December 6, 2023
Driving into Dystopia: Tofu Auto Works' Cyberpunk Mazda Miata
We connected with Chris Watson of Tofu Auto Works to explore this build and learn more about how this cyberpunk Miata came to be and what the future holds for this intoxicating build.

We are thrilled to announce a brand-new addition to our blog: a dedicated series of articles showcasing  unique car builds from around the globe!

This exciting new segment is all about celebrating the artistry, innovation, and passion within the global car community. Whether it's a classic car transformed by a full resto-mod, or a supercar tuned to push the limits of speed and style, we're diving into the stories, the people, and the passion behind these incredible builds.

To kick off the featured build series we connected with Chris Watson of Tofu Auto Works to explore this build and learn more about how this cyberpunk Miata came to be and what the future holds for this intoxicating build.

TCN x Tofu Auto Works

Tofu Auto Works is an automotive customs shop renowned for its unique approach to car customization. This shop, located in Kaiwaka, New Zealand specializes in one-off composite parts, providing clients with exceptional bespoke parts for all sorts of projects. Proving their unique expertise comes in the form of this Mazda Miata, a build with cyberpunk features that inspire out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to style.

Starting its life as a 90’s era Mazda Miata only those who recognize the car’s original design will appreciate just how special Chris Watson’s build truly is. Both inside and out this car has been modified to suit a cyberpunk aesthetic, with some clever additions along the way.

The mazda miata before the build took place
The Early Days of the Miata

TCN x Chris Watson Interview

1. To kick things off, is there a story behind the 'Tofu Auto Works' name? How did it get started?

Tofu has been my nickname forever and I wanted to use it for my business name because in my opinion too many people try and take things too seriously and I wanted my business name to remind me that this is supposed to be fun and not to worry too much about professionalism. I let the quality of my work speak for itself and if someone's going to avoid me because my name sounds unprofessional then frankly that's great because I don't want to deal with those sorts of people haha. The name was originally 'Tofu Garage Exciting' which was a reference to a Japanese car show that I saw years ago that was translated to something like 'Nagoya World Tuning Car Showdown Exciting' and I always cracked up over those really poor translations so I wanted to do the same thing with my name. Unfortunately Tofu Garage was taken by some people that I already knew and I didn't want to step on any toes so I came up with Tofu Auto Works and I deliberately spell it wrong in Japanese as a reference to that bad translation.

2. What made you choose the Miata specifically for your build? Were there other contenders for the project initially?

I picked the Mx5 because at the time these were a really good rwd car with pop up headlights that you could pick up super cheap and weren't too popular and overpriced like a lot of other Japanese cars from this era. I always like to stay away from popular cars because to me there's no interest in taking an already good looking car and modifying it, I much rather take a car that few people care about and make it into something awesome and I like having a car that I would have no problem cutting into and completely changing. If I'd bought something like a Skyline or an Rx7 it would be a lot harder for me to cut into it and change everything for example.

The beginning stages of the cyberpunk style
3. When you first envisioned the Miata build, were there key elements you knew had to be included?

I've never liked convertibles so I knew a hard top roof was going to be essential, and on top of that I was never a fan of how soft the Miata originally was so I knew it was going to need a lot of custom bodywork to make it more aggressive. As well as that I wanted to include a lot of uniquely cyberpunk features all around the car, things like light bars, turbofan wheels, exposed machinery / wiring, but one of the biggest things that I knew the car was going to need was a little bit of battle damage and weathering to make it look more like a car from a movie than some pampered show car.

Cyberpunk miata
4. Car builds always come with unexpected hurdles. Can you share a particularly challenging moment during the Miata build?

Originally my plan for this build was to do an EV conversion and keep the whole car road legal, but unfortunately the company that I was going to source my EV through went out of business, and getting one from overseas became impossible due to the pandemic massively increasing the price of shipping to NZ which has never come back to normal. When I tried to keep this car road legal just about every single thing I had done to it posed some sort of issue with the LVVTA who decide what is and isn't allowed on the roads here in NZ, and so the only way to get this car road legal was basically to take everything off it. So I decided not to play their game and to just take it off the road for good and keep building it for myself.

rear custom taillight
5. How did you balance creativity and functionality in your design?

