly shaved and smoothed-out, just refreshed, factory holes still in place, unnecessary studs on the firewall removed, some minor sections filled, and repainted to match the body. If you’re wondering, I believe this blue hue is a factory Honda Fit/Jazz paint color…

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The valve cover and RBC intake manifold were both chrome-dipped overseas here in California. Chrome refinishing is VERY different in Japan compared to the work you see in America so Yasu made sure to have the parts finished in Southern California…

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Rywire tucked radiator hiding under the core support with a slight tilt connected to the K20A with black braided plumbing and matching -AN fittings…

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The K20A is dressed-up with most, if not all, aftermarket components from North America. Hardware is either from Downstar Inc. or Skunk2 and other accessories are from the Hybrid Racing catalog…

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Water filler neck with -AN fittings and radiator cap from Hybrid Racing…

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The mirror-like finish from the chrome gives the engine bay a very distinct look contrasting with the blue paint, black accessories, and slight yellow glow from the labels on the Rywire engine harness…

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A one-off “Exceed” fuel rail from Hybrid Racing presented to Yasu by David Cordell after his years of support and helping to get Hybrid Racing recognized by the Japanese market…

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If there is anyone that understands Honda engine bay execution in Japan, it’s Yasu…

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Rywire engine harness is something you’d expect from an Exceed build, as Yasu and Ryan have developed a close working relationship over the years…

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The girthy ASC strut bar definitely adds depth to the naked engine bay of the ITR…

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One of my favorite things to do with engine bay shots is working with mirror-like finishes because it has such a distinct look under different levels of light…

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I thought it would have been cool to add some photos of the surrounding environment to really give the print feature a vibe. I can’t say I’m sure if  these shots would have been used at all but it would have been unique…

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I played around with a lot of different angles and looks when I was attempting to include as much of the setting as I could without taking too much away from the car itself…

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I felt it was important to place equal emphasis on this build being both an “American inspiration” and it being, still, very much a Japanese demo car existing in a Japanese city that has so much love for Hondas…

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This was also around the time when the first Exceed x Mode Parfume Integra front lips were completed so it was the perfect time to showcase it on this DC2R. Too bad I never finished the photos until now…

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City vibes. Just imagine if these extra photos would have been used under text or as a visual border in the feature…

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I loved the look of the grime in this area, particularly on the vending machines which are a visual Japanese staple. I made sure to use them in the photos because of that and also because a contrasting yellow on the blue of the Integra is also quite stimulating to the eyes…

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Sometimes the sunlight would peek through between the tall buildings and provide me with some natural spot light…

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This Integra was the last build from Exceed to feature CCW wheels, right around the time when they shifted to different ownership and Yasu’s working relationship with them changed…

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One of my favorite photos, and a shot that ended-up being included in Volume 2 of my book, was totally unplanned. These kids just happened to be walking down the street and the Integra captured their attention as they passed through…

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Normally this place would be filled with people but we shot early on a Sunday morning before most of the businesses in the area had opened…

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The interior of the Integra Type R was simple but also had its well thought-out details. During this time Yasu developed an appreciation for the Nardi steering wheel and included it in this build…

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No bright colors or gradients of the seats, just classy Bride Japan-edition buckets with the signature green of Takata harnesses…

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Hybrid Racing shifter with the first batch of original Battlecraft shift knobs…

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Saito Roll Cage 6-point cage sits snuggly against the interior panels of the Integra…

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I thought this was a cool shot of the “Bride Japan” logo through the bars of the Saito roll cage…

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A matching polished ASC strut bar in the gutted rear half of the Integra…

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I can appreciate the shoots with the mountain back drops and open environments but over the years, I’ve really enjoyed shooting cars in their more natural settings on the city streets…

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On the way back from the shoot, I really wanted to get some photos of the Integra in front of the brand new Lawson conbini that had recently opened across the street from Exceed. I just love these types of photos and liken them to the popular “gas station” photo that car enthusiasts love…

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The sun was beaming hot by that time as it was pretty close to noon. People walking in and out of the store looked thoroughly confused as to why we were shooting a car there…

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In the reflection of the door you can even see Yasu eating ice cream while I was shooting…

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Before I had finished Volume 2 of my book, this above photo was actually supposed to be the cover. I just thought it looked cool and the colors popped. I laid everything out for this to be the cover but I ended-up finding something unique and abstract that I felt looked much better. I’m glad I can finally show you guys these photos now after sitting on them for so many years. It’s like this weight lifted off my shoulders, lol. I don’t know why this weighed on me so heavily but I guess I just always struggled with the minor flaws that killed this set for me. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for looking!…

Categories: Exclusive Content, Integra, UnfeaturedTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 comments

  1. Excelent article, love the photos and Yasu work is really good. I would really like to go one day and visit his shop and see all of his builds

  2. Between the photos, the videos, the cars themselves, and everything in between, you and the group of people you bring to us all is what I and many like myself aspire to be like one day but in our own way of course. Just with the amazing content and leadership we get from everyone involved it is something great you all have come to create and be a part of. Thank you for all you do good sir.

  3. Well-executed, both the car and photoset. Like Yasu, I too appreciate Nardi wheels. But why oh why do their horn buttons suck when it comes to fitment, haha, I’m guessing he had the same issue.

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