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Keika Automotive - Sports Cars at their Finest


#1

Keika Automotive is a Japanese sports car company founded by Daniel Chase in 1966. Daniel was an avid racing fan, and had both driving and engineering experience back at home in the UK, holding records for rally events in cars he had tuned himself through the fifties and into the early sixties.

In 1964 he decided to take a tour to another country, and after hearing of some new circuits being built in Japan which were backed by major manufactureres, he decided to pack his bags and head out there. He ended up at the Second Grand Prix of Japan, watching a Porsche being hounded by the Prince Skyline GT-Bs.

The roar of ectasy from the crowds for the brief time the Skylines passed the Porsche was excitement like nothing he had ever experienced before. At that moment Daniel set his mission. He wanted to build a sporty car that could compete with the European cars from home but for the Japanese people, to give every race the energy and excitement from the stands. Plus he really liked the scenery here and wanted an excuse to come back.

After two years of planning and designing back home, he set up shop in a small garage out in rural Japan and got to work, building an advanced, low production sports car. He named this Keika, Japanese for progress.

With a modern 2L DOHC V6 making just over 100hp, it was powerful enough to be a sports car for the time, yet low enough to not be undrivable. This was then put in a spaceframe chassis and wrapped in a fiberglass body, ready for the world.

In 1966 eight Keikas were produced. Two were sent off to a racing team, who ran it as a moderately successful racing car for the 1967 season, and kept going until 1970.


#2

The Keika I

When Daniel came to Japan, he set up shop in a small shack in the middle of nowhere. Having spent a lot of his money on the workshop and tools, he had less money than he had planned.

The Engine
The engine was the first part to be assembled. It was a compact 2L 60° V6, made entirely from aluminium to keep weight down, with 2 valve DOHC to stay with the times along side major Japanese manufacturers. Originally the engine would use two single barrel eco carbs, for maximum fuel efficency, they were found too limiting on power. So, they were replaced with two barrel carbs, allowing the engine to breathe freely. Next the fuel mixture was leaned out as much as possible, in an attempt to keep fuel efficency as high as possible. After that, the engine was tirelessly adjusted and tuned to be powerful yet easy to use. The final result was a 121hp engine that kept revving to 6600RPM.

image

The AR 20 NA 2BTWC

The Chassis
The next challenge Daniel faced was creating something to put the engine in. The engine and workshop had both cost him far more than he had expected, so he needed to save money. To do this, he used a fiberglass body. While more expensive to buy the materials, it meant he wouldn’t have to purchase the large metal presses to shape the aluminium he originally intended to use. Instead he handmoulded the body panels into a beautiful mid engine body. Fiberglass is also lighter, helping the low powered engine further. Underneath the beautiful body is a spaceframe chassis, hand built by Daniel. Double wishbone suspension was used at all corners to ensure stability around every turn.

The futuristic, aerodynamic body and the spaceframe in it, with holes cut ready for the grill and lights.

The Car
Now both the chassis and engine had been completed, they needed to make it move. First of all the engine got a gearbox. A close ratio 5 speed manual was chosen to help accelerate the car. The engine and gearbox was then mounted into the spaceframe. Because of the small size, it easily fit in with plenty of room for an upgrade, if and when it was needed. After that, the brakes and suspension were added. Due to money issues, the 2 piston solid discs originally planned weren’t possible, so single pistons both front and rear were employed. Meanwhile the suspension had been kept unchanged from the original design, using standard springs and gas mono-tube dampers.

The chassis, now with an engine, suspension and brakes.

For the interior, Daniel went to local tailors to have some cheap and simple seats produced. Since he lacked any knowledge of electrical engineering, he bought a radio from a market, then through trial and error connected it up inside the car. This was with nearly all of his money spent.

Finally he bought some cheap tyres and steel wheels. They were hard compound, and the front wheels were far smaller than the rears to guarentee no deadly oversteer.

