NISMO Omori Factory: Part I

Making the pilgrimage to Japan can be compared to a religious experience for some. For car guys it’s one of those last, wild places where limitations don’t seem to exist. Walk down the street long enough and you’ll come across any number of beautiful cars, American enthusiasts can only dream about. There are many “holy sites” for import fanatics to visit in Japan. For Subaru guys, Tachikawa Subaru or Car-Do is a pretty regular stop. Not only is it one of the largest Subaru dealerships in Japan, it’s also a place where you’ll likely find any number of rare, limited production Imprezas. Last time I was there, I was able to check out the 22b, S202 and Spec C Type RA-R. But one of the holiest of all places, especially for Nissan guys is located in an assuming neighborhood in Tokyo, just down the road from Shinagawa.

These days it seems that every car manufacturer has a special tuning division. I think it’s fantastic that so many companies have been created for the sheer purpose of making cars more fun to look at and exciting to drive. The Japanese have been doing if for years; a culture obsessed with limited production and very high quality. There is perhaps no more well-known and celebrated manufacturer tuning division than NISMO. Their freedom to be creative, inventive and involved have allowed them to reach levels of greatness in motor sports and on the streets. NISMO’s parts and cars have been well-documented and most have come from Omori Factory.

It was my first trip to Japan and we were there for just a few days. It was more of a long weekend stop before heading to our final destination in Hong Kong. I was with my dad who was on business and my best friend Mike. When I say we knew literally nothing about JDM cars and the culture, I mean it. Sometimes I look back and wish I had done my research, there’s so much more I could’ve taken advantage of, while in Japan. But there was also a certain excitement of not knowing, that made the whole experience better. We knew we wanted to see car stuff, but were kind of limited to what was within the borders of Tokyo. Our first afternoon Mike and I spent the day walking around Ginza, Tokyo’s high-end shopping and residential district. It’s home to many car dealerships and corporate offices, including Nissan. We headed to their offices hoping to get a glimpse of a Skyline or Silvia because we didn’t know any better. Disappointingly, once we arrived, we were greeted by no such cars. Mike, in his limited Japanese, asked one of the girls working in the Nissan showroom where the “race cars” were. She was pretty confused and reluctant to respond. The Japanese are a very shy culture, especially the women. It always surprises me that you’ll see mostly women working as representatives at car dealerships. I’m not sure how they’re able to make sales, they’re almost too polite for the job. After about 5 minutes of confusion and broken English and Japanese conversation, we were given an address. The girl said if we went there, we would see race cars. I didn’t really know what to expect, but we were both very excited.

The next morning we were in a taxi heading to the scribbled address. I was expecting some sort of Tsukuba Circuit pit garage, I really didn’t know any better. After about a 15-minute ride, we pulled over to the side of the road and the driver told us we’d arrived at the location. I could feel the disappointment growing because there was nothing there. Just another street, like all the other thousands in the middle of Tokyo. It was a Sunday morning and very quiet. We got out of the taxi, looked around for a second and spotted “NISMO” in big letters ahead of us.

It almost pains me to write this today, because I truly didn’t appreciate what I had come across. I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t even realized we visited THE Omori Factory until a few months after we went. The unassuming building looks like a car dealership from the outside. Nothing fancy and if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you’d probably miss it completely. Like the rest of the neighborhood, the store was empty. At first I thought it was closed, but soon a cute girl (it’s always a cute girl in these stories) came out from behind the counter and motioned us to come inside.

As soon as we walked in the showroom, we were greeted by this, the ZEXEL R32 GT-R. This particular, No. 2 car placed second in the Japanese N1 Championships in 1992 and 1993.

The car remained virtually untouched from it’s final days in competition.

Hanging on the wall behind the ZEXEL GT-R was this dry carbon work of art. I don’t know anything about this hood, but it appears to be for an R34, possibly for use in SuperGT? Regardless, it’s an amazing piece to look at.

A sea of red, white and black. There was no shortage of NISMO memorabilia at the Omori Factory Showroom. They had everything from apparel to duffel bags.

The main thing that sets Omori Factory apart from the tuning divisions of other car manufacturers, is that they function very similarly to most after market tuning shops in Japan. It’s a place where you can bring your car and have it completely overhauled to a variety of different specifications. Much in the same way that Top Secret or Phoenix’s Power operate, you sit down with a technical advisor and explain your goals for the car. The shop offers a wide range of tuning options from basic drivetrain and exhaust upgrades, to full-blown engine swaps and race-spec tuning. The biggest advantage to going through Omori Factory is that you’re getting manufacturer levels of service at the very highest quality.

There were at least 10 engines on display in the showroom. All of them were RB26’s offering different levels of performance for the street and track. Omori Factory have released numerous turnkey engines over the years. The sheer number of variants of the RB26 is somewhat staggering. Most have been designed to be direct replacements to the standard engine the cars come with. They are built to a range of specifications that make them ideal for different driving scenarios. My knowledge of the RB26 is still pretty limited and at the time of my visit, I had no idea what I was looking at.

The first engine I came across was the RB26 F-Sport. Contrary to the name imprinted on the valve cover, this is technically an RB28. The limited production F-Sport has been fully rebuilt and stroked to a 2.8L. It’s just one of many engines offered in different NISMO power packages, which include all supporting drivetrain and forced induction upgrades.

Next to the F-Sport were the similar F-Spec and Nür-Sport engines. Both are similar, being specially upgraded and built in limited numbers. I spent hours searching for these engines and came up empty handed. If anyone has additional information on the F-Spec, Nür-Sport or any of the RB26’s at Omori Factory, I’d love to learn more.

It’s almost hard to imagine how many parts NISMO offers for Nissan owners. I thought STi made a lot of stuff for the Subaru. They really don’t scratch the surface of what NISMO has. The showroom was fully stocked with everything you could ever want for your Nissan. The LM GT4 has never been one of my favorite wheels, but with a low offset I think they look right at home on a GT-R.

Even more hardcore were the LM GT Magnesium wheels from Rays.

Being in Japan alone is sensory overload. Adding their cars and tuning industry to the mix, makes it difficult to take everything in. It’s frustrating to think back on my visit to Omori Factory because I didn’t understand what I was seeing. I was in a showroom, surrounded by racing heritage and some of the rarest car parts in the world, to which I knew nothing about. I can only imagine how much different my visit would be, were I to go with my current knowledge and mindset. I like to think of my visit to Omori Factory as the original inspiration for my obsession with all things JDM. Although I took it for granted, I came away from my visit feeling very excited to learn more. I knew what I saw was a big deal, I just didn’t know why it was a big deal. I guess it’s been a bitter-sweet experience going through these old pictures and reminiscing.

I must be making it sound like that’s the end of it. Well, I’ve got plenty more pictures and some commentary coming up this week, so stay tuned.

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