posted on March 02, 2012 00:00
Who is Mike Kojima?
By Wes Dumalski
Photos as credited
I am likely not qualified to write this piece on one of the major brains behind MotoIQ. There are many people who write for this very site that have spent much more time around his person and in his brain than I have over the past 12 years... But at this year's SEMA show I had a chance to get to know Mike in ways I had not previously talked to him... As a fellow Human... Mike is well known for his accomplishments within the motorsports community and his name is highly recognizable... But there is more to him than that and if you care to find out read on about who the fuck Mike Kojima is exactly...
|Old school pic of Mike. It must be 93/94 as you can see Project Pathfinder in the background....
Mike's ancestors came to the shores of America somewhere in the 1890's and some 71 years later Mike Kojima was born on December 18th of 1961 in Inglewood California (yeah that one foo). Mike grew up the son of an aerospace engineer who was working during the golden age of aviation. With that sort of influence it is no wonder why his path towards engineering was cut from a very early age. If you ask Mike when he became interested in cars he will tell you "At birth.... Cars and Airplanes, don't all boy's have an interest in them?" Mike spent a lot of time around high tech airplanes during his youth and after graduating from Gardena High school in 1980 it seemed certain he would follow in his father's footsteps in the aerospace industry.
|Mike looks like one of the Option Magazine editors.
Mike began college shortly after high school at California State Long Beach, he was about half way through his degree when something happened that perhaps not even Mike can quantify or rationalize.... A friend of Mike's mentioned a part time job position available at Toyota Racing Development (TRD) around 1983. This was a departure from the aerospace industry but needing a job Mike began humbly by working for them around the shop and answering the phones. I guess the answering the phone part is rather funny if you have ever talked to Mike in person... This simple recommendation from a friend would change Mike's future. Mike swept his way through different roles at TRD and after graduating with a B.S. became the Engineer who was responsible for their grassroots motor sports efforts as well as their SCCA programs and street parts. It was also during his time at TRD. that he wrote his first paying freelance article of sorts... TRD had a collaboration project with Grassroots Motorsports Magazine in the mid 80's and that is where his freelance career began.
Somewhere in the horrible fashion decade that was the 1980s Mike met his wife Sharon. (No dumbass they weren't married when they met.... the wording is simply for the sake of editorial efficiency...) I find their meeting place rather comical given that while Mike hails from Inglewood (foo) he has NEVER struck me as "hood" in any way. He has been known to pull it off from time to time though and apparently it worked on Sharon as they met at a house party (not quite sure if Kid n PLay were at that one)... As their relationship continued Mike left TRD for a quality engineer position at Nissan North America. While at Nissan Mike obtained his designation of Certified Quality Engineer and applied those credentials and his mind to the Infiniti G20 (P10 chassis) as well as service parts for several years. In 1993 Mike and Sharon married amidst Mike's budding career as a freelance journalist and engineer.
|Our own Project 200SX SE-R was the first project car that Mike documented for Sport Compact Car.
Friday, March 02, 2012 12:44 AM
lol, I took that "old school" picture of Mike with the Keystone Light the first time I met him in person at the National SE-R Convention back in June of '99… Where did you even find that, Wes??? A LOT of good memories from that trip! I decided to move to California after that in fact! (from Texas)
Friday, March 02, 2012 2:23 AM
Vary Cool Dude Super Down To Earth!
Friday, March 02, 2012 3:56 AM
"I guess we should all be thankful that he has always freely shared his talents and ideas with the public even in the face of adversity and it is perhaps for that that I respect him most."
This final line sums it up - Mike, thank you!
Friday, March 02, 2012 6:34 AM
I check MotoIQ every single day and I'm always telling people to check this site out. I have that Honda book. The copy editor needs to be fired (the word "VTECH" does appear more than once!), but I'm always reaching for it when I need Honda information. I've been meaning to meet Mike at the Wall, but every year it overlaps with SAE West. One day!
Thanks Mike for creating MotoIQ and giving us the ultimate car-tech website. And a special thanks for giving some of us up-and-comer freelancers a place to get our feet wet.
