When a car has a good backstory, it really gives it some personality. Not that the 1970 Pandem-kitted Chevy Camaro really needed any help in that department.

Its owner, and the head of Hardcore Tokyo, Junichi Takahashi (better known as Jun), also exudes personality. The Camaro is Jun-san’s personal project, influenced by his lifelong assimilation of Japanese and American punk culture. It’s about the same as his R33 drift car, but both are the embodiment of Jun-san’s eclectic taste and appreciation for all things automotive culture.


Jun-san spent his 30s in New York City, returning to Japan every three months to renew his passport. While stateside, he was heavily influenced by the American drag racing scene and was particularly excited about the 1/8 mile Outlaw class of muscle cars, which were limited to small 26×8.5 rear tires.


This was the mid-2000s, and drag racing was still rife in Japan, so when Jun-san finally returned to his native country, he wasted no time hunting down a third-generation 1990 Camaro Z28 and heading to the nearest track.

After a 10-year run, the Z28 was sentenced to scrap, and Jun-san got the second-generation ’70 Camaro you see here. But this is where the story takes a twist. Call it fate if you want, but chances are, if things had been different, the car might not have turned into the beast it is today.


After Jun bought the Camaro, everything went sour. As in most countries, a transfer of ownership needs to be completed when a sale is made, but unbeknownst to Jun-san at the time, the Camaro did not come with any official paperwork – it had been lost. He and the seller immediately shift parallel views and subsequently lose any communication channels, essentially leaving Jun-san with a giant muscle car-shaped paperweight.


In order for Jun-san to register the Camaro in his own name, he has to he Track down the last registered owner of the car and have them reissue new documents. It finally happened – in just 10 years!

During this time, though, Jun-san never lost heart and started rebuilding the car – and his good friend Kei Miura from TRA Kyoto – the company behind the Rocket Bunny/Pandem – ended up playing a major role in it.


Both Jun-san and Miura-san have spent considerable time outside of Japan, gathering experiences, perspectives and ideas from around the world. The Camaro travels just as well, and having lived in Japan for nearly half the time now, you could tell it’s probably more Japanese than American.


As the two hung out around TRA Kyoto, figuring out what to build for the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon, Jun-san admitted he had a Camaro stashed. Mr. Miura also has a confession: He’s always admired Trans Am and NASCAR racers, and has always wanted to design and build Pandem body kits for select muscle cars. The two agreed on a theme, and Miura-san purchased a Pontiac Firebird the next day.


Over the next year, fenders, spoilers, and lips were designed for no fewer than four American muscle cars—Miura-san’s Firebird, Jun-san’s Camaro, and the Mustang and Kerr Vetter, they both debuted at TAS 2023.


Both the Firebird and Camaro feature smooth-contoured fender flares, which are a bit of a departure from the well-known bolt-on style. Jun-san said they wanted to pay homage to the wide flowing style of the muscle car racers of the 70’s, it’s timeless and I think we can all agree it’s very effective.


The “Pandem 70 Camaro” was rebuilt at J.Beat Custom Shop in Saitama Prefecture, where they carefully mixed Pandem FRP into the body and then repainted the entire car in pure white.


Under the hood, the old-school drag muscle car vibe is strong. The 402ci big-block V8 is paired to a Muncie 4-speed transmission and 12-bolt differential with LSD and 3.97 final drives. The custom bonnet features a laser-etched logo in case you forget what you’re looking at.


When I first saw pictures of this car, I wondered why the roll cage was snug against the steering wheel. ‘Does that have to be painful? I think. It turns out to be another nod to muscle car history, as that’s how the roll cages in old Trans Am race cars were built. You have to like authenticity.


The Camaro looks menacing. An updated Heidts 4-link suspension kit and classic, extra-wide RS Watanabe eight-spoke wheels – measuring 15 by 10.5 inches front and 15 by 12 inches front and rear, and wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber – improve appearance and The driving performance of the car is greatly improved.


Everything about Jun-san’s Camaro perfect – Its new proportions, stance, wheel and tire fit, and sounds.

It’s a converted American muscle car with Japanese-inspired custom styling, and after 15 years of ownership – but only registered for two years – Jun-san is finally making up for lost time – behind the wheel, of course.


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