Hanging with Kiyonori Imai

Bee-R has always been at front of the pack when it comes to building cars that make heads spin. We visited Bee-R and talk with shop owner and world renowned tuner Kiyonori Imai. He truly takes his craft serious whether it is for street or launching himself or others in to the stratosphere. There is a lot to be said about Mr. Imai. But we’ll let him speak for him.

Tuned Japan: Hello, Mr. Imai. How are you doing?

Kiyonori Imai: I am doing great!

Tuned Japan: What are you up to?

Kiyonori Imai: Just doing some computer tuning. You are welcome to watch.

Tuned Japan: Of course, that would be awesome.

Tuned Japan: That was fast! We can’t believe that it only took 5 minutes (chuckling).

Kiyonori Imai: We have been doing this for a long time. After all the years of R & D, we have compiled a data base of programs for different cars and modifications.

Tuned Japan: How long has Bee*R been building insane cars and why the name Bee*R?

Kiyonori Imai: We have been in operation since 1990. Isn’t it obvious? I like beer (chuckles).

Tuned Japan: What got you interested in cars?

Kiyonori Imai: I think my journey into the car industry began just like most men. As a young boy I was very passionate about Hot Wheels. And that passion has stayed with me all my life.

Tuned Japan: What do you think the biggest differences between tuning in Japan and America are?

Kiyonori Imai: First of all, let me say, I am a huge fan of “American Muscle.” The biggest difference is the fact that here in Japan. We don’t have the kind of open space that America has and unlike America we have to pay taxes on car every year. These taxes include car weight and engine size. Owning a car along with living expenses in Japan can be very expensive and people are generally forced to smaller and more compact because of these factors. Therefore, tuners have to get creative to create massive amounts of power that is needed to competitive.

Tuned Japan: Recently, you found a Bee-R Rev Limiter knock-off. You must have been furious?

Kiyonori Imai: I was a little but more concerned than anything else. Knock-offs are very dangerous and have no place in the Automotive Industry especially when it comes to aftermarket parts. The quality control is not there and substandard equipment is used in the manufacturing process. In the end, this hurts everyone and is dangerous to the end-user. As an established tuner, I have to protect my customers in every sense. The legal repercussions are enormous and I don’t want myself or anyone for that matter to be responsible because some “Joe Smoe” thought it would be funny cool to knock-off Bee-R products and more importantly the lack of common sense these people exercise by putting others’ lives in danger just so “Joe Smoe” can make a quick buck. That is why I tell people to go thru reputable sources, etc. You get what you pay for, no need to risk your life.

Tuned Japan: Keiichi Tsuchiya and Dai Inada separated from D1 GP and created Drift Muscle. What is your opinion on this new series?

Kiyonori Imai: I absolutely love the concept! It is by far more driver and car oriented than D1. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are driving. You start at the bottom and work your top each and every event. I think it is an event where people can truly have fun. Whereas, the D1 GP has seeded drivers, so unless you are very good; you are left out in the rain. Because of this, the quality of the events is not what is used to be and seeing a decline of show-goers.

Tuned Japan: What is your advice to the car enthusiast? What does an inspiring driver need?

Kiyonori Imai: I think it depends on the user and what they want. So people just enjoy the look, some enjoy both the look and feel and other just driving. As a driving enthusiast myself, I just say start with lots of tires and wheel time. You will have less of a learning curve. In this way you are always evolving as a tuner, driver and car-nut.

Tuned Japan: Well, Mr. Imai. We don’t want to take any more of your precious time. Thank you for chatting with us today.

Kiyonori Imai: It was my pleasure. See you at the track!