After that, he set about the styling. He had an artistic friend back in the UK do the styling, but most of the styling choices were too extravagant for Daniel’s engineering focused mind to reproduce. Instead he followed what he could, reusing pieces where he could to save money. The taillights were just red tinted headlights. The indicators were just orange tinted versions of the reverse lights. A single windscreen wiper was used. Pieces of trim were bought in bulk to save money, then cut and shaped. Mesh in the grill was black painted chicken wire. But it was done.


Immediately Daniel got to work on fine tuning it. He drove it hard through the winding Japanese roads, with a toolbox rattling about in the passenger seat. The cost cutting measures were obvious. The cheap, narrow hard compound tyres struggled to grip the road, the engine was deafening, the radio would sometimes be shaken out of place, and there wasn’t enough cooling for the engine.

But it did everything he really wanted amazingly. The car accelerated from 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds, as fast as Ferraris of the era, and it kept going to a gear limited top speed of 180Km/h.

Keika I Stats
Power: 121hp @ 6200RPM
Torque 112ft-lbs @ 4000RPM
Redline: 6600RPM

0-100Km/h: 7.5 seconds
Top Speed: 180Km/h
Weight: 885KG
Standing 1/4 mile time: 15.78 seconds
Lateral force: 0.95g

After the first Keika was produced and perfected, it was entered into local races. The race car design made it a fierce opponent, and gave the crowds something to shout about when it took podiums everywhere it went. These wins eventually got the attention of a few local teams, and by the end of 1966, eight Keikas had been produced and sold.

Car download for those interested: Keika - I.car (28.2 KB)


#3

The car is very pure and raw. But I love it!


#4

1967

For 1967, several racing teams had bought Keikas for various events through the year. These almost stock vehicles were rushed to be prepared, fitted with semi-slick tyres, further stripped out interiors and a richer fuel mixture. Differences between the privateers were minor, as the already basic and race ready chassis wasn’t easy to improve upon with little time to develop the car. The earliest team to get them didn’t have the money to improve the car either, so eight almost stock cars headed out onto the tracks of Japan throughout 1967.

Unfortunately for these teams, their hastily prepared cars lacked the development they so desperately needed. The new power helped greatly, which was gained by a much richer fuel mix and 10:1 compression ratio, which could be attained by running on 98 octane fuel. This brought their 0-100Km/h time down to 6.4 seconds, which was enough to give the Porsche 904 Daniel had watched three years ago a scare. Unfortunately, Porsche hadn’t just let the competition catch up. Their new 906 had already proven its dominance the year before, and with 220hp and a far lighter body, the Keikas stood no chance.

The lightly modified AR 20 NA 2BTWC got an extra 21hp over the standard model.

To make matters worse, the new semi-slick tyres hadn’t actually improved the handling. Since the car was tuned to be on the very edge of oversteer on hard compound tyres, the new grip from the semi-slicks meant the cars became very hard to drive, and cornered no better thanks to terminal oversteer.

The deadly handling of the rushed team cars.

Fuji 1000 Kilometers

The first of two major events of the year, the Fuji 1000 Kilometers, approached rapidly. The unprepared cars took place on the grid. During the first turn, one Keika spun immediately, heading straight into the crash barrier. The driver had no serious injuries from the accident. Another Keika experienced sudden oversteer only a couple laps later, taking it out of the race. For some cars, the oversteer was the least of the issues. Only thirty laps in, the lack of cooling caused another Keika to drop out. Things were not looking good.

Later on in the race, while trying to overtake a much slower Nissan Bluebird, the oversteer struck on another Keika, leaving two cars left. Another overheating engine left a lone Keika to claim 24th place. Despite the reliability problems and troublesome handling, the cars showed promise on Fuji’s high speed layout. And the fearsome Porsche ran into issues, finishing 36th, and giving hope for the Japanese companies. Unfortunately, all but one team had had enough of what could be a potential widowmaker, and dropped the cars. Daniel, obviously annoyed by the reputation he had lost, set about regaining it himself.

Rising from Ruins

He put together another Keika using the money from the teams he had built cars for, saving money and weight wherever he could. The exterior lacked any parts to make it road legal, all lights blanked and bumpers missing, instead filled in. Inside the car, the passenger seat was removed, as was the radio.