I treat this car like a movie prop and so functionally it's bone stock underneath and as a result it's the most reliable vehicle I own. I've got about 5 different builds that I'm working on, some personal builds and some that I share on social media, but with that many builds there is absolutely no way you could fund complete engine / suspension builds on all of them and so I tailor each build to a specific thing. This Mx5 was entirely about cosmetics. It's easy to make a build like this look incredibly tacky and so whenever I'm adding something to it I have to be able to justify it within the lore of the vehicle. You can make any car look 'cyberpunk' by screwing a bunch of exposed circuit boards and wires to the outside but you have to think of a reason for them to actually be there.

Cyberpunk miata build
6. We can see now that the Miata is taking on a new form, the Chimera, with a modified RX7 front bumper and reimagined rear section. With this new departure from Cyberpunk to Dystopian, as mentioned in your video, do you envision a blend of the two styles in the future of this build, or will this car leave behind all of its Cyberpunk elements?

The cyberpunk theme is definitely staying, but instead of the old V1 cyberpunk look where it looked like a souped-up sports shoe I'm going for something that lives on the outskirts of Neo Tokyo, something with a sort of abandoned junkyard look but still definitely from a cyberpunk future. The Rx7 front will be the base for a redesign of the body panels just to make the underlying design of the car far more aggressive to fit the theme better, but all the cyberpunk features I had before like the external cooler and light bar will be getting redesigned and improved and then going back on the vehicle. My goal with this final iteration of the car is to make it even more cyberpunk and so I will be adding even more features than before to help sell this aesthetic.

7. How do you decide when to stay within the stylistic boundary of a certain genre and when to push the envelope? Have there been times when you’ve compromised creative ideas to fit a genre better or are you flexible with blending styles?

I think in this case, even staying within the cyberpunk genre is still massively pushing the envelope of conventional car builds. The trickiest thing with building a car like this is that you have to expect nobody to get it or understand what the style is. Because of this, rather than put all the 'cyberpunk bits' on it from day 1, I've been slowly building it up by adding parts that people are familiar with to warm them up to the idea, and then gradually taking it further into that cyberpunk territory. That's why I started with the paint job, oil cooler, light bar and turbofan wheels, because none of these are really that unusual to see. But after this I'll be adding a lot of parts that are only functional in the lore of the car but hopefully by then people will have realized what this car is about and it will be less of a shock.

8. What does your creative process look like and where do you find inspiration?

I follow a lot of super talented artists and they are constantly putting up new designs that give me inspiration. Occasionally I might see a tiny detail on a sideskirt for example and think that it looks really sick so then I'll get out my pencil and paper and start sketching up some ideas based on it, doing a whole bunch of iterations of it to find one that works with the build. A lot of sketching and coming up with ideas and throwing them away.

9. Can you share what’s next for the build?

The next step for the build is going to be finishing off the front conversion by making a set of custom fenders to tie the whole front together, then match all the bodywork on the car up by adding sideskirts and some additional details on the rear fenders to help them match the new front. Once all the body work is done then I'll be able to add all the new cyberpunk stuff on top.

10. Can you share something about the Miata build that nobody knows, not even your YouTube audience?

There's not really anything secret about it, apart from the future plans that I'm keeping under wraps, I show all the flaws and hiccups with all of my builds, the only thing that I probably haven't mentioned publicly is that the reason I bought this car was because I never really liked the looks of Mx5 to begin with and I took this as a project to try and make one that I thought actually looked good. At some point someone showed what I was building to the original designer of the Miata and in short, he wasn't really a fan of what I was doing. That's been my crowning achievement up until now.

Wrapping Up

Who knew that the humble Mazda Miata could be destined for such a unique and radical transformation from it's original design, a transformation that is clearly not over for Chris. Through Chris' perspective we can appreciate this car as a work of art, one that will take on new forms as time goes on. We really dig the atypical approach of this build, focusing on aesthetic, creativity, and pushing the envelope of style rather than simply something that goes fast.

A big thank you to Chris for giving us a peek into his creative process and what the future holds for this car!

Follow The Build

Follow all the progress Chris is making on this epic build by checking out his Instagram, YouTube channel, and Patreon where there are tons of pictures and videos jumping into the detail of his build.

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