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Japan Auto: The Engine Mecca

If you’re in the market for a standard, performance or exotic engine, Japan Auto Trading will probably have what you’re looking for.

By Chad Miller

The name Japan Auto has become synonymous with the supply of engines and gearboxes to those looking to keep their cars on the road, and petrol heads looking for the best performance motors for their next big monster build! To find out more about this company, we paid a visit to their headquarters in Jet Park.

With a name like Japan Auto; it’s safe to assume that most of your stock comes from Japan? Japan is the hub for major vehicle manufacturers like Toyota, Nissan and Honda. In Japan, the law states that all vehicles can drive up to 100 000km and thereafter these vehicles are pulled off the roads and sold either complete or parted out to the export market. The reason for this is that Japan is constantly trying to reduce carbon emissions by constantly providing the most efficient way of mobility as well as trying to fight the effects of global warming.

Is it true everyone comes here looking for a high-performance engine?  It’s a combination of both the racing scene and normal clients from all walks of life. Most people come looking for replacement parts to keep their car going whereas the performance game is a hobby based on passion by many, but not a game that many can dwell on as it’s an expensive project once started.

What is the most popular replacement motor? The Toyota range of engines are our popular seller, and this includes the 4A, 4AGE AND 4AFE range of engines.

What has been the most desirable motor? The most desirable engine for us is the mighty Nissan VR38-DETT which comes from the R35 GTR. Definitely one of the most stunning engines on the market.

…and the customers’ favourite? Probably the 2JZ-GTTE. That motor is truly an art of Japanese engineering. It covers both aspects of reliability as it can handle a whole lot of boost. There is also the affordability aspect for all those adrenaline junkies out there. The 2JZ-GTTE is known to take a beating and will still ask “is that all you’ve got?”. The engine was built simply for racing, it is reliable, and affordable. We’ve seen this first-hand in a conversion carried out by one of our staff members on his personal project car! He fitted a 2JZ-GTTE with standard factory pistons and conrods but added a single T72 Ball Bearing turbo with a custom-built turbo manifold and exhaust system. Combine this with bigger injectors, fuel pumps, fuel rails, a throttle body, front mount intercooler, custom intake manifold, a dump valve and a wastegate, and the car produced 508kW on and 986Nm on the wheels!

What do you think is going to be the next big tuning motor that will replace the 2JZ? By the looks of it since the New Supra adopted the engine from the BMW Z3 engine (a disappointment indeed), so the next 2JZ engine is going to be BMW’s B58 engine! Currently my thoughts on which motor is replacing the 2JZ is the Ford Barra motor for the simple reason that it is more affordable, and output is similar when mated to a turbo.

How does it feel when you see a customer who bought an engine from you doing well on the track of having their car featured in Speed and Sound? Truly a magical feeling and probably the best feeling in the world when a customer calls us back and thanks us for selling them a good quality engine. Seeing our engines in feature cars is a blessing and simply keeps us wanting to make our customers smile.

Where would you like to see Japan Auto in 5 years? Being in the motor industry for 20 years, every day is a learning experience for us at Japan Auto. We are constantly finding out about new makes and models or vehicles and try to meet every customers request. Japan auto is always looking for new ways to best serve our customers in an ever-changing world. And I am sure we will continue to be here changing and improving our interactions with our dear clients and their needs.

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Turbo Xtreme: the turbo repair experts.

This month’s workshop visit led us to Turbo Xtreme, an innovative company making waves on the turbo scene!

By Chad Miller // Photographed by Darren Townsley

How has the turbocharger market changed over the years? There has always been a lot of companies which sell turbos, and a few years ago we also saw massive growth in the turbo repair market. These days we have seen a lot of customers looking for turbo upgrades, even more so than repairs; this is what drove us to begin importing the billet wheels and introduce our hybrid upgrades.

Turbo Xtreme’s hybrid range? Our hybrids are offered in three stages with each stage compromising of an upgrade to the internal wheels using our billet wheels, re-profiling of the housings, or both depending on the level of performance the customer wants. Turbo Xtreme is in the fortunate position where we can do precision engineering and core balancing all in house thanks to our specialised equipment and Jasper’s 20-year experience in precision engineering!

The most impressive upgrade you’ve seen using one of your hybrids? We had a customer who blew the turbo on her Golf 7R and she opted for our simple Stage-1 upgrade. The upgrade worked so well, that we had customers from as far as PE looking for the very same turbo for their cars!

The most common failure that you guys see on turbos? Shaft seizures. This is caused by dirty oil and people not servicing their turbocharged motors correctly.

