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There are 2 cars, that encapsulate the era of street racing and storytelling in Japan better than any other. The Blackbird and Devil Z. They were birthed by the infamous Mid Night Club and were solidified as comic book protagonists in the Wangan Midnight. The plot was written by Michiharu Kusunoki who knew members of Mid Night and had their blessings to make the comics. The Porsche and Nissan were complimentary but signified two completely opposite takes on the philosophies and tuning of cars. The former is a more surgical overseas market approach, and the latter a domestic take on a street racer.
The Blackbird Porsche 911
The Blackbird Porsche is directly inspired by Yoshida’s 930 Turbo which was also black when he got it and later painted it to a dark purple color. Yoshida, who was also the leader of Mid Night raced the car on Wangan and was unbeaten, he was regarded as one of the top runners. The car’s top speed was way over 300km/h. It was thoroughly modified by Porsche in Germany and was built with race car parts. The legend says, that some of the parts installed by Porsche were unknown to Yoshida to keep them a secret.
The Porsche in the manga looks to be a 930 (at least from the bumper) like the real-life club’s car but some sources say it was a 964. Who owned the Blackbird? Tatsuya Shima owned the Blackbird, he is an experienced surgeon but likes to race his 911 at night. He also modifies its specs extensively and spends most of his money on the car. He is known as the “King of Wangan”, which you could also say about Yoshida from Mid Night Club. The name “Blackbird” comes from Lockheed SR-71, which was a military aircraft made by the US that was capable of speeds over mach 3. It was in fact so fast, that it could just accelerate and fly away from any missile launched at it.
Before the events of the manga, Tatsuya raced on the wangan and witnessed his rival die in a car crash. The car was the Devil Z and he originally wanted to destroy the car as a sign of respect for his rival. Tatsuya’s girlfriend is Eriko Asakura, who was the sister of the deceased rival and she tried to get rid of the car as well by ditching it into the seat in Yokohama but was subsequently stopped by Tatsuya himself.
The Real Devil Z
The S130Z of Mid Night Club was the inspiration for Devil Z. The car had multiple owners in the club and is still owned by a member. Its ABR tune was done when Toshi (who also owns multiple other Z cars) owned the car, he went to Masaru Hosoki who owned ABR (Air Breathing Research) and he modified it extensively. It was a 1978 model and was tuned to 600HP and achieved a top speed of over 300km/h (186mp/h+). The L28E engine was upgraded with forged pistons, camshafts, rods, and cams. The turbo system consisted of IHI RHC-6 VX55 compressors and 3P-13 turbines. All of that power was handled by a 5-speed manual transmission. Hugging the tarmac were Panasport wheels (16inch) together with Bridgestone RE71 tires and the calipers were taken from an R32 Skyline and the rotors from a Supra.
But the legendary status of the S130Z and Yoshida’s Turbo doesn’t come from their looks or even their tune but from the fact that they were ruthlessly driven from night to night, wearing scars of battle from the accumulated miles and races. Yes, they were beautiful cars but they weren’t pretty demo cars.
The Devil Z was driven by high school student Akio Asakura. Before the “Devil”, he had a Z31 Fairlady but he lost a battle on the Bayshore route to the Blackbird. After that he wanted a faster car, he went to a junkyard after his friend said there was another Fairlady there with performance parts. He was surprised when he saw the car since he had seen the exact car 2 years before and decided a car like that should be driven. He asked the junkyard owner if he can buy it, and the seller warned him that the car is cursed. Its previous owner had asked to destroy it because it’s dangerous to drive. Hence the name, Devil Z.
Akio went ahead and got the car. The specs of Devil Z were monster. Twin turbos, powerful 3.1L L28 engine, triple carburetors, and gorgeous dark blue paint. In fact, so crazy that one of the previous owners was killed. And he had the exact name as Akio. The Akio who was killed also had a sister who was the girlfriend of Tatsuya. The plot of the manga revolves around their battles on the Wangan, which Akio takes very seriously even though he is still a student. He skips school so much that he has to repeat a grade.
The tuning was done by Jun Kitami, who was known as the “Tuner from hell”, his real-life reference would be Masaur Hosoki (who was the first to cross 300km/h in Japan). Jun also tuned the Blackbird. He was known for making cars “too powerful”, so that they become dangerous and impossible to control.
Testarossa and R32 Cars
Another notable car is the Ferrari Testarossa with what looks to be a Koenig body kit. The car is driven by a photographer Yoshiaki Ishida, who is interested in the story of Devil Z and tracks down the car with Reina. He also wants to make his Ferrari faster than the Z and gets it extensively tuned for 100k$ by Jun Kitami. One time when he was racing the Z he spun out and crashes against a truck. After that, he goes to the hospital and learns he has cancer and that’s why he was also previously coughing blood.
Reina Akikawa drives a Nissan R32 which is painted white, grey and black on different occasions. The R32 is tuned by Kazuhiko Yamamoto and fitted with a roll cage. At one point she crashed her car into a guardrail. Reina is a model and TV personality who works alongside Koichi Kijima who is a rival of Akio. She loves to drive her car on the Wangan as a way to escape her problems. She is unhappy about having achieved fame but not having good relationships. Reina occasionally takes part in races and even steals the Devil Z one time to drive it, she also developed feelings for Akio.
Wangan Midnight Movies
Before the manga got turned into Anime, it was actually made into multiple movies. The first time in 1991 and later In 2009 it again made its way to the screen. The films are awesome to watch because of the cars. The screenplay and editing can be “slow” at times but it is expected as they are not Hollywood action movies.
Car Racing and tuning games
The game series Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune is based on the manga series and features 11 games so far, it is developed by Namco. The goal of the game is to beat the rival racers on the Bayshore route.
Midnight Club is another video game series focusing on open-world racing against rivals directly inspired by the Racing Team. The stories of the game take place in various cities around the world like Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles, etc. Both of these games feature the S130Z and Porsche 930 Turbo which can be tuned to look like the Devil Z or the Blackbird Porsche.