Profile: Who is Tommykaira?

Profile: Who is Tommykaira?

Tommykaira ZZ

Obscure car brands often interest us the most as petrolheads, leading to many excited faces if vehicles of such marques are spotted out in the wild.

One such brand that we might get especially animated by is Kyoto-based firm Tommykaira.

With somewhat cult status in Western cultures, Tommykaira is a name enthusiasts might be interested in for various reasons.

Who is Tommykaira?

Well, for starters, Tommykaira doesn’t represent the name of one individual, but two.

Founded 1986, Tommykaira is made up of the names of its two founders: Yoshikazu Tomita and Kikuo Kaira.

Known initially as a tuning house, Tommykaira is a multi-faceted brand, and made its name over years helping create evolved versions of already performance-bound models.

However, Tommykaira branched out in the late 1990s to create its first original model to make its mark as a manufacturer in earnest.

Where might I know Tommykaira from?

If you were planted in front of your TV playing any Gran Turismo game in the late ‘90s or early ‘00s, then you will probably have come across the Tommykaira name.

Not only will you find Tommykaira’s array of tuned models in the roster of available vehicles, but also a duo of original Tommykaira creations (we wholeheartedly recommend the ZZ-II).

Which car did Tommykaira tune first?

Despite being a Japanese brand, Tommykaira’s first venture was to modify a Mercedes-Benz 190E in 1987, which would become the Tommykaira M19.

As part of the M19 package, the Mercedes gained upgraded engine and suspension components, 16in BBS wheels, aero parts and an uprated exhaust manifold.

Modifications to the Tommykaira M19’s four-cylinder engine saw it put out around 150 hp or so.

Tommykaira then followed the M19 up with the M30E, which was based on a Mercedes 300E.

Did Tommykaira work with Japanese brands?

It absolutely did, and it’s where Tommykaira got its name out there as a tuner, with endeavours with both Nissan and Subaru making people take notice thanks to a handful of notable models.

Tommykaira M30 ‘88 (Nissan Skyline/GTS R31) – graced with the 3.0-litre ‘RB30DE’ engine, the Tommykaira M30 put out around 240 hp, with power going through the rear wheels. The heavily modded Skyline also saw custom Tommykaira parts, such as an exhaust system, alloys, and interior details.

Tommykaira M30 Skyline R31

Following Skyline models – building on the success of the first M30, Tommykaira continued to modify future Skyline iterations, including the R32, R33 and R34 models. Notable editions include the Tommykaira R (R33 Skyline with just under 400 hp) and the R34 version (sometimes referred to as the R-s or R-z), which offered over 500 hp.

Tommykaira M20b ‘93 (Subaru Impreza WRX) – adding some World Rally prestige to its roster, Tommykaira worked its magic on Subaru’s seminal workhorse to give its famed boxer engine elevated power, which connected through a Tommykaira-modded transmission and exhaust system. A Tommykaira M20b can easily spotted by its custom (and huge) rear spoiler.

Tommykaira M20b Subaru Impreza

Tommykaira worked on such cars so extensively that it ventured – and was happily allowed to by manufacturers – to rebrand the cars that came out the other side, hence the unique nomenclature to Tommykaira itself.

What was Tommykaira’s first car of its own?

In 1995, Tommykaira unveiled what would be its first creation from the ground up: the ZZ.

Originally conceived earlier in the decade, the ZZ was a compact mid-engined sports car, which didn’t exactly follow on from the kind of cars Tommykaira had been tuning up to this point.

A detachable roof gave the ZZ a two-seater roadster setup, and a Lotus Elise-like aesthetic.

Tommykaira ZZ Mk. 2

Its 2.0-litre NA four-pot was sourced from Nissan and produced just under 200 hp in its most potent form, the ZZ-S. Efforts were made in a similar way to Tommykaira’s tuned endeavours when it came to component choice, with the likes of vented brake discs at the front and rear evidence of this.

A second generation of the car made its way into the fore in 2014, albeit exclusively as an EV with the help of Green Lord Motors, a company which originated from Kyoto University. Its 305 hp electric motor was only good for 75 miles, however.

What happened to the Tommykaira ZZ-II?

So, while the Tommykaira ZZ-II is one heck of a car in certain Gran Turismo games, in reality, it was only ever a prototype, unfortunately.

The ZZ-II never got into production, but would have had another Nissan-sourced engine, albeit the twin-turbocharged 2.7-litre straight-six putting out around 540 hp to go through all four wheels.

Though never making it as a Tommykaira car, the ZZ-II lived on thanks to its maker selling the designs to compatriots Autobacs Seven, who in turn created the Garaiya RS01, which can also be found in Sony’s seminal racing series.

The story doesn’t end there, however, as Tommykaira has launched plans for its revival. Little information is available at this time, but a new version of the ZZ-II is to be a big part of the revival of the Tommykaira brand – watch this space.