The worse damage that you have ever seen on a turbo? We carried out a repair on a turbo taken off a Caterpillar, someone had forgotten a piece of cloth in the intake pipe and they used silicone to seal the turbo instead of gaskets. The turbo suffered foreign object damage and oil starvation which caused it to seize up completely!

The best way to maintain a turbo? The best way to ensure that your turbo lasts is by following the installation instructions and using proper hardware (gaskets and not silicone) and then following your service plan. By carrying out oil your changes at the correct time and regularly flushing your intercooler, your turbo should last well past 100,000km.

The biggest misconception that people have around turbochargers? People don’t take into the consideration the added hardware and software that goes into a turbo, they think that you can just “bolt-on” a turbo, but they don’t consider the smaller details.

Is the turbo spares market still big? We still do have a lot of customers coming in for spares and so we have had to ensure that we stay away from inferior products that find their way onto the market.

The biggest turbo that’s been through the hands of Turbo Extreme? We have worked on a 50mm Detroit HX83 which is used on an industrial generator while our biggest hybrid setup was a stage – 3 upgrade carried out on an M5.

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I.S. Motorsport

IS Motorsport have crafted a name for themselves as the “Sunroof Kings”. But that’s not all they specialise in.

By Chad Miller // Photographed by Darren Townsley

IS Motorsport has become a big player in the Jo’burg custom car scene, and the company has become synonymous with their top-quality range of Webasto sunroofs together with their ability to install them flawlessly. Speed and Sound recently caught up with Ismail Mohamed, one of the brothers who make up the IS Motorsport empire to find out everything about their innovative accessory store, and how they keep their business on the cutting edge!

What was the inspiration behind starting the business? When we were much younger and sitting around with our friends, we always talked about cars and how we would pimp them up one day, until one day the opportunity came up for us to start our own business. My brother Shabier and I both have a deep passion for cars. Deciding on a name for the business we went for our initials, which just so happens to be an all-time favourite for many a car enthusiast: the BMW 325iS. I think we all know this car. I won’t say that this hasn’t worked in our favour.

From what I see, the future looks good; but where and how did it all start? Shabier and I started a small accessories store in Mint road Fordsburg at the end of 1999. We then got the opportunity to move to Lenasia and the business just grew and grew from there!

One of the biggest moves that you guys made was the decision to begin selling and installing sunroofs? We realised that we needed something different to what other accessory shops were doing. That’s when we stumbled across Webasto at a motor show and realised that we had found a product that can really change the appearance of a car.

What was the biggest struggle that you faced when entering the sunroof market? Well, the biggest struggle was perfecting the installation process. Luckily, we had experienced staff. Breaking in into the market was also a struggle, but we must thank Speed and Sound; they were very helpful in that regard.

How did it feel cutting into your first roof? Frightening. Our first installation was carried out on my brother’s Volkswagen Jetta CLi and cutting a gaping hole into the roof of a perfectly good car requires a lot of bravery.

Since those early years, how has the business changed? IS Motorsport has grown and changed a lot! We are the official Webasto agents for South Africa and we are the official agents for Cobra Suspension. We also import our own range of accessories! Now that I sit back and look back at where we started, I can really appreciate how far we have come. Despite all the struggles, I must really thank God and show a lot of gratitude.

Apart from sunroof sales and installation, what other services does IS Motorsport offer their clients? Apart from our Sunroofs installations, we also recover roof linings, selling of car accessories and car sound, HID headlamp conversions, window tinting, and spoilers. We also run a wholesale division which has become a big part of the business.

What has the OEM’s response to the aftermarket sunroof business been like? I have always said that Webasto’s biggest competitor is themselves! Whenever they develop a new OEM sunroof for a manufacturer, they no-longer need TO serve the aftermarket with that product, and a lot of OEMs (the Germans in particular) are fitting sunroofs as standard.

Where do you see the future of the IS Motorsport? The business and the industry is always changing. Manufacturers are making it more and more difficult to modify cars thanks to technology and warranties. Thankfully, there will always be people looking to enhance their cars, and so smaller and more subtle changes are becoming a big trend. We also pay close attention to overseas trends; if you don’t keep up, you will be left behind. We will continue striving to provide quality individualized enhancement products for the automotive industry.

With OEMs tightening the screws, would you guys take the plunge and fit a sunroof to a high-end exotic? If that’s what the customer wants, that’s what they’ll get! I am confident in my staff and believe that we would be able to offer any customer the best quality service no matter what car they drive. With that said, I must mention that we have installed a sunroof on a new model Porsche with no hiccups!

Finally, where can people find IS Motorsport’s branches? We have three branches, one in Lenasia, one in Florida and one in Randburg. Our Randburg branch deals only with sunroofs…..for now!

