Akira Kogawa, Kyosho and the Auto Model design company

Even as a little boy Akira Kogawa was fascinated by cars.

Akira Kogawa is the brain behind Kyoshos most successful models. Having been fascinated with cars from a very early age, he started racing RC in his youth at the Fujiya Model Club. The story about how he managed to get to work for one of Kyoshos designers, the Auto Model Co, involves a lot of persistence and persuasion. After a while they gave in, and he got a part time job there, at the age of 18. The Auto Model Co started their operations in the 70’s, designing classic 1/8th scale off-road buggies like the Land Jumps etc. and Kogawas first assignment with Auto Model was the Blizzard snow mobile. From that on the classics came rolling. He designed the Rally Sports series (predecessor to the Scorpion series) and the Scorpion series, he designed the on-road Plazma and Fantom series, then came the Optimas, the Ultimas, the Optima Mids, and his final design for Auto Model Co/Kyosho was the innovative front wheel drive Maxxum FF off-roader. All this done from the age 18 to 25.

Some of the cars designed by Kogawa and Auto Model Co for Kyosho. Some are missing, like the Rally Sports, and some of the years are wrong. The Maxxum FF was the last one he did before leaving Auto Model Co for HPI, at the age of 25.

When he worked at Auto Model, a typical day would start with drawing, making and building, and by 3PM he would go test driving. The test driving took place at various sites with different surfaces, but interestingly enough, he did very little testing on actual race tracks. That would change later in his Kyosho/Auto Model career, as he actually participated in several competitions, including the World Championships in 1985 and 1987 (where he ended 54th in the 2wd class and 68th in the 4wd class), to better be able to modify the designs for race conditions. In the 1987 WC, the 2wd Ultima he had designed took first, second and third in the hands of Joel Johnson, Katsunori Kondo and Kris Moore, and his 4wd Optima Mid design won the silver through Katsunori Kondo. Just a year after that, Akira san moved to the US to work for HPI. While other Kyosho design houses, like the Syuwa Kogyo Co that designed the Progress and the Gallop 4wds no longer are in business (they were until around 2007), the Auto Model Co still exists (2017), and are still designing models for Kyosho, like the modern Lazers and Ultimas by Mr. Kanai and Mr. Chikuba.

Akira Kogawa with his Tomahawk (first row, second from right) at the 1985 World Championships.


A historical significant picture where Akira Kogawa and his Optima Mid prototype are being chased by a Yokomo Super Dogfighter prototype at the World Championships in Romsey (UK) in 1987.


The Auto Model Co building in Tokyo, Japan.
Kogawa and the current Auto Model team at the entrance to the design offices.

At HPI, with just 5 employees back then, Akira san continued his same visions for how a off-road buggy should look, and if you study the big 1/5th scale HPI Baja 5B, the Scorpion and Ultima ancestry is very clear. Today (2017) he runs his own design house, AKIRA Design, where one of his customers is his former employer, Kyosho. The work for Kyosho currently involves redesign of some of his masterpieces from the 80’s, like the Scorpion series and the Optima Series. There are rumors of a Ultima re-release in 2017, but it has been confirmed that Kyosho have not yet ordered a re-design of the Optima Mid series that a lot of people seems to want. His work with recreating the Scorpion and the Optima-series has brought him back to the Auto Model Co regularly, as they have kept all their old drawings and plans, including those by Kogawa. The re-designs involves drawing every part in CAD, and Kogawa is using the SolidWorks suite of programs. The original drawings were done by hand.

The case files at Auto Model, with the designs for all the classic Auto Model and Kogawa designs. They should release these case files as books……


Another picture of Akira san with his Tomahawk (far to the right).

Some of the pictures are taken from the Time Tunnel 2 blog, some directly from Akira-san. The image with the years, I’m not sure the origin of.

If you have something to add about the history of the cooperation between Akira san, the Auto Model Co and Kyosho, please add it in the comments below. Please write in Japanese if you wish, I can have it translated.

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About TomEG 56 Articles
I have been into RC cars since the beginning of the 80's, but have really never been much of a racer. I competed in some local races and some "Tamiya Cups", and actually came 6th in the Tamiya Cup Norwegian Nationals in 1987. My main interest has always been building and modifying, and that's where I still am today. Through the years I have been able to build a solid network of contacts around the world, consisting of both former and current members of the industry, as well as quite a few of the former top drivers. I have a genuine interest for the history of the 1/10 scale off-road buggies from the 80's.


  1. Hi Tom!
    I’m the one who did the imageboard with the years.
    You probably took it from OptimaHouse (the Optima Mid that is pictured is actually my chap Tom’s one and I had no pics at the time of the Turbo Mid Sp so I used Uechan’s Mid) on my article about Akira (18th april 2007).
    I guessed the years btw because I only had the official catalogs but it seems Akirasan had designed the cars way before they were actually released.



  2. … And if Akirasan really has designed the Maxxum FF at 25 before going to the States, he’s even more amazing for this incredible achievement. Well, we all know the genie has no age; look at Mozart 😀

    • Yes, Akira-san really is one of a kind. And yes, he designed the Maxxum FF at the age of 25, before he moved to the US to work for Tatsuro Watanabe and HPI. It was the last work he did for Kyosho, until the Scorpion 2014.

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