The lightweight racer personally built by Daniel Chase. Note the missing passenger door handle and mirror.

To save some time and money on finding a new wheel supplier, the same ones were used as the normal road car. But, instead of the budget hard compounds used before, semi-slick tyres were in place. After many hours of tuning, the suspension was set up to allow this car to corner at 1.06g. Now it just needed to get ahead of its production rivals on the straights.

Much like the racing models, the engine was ran on 98 octane fuel. The fuel mixture was made much richer, and the air filter was removed. Then some much more aggressive cams were put in place, and the compression ratio was raised to 10.5:1. The engine’s stroke was then decreased to allow it to rev further, up to 7000RPM, and brought the engine size down to 1.9L. Custom made tubular headers increased the total power output to 150hp.

The new AR 19 2BTWC

The final drive ratio was extended to increase the top speed to 204Km/h, and the gears shortened to bring 0-100Km/h down to 6.3 seconds.

Suzuka 1000 Kilometers

Dubbed the “Revenge” spec, this car was worked on day and night, built in three months, ready for the Suzuka 1000 Kilometers. This car was perfected until the very last moment, missing the qualifying session. The car, despite it’s not so legal state, was driven to the track with speed those roads would never carry again, and turned up seconds before entries closed. The remaining team running a Keika offered Daniel to use their pits during the race, which he accepted.

Parked up on the back of the grid in 66th place, Daniel waited for the count down. The moment the flag dropped, a legend was born.

The Keika accelerated off the line with fury, spinning a wheel all the way to third gear. Before the first turn, the brutal acceleration had put it halfway up the grid. And in the first turn, the finely tuned handling, allowed it to go around the outside of two Skyline GT-Bs, cars that were once the pinnacle of Japanese sports cars. By the end of the first lap, Daniel had made it up into the top twenty.

After an electric first lap, the car had to be driven slower to avoid overheating. Due to a lack of time, cooling couldn’t be improved, being driven hard for a long period of time wasn’t ideal. Despite this, due to the cars great handling on low speed turns, it could make up some time on the cars around it. On high speed turns though, handling was much to be desired, feeling light and vague.

The race went smoothly from there on, with the Keika Revenge taking 12th place. With this result, Keika’s worth had been proven, and interest in the company rose again.

As Daniel left, he overheard someone say his car “cut through the pack like a Katana through its foes.” This inspired him to call the 1967 models and onwards the Keika Katana, which seemed fitting for an elegant yet powerful design.

The Future

Demand increased significantly after the race result, resulting in high profit margins the following month from the road going variants sold to both teams and the public alike. By the end of 1967, there was now a total of 12 Keikas produced. Meanwhile, an updated version was in the works, and Keika had its sights set on bigger events outside of Japan.

Keika Revenge Spec Download: Keika - I Revenge.car (28.2 KB)


#5

I like this. Obscure 60’s supercar built real cheap and fast. It has some character.


#6

A Jap brand founded by a Brit? Simply fascinating… and the Revenge trim for the Keika could have been named more appropriately!


#7

Low on budget, yet proceeds to design and build an advanced inhouse engine.


#8

Shhh. This doesn’t need to be 100% accurate.


#9

1968

1968 was an important year for Keika. The standard road going car had been updated to more closely match the original designs, while the Revenge spec car was updated to become a car teams could buy as a direct race car. Keika also had ideas of racing outside of Japan, going into rally.

Keika Katana

The 1968 changes were nothing too drastic. The engine received an extra horsepower and lb-ft of torque, while the stroke shrunk by only 0.3mm to let it rev another 100RPM higher.

Visually, the car received extra vents on the engine cover to help ventilate the engine, reducing the cooling issues, and a small hook around the exhaust for extra protection. The Keika I name was changed to Keika Katana, and new sticker showed off the new model name.

Gearing was brought slightly closer thanks to the extra room to rev, improving 0-100Km/h to 7.3 seconds. Tyres were changed to a medium compound and widened by 20mm both front and rear to bring lateral forces to 1.04g with some suspension tuning. Brakes all around were shrunk and became two piston units which, while reducing weight, also meant brake fade was more prominent.

