It’s a cold Monday night at the Tatsumi Parking Area. The flashing LEDs and deafening exhausts that are synonymous with this parking area are nowhere to be seen, or heard. Even those guys have jobs. But sitting there in the middle of the truck bay braving the cold winds is a metallic blue UFO—the ever mysterious Zonda Anija.
This is the creation of Yamada-san, the head and founder of Anija. He’s a cheerful and energetic bloke. While bigger and more well known tuners like Liberty Walk make headlines around the world for their “bold” styles, there are other guys around Japan who are slightly more low-key by design. That includes the guys at Anija, also known as the A-Team.
The Anija A-Team are basically a group of friends who share a love of cars and customization. You’ve probably seen their cars from the recent meets at Hanyu late last year and earlier this year. They’re quite strict as to who can join the, the whole team has to approve if someone can become a member. However, according to Yamada, there’s “no set criteria on the type of car a member must have.”
During the 2018 Tokyo Auto Salon they had two cars on display; an Aventador with their original widebody kit, and most importantly, this, the famous Zonda Anija. This car’s been making the rounds on Instagram and stirring up a bit of controversy for a couple of years now, but has largely remained unknown in most car circles. That is, until after the TAS wrapped up and we caught up with Yamada-san and his Zonda out on the roads of Tokyo.
As I mentioned, Tatsumi on a Monday night is relatively quiet, so it gave us the chance to get a few photos of the Zonda undisturbed with the iconic Tatsumi backdrop. It also gave us the chance to ask Yamada-san a few questions about his Zonda and Anija crew. Like most supercar owners I’ve come across in Japan, Yamada-san is eager and keen to talk about his pride and joy.
He didn’t set out to buy a Zonda so he could modify it—“At first, I did not know anything about the looks or design of the Pagani Zonda,” he said. He started to play around with minor modifications, and then eventually one thing led to another. That was six years ago.
Yamada-san says this current “jet plane inspired” version will “probably be last modification” of the Zonda.
In person the quality of the work done to the Zonda is great—after all it’s supposed to be a one-off show car designed to advertise what Anija can do. There are layers to the body; there’s a nook and cranny under every detail. The more you look at it the more things you notice like the scale-like skin in the vents.
Under the polarizing bodywork it’s remains a C12 S. The carbon tub is untouched, as is the 7.3-liter naturally aspirated V12. The only change is the single exhaust replacing the Zonda’s trademark quad-exhaust. Inside the interior has been completely reupholstered with the seats finished in orange “Hermes leather.”
Amazingly, tuning cars isn’t Yamada-san’s bread and butter. It’s more of a hobby for him. His main business is importing and exporting cars. He started out in the automotive industry with a car coating company, which eventually led to customization.
As soon as people saw what Yamada-san was capable of, others with similar tastes wanted in on the action too. “Once I started showing my individuality through customizations, the following expanded,” he said. These days, the customization work is done at their workshop in Adachi, in the north part of Tokyo.
As well as doing full car customizations, Anija also offers a variety of other products and services. They can reupholster your interior, refresh your worn out seats, offer special Work x Anija rims, bespoke GT Wing and Taillight kits for the Diablo, as well as custom original exhausts. Of course, protective film and vinyl wraps are also available.
Getting your car modified by Anija would help your chances to joining the A-Team. Anyone is welcome to have their car given the Anija treatment. The customization process is just as colorful as the end result. It certainly seems like getting a car modified by Yamada-san is a very close and personal experience. Having an import and export business, customers can either bring in their own cars or he can easily source a base car for them too.
Most of the Anija guys have Lamborghinis, primarily Diablos and Murcielagos, as you may have noticed from some of my previous posts. Yamada-san says he likes to do work on cars that would not void the warranty, however this doesn’t apply to all modifications. They’ll happily work on any car.
As well as having the Zonda, Yamada-san also has a white Carrera GT. He says he would really like to modify it. Judging from his work with the Zonda and other blue chip exotics such as F40s and F50s, I can’t wait to see what his take on a legendary Porsche will look like. He’s also not done with F40s and F50s yet.
Luckily they’re more open and less strict about the events and meets they organize. While Anija may not have the world recognition as Liberty Walk and RWB, which are arguably bigger names, their cars are seen much more often on Japanese roads. That’s due to members of the A-Team genuinely driving them regularly.
They’re regulars at the night meets at Tatsumi and Daikoku as well as occasionally showing up at Daikoku on Sunday mornings, usually as a meeting point when they go on a “touring drive.” The Anija A-Team always have a strong presence at the Hanyu meets too. As well as showing up to car meets, they occasionally hold events of their own for charity throughout Japan.
And like I said, they drive these things. There’s no trucking them in. They were at the Nagoya Auto Show in September last year, about a four-hour drive south of Tokyo. It was on a weekend with heavy rain, the same weekend in fact I was at Fuji Speedway watching supercars battling it out. On the way back to Tokyo I was overtaken by about half a dozen bright and flashy cars; it was the Anija crew driving the cars they had shown at the show in Nagoya back home.
After the shoot at Tatsumi we decided to grab a few photos in the Ginza district. However, rather than go there directly, the Anija guys suggested taking the long way back into the city via the Shuto Expressway to get some rolling shots and to hear the Zonda howl through they plentiful tunnels. Luckily my mates got some cool shots while I was stuck driving the chase car—shoutout to the rental Toyota Yaris.
Once we saw the the Zonda Anija parked under the lights of Ginza with neon lights from the shops dripping over the reptilian bodywork it all started to make sense. This is the ultimate expression of one man’s vision for how his car should look like. If you like it, fine, if not, move along. Clearly there are fans of Yamada-san’s style as he has no signs of stopping.
Anija still have plans to modify cars, as long as the passion is still there. Yamada-san has no plans for expansion like other well known tuners because he prefers the joy from “seeing my satisfied customers” rather than the “joy of expanding.”
Yamada-san also says if the company expands, the number of staff will have to increase to keep up with extra work. It may also present him with cars or projects he won’t be able to fully handle, which something he wants to avoid.
It’s very much a matter of “stick with what you know” for Anija. Yamada-san also very cryptically said they have plans for a “concept car based on a Lamborghini.”
He didn’t say which Lambo, or when we’d see it. Watch this space.
Also published on Medium.