The Japanese are notoriously known within the JDM community to have some of the world’s greatest tuning companies. So, we made a list compiling some of the best Japanese tuners out there.
Much like the latest Toyota Supra, most JDM cars in the past few decades have been manufactured with the intention of aftermarket tuning. There are no coincidences that an RB26 or 2JZ-GTE engine can withstand power figures two- to three times as much as it came with from the factory. And because brands like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda provided the opportunity to tune a stock car with no risk of injuring the engine, it became a really popular and cheap way to gain performance.
Most tuning companies were founded either during the late 80s or 90s with the introduction of the 2JZ, RB26, and Honda’s K-series engine. These engines quickly became extremely sought after due to their incredible tuning potential. And so, a lot of these tuners tend to focus on these types of engines, but as with everything, there are always a few outliers.
Here are the 9 greatest Japanese tuning companies.
Not to be confused with the Lotus Espirit, Esprit is a standalone Japanese tuning company. Esprit was founded in 1979, in Suzuka City and has developed several different fast time-attack and racing cars.
Most tuning brands on this list mainly work on common tuner cars such as Supra’s or Skyline’s. But Esprit is most known for their unorthodox fully built Honda NSX. This car got everything from HKS suspension, a custom wide-body kit, and a fully built twin-turbocharged V6 (CA30) pushing about 700 hp. A six-speed Hewland sequential gearbox and OS Giken LSD were added to deal with the increased power.
Esprit offers a variety of tuning parts such as body kits, spoilers, ECU tuning, turbos & engines.
Advance is not the largest tuner on this list, in fact, they are quite small in comparison. But they are not small when it comes to high-quality builds.
If you ever have the opportunity to go to their tuning garage in person you will be met with a lot of NSX’s, RX-7’s, Nissan Silvia’s and a lot of other amazing JDM cars. These guys keep it old school and don’t dabble too much with the more modern cars.
These guys mostly do complete car builds, but can also do suspension work, ECU-tuning, brakes, and engine upgrades. If you want to purchase a high-quality 90s JDM car, these guys are your best shot.
Spoon Inc was founded during the 80s by a man known as Tatsuru Ichishima. At the time, Tatsuru was only 32 years old but he had one thing on his mind, to build the greatest race car. Because he had previously worked as a test driver for Honda Tatsuru knew they made good cars, but he figured he could make them better.
Their most known build must be the Spoon EK9 Type R which utilizes the 1.6L B16B engine a naturally aspirated engine with about 260 hp and an astonishing 11,000 RPM redline. Their builds are always done with extreme precision and measurements, and if you order the same engines ten times over you the exact power output will very likely be exactly the same for all engines.
Spoon is mostly known for their racing engines, but also offers body kits, brake kits, wheels, exhaust systems, and a few other accessories.
These guys have built everything from drift cars, track cars, and drag racers. Founded in 1992 by a strong team of high-end engineers and mechanics. They began manufacturing top-end aftermarket exhaust systems and eventually moved on to ECU-tuning, suspension, and engine upgrades.
A’PEXi has always had a strong love for racing, and for the first time in 1998 the SUPER GT series with their own Toyota MR-2, and taking the first-place position in 1999. Since then, they’ve built drift cars, drag-racing cars, and other high-end track cars.
A’PEXi offers full exhaust systems, suspension, and engine upgrades as well as ECU-tuning.
Auto Select is a tuning company located in Osaka and are known for their high-performance track and race builds. Perhaps most known of all is their 850 HP Nissan R34 known as the ‘Yellow Shark’. This build single-handedly represents what this company is about, pushing every component to its absolute limit and upgrading those which are limiting the build.
The Sawa brothers are extremely knowledgeable with over four decades of experience with Japanese tuning. Auto Select has the traditional Japanese work ethic where every job is considered extremely important, no matter the size or hours which are required. Auto Select has over the years become one of the most respected tuning companies in Japan.
Auto Select does anything from GT-R maintenance, performance tuning, strut-braces, suspension, and engine upgrades.