The interior was improved greatly over the first year cars, and some basic safety features such as lap belts were added.

Keika Katana Race

The race model used an even smaller 1.8L V6, the stroke taken down to 69.5mm. Thanks to some aggressive tuning, the tiny engine managed to output 160hp and kept revving until 7400RPM. Two 4 barrel carbs were used to replace the 2 barrels used on the previous engine.

Visually, the only differences were the extra vents on the roof and behind the windows, along with the covered lights and missing bumpers. Semi slick tyres and some suspension tuning gave the car cornering forces of 1.13g, greatly improving over the other models. 0-100Km/h was done in a mere 6.1 seconds, and the car went on to a top speed of 206Km/h.

Keika Katana Rallye

Daniel Chase had always been a rally fanatic at heart. He loved taking tight public roads at the fastest speeds he could, and while the endurance racing of last year had been fun, he much prefered the faster, shorter sprints rallying gave. So it was only natural he wanted to take on the most prestigious of them all, the Monte Carlo Rally. He had already been dreaming up ideas since the first Keika’s production, and now had the budget to do it with the orders coming in.

He took the standard race model and worked on creating a single rally machine that would not only beat, but humiliate any of the works teams. First, the engine needed to be more reliable. The redline was dropped to 7000RPM and the stroke increased back to the 1.9L of the previous race model. Then an air filter was added to stop dirt from blocking up the engine. The finished product was 160hp, giving it a competitive power to weight ratio.

On the bodywork side, the car still needed to be road legal, so all lights were kept, as well as plate holders and wing mirrors. The bumpers were taken off as a weight saving measure, and several extra vents were added to help cool the engine and keep it as reliable as possible. All other chrome metal trim was changed for fiberglass. The only other visual changes were some extra lights for the night and some new wheels.

Tyres were made higher diameter, and the car ran sports compound tyres during testing. If and when snow tyres would be necessary, the car would tend towards understeer rather than fatal oversteer. The transmission got another new short ratio setup, getting the car from 0-100Km/h in 6.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 203Km/h, more than enough for the tight mountainous roads. Inside, another seat was added for a co-driver.

And then was a case of fine tuning. To help even more with the snow, the suspension was raised, and a manual locking differential and an offroad skidtray were added. The car looked the part, now all it needed to do was get shipped to Monte Carlo.

The 1968 Monte Carlo Rally

Daniel and his co-driver, an old friend of his called Jack Williams, met up only one day before the first stage. After impressing Jack with the finely tuned custom build machine, they ran through the pacenotes late into the night, certain that they would win.

The next morning they made some last preparations to the Keika. So confident in their victory, they decided to run on their road tyres instead of the snow tyres, claiming that their car would be so fast on the clear tarmac they wouldn’t need to keep up on the ice. At their sea level hotel this seemed like a sensible choice, but as they climbed the mountains to the first stage, they quickly realised that the snow was a little deeper than they anticipated.

Lined up at the start of the first stage, differential locked. On the mark of the marshal, they set off. The tyres spun, and the car struggled for grip as they headed down the tight, snowy roads.

Daniel, while experienced in loose surface driving, had little experience on snow and ice. This combined with the sport compound road tyres meant the car had very little grip, and was only a matter of time before they hit a snowbank.

Trapped in the deep snow, the mid engine Keika struggled for grip. After a few minutes of digging, they got the car free. They needed to regain time. Unfortunately, due to a patch of ice, they visited another snow bank. By the end of the stage they were seven minutes behind.

After finding this out, they needed a new plan. The next stage was only slightly later in the day, so Daniel couldn’t get the practice he needed. He would just have to drive as hard as he could.

On the next stages, the Keika was pushed to its limits. On one stage even managing to get a 30 second lead on the next car, a Porsche 911T. But individual stage victories would mean nothing if the seven minute gap couldn’t be closed.

Then came the final stage. With only twelve seconds to gain on the leading Porsche, it would be tricky. After the hours of driving on the slick conditions, Daniel had gotten to know the very limits of what his creation could do. With a strong confidence, he launched his car down the midnight final stage.

