When it comes to the most unique custom builds in the world, this Ken’s Factory built Mazda Carol, comes in at number one.
Words by Tony Matthews
Photography by Tony & Carmen Matthews
Our latest adventures in finding the best and most unique custom autos from around the world, takes us to the land of the rising sun…Japan.
It has been three years since we stepped on the island of diverse foods, epic gadgets, nostalgic video games and a car culture that will bring you the coolest and most insane projects you have ever seen.
Our plan was to spend a month searching for the most SuperFly Autos and we definitely hit the jackpot with this 1962 Mazda Carol, built by Ken’s Factory in Nagoya. It first caught our attention at the Hot Rod Custom Car Show by Mooneyes Japan in Yokohama a few weeks ago. We had never seen anything like this before.
It reminded us of an Italian Fiat 500 from back in the 60’s, but we instantly knew that it wasn’t in standard form and something special had been done to it. Firstly, the widebody conversion, those incredible wheels and then when you looked into the rear truck, there was an engine that definitely didn’t come with the factory model.
After speaking with Ken, the owner of Ken’s Factory, whom by the way is a custom motorcycle business that doesn’t normally customise cars, we organise a trip to his shop in Nagoya.
So how does a custom motorcycle builder know for his incredible custom work in the motorcycle industry, get to start creating a project on four wheels? As it happened, one of Ken’s customers has also a love for cars, but of the classic variety. In a conversation with Ken a year ago, he was talking about wanting to do something different with his cars.
He loved his classic cars, but started to get bored and wanted to have a car that was super unique and create something more from it. He asked Ken if he would be up for the challenge to not only find a car, but create something that would be so incredible and different, that when others would see it, they would have jaws dropping.
At first Ken wasn’t really up for building a custom car and recommended a car restoration shop, but eventually he decided to help out his customer as he wanted something crazy built and knew Ken’s work when it came to custom motorcycles. Then one day, Ken’s custom approached his and said ‘This is the car I want’, this was the car you see right here, but not exactly like this. It was in it’s original form and luckily in the same town. So Ken went to see the owner to buy it.As you can see from the photograph above, just how different it now looks and how amazing of a job Ken did. So when he got the car, it seemed in a pretty good condition, but like all projects, once you strip it, more things start to show, such as rust problems.
So once Ken knew what he was working with, what next? At first he thought, maybe I do a roof chop and perhaps make it even smaller than it’s original size! What!? It’s already micro machine size. But then after much thought, it was decided that some wide wheels, wider arches and a performance engine was the way forward. The only exception Ken’s client wanted, was to have the car in black, so Ken had full access to do as he pleased.
But get this, the Mazda Carol was actually a four door and not a two door, so Ken performed some cutting and welding to make it a two door! Because making the wide fenders fit a four door, was more difficult and wouldn’t look right, so it had to be made a two door instead. Ken got a lot of help from his painter to ensure the body and chassis were in good order, before the custom metal fenders were built and ready for the new engine.
So the engine, firstly it isn’t the original one and it isn’t from another car, which is what would be the norm, not here. What Ken opted for was a 1600cc 2008 Harley Davidson Soft tail motorcycle engine with balancer! Now get this, the original engine size on the Mazda Carol is 356cc! That’s one incredible power jump for the little Japanese classic.
We asked Ken if it was a hard job to fit inside the little car and his response was a huge ‘YES’! But after doing some research, Ken found that Harley Davidson have a trike that uses an adapter that it fits to a Volkswagen transmission, to allow the engine to work, brilliant. So having that knowledge, it was just making the engine fit into the rear of the car and creating custom brackets, rehousing other parts. Take a closer look at the engine and you would think it was there from factory. When you look at the rear quarter panels, you will see that Ken created a pair of cool air vents, so that the perfect airflow would be provided to the engine to keep it cool.
When it came to the suspension setup, Ken bolted on suspension from the Japanese Kei cars. These are the super small cute cars you see driving around Japan everywhere and Ken sourced them from a new model Subaru. Ken had the original subframe removed and built from scratch a double wishbone to ensure the car was super strong.
When it came to the brakes, the Carol had brake drums at the rear, so to improve the brake performance, he added the Wilwood brake system for all four wheels by creating some custom hubs for them to fit.
The choice of wheels ken went for, were 15×8-inches from Buffalo Creek Superior Colorado Custom with Yokohama 165/15 tires. I’m sure you will agree, that these wheels suit the car perfectly and finished it off in style.
Take a look inside the interior and it is equally as impressive. With a host of hot rod parts, the original seats retrimmed in black leather, again providing a retro classic modern look and feel.
At the time when the photos were taken, Ken had to do some work on the electrics, so unfortunately we couldn’t get to capture the sound this little Mazda makes, but we are so glad that we could capture this historical moment in custom car history.