Junique Design: the Turkish masters of JDM

Since its inception, Speedhunters has explored car culture across the planet. After 16 years it becomes difficult to find a ‘new’ country to visit.

Turkey was one of the countries on the list, but not anymore – all thanks Erdem Kuskun at Junique Design in Istanbul.

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Erdem single-handedly introduces local modified car enthusiasts to quality and, most importantly, legitimate aftermarket brands. With his new store ready and fully operational, Erdem invited me to fly to Turkey while I was back home in Italy earlier this year. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

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I was excited but had no idea what to expect other than good Turkish food. And the local culinary delights were even tastier than I imagined.

But back to the cars…

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My first day in Istanbul was spent learning the ins and outs of the local scene. Cars are very popular in Turkey, as is customizing them, but strict import regulations and heavy duties on everything coming from abroad make finding and building certain cars extremely difficult and expensive. Then there are the parts.

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For years, the Turkish market was flooded with counterfeits and imitations of every major brand. Cheaper purchase costs have led to lower import taxes, allowing local car makers to get the looks they want while spending less. But Erdem has approached it from the other side, partnering with brands such as Work Wheels, Rocket Bunny, Liberty Walk and Old & New, becoming their official importers for Turkey.

By leveraging the superior quality of these respected brands, Erdem convinces the local community that quality and authenticity are worth paying for.

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The new Junique Design store is a mix between Nakai-san’s RWB lair in Chiba and Kato-san’s ever-expanding Liberty Walk empire, exuding quality and cool from every corner.

I spent countless hours talking to Erdem on his comfortable couch and hearing how his way of building cars is slowly but surely becoming the end goal for many people.

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Sure, the entry price for doing things the “right” way is higher, but so are the kudos you get for showing off a car that’s built well with legitimate parts. As Erdem tells me, once people see, touch and feel the quality, they immediately understand it.

It was so cool to see the BMX from the back of the Junique Design Datsun truck when it was there recommended via IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER in 2021 – the first time I spoke to Erdem.

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When I entered the shop, I was met by Erdem’s old and new Porsche 996 and a recently restored Ford Capri – both beautiful cars.

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Erdem’s idea is to build demo cars of as many models as possible to demonstrate the variety offered by the brands he imports. However, there is a problem. As soon as a new car is built, it is sold. That’s not a bad problem to have.

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Liberty Walk is one of Junique Design’s larger brands and in the foreground is a Ferrari 360 Modena with LBW equipment. This used to be Erdem’s car, but it is also a car he had to sell due to customer demand.

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It took years, but the word finally became known.

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Take the JZA80 Supra, for example, parked in the showroom adjacent to the main show area.

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Open the hood and it’s clear: this is one serious build with all the extras. The complete Ridox kit is another one that Junique Design imports.

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Sitting on Work Meisters and painted in a custom metallic bronze, this is easily one of the wildest Supras in Turkey.

I loved the OEM+ feel of the interior with the suede covering across the dash and trim, all topped off with a TRD steering wheel.

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For added visual impact, a Veilside rear wing was added, completing the sleek and well-executed build.

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Kato-san and his team visited Erdem when he first started distributing Liberty Walk products, and next on the list is to fly Nakai-san and create Turkey’s first RWB build. Erdem’s dream is to build himself a RWB 997, something I’m sure he will achieve very soon.

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The selection of cars outside Junique Design was pretty cool. Half of them were completed, some were customer cars and others were new additions about to be built into a shop. I was surprised how big an Alfa Romeo 75 is with an AE86. I can’t wait to see what happens with these two, not to mention the Z32 and the 928.

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It’s a shame this ‘R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R’ wasn’t completed when I visited. The engine was out of the car to do some work, but I would like to do a full write-up of this build when I return to Istanbul.

I used quotes above because this car actually started life as a four-door R32 Skyline sedan. Since no R32 GT-R could be imported into Turkey and none could be built in the country, Erdem did the next best thing and created his own. To make it a two-door coupe, he imported all the stamped sheet metal parts from Nissan in Japan, and then the running gear. Once that was done, Erdem installed the Pandem kit and smoothed it onto the bodywork to create something completely unique.

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Speaking of Pandem, Erdem’s recently completed FC3S Mazda RX-7 project is also pretty crazy.

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It’s not just an exterior makeover; under the hood is a Toyota 2JZ that produces 500 hp on the low boost setting.

You then wonder what awaits the FD in the store display case!

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Then there’s Erdem’s newest baby…

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This AE86 has a built-in turbocharged 4A-G that can develop over 300 horsepower, making it a bit of a manic drift car.

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The car was completed just days before my arrival and looked clean and purposeful.

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The Work Equip 03s sit so nicely against the D-Max ventilated FRP fenders.

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A week after I left Istanbul, Erdem told me that the car had been sold without him having a chance to drive and enjoy it. Luckily he still has one Hachiroku in his collection, and that car is now being built as a replacement.

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On the second day of my visit, Erdem handed over the keys to the red 997 Carrera S and said: “Follow me.”

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Because a BMW E92 was also driving, the intention was to take some photos of the three cars together. The 15 minute drive from Junique Design to the photo spot was my most vivid memory of the trip, because the traffic and the way everyone drives in Turkey is absolutely crazy.

The fact that the 997 went sideways on the dusty city roads with even the lightest pressure on the throttle made things even more exciting.

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I have to hand it to Erdem and Junique Design for pushing authenticity and quality. So far, 100 cars have been completed, and with each new one, Turkish car culture is evolving for the better.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare
dino@speedhunters.com

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