Friday, March 02, 2012 7:08 AM
This reminds me why I miss SCC, but MotoIQ and MKs presence makes up for it. I've always like his methods to modification and in my teen years of reading SCC it has truly shaped me into the race-driven modifier I am.
Friday, March 02, 2012 7:42 AM
mike looks strange without glasses
Friday, March 02, 2012 9:37 AM
On page 1 where Mike's compared to another Japanese likeness; you can see other old school SE-R guys Mike Mager, Martin Gonzales and Ryan Besterwitch. It was a Stillen open house and I believe Mike almost got us all kicked out because his z32 was stealing the show on Stillens dyno.
If I'm remembering the 99 convention correctly (top pic) I believe it's the place Jeff coined the term "F-it I'm on vacation!"
Friday, March 02, 2012 9:53 AM
It's cool to get some background on MK and see where he has come from.
Worked at TRD? Where are the toyota projects?!?!
Friday, March 02, 2012 11:23 AM
Thanks for this article. Mike is bar none both the smartest and the most humble person I've ever met. I've never known anybody else who knows so much about how everything works, and is so willing to share it with anyone who asks him - even somebody as mechanically disinclined as me. Mike never toots his own horn, never tells people the scope of his accomplishments, so I'm glad that somebody is doing it for him.
MIke is funny, intensely intelligent, and is generous with his time and knowledge to a fault. Such a rare combination of talent and genuine humility and good will. I have been lucky enough to hang out with him, have a lot of conversations with him, and learn so much from him. He never hesitated to help me when I needed help, mostly because I was so incompetent, he never hesitated to help anyone. He worked so hard to make things better for other people, for no reason other than somebody needed help.
If you ask him about that, he'll downplay it. He'll say it's ok, he didn't mind doing it. But for those of us who benefited from his immense knowledge, his kindness and generosity, it meant everything.
I always feel like I've never been able to thank Mike properly for all the help he gave me back in the day. I hope he knows how highly I think of him, and what a huge influence he was on so many of us. I sincerely wish him the absolute best in everything, because I think he deserves it.
Friday, March 02, 2012 11:47 AM
Good stuff Wes! Lots of laughs and smiles!
Friday, March 02, 2012 12:25 PM
"I always feel like I've never been able to thank Mike properly for all the help he gave me back in the day. I hope he knows how highly I think of him, and what a huge influence he was on so many of us. I sincerely wish him the absolute best in everything, because I think he deserves it."
I couldn't agree more. I've been around the SR20 community since the late 90s and all the stuff he posted on the boards/mailing lists was an invaluable resource.
Friday, March 02, 2012 12:34 PM
Somewhere, Mike Kojima is blushing.
Friday, March 02, 2012 12:37 PM
With so many new friends made over the last decade, i think Mike should bring the EOS BBQ back!
Friday, March 02, 2012 3:00 PM
great article wes!
Friday, March 02, 2012 5:11 PM
Nice article wes... I fall into the same group of people who check this site religiously... hopefully Mike and the rest of the dream team will go to the land down under and bribg back a world championship this summer
Friday, March 02, 2012 6:18 PM
Thanks for the kind words guys. In all honesty Mike is so hubmle he thought me running this article woulc come accross as "douchy"... I told him people would respect it...
Friday, March 02, 2012 6:24 PM
Oh and I took the last two pictures... Not Jeff Nayert... That guy has gas...
Friday, March 02, 2012 8:06 PM
Mike who? Oh, yeah, yeah, THAT Mike! ;-p
When I started transitioning from the Off-Roading scene to the Sport Compact "scene" about 7 or 8 years ago, the words of Dave, Mike and Eric were as much guidance and inspiration then as they are now!
Nice introduction of Mike, Wes. Not "douchy" at all!
Friday, March 02, 2012 11:01 PM
Very cool write up. Fun looking guy. Hope to see the latest Dog attacking the track. Evo9 Love!! lol, heck yea, I was not expecting that, but agree.
