by Michael Kitchens
The automotive enthusiast scene is filled with thousands of owners with varying degrees of perspectives. Take Matt Oshima, for example, whose first car was a 1987 Acura Integra. He was just 12 at the time and his brother had taught him how to drive in a 1974 Toyota Corolla. In the next dozen years, he proceeded to rack up ownership of more than 51 cars up until his current age of 24. To say that the man goes through cars like most people go through hats would be an understatement.
Oshima has owned Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans, and not one of them was a domestic. He has hand-built everything from Corollas to Sentras to 240s.
“I’ve never owned a domestic … they’ve always been imports.” I guess you could call him an import tuner in the truest sense of the world.
In a very short amount of time, Oshima has paid his dues. He drifted a Honda Integra at Drift Session when he was around 15. He’s plowed a perfectly streetable 1980 Toyota Corolla into a barrier at Hawaii Raceway Park on his passenger’s birthday. He has also custom-built a fully turbo’d Nissan Sentra from the ground up. His Facebook page is full of photos of the various vehicles he’s owned in his short lifetime. I’d be happy with just one from his stack of photos.
Unfortunately, the loss of the track affected Oshima greatly.
“When the track closed, I sold all of my cars,” he says.
When selling modified vehicles, the realization is that you’ll never get what you put into it. It’s a lose-lose situation. In fact, Oshima’s former passion for tuning has taken a slightly hands-off approach. For example, he didn’t build the current beauty staring back at you on these pages. Specifically, he’s become more of a collector — a connoisseur of cars, if you will.
“I don’t build cars anymore,” he says. “I get bored too quickly and I go through cars like it’s going out of style.”
Gavin Correia, who placed nine years of work into the vehicle’s build time, built Oshima’s 1986 Toyota Corolla SR5. In a sense, this article is also a tribute to Correia and an example of how different car owners can be while still sharing the same love of automotive performance. Oshima has simply added a few choice pieces here and there to make it his own. When asked why he chose the SR5, Oshima simply says, “It’s fun to drive. I’d rather have a low-powered Hachi than a 400HP 240. It’s just to have fun.”
This SR5 is one of the cleanest Corollas I’ve seen. It pops with a super-red shine that is almost blinding. Accented by Sprinter taillights and JDM bumpers, the car is clean and purpose built. Featuring 15×9 -15 Work Meisters wrapped in 195-45-15, it sits low and growls with drift menace. Interior-wise, it’s sparse in a no-nonsense racecraft fashion. The battery has been relocated to the stripped rear compartment. The cockpit is purposeful with a Momo steering wheel and SDS computer while the engine bay is crammed with a 16v 4AGE with shocking blue individual throttle bodies. It’s a gorgeous ride.
You may think that Oshima doesn’t value the rides he drives — when in fact, he does. He runs the vehicles the way they were meant to be driven, and has done so from the first day he got behind the wheel as a youth. The saying “Built, Not Bought” doesn’t matter at all to Oshima because he’s honest with his own viewpoint.
“I’m just a driver,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense to be anything more than that.”