Most of you know the name Ryu Asada from his work at Mattel designing hit diecast cars. The talented and creative veteran of both the Matchbox and Hot Wheels brands as penned some truly memorable castings, including JNC favorites like the Honda CRX, EF Civic, ’90 Acura NSX, and ’72 Chevy LUV, as well as popular non-Japanese models like the Porsche 934 Turbo, ’67 Chevy C-10 pickup, and Tesla Model S. However, in his spare time, he is also a prolific builder of incredible classic Japanese “superdeformed” model kits.
Asada was born and raised in Japan before he immigrated to the US with his parents. As such, he was privy to a Japanese car life few of us can imagine (but that all of us dream of). A few years ago, we met up with Asada in his hometown of Osaka and he graciously gave us a tour of the city in his childhood friend’s Seibu Keisatsu-inspired DR30 Skyline.
Osaka is also home to a small model kit shop that Asada describes as “the best hobby shop I’ve known.” Ryu’s been building kits since he was a kid and the shop has been around for half a century, a family business that’s been passed on from father to son. Visiting the store is like being “surrounded by treasures,” says Asada. “[The shacho] is awesome, very funny and a good friend of mine,” We recently asked Ryu to share some of his those treasures with JNC readers.
The hakosuka Skyline police car is part of the Gunze Turbot Series and measures about five inches in length. Notably, it is based off of a Hako sedan, but the rear doors have been displaced by the massively proportioned rear wheels. The kit was sold starting in 1981 and is incredibly rare today.
“All these old school kits were motorized and mainly intended for kids,” Ryu tells us. “For this particular series, it comes with this weird robot on the roof” (see above photo). The kit’s creators intended the robot to be removable. “When it’s on the roof, it triggers a switch to make the car go faster, hence the name Turbot — turbo + robot,” he explains. “They also named this ‘Pink Typhoon.’ Very weird. And it’s not even molded in pink!”
“I didn’t want to deal with the robot nor the motorized feature, so I closed the hole on the roof, smoothed it out, and turned it to a police car,” says Ryu of how its transformation into a patrol car came to be. “I think that time I was chatting with friend about a Hako police car, so I just got the idea from it. I’m not sure if a Hako police car ever existed in Japan, but I just made it. I did build the siren and speaker myself. I also added custom water slide decals to complete it.” And as you may notice, that decal is of the JNC inkan!
As you may have figured out from Ryu’s portfolio of Hot Wheels designs, he really loves Hondas. In addition to the CRX, EF Civic, and NSX castings, he’s also responsible for the Honda S2000 and the upcoming Honda Monkey in the 2016 line. His Honda City Turbo kit was made by Nagano, and comes with its own seriously awesome Motocompo.
The scale of this model is tiny, about the size of a Choro-Q. For reference, the seemingly gigantic Honda City Turbo II in this image is of a 1:24 scale kit by Aoshima. Both sport custom decals by Ryu, inspired by the real life City Turbo II from the one-make race series. If the graphics look familiar to you, that’s because the recently announced Hot Wheels Honda Odyssey also takes inspiration from the same livery. That car, however, was designed by Jun Imai. Clearly there are some fun conversations happening down at the Hot Wheels studio.
The R30 SKyline measures about four inches in length and is also by Gunze, but hails from a different themed series called Ottotto, which in Japanese means “oops!” “When people fall, trip, or make a mistake they say ‘ottotto,'” explains Ryu. “Originally this was a fisherman’s car. The model’s name is a pun — Sinkayline — which sounds like Skyline but ‘sinkai’ means ‘deep sea.'”
“The packaging shows a stock, solid-red R30, but the kit came with original parts like a fisherman, rotary phone, big fishing pole, and a huge tuna.The roof was left cut open for those accessories, so I closed and smoothed out the roof and added a rear window and rear side windows to make it a stock body form. I left the included driver character and rotary phone inside, in case you were wondering why a fisherman was behind the wheel of the Skyline!”
Ryu also added the Skyline’s iconic two-tone red and black colorway. “The headlights are custom. Originally, it was just a solid molded part with the bumper and grill, so I made clear lenses and housing to make it more realistic,” says Ryu. “I guess the fender mirror is oversized. I realized it only when I glued it on. Needless to say this also came with a wind-back motor.”
This Toyota Hilux is Ryu’s latest creation. The kit was made by a company called Sunny (which is no longer in business) as part of their Bin Bin wind-up motor series and measures approximately five inches in length. “The packaging shows the over-sized tires floating on the water’s surface,” he explains, “but I really don’t think it’ll float.” The box also shows it driving on zip-lines, and indeed “there’s groove on each wheel for the zip lines or strings.”
“For this one, I wanted to experiment with custom decal inkjet printing. Testors makes great inkjet decal sheets, but the downside is that you can’t print white or metallic colors.” “Any ‘white’ in the decals were actually clear and needed a white background, so the decal works perfectly on white-bodied car. I added a U of Oregon [Asada’s alma mater] on the back, as well as the old school Toyota logo, a beginner driver’s mark, and a funny Japanese ‘Max Load’ sticker.””
“Obviously the inspiration came from old school Toyota racing livery,” says Ryu, “but what I had mind was the old Tamiya RC Hilux Monster Racer plus extra sponsor logos like Tamiya Matchbox, Hot Wheels, JAF, and of course JNC!”
Clearly, he is a many of good taste as well as considerable talent. We’d like to thank Asada-san for showing us his beautifully built models, giving us yet another peek at Showa Era Japanese car nut lifestyle, and rocking the JNC inkan!