In regards to the ARK ta-bnr32, I can't wait to see Mike's unique car-magic worked in combination with so many other knowledgeable/skilled car people. Should be an absolute killer TA car, and might need to be if NEMO gets that crazy parts list/modn/fabn all done and well sorted out.
Friday, March 02, 2012 11:42 PM
I know this article is all about Mike and his great motorsports work....which is awesome. But Knowing Mike since 1996 from working at JWT, Mike is a great Husband to Sharon his Wife, and a great Father to his Daughter. Thank you Mike for Being such a awesome friend, teacher, and example to me!!! Thank you for all the great Info here in one spot on MotoIQ! And thank you to all my hard core SR20 Buddies out there who work on MotoIQ to make it what it is!! George -->SR20 guy in Las Vegas!!
Saturday, March 03, 2012 5:47 AM
mike's a great guy.. he's my idol
Saturday, March 03, 2012 1:44 PM
The guy in the Option Magazine that looks like Mike is Kazuyoshi Okamura, (aka Okachan), owner of Yashio Factory.
Good article BTW.
Sunday, March 04, 2012 8:21 AM
Thank you Mike Kojima for everything you've done to inspire us to continue with our project cars.
Good to see such passion for cars and winning from such a humble man and not settling for second best.
And thank you MotoIQ for being here for us techno-geeks that are willing to learn more about what makes our automobiles tick and how to make them better which has always been my philosophy on any car that I've owned.
Thank you MotoIQ and thank you again Mike Kojima. :)
Sunday, March 04, 2012 8:54 AM
On top of that, Mike used to be moderator over a few Nissan boards all over the net... i used to be working over nissanforums with few guys here before the board was bought back few years ago.. He provided so much content on technical stuff automotive over the net that anyone could almost be an engeneer going over those articles... Nowaday, Mike is still pushing forward trou the industry to provide us all the best, in detail we can yet buy, DIY, understand... modern or not. From old school mods to newest development coating, Hes always ready to help around answering question to everyone !!..
Mike you are, sir, still and for a very long time a reference for all of us, modifiers around the globe :)
Dont stop the good work and thks alot !!
Sunday, March 04, 2012 8:07 PM
I don't remember when I met Mike exactly but it might have been around '93 or so. I think he was schooling a bunch of dudes on turbos or exhaust in front of a shop somewhere in south Orange County. I think I learned how to school people by watching Mike school people LOL. But seriously Miked is one of the smartest people I know and a master at the infinite abstract science we call suspensions (automotive or not).
This article wasn't douchy at all, but I seem to remember the original uncut version had a lot more F words and had a harder edge to it. But great article still!
Monday, March 05, 2012 10:49 AM
I met Mike at a DPR dyno day (Spring of 98 I think) scheduled for the SE-R.net folks. I remember there was a big deal about no lame burnouts during the day and what does Mike do when he showed up in his green 200sx with the yellow clown wheels? Yup, big smoking burnout! That weekend stands out in particular because I think that's where Kojima's phrase "Any contest of speed bitch!" got started when someone showed up and wanted to piss all over our fun.
I've read so many qualities in the article and from others but for me Mike's greatest gift is his friendship. He would literally lay down in the street for any of his friends. When I barely knew him, he invited me up to his home taking time out of his weekend to install parts on my car I was too dumb to do at the time.
A defining moment in life we shared was the Ultimate Street Car in 2000. I had about 14 hours worth of massaging the 200sx with every clay bar and buffing wheel I have. Sadly, a friend of ours Matt Kempe was killed in a car accident on his way down to support the effort. With conflicted hearts we soldiered on and kicked the shit out of the competition. There was literally an army of people working on Mike's car prepping it for the show, then converting for drag racing and finally auto-x. To further Mike's "I don't lose" style of competition he had hot-shoe drivers for both the racing events. Competitors, threw such a stink about our army of effort advantage, I think they changed the rules for help in the following years.
There are many people who make MotoIQ possible but I would say, mostly, people are doing something for their friend Mike who has done so much for them.
