When you had been to consider social media, the archetypal automobile collector must be a chiselled, brilliantly-tanned entrepreneur with enamel so brilliant solely the Giant Hadron Collider may precisely measure the sunshine they emit.
Most of those characters are often discovered on the extra unbearable finish of the persona scale. However worse but, this angle provides little or no perception into their precise ardour for automobiles. As an alternative functioning extra as a peacocking train to showcase their wealth.
Which is what makes this explicit assortment all of the extra endearing. It’s not positioned in a tax haven, reasonably the outskirts of Tokyo. However not some onsen-clad retreat full of panpipes and geisha women both. It’s truly a parking lot underneath one among Yokohama’s many prepare stations, accessed by hundreds of commuters each single day. Hardly the venue for one of many world’s largest Subaru collections…
Time to fulfill Akira Yokoyama – often known as Mr. Boxer – who suffers from what he describes as Fuji Heavy Illness. And no, this isn’t the aftermath of one other Fukushima-esque meltdown. It’s a nod in the direction of Fuji Heavy Industries, father or mother firm of Subaru earlier than it was renamed in 2017, and the one automobile maker Yokoyama-san will entertain in his pursuit of most happiness.
Mr. Boxer isn’t simply gathering all sorts of Impreza, both. He did that again in 2014, earlier than promoting off all however 4 and beginning once more. “I like the Impreza, however I needed to expertise the fashions earlier than its creation to higher perceive its historical past,” he provides. And since then, each Subaru constructed for the reason that firm’s inception in 1953 has change into a goal.
That’s one thing simpler stated than completed with a model like Subaru. They might not be famend for producing ultra-expensive automobiles, however Subaru are hardly famed for his or her collectability when you look previous fashions just like the 22B, S201 and Spec C. And in case you’ve bought bundles of money, it’s comparatively straightforward to vacuum these fashions up. Much less so a 4×4 BRAT which hasn’t rusted into the earth.
Yokoyama-san doesn’t match the normal automobile collector mould. Other than arriving in a Subaru jacket, his look and manner provides little or no away to what he has stashed right here in Yokohama. You will discover him on social media, however you’ll by no means see a selfie or his life exterior this assortment. And don’t count on a reply to any direct messages, both.
“Many individuals ask if the Subarus are on the market, or if they’ll make a YouTube video on them,” Yokoyama-san explains. “However I’m not focused on both. For that is my ardour, my obsession for a few years. It isn’t to achieve followers or change into seen. However I do get pleasure from assembly different Subaru lovers due to it.”
Ironic then, that his first look exterior of Japan must be on the pages of Speedhunters. And that’s all due to our outdated pal Junya Matsushita who satisfied Yokoyama-san to showcase his assortment on a worldwide scale. However what flip of occasions results in a person stashing 50 Subarus in a shared automobile park, and why selected Subaru within the first place?
“It began once I purchased a Nissan Bluebird,” pronounces Yokoyama-san, which could simply be the curveball of the century. “It was my first automobile, and after a couple of years I needed to exchange it with one thing extra sporty. And in 1993 I purchased my first Subaru – a GF8 Impreza Sport Wagon. Its efficiency and practicality impressed me a lot, I knew I needed to have one other as I bought older.”
In reality, it was the unmistakable sound of the Impreza’s flat-four engine – mixed with unequal-length manifolds – which left Yokoyama-san hooked. To this present day, it nonetheless stays one of the vital distinctive engine notes of any manufacturing automobile, particularly when paired with the whoosh of a HKS blow-off valve between gear shifts.
“I owned that first Impreza for a very long time,” provides Yokoyama-san. “It did the whole lot I wanted. Each winter, I might go snowboarding and the Impreza’s four-wheel-drive system was made for mountain routes. However after seven years I modified to a Subaru Legacy Touring Wagon [BH5] as a result of the Impreza had many miles, and I favored the additional house provided by the Legacy with comparable efficiency. However 2003 is when the obsession actually began.”
The turning level for Yokoyama-san concerned convincing his spouse to make use of the Legacy wagon he’d beforehand cherished, thus permitting him to go and purchase one other Subaru – a 2003 ‘Blob-Eye’ Impreza WRX STI. This plan labored so nicely that it continued all the way in which into 2007, with Yokoyama-san handing down every automobile leaving the door broad open to go and purchase the newest model as an alternative.
Comfortable spouse, glad life.
Naturally, Yokoyama-san determined to push this revelation even additional by bringing dwelling a 22B in 2007 whereas costs had been nonetheless pretty regular. “It was lighter and sooner than any Subaru I owned beforehand!” exclaims Yokoyama-san. “The GC8 look is timeless, particularly when in coupe type, and the wide-body appears to be like very motorsport. It drove so totally different to different GC8s; it left me questioning what are all the opposite Imprezas I haven’t owned like? The 22B may be very particular, however I needed to strive all the different variations too. And that’s when the gathering bought out of hand…”
Inside the subsequent few years, Yokoyama-san added all the best hits to his assortment – S201, S202, S203 and RA-R. The S204 adopted in 2011 together with a GC8 Kind R, Legacy RS-RA and Leone AG6 RX II. Not solely was his assortment ticking off Imprezas, but it surely’d additionally unfold to these earlier fashions predating it too.
“In 2014, I finished gathering once I bought to round 45 automobiles and I bought all however 4 of them,” he provides. “It was getting a bit loopy. I assumed by promoting all of them, it will treatment me of the Fuji Heavy Illness. However this can be a illness that has no treatment, and 9 years later I’ve bought much more automobiles than earlier than!”
That’s as a result of Yokoyama-san not needed to simply perceive the Impreza’s historical past; he needed to go far past this bloodline and all the way in which again to Subaru’s inception – gathering key fashions together with the FF-1 from 1969 and the Leone Property from 1978.
Yokoyama-san hardly turned his again on the Impreza along with his present assortment that includes no fewer than 17 GC8 fashions in addition to later variations together with the S206 from 2011 and even a GK2 from 2022 to make sure he hasn’t forgot in regards to the very newest technology.
So, what subsequent for Yokoyama-san’s assortment?
“Not too long ago I began the gathering of WRC and competitors automobiles,” he explains. “I solely have 4 thus far – a 1992 Legacy, two 1994 Imprezas and a ’95 mannequin pushed by Colin McRae [these cars are stored elsewhere and not to be confused with the replicas above]. The temptation is all the time there to search out extra fascinating automobiles, however I don’t assume the gathering will develop anymore from this level.”
In keeping with Yokoyama-san, his focus has now shifted away from gathering and extra on sustaining. That’s no straightforward process with a handful of automobiles, not to mention 50. However he’s adamant they should be road-legal and drivable all 12 months spherical, even when which means promoting a couple of within the course of.
On paper that sounds smart, however don’t neglect what occurred 9 years in the past the final time Yokoyama-san had a bit filter…
“Like I stated, there isn’t a treatment for this illness,” he chuckles. “Typically you simply have to take a bit drugs to make the signs higher, however it’s going to all the time come again sooner or later…”