So, we left off with me giving up on importing an Alto. Where to from here then?
I nearly gave up on Altos. The whole importing thing had really stressed me out, and the constant rollcoaster of emotions involved in it just did my head in. I started looking at other cars, but absolutely nothing interested me… except an Alto Works.
In the time I had been trying to import an Alto, I had heard of one that had been brought into the country earlier in the year, with the intention to be a track car for the owner.
He never got around to doing anything with it, so asked on a Facebook group I’m part of if anyone was interested in it, and posted these photos
Phwoar, what an angry looking little car!
Obviously it had had a life in Japan, being fitted with a bolt in cage, no carpets, obviously lowered and on nice wheels. Under the bonnet were some visible goodies too.
Hold on a sec, that engine bay looks familiar….
Sure enough, using my Google searching powers I managed to dig up where I had seen the engine bay photo before; a Minkara Carview blog from the previous Japanese owner!
The most interesting bit though?
It was a legit JDM trackday car.
I even found the owner’s Youtube channel, which has many videos of the car fanging around tight little tracks in Japan
Along with finding out it was a track car, I also found out all the mods the owner in Japan had done to it.
Now, I didn’t know what was still fitted to the car and what had been removed, but I knew two important things it still had; a Cusco 1-way LSD in the gearbox, and a Cadcars 3685MAX 85hp upgrade kit, including an HKS FCON piggyback computer and HKS EVC6 boost controller.
It also had adjustable suspension, wider 15″ alloys, full exhaust, the front lip and rear spoiler, carbon blade on the bonnet and some bigger intakes under the bonnet. (It also still has the Cusco front swaybar, discovered after purchase)
It was missing its factory Recaro front seats and anything resembling a rear seat though, which wasn’t ideal. You can see in the above interior photos it has some billy basic Alto seats fitted in the front.
Anyway, I got in touch with the seller in NZ, and found out he was in the process of having the car complied for road use in NZ since it would be easier to sell on the road, than as a track-only car.
As part of that process, the cage had to go. It wouldn’t meet NZ cage standards, and couldn’t be used in a normal road car.
To make the process easier, and not have to certify the car (an extra process and expense, limiting me from further changes to the car), the owner swapped back to standard Works KYB shocks and springs and some wheels he had from another Alto. Yes, the owner had privately imported three Altos, a Turbo RS and two Works (this one and an AGS “automated manual” one).
After quite a bit of discussion, I agreed to buy the car, with some conditions. It needed to be complied and on the road. It needed to have the full Works Recaro interior, a stock airbag steering wheel, and had to be on standard suspension and Works wheels.
With some jiggery-pokery involving his other two Altos, and one that was being wrecked local to him (a real low spec poverty one), he managed to get this one into the spec I needed, and still have two other complete Altos, albeit missing some of the Works bits from one.
The car went in, and failed its inspection. The cage holes needed to be welded up by a panelbeater and signed off by a repair certifier. Not a problem, it was booked in for the work to be done, and we waited.
And more waiting.
Eventually we heard from the compliance shop that the work had been done, and it was all ready to go, but they had been waiting on the one and only repair certifier down there to actually give it the big tick, and he had been away on unplanned leave.
After a couple of weeks, the car was finally signed off, it had a new WOF and just needed to be registered and have plates fitted in order to drive it on the road (A task left up to me to keep costs down).
As it turns out, as part of the work at the panelbeaters, the underside of the car had been completely sandblasted and undersealed… and guess what, it cost about $2,000. I believe on this car it wasn’t done because of rust, but because they had to protect multiple areas on the underside where it had been welded, so was easiest to just do the whole underside.
Once back the seller changed to the stock wheels. The car looked much better on the stock 15″ alloys (even if I don’t like black wheels; they suit it). The tires on these are stuffed, which is why they weren’t fitted during compliance.
The seller also fitted the Recaro interior front and rear (the rear fabric matches), and a stock Alto (not Works) airbag steering wheel.
A truck was booked. They sent the biggest one they had.
An anxious wait over the weekend and I had the call, it was 10 mins away.
I wait outside, expecting to see a delivery truck with the car on the back. No, I hear this angry little growl coming up the drive, and sure enough, it’s the Alto. The guy gets out and apologises, he had to drive it the 10 mins from the depot because the Alto was too small for their local delivery trucks. He loves it though.
I park it up, have a quick look over it and take some initial photos
First impressions; it’s small, but also very spacious. The Recaros are more comfortable than expected and fit my wide frame fine. The gearshift is divine, it’s almost rifle bolt action. It makes great noises and pulls like crazy on boost (and it’s not even at its full boost currently).
It’s not all perfect. Everything is covered in dust from the panel shop. Its everywhere. There are some areas where the paint isn’t perfect, and the dash has some random screw holes and things from various track based gubbins being used.
It’s not an open road car, at all. At 100kph, it’s pulling just shy of 4000rpm. Sure, it’s on boost instantly, but that little 3 cylinder 600cc engine is just whirring away constantly. There are kits to replace 5th gear, and lower the rpm to about 3000rpm, so I’ll probably look into that at some point.
The LSD is brutal. It’s a clutch type Cusco Type RS 1-Way unit. When cold, it knocks, it binds, it thumps. It’s quiet and smooth when warm though, so I have some new Cusco oil to change shortly.
The way it works is making me rethink how I drive and corner though. When on the throttle, the diff will relentlessly pull you around the corner. The steering feels heavy, but where you point the wheel is where you are going, no exceptions. The moment you come off throttle though, the front end suddenly darts to the inside of the corner as the differential unlocks and allows a speed difference between wheels. I can’t wait to see what it’s like exiting a corner on the track.
I have already started removing the decals on the bonnet and along the Works side stripes. It was a shopping list of some things the car no longer had, and I wanted the nice clean stripe instead. Stickers were the previous owners thing, not mine.
There’s plenty to do. Parts are constantly arriving from Japan for it. Being a 2016 car, and so modern, parts are ridiculously plentiful and readily available for it. I’m used to having to hunt around for scraps years after the cars stopped being popular, but currently, anything I want, I can get.
This weekend it’ll get a full oil service, since I don’t have any real service history, and it’ll get a couple of the goodies that have already arrived from Japan fitted.
It’s not the stock, 4WD one I was planning on, but I love it.
*Parked next to my colleagues Honda S660. One of few cars that makes the Alto look giant.