JAPANESE
OBSESSION

In an anonymous building outside Tokyo lies the incredible private car collection of former Porsche factory racing driver Tetsu Ikuzawa. It’s not open to the public, but evo was granted a special audience with the collection and the man himself

etsu Ikuzawa, the 74-year-old pictured throughout, is the man credited with starting the legend of the Skyline. But there is more to the story. During our day with Ikuzawa in his amazing personal museum, he confesses that it was a friend of his who was driving the far superior Porsche 904 on that day and before the race he asked this friend to let him lead for just one lap. The friend acquiesced, the crowd went wild as the boxy Prince saloon came past in the lead for one lap and the legend was born. Ikuzawa’s own incredible story was just beginning too…

Ikuzawa raced a Brabham BT21 for Frank Williams in the late 1960s, winning a string of European F3 races. He then moved up to F2, racing a Lotus 69 against the likes of Ronnie Peterson, François Cevert and Emerson Fittipaldi. F1? Never quite made the jump. As a team manager he would go on to win Japanese F2 titles in the early ’80s and just fail to break a team into F1 in the mid-’90s.

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His next stop as a driver took him to Le Mans. In 1973 he raced there for the first time, driving a Sigma. Many years later Ikuzawa returned to La Sarthe, racing a Mazda RX-7 and a distinctive pink-and-white Porsche 935 K3. He would also go there as director of the Nissan Europe Racing Team and must take some credit for the amazing pole lap set by Mark Blundell in the R90CK. Knowing they wouldn’t last the race he decided to go for partial glory and wind it up for qualifying.

His very private museum is on a nondescript industrial estate south of Tokyo, a clean white building behind security gates. Take off your shoes, put on the specially provided slippers and the first room you enter has walls covered in a mosaic of beautiful, mostly black and white photos of Ikuzawa’s life. He built a motorcycle and ran a team that competed at, among other places, the Isle of Man TT. But he is perhaps best known as the only Japanese Porsche factory race team driver (taking a 908 to sixth place at Watkins Glen in 1968). Even the briefest glance at the photos of him in single-seaters, on motorbikes and mountain bikes shows he is one of those people who doesn’t do anything by halves and as a consequence has lived enough for a dozen men.

‘Ikuzawa raced a lotus 69 against the likes of Ronnie peterson, franÇois cevert and emerson fittipaldi in f2 but never cracked F1’

There are even various downhill mountain bikes that bear his name, and they come complete with Akebono brakes. He says he set up the partnership between Akebono and McLaren after talking to Ron Dennis, who was a mechanic when Tetsu was racing for Williams.

Walk through another door, change into a different pair of slippers (different coloured floor), and you’ll find a much larger space. Here there is a selection of his old race cars all in the same immaculate white and red livery. There is also a vast array of trophies and memorabilia. About a dozen pit bikes are lined up in tight formation (his wife’s collection, apparently) and there is a Petronas edition Mercedes A45 AMG, which he claims is his daily driver, though it looks far too pristine.

‘he had a 911 targa in the ’70s. he sold it, but many years later tracked it down and bought it back, restored it, thought it was too good to drive and so bought another’

Up the spiral staircase is a much airier space with arguably the most remarkable collection of all. Ikuzawa had a 911 Targa in the ’70s in London. He sold it, but many years later he tracked it down and bought it back. He restored it, but then thought it was too good to drive. He bought another, restored it (same colour, same interior) but then that was too good to drive too. He then decided he’d like one of every Targa that Porsche has produced. Including the Carrera GT. All of them are yellow.

It didn’t stop there, though. For a while he also had a collection of Porsche speedsters until he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. Now, perhaps most bafflingly, he has a vast collection of 964s. There must be a couple of dozen, in a rainbow of hues. They’re not RSs or Turbos, just Carreras. There are three in Rubystone Red. One Guards Red car has just 80km on the clock and he outbid the Porsche Museum for it. He doesn’t drive any of them.

Back downstairs there are boxed spares galore for his 964s, his hi-fi collection, his mountain bikes and goodness knows what else. It is a private, slightly OCD, treasure trove and one I feel very privileged to have seen.

by henry catchpole
PHOTOGRAPHY by ASTON PARROTT