We recently have heard the founder of legendary Japanese tuning company HKS, has passed away. The company's website in Japan posted news that Hiroyuki Hasegawa has died at the age of 71.
The cause of death is unknown at this time but we have reason to believe it was of natural causes. Hasegawa-san lived and worked in the area Fujinomiya City in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, where the HKS world headquarters are based.
In a picturesque area of Japan located near the the base of Mount Fuji, Hasegawa-san set out to create an empire in the emerging Japanese vehicle tuning market. Starting back in 1973, a young Hasewgawa-san along with Goichi Kitagawa began tuning engines in a simple shed prior to an investment by Sigma Automotive to form the three initials of the company HKS Co. Limited. The former Yamaha engineer worked tirelessly at putting his new company on the map and by 1974 had developed the world's first aftermarket turbocharger kits available to the public.
By the 1980's, turbocharger kits and upgrades became the core business of HKS. Hasegawa's company, HKS also became the first in the world to offer staple tuning electronics like the turbo timer and the boost controller, where users could find extra horsepower and control boost through their HKS turbo kits or even factory turbo cars.
But HKS also set many new benchmarks in the world of racing by proving their product in competition. HKS was involved with Japanese Grand Touring Car (JGTC), Formula 3, Time Attack, the D1 Grand Prix drifting series and of course, drag racing of all kinds. HKS even developed a V12 engine for use in Formula 1 but the technology didn't see competition thus preventing the course of HKS history from changing. But HKS still became renowned around the world and set up expansions: HKS USA in the U.S., HKS Europe in the U.K. and HKS Thailand to meet the exploding demand for tuning parts and electronics.
We wanted to reflect on HKS founder Hiroyuki Hasegawa with some personal stories:
(Former Editor-in-Chief of Modified Magazine 2002-2006)
During my visits to Japan, stopping by the HKS facility was always magical. Based at the foot of mount Fuji there is an aura of history surrounding the compound and the legendary products that have come out of the HKS buildings. Despite thinking there would be loud noises coming from the numerous flashy buildings on the site, HKS had none of those elements. It was austere and basic.
Walking around the grounds was like going over the decades of HKS accomplishments in a museum of sorts. But all of these legends were just left lying around to be consumed by the elements, not in glass cases. And it wasn't that Hasegawa-san didn't care about cars like the Nissan Skyline Zero-R, Drag GT-R or HKS Driving Performance drag Supra, but this is Japan - they are forever re-engineering and these cars were simply no longer of importance.
In fact, during my conversations with Hasegawa-san, I tried to make an offer to buy one of the rotting Skyline Zero-Rs on the property. He said through a translator: "I would never sell a Zero-R to you, no matter what the price. You are a Skyline GT-R owner and this old car doesn't have the performance expected today and is not reflective of HKS abilities. It would be a dishonour for HKS to have you drive it in America."
It was clear even back in the mid-2000's that HKS was in a state of flux with the Chinese counterfeits eroding their business. Even back then I saw HKS techs developing powersports parts and a flat-4 aircraft engine on the dyno. Hasagawa-san knew no boundaries and understood that jokers wanting to go-fast would buy the untested, junk counterfeits and that he would find revenue streams elsewhere.
Hasagaw-san was a friendly person but most certainly all business. He even wore the same grey jump suit all of the other employees wore to show he was in the trenches with them. It was a real honour to meet Hasegawa-san and even better to hear he knew of - and even complimented - the magazine I was Editor-in-Chief of at the time.
(Former HKS USA employee 1990 -1994)
"My direct interaction with Mr. Hasegawa was relatively limited by distance and language, but his influence was significant throughout the company. His relentless pursuit of industry leading innovation, engineering, testing, design, and quality drove the HKS brand far.
When I decided to pursue a career in the automotive industry after college, HKS was at the top of my list of companies I admired and pursued. I was so fortunate to have an opportunity to work with Mr. Hasegawa and the HKS team from 1990 to 1994, which I consider a golden era for Japanese tuning and performance.
"I was so fortunate to have an opportunity to work with Mr. Hasegawa and the HKS team from 1990 to 1994, which I consider a golden era for Japanese tuning and performance."
Because of Mr. Hasegawa's vision, HKS was one of the first - if not the first - aftermarket company to offer fully integrated bolt-on performance stages, incorporating both hard parts and electronics to boost performance safely and reliably.
I was lucky enough to visit the HKS facility in January of 1993 after attending the Tokyo Auto Salon. I was simply blown away by everything I saw there and by the dedication of the people I met. It was a testament to Mr. Hasegawa's values and intellect.
When interacting with him, you could tell that Mr. Hasegawa was a leader and a pioneer. He had a certain presence and confidence about him. What independent tuning company would have the vision and resources to take on the challenge of designing and producing a V12 Formula 1 engine? Only one led by Hiroyuki Hasegawa.
Photos: Scott Webb, Motovicity Blog