Tuning Evolution: Inside Unlimited Works

Late last year, I paid a long overdue visit to Unlimited Works in Yokohama.

I had actually contacted the shop’s owner Kazuhiro Sato – Kaz to his friends and acquaintances – almost two years prior, in the hope that he could do some work on my Impreza. But alas, the calendar was fully booked with customer cars – mostly Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions – with the next available opening a few months ahead. So, sadly, I had to look elsewhere.

Unlimited Works is a Japanese tuning shop in very high demand, and perhaps one of the last of its kind.

Kaz began tuning Evos in the late 1990s. He set up Unlimited Works by himself 17 years ago, hiring a tight-knit crew of mechanics who are still working with him today. Talk about job satisfaction.

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It’s no surprise really, as there’s always something exciting to work on. Most notably, Unlimited Works helped develop one of the world’s most iconic and influential Lancer Evolutions – the two-time World Time Attack Challenge-winning and Tsukuba legend, Cyber Evo.

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If you chat with Kaz for more than 54.642 seconds (that’s the Cyber Evo’s fastest Tsukuba lap time), there’s one word which will pop up more than once: Passion. 

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While tuning Evos to set blisteringly-fast lap times is a sure way to become famous, the things that keep you in favour with the masses are drivebility and reliability. The Unlimited Works team pride themselves on building fast road cars which maintain a certain degree of civility. That means air-conditioning and electric windows can all be found in Kaz’s customer builds. Even some of the sub-60 second Tsukuba cars that Unlimited Works have built still retain their factory creature comforts.

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These cars are built for performance though, and as you’d expect, some neat aftermarket parts are made in house. Unlimited Works’ stainless cat-back exhaust systems are pretty popular, and are available in two specs: keep it civilised or wake the dead.

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Talking with Kaz about his shop and the aftermarket industry in general revealed two points of concern for the veteran tuner. Firstly, he sees a bigger divide than there’s ever been between the number of shops who bring decades of expertise to their customers and produce work which reflects this, and fly-by-night shops producing sub-par work. His other concern is a universal worry for tuning shops and consumers alike – parts, or lack thereof. I’m sure many of you too have been hit with the dreaded ‘this part has been discontinued’ error at the checkout. So how is the industry surviving? Well, thankfully many parts are still available. But often parts like trim, bumpers and other body panels aren’t. The only option is to refurbish, recycle, or in some cases, recreate them yourself.

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The advice from Unlimited Works? Look after your ride and take preventative measure against ill fate. Keep on top of maintenance, drive sensibly – within reason – and try not to hit anything along the way. If you look after your stuff properly, then it will last several car lifetimes.

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When the Cyber Evo ran its WTAC victory lap in 2011 it was a 10-year-old car. It would be a 23-year-old car this year, and I’m sure it would still run rings around a stock 991 Porsche 911 GT3. Kaz doesn’t know where the iconic Evo is now, but on the day I visited Unlimited Works, there was a customer Lancer that laps Tsukuba almost as quick as the Cyber Evo did, in for a routine check-up. I made sure to check it out, so stay tuned for that feature very soon.

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_
tobythyer.co.uk


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