Within culture, small pockets of individuals continually emerge as cultural celebrities –figures who generate hype through newfound style, skills and originality. With the styles of automotive culture forever evolving and transgressing, these figures play a intrinsic role creating trends that shape the future direction of car cultures.
Whilst the digital age has played, and continues to play a role in slowly colliding different segments of car culture with each other, these individuals remain highly important characters in identifying cultures as different to each other. They are responsible for redefining the boundaries of car culture, directly enhancing the environments in which enthusiasts can interact amongst themselves and with their craft.
There remains no more significant figure in Japanese car culture than that of Keiichi Tsuchiya. Now in his late fifties, the former race car driver is part of Japanese folk law, a God to enthusiasts and the granddaddy of one of motorsports most entertaining forms, Drifting. Armed with his almost as famous Toyota AE86 Trueno, in which demands its own reputation as one of Japan’s most well balance driving machines, Keiichi exists as an immortal character in Japanese car culture.
Tsuchiya’s legend has roots back to his early racing days. Unlike other drivers of the same era, Tsuchiya developed his skills and driving flair through Illegal Street racing; driving down precariously steep and technical mountain passes in Japan. Today, this form of driving is widely recognised as ‘Touge’, and represents much of grassroots driving development car enthusiasts take part in Japan.
Tsuchiya’s skills were recognised globally in 1987 when he featured in a film demonstrating his driving skills. His drifting technique was a collision of the limits of his driving skill and the mechanical potential of his AE86, driving the car sideways through narrow corners at high speed. The film, which remains still in circulation today, is recognised as having inspired a whole generation of drivers, who actively hone their skills and build cars with the purpose of drifting.
Ultimately, Tsuchiya’s driving style created a progression of driving that has now become a significant part of car culture. Drifting, whether grassroots, or at an international level, has fostered an entire generation of enthusiasts, who’s experiences, both within drifting and within other facets of car culture have evolved universally.
Australia’s abundance of Drift events, drift coverage and drift culture are indicative of Tsuchiya’s influence on Japanese car culture. Images like that below would not be current without Tsychiya.