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Mike’s Place, Cape Town

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard of Mikes Place. Besides that their ads have been in the latter pages for some time now, every self-respecting car guy, especially in Cape Town, has a friend, or a friend of a friend, who has spoken of Mike, but few people really know who he is. My relationship with Mike goes back about two decades, but for the benefit of those who only know his signature logo, I decided to pop by his massive warehouse in Epping, and chatted to General Manager, Billy Brink.

Everyone speaks of Mike’s Place. Who the hell is Mike, and where does he come from? Mike is the owner of the company, and the driving force behind us. The company was actually named Gearbox, Diff & Engine Wholesalers but our clients would always refer to it as Mike’s Place, and the name just stuck. I’ve personally been regular customer since way back, when Mike just started out, how long have you been in business? We are closing in on 20 years now. The business opened in August 1999.

Nobody ever seems to deal with Mike himself. A few people obviously know you from the track, who else is on the Mike’s Place team, and what are their roles? We have an amazing team at Mike’s Place. Ighsaan is the Store Manager, Sox has a wealth of knowledge in sales, and Gino is the Toyota and gearbox guru. Ashley is our all-rounder and Irfaan is our Facebook page manager and resident VVL warrior. Elvis is known to go that extra mile for clients, and Terrick is the Operations Manager. He is also a bit of a VAG nut. I’m the General Manager.

What products do you exactly sell? Our core business is engines and gearboxes. We stock over 500 different engines and even more variety in gearboxes. We pride ourselves and do our absolute best to make sure our products are always in stock and ready to go!

What is your most popular item? There is no most popular item really. But if we had to look at performance engines I would say the Ford Barra engines are really starting to fly out of here.

Do you offer engine fitment as a service as well? We do have an RMI-Approved workshop which deals with all warranty claims as well as engine or gearbox fitments for clients. We do however not do conversions in-house.

You have sponsored cars in the past, both on the strip and the drift circuit. Who do you sponsor currently? Currently we support quite a few cars: Chris Long – Mike’s Place drift Supra, Jason Webb – Monstang drift car, Billy Brink – Golf 4 Clubmans car, Clint Kirkwood – Subaru-powered 4×4 Challenge buggy, Irfaan Ismail – Nissan Sabre VVL drag car, Crazy Rasta – 1UZ-powered Corolla spin car and Sean February – 2JZ-powered BMW E30 spin car.

Bobby Brewis has built a mean 86 for you. Tell us more about that project. Bobby is a master car builder in my opinion. It’s a street legal, daily driven Toyota 86 with a 2JZ turbo motor, forged internals and a Precision turbo. Lots of work has gone into the build and you will soon see it at the Cape Town Motor Show, and many other events all around the country.

Engine import shops have been popping up all over recently. What in your opinion makes you the preferred supplier? We don’t like to compare ourselves to other companies. We simply do our very best to provide a quality product with great service and a solid warranty for peace of mind. This is what we have become known for and we intend to keep it that way for many years to come.

With the current economy and fluctuating Rand, how difficult is it to keeps the costs low whilst offering quality products? It is challenging. Mike and I have built up a great relationship with our suppliers and all who work together to keep the quality high. If we had a motto, it would be “high-end” performance parts and original used engines at affordable prices”

You have a performance department and are agents for some high-end performance products. Can you name a few of them? We are currently registered dealers for Nitrous Express, Innovate Motorsports, Malpassi regulators, Weistec Engineering, Wisefab, Fuel Injector Clinic, Turbosmart, Sprint Booster, Real Street Performance, Bosch injectors and lambda sensors, Cometic, King Race bearings, and soon we will receive our first shipment from ATI crank dampers and Ferrea valvetrain components.

I came across Mike’s Place on takealot.com, which I thought was a cool way of accessing your products. What made you decide to go that route, and how is it going? Takealot is a really great platform. It allows us to service clients nationwide with our performance parts and gives the client an easy online solution with regard to ordering and delivery. We currently have over 50 performance parts available through Takealot and it is constantly growing.

Mike’s Place has a massive Facebook following of almost 100k people. How did you manage do get that much interest? Facebook has become a great platform to get a product and information to a client quickly. If, for example, a rare engine arrives, or a performance part that has been out of stock, we post the arrival date and this allows our Facebook customer an advantage in knowing what new stock is arriving soon.

When Joel visited, he was like a kid in a candy store. Would you consider allowing him to head up your Honda department? Sure, he is more than welcome to come for an interview but unfortunately he will be the only Honda lover on the team, and might have a hard time with the rest of the guys.

