In the 80s, Japanese Dudes Drove Power Rangers

Japan is well-known for spawning multitudes of sub-cultures within any cultural sphere, be it music, fashion, and even cars. Japanese car culture, tortured movies like Tokyo Drift aside, is filled with so many derivatives, offshoots, and homages that...

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Jun 21 2012, 2:40pm
Image via Photobucket.

Japan is well-known for spawning multitudes of sub-cultures within any cultural sphere, be it music, fashion, and even cars. Japanese car culture, tortured movies like Tokyo Drift aside, is filled with so many derivatives, offshoots, and homages that it can be hard to keep up. Really, it is: You’ve got kanjo racers in Osaka, wangan racers in Tokyo, VIP rides, drift style, time attack, touge, gymkhana, minivans filled with ear-melting sound systems, and on and on. But the loudest, most ridiculous, most cartoonish, and quite possibly most awesome rides in Japan are the bosozoku.

All the credit to Japanese Nostalgic Car (an excellent resource for retro Japanese auto culture) for digging up this video, fittingly called “Kamikaze Road V.” The name is fitting for the extremes of the bosozoku style, in which guys take boxy 80s sedans and basically add everything they can imagine — huge wings, massive fenders, absurd splitters, and ten-foot exhausts pointing straight up — to turn their rides into the automotive equivalent of a Power Rangers zord. (Really, that’s the best comparison I can think of.)

It’s all in homage to the already-cartoonish looks of 80s Super Silhouette race cars, a series in which just about anything went as long as the side profile (the silhouette) looked somewhat similar to the race car’s road-going counterpart. Combine that with the rather unrefined knowledge of race car aerodynamics available at the time, and the Super Silhouette cars ballooned into massive caricatures of boring old 80s boxes, like the R30 Skyline.

Yes, that’s the exhaust coming out of the hood. Via Pink Tentacle.

The bosozoku more or less translated all of that onto the road, but considering they started out with actual road cars and not tube frame race cars, their modifications come across as rather more extreme (and perhaps less finely-finished, a point exemplified by the massive swaths of sheet metal bolted on as fender flares). And, despite not necessarily being able to race on the street, the bosozoku still managed to make their cars race car loud, with straight exhausts (no mufflers!) often ending in tubes aimed straight up in the air — and thus directly at the ears of passersby.

Whip all that together and you end up with packs of Transformer-looking cars with insane, race-inspired paint jobs ripping through town with their foot to the floor and unmuffled engines rattling against their rev limiters. It all adds up to quite a racket, and it’s one hell of a sight. Bosozoku style is still around today, with it treated with the same reverence in some circles as classic-style American hot rods do here. But it was in the rip-roaring 80s and early 90s, when everything mechanical and tech was designed as a squared-off portrait of the future, that the futuristic bosozoku truly shined.

Follow Derek Mead on Twitter: @derektmead.

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