It’s not often that MotorMavens gets a guest blog but when our friends at WSTO got an opportunity to go to the Tokyo Auto Salon and visit Studie – we were more than happy to let them tell their story. And so, without further ado – Julius Choi of WSTO visits Studie. Enjoy!
Imagine getting a call telling you that you and one other guy are the $10 million winners of the state lottery – all you have to do is split the money. Cool, right? Now, imagine the state lottery commission calling again to tell you that the other guy lost his ticket and the whole $10 million is yours. If you have a good imagination, that about sums up how excited I felt getting a chance to attend my first Tokyo Auto Salon – sort of like that lottery winner. But, when I got to visit Studie, the ultra high-end tuner shop, it was almost like getting that second call.
Studie has five locations; Yokohama, Tokyo, Kobe, Sendai and Kidnie. I had the honor of visiting two of these amazing shops; Studie Tokyo (their latest which opened last year) and the main hub, Studie Yokohama.
If you’re not getting the memo by looking at this picture – let me just state for the record that Studie Tokyo looks nothing like a regular tuning shop. In fact, it really has much more of the aura and the feel of an automotive museum.
Upon entering, the awesome display of diecast replicas of BMW Motorsport’s finest from the past and present, immediately immerses the guest in the epicenter of the company’s history.
Just beyond the entry way, there are two cars on display: the famous Super GT series Studie GLAD R@cing widebody Z4 and (another icon from the past) the 1998 Super Touring Car Series champion Fina BMW E36 320, driven by Johnny Cecotto for BMW Motorsport Team Schnitzer.
The Z4 caught my attention right away, with the widebody BMW motorsport shell wrapped in its colorful, Japanese anime-inspired livery. It is an active duty race car and, although I was not able to get an ASE level inspection, the Stack instruments, full roll cage, huge “GT” wing, CF diffuser and hood (built by VRS) and BBS center-lock wheels were enough to let me know at a glance that this was one serious machine.
The Fina E36 320 may not share the exciting livery and persona of the Z4, but all BMW enthusiasts will know that this is the one car that brought BMW Motorsport back into the world of racing and fueled BMW’s decision to come back to F1 in the late 90s.
The most amazing thing about this car is that it is not a mere replica but the true shell of the actual car that made such a huge impact at Nurburgring in 1998.
Although, the Fina has retired from racing duties, Studie has resurrected the spirit of racing by transforming it into an actual “Gran Turismo” Game console. Yes, you read that correctly - this car is a game console!
Patrons of Studie are able to strap into the racing seats and drive this car in simulation. There’s nothing to prepare you for the moment when you turn the ignition of the game “on” and realize that the windshield is a special projector screen. Wicked!
For Studie, this was not merely a scheme to attract customers, but also a deliberate means for them to reach out and share their passion for BMW and motorsport with their customers – we might call it “giving back”. This sort of passion and vision is evident throughout every aspect of their shop and in all the individuals who work there.
As in every place I have visited in Japan, I was greeted invitingly and cordially by the receptionist. The white color scheme and the bright colors of the shop are modern and very inviting. Clients of Studie are able to walk right up to meet the Studie team and discuss matters of modification and maintenance and even receive consultation from any one of the members of the Studie team.
This process reflects Studie’s motto “TDMM” which is an acronym for Tuning, Dress up, Maintenance, and Motorsports. Studie’s goal is to provide the very best service by sharing its mutual passion for BMW in order to meet the needs of its clients.
I got a chance to shake hands with Studie Tokyo’s manager, Aizawa-san. Although we did not speak the same language, mutual respect and knowledge about each other’s shops (as well as a shared passion for BMW) really allowed us to quickly get acquainted and share many ideas and views on BMW tuning.
On the walls of Studie Tokyo, you will find pictures and pieces of art (valve covers) that are symbolic of BMW. The shop is filled with the latest parts and accessories from corner to corner. Well known brands like BBS, KW, Bilstein, Arqray, ARC, Hamann, ACSchnitzer to name a few were easily accessible to customers to feel and inspect.
We have all seen BBS wheels and, as a dealer for BBS in the US, we at WSTO have seen our share of them – but to have a wall featuring nine of BBS’s finest specimens was simply amazing. Not to mention that four of them are unobtainable stateside; the RE-V, the RE Mg, the RE-Y and the special edition, gloss black face RG-R.
You are actually looking at the back of the real BMW GT2 center lock wheels on display here.
Chassis tuning is perhaps one area that an average customer in the US is prone to overlook but in Japan, shops like Studie dedicate lots of time and effort toward tuning suspension and brakes. Here you can see KW, Brembo and even Studie GLAD brake pads on display.
A big difference between US tuners and Japanese tuners that was evident was the level of support for the major BMW tuners from Germany and other parts of Europe such as Hamann, AC Schnitzer, Remus and Supersprint.
The best part of Studie, and Japanese tuning in general, is the wide selection of high quality Japanese products. And Studie, like all Japanese shops will develop and display their parts in support of the “Power of Japan Product”. A major brand is Arqray (pronounced Arc-Ray). Arqray is the premier exhaust manufacturer for European cars. They build full titanium setups as well as stainless steel exhaust systems for all European marques from BMW to Fiat.