The headlights shone beams down the rapidly changing road. Scraping walls, running to the very edge of the road on every turn, the Keika was ballistic. Pushing the limits of both the tyres and the chassis, Daniel slide across the icy road while Jack held on for his life. At this point the pacenotes were too slow, and trying to read them in time was useless.

By the end of the stage the Keika was nineteen seconds ahead, giving it the overall victory.

After celebrating the victory in their hotel, and dealing with a strong hangover the following day, Daniel and Jack would set about plans to sell the car in Europe. First of all shipping to the UK by mid 1968, and then to France by late 1968. The extra income would fund their own engine building tools, which would speed up production greatly and mean cars could be produced for less money.

1969

This was a year mostly for expansion. With Keikas taking 3 out of the top five sports in the Monte Carlo Rallye, while in Japan they dominated the production orientated classes, Daniel focused more on production. His co-driver, Jack Williams, took care of the sales in Europe, managing shipping and advertising, while he stayed in Japan to build cars himself. He hired four employees, who helped speed up production to three cars a month. By the end of 1969, there were 64 Keikas built in total, three quarters of which were racers.

Meanwhile Rachel Foust, owner of a performance car dealership in San Francisco, contacted Daniel about bringing over the Katana to the states. Despite being denied, officially, she bought and imported several anyway.

Going to the effort of sending one of them to a reviewer, she then sent the results back to Daniel, who suddenly became interested in expanding to America.


You’re free to use all my cars and engines in your lore, whether it be using the engines or tuning/rebadging them for your own company.

Keika Katana: Keika - Katana.car (32.9 KB)

Keika Katana Race: Keika - Katana Race.car (29.7 KB)

Keika Katana Rallye: Keika - Katana Rallye.car (31.7 KB)


#10

1970

Keika began officially exporting to America this year, building US spec cars from factory and being sold to a chain of dealerships on the West Coast. These cars sold reasonably well and were almost identical to their Japanese and European counterparts, the only difference being the front lighting arangement.

HighresScreenshot00029

A US Spec Katana. Note the quad headlights and sidemarkers.

Meanwhile, back in Japan, Keika were contacted by TSR to help make final adjustments to a final edition TSR Ultra, the GTX. With Keika’s help, the price was reduced, handling refined, reliability improved and 0-100 time was brought down to 4.7 seconds.

In return for their services, TSR offered a factory, boosting production greatly.

1971

1971 marked the beginnings of the IMSA GT Championship. Keika entered the inaugural season in the GTU class, facing fierce compeition from Porsche. Also, historians claim Caliban showed up, but there’s no laptime evidence or finishing positions to back that up.

Cars used were simply the race varients of 1968, with the main driver for Keika being the owner of the dealerships selling them, Rachel Foust. With her at the wheel, Keika took the championship in the GTU class, narrowly beating Porsche in points.

1973

Back in the USA, Keika needed to update the cars. Regulations were getting tighter and while in Japanese and European markets the balanced handling and low cost was enough to gain sales, in the US there needed to be some refinement to keep up with the competition.

The answer to this problem? Race car.

To improve performance, the 4 barrel carbs from the race cars were added to the road cars. While not a huge amount of power was added, this was enough to bring the 0-100Km/h time to 7 seconds, and also improved fuel economy. The stroke was also increased back up to original specification, providing a small amount of extra torque.

This was fine enough for the base model Katana, but Keika was looking to expand their horizons. After taking back the feedback from the US magazine, a specific for US model was created, called the Katana 2000R. This featured wider, sportier tyres, updated safety, and a few other things. Unfortunately, this did nothing to help Keika in America, as the updated design wasn’t radical enough to impress the masses.

1975

This failure, and the resulting lack of sales would finally kill off the first generation Katana in 1975. While the Katana was initially successful, the lack of improvements in the budget chassis would lead to its end. A replacement was already in the works though…


Keika Katana US: Keika - Katana 2000.car (33.9 KB)

Keika Katana 2000R: Keika - Katana 2000R.car (35.1 KB)