Horsepower Dreams - HKS | The Daily Star
12:09 AM, November 16, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:14 PM, November 17, 2016

Horsepower Dreams - HKS

Gone but forever inspiring -Hiroyuki Hasegawa

Mr. Hasegawa was a bright-eyed engineer at Yamaha in the early 1970s when he decided to follow his dream of building race cars and engines at his own company. He established HKS in 1973 along with partner Goichi Kitagawa and chief sponsor Sigma Automotive, going on to have a lasting impact in the world of tuning. He passed away last week at the age of 71.

From 1973 to now, pretty much every guy interested in the world of tuner cars has heard the name HKS, at least once. Whether its through their ballistic time attack cars, record setting drag cars, or their drift monsters winning every accolade there is to win for going sideways, HKS has been at the forefront of Japanese tuning for over four decades. Started in a small shed by two men, Hasegawa’s H, Kitagawa’s K and funding provided by the S of Sigma Automotive, HKS has ruled over a formidable aftermarket industry from the shadow of Mount Fuji. They also played a significant role in launching import culture in places like the US and the UK via their impressive parts catalogue of aftermarket performance parts.

Part of that history has to do with how HKS has innovated in parts design. From the get-go, HKS was destined for greatness – they were the first company worldwide to design a turbocharger conversion kit for a specific application. In 1974, HKS launched a turbo kit for the KPGC110 Nissan Skyline GTR, popularly known as the Kenmeri Skyline. The stock L20 motor in the Kenmeri put out only 113 HP, which was enough to be fairly quick in the early 70’s – the HKS turbo kit instantly bumped up the power to 158 HP, a 40% increase at a time when dyno and real-time power testing was out of reach for anything other than the wealthiest Formula 1 racing teams. This was a highly significant milestone, considering the turbo era of performance car manufacturers wouldn’t start till 1975, with the introduction of the Porsche 911 Turbo. The fact that a small tuning company beat major manufacturers to an innovation that became the mainstay of performance cars for decades should tell you just how special HKS is.

In 1981, with a vision of world dominance years ahead of anyone else, HKS was launched as a global tuning brand with the establishment of HKS USA. With an unique parts development team and a specific focus for the US market, HKS strode ahead and fueled the rise of import tuning in California. For the first time, thanks to HKS, Japanese sedans could be tuned to compete with American muscle cars, at least on the street in illegal street races.

Off the streets and on the track, HKS was making the rounds on its competition. In 1983, an HKS built Toyota Celica with a twin turbocharged 5M-G reached 301 km/h, the first Japanese car to break the 300 km/h barrier. In 1984, HKS built engines for Toyota and Mitsubishi, developed for rallying. At the start of the 90’s, HKS was breaking world records left and right – in 1990, the 826 HP HKS Drag 70 Toyota Supra broke the 8 second quarter mile record for Japanese cars. From 94 onwards, HKS competed in Formula 3 with an engine designed and built from scratch, alongside wins in JTCC and JGTC touring championships, and RRC and BE Drag series, where the HKS R32 GTR won every race it entered. In 1995, the HKS developed R33 GTR, dubbed the T200, set a time of 58.71 seconds around the Tsukaba race-track, now dubbed the home of Japanese time attack racing. It would spark a two decade long war against the clock, with the time attack format getting ever competitive by the year. No matter how competitive it got, though, HKS was always at the top: from 2003 to 2015, HKS built Lancer Evolutions kept breaking and beating world records, with the TRB-02 and CT230-R Evos still two of the fastest Japanese race-cars ever built.

There was also a brief attempt at Formula 1: in 1992, HKS developed a 3.5 litre 670 HP V12 motor for an F1 chassis, with the Lola T91/50 used as a test bed. It was never raced with very high development costs and a brief streak of reliability meaning it wasn’t feasible. It still remains the first and only time a Japanese tuning company attempted entering Formula 1, however.

HKS has since developed parts for the aviation and marine industries and left a huge impact on the tuning industry. Along with HKS, the aftermarket parts industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar global enterprise with millions of people employed and invested in it. Hiroyuki Hasegawa might be no more, but the impact he has had will last forever. 

The HKS greatest hits album

The HKS M300 was a Celica XX that went past 300 km/h. In 1983, it was the first Jap car to break that barrier by attaining 301.25 km/h, utilising a twin turbocharged 5M-GE motor - another first since the idea of twin turbocharging hadn't caught on for street cars yet.
First fully built HKS car, the “Zero” R32 Skyline GTR. Other Japanese tuning houses such as Mine's and Autech followed suit with their own tuned GTR's, but the Zero paved the way.
A race-tuned R32 GTR was raced in JTCC, racing know-how trickled down to the street in the form of aftermarket parts. The HKS red-green-purple livery was instantly recognisable on track and on demo cars.
HKS desgined, built and tested V12 for Formula 1. Never raced, but back then a tuning firm attempting to enter F1 was unthinkable.
Lola T91/50 served as the test bed for the 2 year development period of the HKS built F1 motor. The V12 in the prototype put out 670 horsepower at 13,500 RPM on pump gas - race fuel would have pushed it well beyond 750.
7 second Skyline R33 GTR drag car from 2000. The iconic HKS livery was a frequent sight at drag event podiums - right behind time attack racing, drag racing yielded the most victories for the HKS brand.
Time Attack Toyota Altezza, fondly called “The Monster”. No one expected the Altezza platform to do well, but HKS took one by the scruff of the neck and made it a machine that terrorised Skylines and Evos and Imprezas around time attack courses - hardly a small feat. Probably the best example of HKS taking a normal car and making it ferociously competitive - if that isn't the spirit of tuning, what is?
Pioneering D1 spec Nissan Silvia S15 - nicknamed the “Turbee” for the decal of a bee infused with a turbo on its sides. For a time, this aggressive S15 was the poster-child of drifting going global - tuner magazines went wild over how capable it was and how mean it looked. It sparked a new-found global fascination for the Nissan S-chassis as well.
Unusual for JGTC - Mercedes Benz CLK built and raced by HKS. They also had a pretty competitive Opel in contention for a few years as well.
HKS CT230R Evo IX - the fastest time attack car for several years. It set record after record at almost every track it was shown, and to this date holds at least a few records under the banner of the World Time Attack Championship. Other powerhouses of the tuning world have tried repeatedly and went bust while attempting to dent the HKS built time attack record monster - the Lancer Evo still stood.

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