Mine’s became very popular during the late 80s with their re-programmed ECU systems that allowed for great performance for cheap money. Along with tuning cars Mine’s eventually started manufacturing their own exhaust systems, strut bars, and so on.
They made a name for themselves with their work on Nissan Skyline GT-R’s, some of their legendary work include the Mine’s R32 Skyline GT-R which is a heavily tuned version of the stock car. This car got everything from a fully-built RB26 pushing about 500 hp, Öhlins dampers, Brembo brakes, and Mine’s titantium exhaust. If you want one of these today, be prepared to pay upwards of $400,000.
Mine’s offers high-end ECU’s and exhaust systems, engine upgrades as well as completely built engines.
Rocky Auto’s workshop must be every JDM fan’s dream, this place is packed with several JDM legends such as Hakosuka, every Skyline, and Datsun Z-variation ever produced. Walking into the shop you’re more likely to think you’re walking into a vintage JDM museum because the thing is packed from head to toe with tastefully modified cars.
Rocky Auto started out swapping modern RB engines into old-school Skylines and Z’s. They also did unusual modifications such as power steering and air conditioning modifications which surprisingly became a huge success. Nowadays they do a lot of engine work and restoration of classic cars. They even built a Toyota 2000GT replica known as the Rocky Auto 3000GT.
Rocky Auto caters to the classic car owner, and does anything from full restorations to engine swaps, and turbocharging.
Blitz is one of the Japanese leading automobile tuners and was founded in 1980 in Tokyo, Japan. Today they’ve grown to one of the largest tuning shops in the country with over 4,000 employees.
In the beginning, Blitz mainly had the intention to specialize in turbo compression. But as they grew so did the product portfolio.
Although Blitz is not a brand-specific tuner, a lot of its work is done on Nissan Skylines. But Honda’s, Subaru’s, Mitsubishi’s, and Toyota’s are also very common cars that can be seen in their workshop.
Blitz offers anything from complete turbo and supercharging kits, to ECU tunes and body kits and anything in-between.
HKS is arguably the three most powerful letters in the world of aftermarket tuning.
HKS was founded in 1973 making it one of the oldest tuning companies in the world. Their factory located in Fujinomiya must have one of the most stunning views out of any manufacturing company with a straight view directly at Mount Fuji.
HKS was founded by Hiroyuki Hasegawa, a former engineer at Yamaha, and his friend Goichi Kitagawa after they managed to score some capital through Sigma Automotive, hence the name HKS (Hasegawa, Kitagawa, Sigma).
HKS had a vision directly from the start, to create the meanest, most powerful, and most successful racing engine of all time. But they needed more money to do so, and in order to earn the necessary capital to pull this off, they created their first turbo in 1974, the HKS FET which was specifically made for the L20 engine. This little turbo boosted the power from 114hp to 158hp which a significant increase at the time (it’s 1974 folks!).
HKS started making a name for itself, and in 1983 HKS became the first Japanese brand to surpass the magical 300 km/h barrier with a JDM Toyota Celica known as the M300 (Toyota Supra in the U.S.) fitted with two HKS turbos pushing about 600 bhp.
In 1991 their dream came true with the creation of their very own build, the Nissan HKS Zero-R Skyline. At the time no one was foolish enough to strip down a brand new R32 GT-R just because they could make it better, most people even thought that it was impossible to make it any better. But HKS was up for the challenge.
The Zero-R utilized the 2.6L RB26DETT as a basis but bored it out to 2.8L and with HKS turbos boosting power to 591 hp. Everything from suspension, the body kit, gearbox, and exhaust were swapped out for either HKS or Nismo parts. Only 10 were ever produced, and it’s to be believed only 3-4 still exist today making them one of the rarest JDM cars in the world.
HKS is the pinnacle of tuning and is without a doubt one of the greatest tuner companies in the entire world.
HKS offers basically anything you could want, such as exhaust systems, suspension work, ECU-tuning, engine upgrades, brake kits, body kits, and various turbo-/supercharging kits.
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