Here you can see our favorite brand – 3D Design, manufacturers of the 3D Design Brombacher wheel as well as CS7 Schonheit wheel by Abe-shokai. The CS7 wheel (shown below) is an 8000 ton forged wheel made by Tan-ei-sya. This fine specimen on display is a 20 – 9.0 spec wheel for the E92 M3.
Another brand that many American enthusiasts are not familiar with is the ARC line of suspension components for European cars. ARC has a wide range of suspension components such as coilovers, sway bars, and strut tower braces. All these were on spectacular display at Studie Tokyo.
As we walked out of the shop to inspect Studie’s many project and customer-built cars, I was blown away by the first car that caught my eye – this green widebody Z4.
This car belongs to the owner of Studie, “Bob” and is nicknamed “kero kero” (after the famous Japanese frog, Keroppi). The black BBS RE-Mgs as well as the highly soght-after “Golf” ball shift knob really tells me how serious they are about the cars that they build. Let’s have a moment of silence as you check the next few pics of this car…
I love the rear of this Z4 widebody!
The next car that caught my attention was this E82 135i with BMW Performance body. Although you can’t tell from the seemingly stock exterior looks, this is a fully custom built car - ready for the tracks of Fuji Speedway.
The exterior is all BMW performance with custom lighting by Bellof and Hella. Chassis stiffening is by ARC and special body dampers developed by Studie and Yamaha. Although it is currently wearing E46 Competition wheels, this car was the cover model for the Advan RZ for BMW wheels.
The interior is full custom red leather and suede on the BMW performance seats and steering wheel. Performance is boosted with a healthy dose of power from an Active Autowere ECU upgrade as well as an intercooler and blow off valve with the HKS oil cooler to help keep things in check.
Of course, there were many other customer cars – far too many for me to list and talk about. However, I did make sure to carefully scrutinize the mods on these cars, such as this very clean specimen - an E60 M5 with AVS F7 wheels and the full AC Schnitzer E46 M3.
Beyond the parking lot, I was led to where all the work is done. Against the backdrop of Studie’s slogan “We were born 2 run”, Studie Tokyo’s pit was much like their shop - clean, well organized and simply impressive. Parts and tools were well organized and catalogued.
Two cars were up on the lifts at the time of our visit; a Black AC Schnitzer Z4 and this Pink widebody E92 M3. I recognized this pink widebody M3 right away. It was fully built with a Schubert Motorsport’s wide body and BBS FI wheels. At this point, I had only seen the BBS FI wheels on the Internet. To see them in custom pink was like a birdwatcher finding a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker – with a bright fuschia belly. If you’re a birdwatcher and you’re thinking “there’s no such thing as a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker,” I apologize. Go read a birdwatcher site.
Too many times, have I seen a widebody with generic wheels that did not match up well. With the help of KW coilovers, the stance and fitment of the wheels was close to perfect.
The perfect marriage of BBS FI and Brembo Racing brakes…
The amount of customization and effort that has gone into this car is simply unearthly. Arqray has developed a unique, one-of-a-kind exhaust system so that they can use the fully functional diffuser for increased downforce.
This car belongs to Aizawa-san (the manager of Studie Tokyo). He drives it on a regular basis, taking it to the tracks whenever he can, where it is most happy. Regular roads in Tokyo may allow it but I am not too sure the car would survive the roads of Chicago.
Another unique thing about Studie Tokyo is the fact that they share the building, as well as the entrance, with AC Schnitzer Japan (pictured here). Of course, given a chance to visit Studie and AC Schnitzer Japan, I had to check it out!
This amazing car was what greeted me at the door: BMW AC SChnitzer E36 M3 CLS II. With a 2900cc engine, it can churn out 350 BHP and has a maximum torque of 355Nm. It recorded an8:16 at the Nurburgring Nordschleife in 1997. What is equally impressive is, of course, its weight reduction through advanced material such as carbon Kevlar which is used in every inch of its cockpit and exterior.
That’s hella green – which is the shade most people would be if I could have gotten my hands on this emerald beauty.
Although, WSTO is a dealer for AC SChnitzer, we have never seen this many different varieties of AC Schnitzer products in one place.
Outside, I got a chance to check out two more high profile AC Schnitzer Concept cars; the ACS Profile and the ACS6 Falcon. The white and orange two-tone was as distinctive as the design of the ACS Z4. What really impressed me is the fact that I was getting a chance to see this ACS concept car, not in a show, but on a parking lot in Tokyo. Awesome!
After the tour of the Studie Tokyo, I wanted to live there. It was BMW heaven and I understood why so many seek their expertise and leave their prized BMWs in the immensely capable hands of the guys at Studie. The service and products that Studie provides are top notch in every sense.
WSTO is humbled and, in many ways, we feel proud to share a partnership with Studie – to share tuning ideas and philosophies with BMW owners in the USA.
I had to leave Studie Tokyo and head out to the Heart and Soul of Studie; located in Yokohama. With anticipation building up, and not knowing what to expect, I bid farewell to the crew at Studie Tokyo. Could Studie Yokohama possibly be even better than Studie Tokyo? I couldn’t begin to imagine how anything could top this.
:: Julius Choi