Monday, March 05, 2012 3:46 PM
I FINALLY understand the Disco Potato reference!!! Thanks for clearing that up, and shedding light on a truly impressive person who has done such great work influencing our scene. Thank you Mike for being you!
Monday, March 05, 2012 5:24 PM
I am very pleased with the response to this article! I completely agree with Aaron as Mike has people that have blindly followed or helped him and for me it has been out of respect and friendship. Mike and I had the chance to further forge our friendship at SEMA this year and those events are what prompted me to want to write this article...
Thanks to those that read my work and thanks to the subject for providing such an interesting one!
Monday, March 05, 2012 7:48 PM
I purchased my first performance parts back in '87 from Mike for the MKII Supra while he was at TRD. Enjoyed heading over to the TRD store in Gardena after school just to chat cuz he seemed to have infinite knowlege of street/race setups while I was just starting to learn about it. After equipping my ride with their full race suspension, I had some nagging rear tire wear issues that was solved with Mike's simple recommendation for rear toe setting. I never forgot about him and we've kept in touch from time to time over the years. It's good to see him still enjoying his passion through work. Many would dream of experiencing even a fraction of his motorsports adventures. Keep it up Mike. Hopefully, we'll get to work on a project together sometime in the future.
Monday, March 05, 2012 11:19 PM
Aaron- That is awesome you mentioned Matt Kempe. I still have those stickers on the 200SX. "Happy Motoring"-- MK
Just a great reminder of how important life is and appreciate every waking moment of it!!
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 1:11 AM
Thank you for the kind words everyone.
Eric, I met you at perhaps the second ever Battle of the Imports. I was racing my 300ZX and was pitted with Adam Saruwatari and low 13's in a Z was blindingly fast back then. You were in your very early 20's I think and you had a lot of hair, no DaiLo look back then. You kinda looked like Gary Castillo now. Even though you were a kid, you were one of the only people that impressed me from those days and I knew you were going to do great things.
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 1:14 AM
I will also never forget Matt Kempe and am still sad very frequently, especially when I think that he would still be with us if he hadn't driven down to help me that night. I dedicate every podium I get, or get with my team to him since that day.
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 1:53 PM
@ George(sr20freak) - Very true words. That day was a defining moment for a lot of us. It makes me sad thinking about him still but paraphrasing Mike's words from years ago "he's now in a place where tires don't wear out and engines don't overheat." He's there with that big smile on his face like the day he went off course in the mud at Buttonwillow.
That's awesome you've still got the sticker. I have the Happy Motoring MK sticker on my racing helmet.
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 11:46 PM
I wasn't there, but I've gotten to relive the moment through tellings of the story when Mike put everything to do with cars into one perfect question: "Do you want to go fast, or do you want to suck?"
Friday, March 09, 2012 3:29 AM
Just read the article, THANK YOU very much for your contributions to both Sport Compact Car and Turbo magazine. I enjoyed reading the tech articles.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 6:56 PM
What do you mean "who is Mike Kojima" that's the man the myth the legend....the Drunken Master.......fron the Nissan performance mag days......
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 8:38 PM
I'm not sure when I first met Mike- I think at one of the se-r meets at the park back in the day. But I do have a fun story to share. We went to Buttonwillow for a track day years ago and had some dinner at this rundown diner. Some old, toothless truck drivers started talking to me as Mike was talking to the table next to them. I kept giving him this "save me" look but he didn't seem to get the message. Around the time they were trying to make plans to meet up later, Mike had finished his convo and we were ready to leave. Outside, I'm like "thanks..." and he says "what? I didn't want to ruin your game!" We established a safe word after that ;)
But seriously, Mike has always had my back just like all his true friends. Being included in conversations between him and Clark (JWT) often left me dizzy and confused but damn, I learned a lot! His contributions to this community have definitely saved some blown motors or frustrated tuners a lot of time!
Thursday, March 26, 2015 11:35 AM
I have fond memories of the Disco Potato project, which was a highlight for me when it came to working with Mike. Don't know if I ever told him the story of almost rear-ending a San Bernardino Sherriff with that car on a winding mountain road, while I had a California Highway Patrolman as my passenger...