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Mr. Turbo

If you’re into the modifying game, chances are you would have spoken to (or heard of) Ivan Krenek. Ivan owns Mr Turbo, a company that has been servicing the performance and tuning industry for well over 20-years. He’s been suppling Speed and Sound readers with everything that’s required to make horsepower. And lot’s of it too.
Born of frustration, Ivan banged his head numerous times whilst looking for affordable solutions to make his turbocharged toys perform without breaking the budget, thus creating Mr Turbo. Batty paid Ivan a visit at his Johannesburg walk-in store to discuss the blueprint for Mr Turbo’s success.

Tell us about the earlier days of Mr Turbo and why you started it? Same as most of the other hooligan performance shops in this country, I had a passion for motorcars. Back in the 1990s, I owned a few serious turbocharged cars such as a Jetta Mk3 16V turbo (way before Fast and Furious was even released), a VR6 turbo and a number of others. During the time of these builds, I found it extremely difficult to source performance parts and components, and most of the time I found myself modifying truck turbos to fit onto our cars, fabricating intercoolers out of refrigeration parts, and the list goes on. I then decided to make turbos and other performance parts readily available to man on the street.

What has been the recipe for Mr Turbo’s success? Simple, really, Don’t screw people over and they will come back to you with more money. It’s quite a rare thing to do in our performance industry.

What makes your turbos more of a better option than the more pricier brand names?
Mr Turbo turbochargers are sold at a fraction of the price of brand name turbochargers. They have been tested (and abused) on the streets and drag strips around the country for many years now with much success. Consumers must also remember that brand name turbochargers are not repairable by companies that sell them here in SA. So with that in mind, we have all the spare parts needed to repair them. We get regular visits from customers who’ve endured some sort of turbo damage, be it from a simple tuning error to foreign matter damage like valves and pistons going through the turbine wheel or stones, birds and little children being sucked in by the compressor wheel when an air filter is not used.

We’re abit in the dark with regards to products from the East – are the Chinese versions really that good? We buy our products from same factories that produce and manufacture Turbonetics, Precision, Garret, Eagle, and other brand name companies. So our customers will still get the same quality at an affordable price.

You seem to stock a lot of replacement turbos for OEM models. Do you find turbo failure to be a regular occurrence in this market? At our altitude, turbochargers need to work harder and spin faster to achieve the same boost as in Europe, USA or anywhere else in the world.
Mr Turbo sells OEM replacement turbochargers for most vehicles sold in SA. And with thousands of turbochargers and cores in stock, we offer immediate replacement.

What warranties do you offer on your turbos? Mr Turbo offers a “no hassle warranty”. Obviously we don’t guarantee foreign matter damage or insufficient lubrication.

What is your number 1 selling item? It has to be repair parts for genuine Garret ball-bearing turbochargers, including Turbonetics and Precision components. Lately our 4-point harnesses is also on our top selling list.

The Mr Turbo GT-series turbochargers, like the GT35 has become a household name: why is that? It’s virtually a bulletproof turbocharger that can make 500kW. Bang for buck, it’s the way to go!

You love exotic cars? Which is your favourite? I don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t like exotics, Lamborghini is really the best there is.

Tell us about the blue Lambo? What model is it, and why did you twin turbocharge it? Look, a Lamborghini Gallardo makes about 250kW on the wheels in stock form. Most of our Mr Turbo customers that drive Focus STs and Golf GTis will buy our hybrid turbo upgrade package that will make the same power. It becomes a tad embarrassing when a supercar is ass-whipped by a little hatchback, so I decided to fit two Mr Turbo GT35 turbochargers to a Gallardo. It makes about 700kw on the wheels at 0.8-bar boost.

Is it true that your showroom caters for the “every form of motorsport” shopper? Absolutely, however we focus more on performance products. You won’t find flea-market items at our stores like GT stripes, radios, speakers, door pins, stickers bumpers etc. Everything that we sell will improve performance of your car.

Who else is in the Mr Turbo team? Alex is the man behind the scenes that makes everything happen while both Christa and Leanne look after our JHB and international customers. Farida is a passionate sales representative in KZN, and probably the most passionate member of the Mr Turbo team. Damir in Cape Town is single-handedly managing our strongest shop. Johan Minnar has most experience in performance market and tuning.

Your opinion on the current economy and how it’s influenced the modifying industry? People don’t really buy new cars. They will rather modify what they currently have.

Where do you see Mr Turbo in 5 years from now? We’re already a household name for performance parts and turbos. You will see alot more shops opening.

Do you offer franchises? Not at the moment. But 2019 is the year to expand.