Mid Night Club: Japan’s Notorious Underground Street Racing Club

A great deal of mystery surrounds the Mid Night Club. Operating from 1987 before being abruptly disbanding in 1999, the Mid Night Club is one of the most notorious and highly respected illegal street racing clubs to have ever existed.

After midnight a 70km long stretch of asphalt known as the Shuto Expressway in Tokyo, Japan would become a racetrack for the Mid Night Club.

The Mid Night Club was founded in 1987 (although there are some who say it was founded as early as 1982). In the 80s and 90s, car culture in Japan was at a peak with numerous illegal street racing and drifting clubs forming throughout the country. However, Mid Night Club was unlike all these other clubs.

They were highly selective. Only 10% of applicants were accepted into the club and numbers rarely exceeded 30 members at any one time.

In order to become a member you needed to be an exceptionally talented driver with a suitably fast car. However, before being selected to join you had to be an apprentice for a year and attend every meeting during that year. Because the Mid Night Club members were wanted by the police, the meeting locations and times were shared via coded messages in the classified ads in local newspapers that only members could identify and understand. They were also very protective of their name, many aspiring street racers would fraudulently sport the iconic 'Mid Night' banner (top) or bumper stickers (bottom), which was used by members to identify each other, and as a result would have their cars vandalised.

The Mid Night Club didn't focus on acceleration or cornering ability, there was only one thing that mattered: top speed. In the Mid Night Club you won races by reaching the finishing line first or by getting so far ahead of your opponents that they couldn't see your tail lights anymore. To be even considered for membership, your car had to be able comfortably sit at 190mp/h (approx. 257km/h) for extended periods of time (up to 15 minutes). However, in races members would go above 190mp/h (approx. 305km/h). These numbers are hard to read even today, the fact that this occurred in the 1980s and 1990s is what makes it almost unbelievable. Cars like this had to be built and they weren't cheap to build, hence the Mid Night Club consisted of primarily wealthy, white collar workers who would pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into modifying their cars.

The most well-known car from the Mid Night Club was the 'Blackbird', also known as Yoshida Specials 930. It started of as a stock 1979 Porsche 930 Turbo 3.3 Coupe. It is rumoured that it was owned and driven by the Yoshida Eiichi who is also rumoured to be the founder of the Mid Night Club. Yoshida originally worked as a doctor and then later as an exotic car dealer. The exact specifications of the car seem to be unknown. OPTION magazine published a piece on the 'Blackbird' in 2011 with pictures along with the exact specifications and parts used. You can read about some of these specifications here. It is estimated that Yoshida spent the modern equivalent of US$2,000,000 on modifying the car and increasing its power output to over 700bhp. The fact that an individual was able to tune a 1979 930 Turbo to that degree is ridiculous. 

The biggest differing factor between the Mid Night Club and other clubs was the code of ethics. Whilst most other street racers drove recklessly and dangerously, the Mid Night Club's biggest priority was the safety of other road users. Their most important code is that the lives of other motorists must never be endangered by their activities. Dangerous driving was prohibited and if you lacked the skills or even once displayed dangerous or careless behaviour whilst driving you were kicked out of the club. This code of ethics is what ultimately led to the Mid Night Club being disbanded.

Bosozoku are biker gangs which is known for intentionally mess with motorists by riding their motorcycles recklessly. In 1999, as Mid Night Club racers were speeding down the expressway the Bosozoku were waiting for them and forced some of the Mid Night Club racers into a high-traffic area which ultimately caused a huge collision claiming the lives of 2 of the bikers and left 2 Mid Night Club racers and 6 civilians in hospital.

Despite the fact that the crash was ultimately caused by the Bosozoku, club policy was that such an event would cause the club to be disbanded immediately and forever. Hence, the club was disbanded overnight for good.

Over the years there has been a large amount of speculation over the identity of the members since nobody came forward claiming to be a part of the club. This was due to the fact that members took a vow of secrecy. Furthermore anonymity was a very important even within the club. All information that was even remotely personal was not talked about and interactions between members was conducted only on a first-name basis. If members knew each other prior to joining the club they were obligated to not mention this to any other members and to interact with each other as they would with any other members. These rules are what has ensured that despite the fact that the club disbanded over 2 decades ago, the identity of its members are still a secret to this day. The only thing known for certain was revealed in 1995 by Max Power; that one of the members was a property developer (a RX-7 FD3S owner) and another was a car dealer (either Yoshida or a Skyline GT-R R32 owner). 

The advancement of widespread instant communication, speed cameras and CCTV means that something like the Mid Night Club is unlikely to ever be formed successfully again. However, the Mid Night Club has left behind a legacy that will be talked about in decades to come. Though often imitated, the Mid Night Club will never been duplicated. 

Leave a comment