Top Secret Revisited


I’ve been doing ACLASS since 2008 and it’s pretty crazy to think that this December will be the blog’s 7th anniversary. I often look over the site’s stats and analytics and it comes as little surprise that my Top Secret features from 2010 remain some of the most popular. Considering those were written 5 years ago, I figured the photos could use a little updating and resizing to take advantage of the blog’s wider layout. I encourage new and regular readers alike to check out each feature, see how much Japan’s tuning industry has changed and revisit some of Smokey Nagata’s most famous creations.

Visit the links below for Parts 1, 2 and 3!

Top Secret: Part I

Top Secret: Part II

Top Secret: Part III


Luke Huxham Is Creating The New Look Of Japanese Tuning

Nissan’s board of directors should put Luke Huxham in charge of their marketing department. The director/cinematographer has a way of capturing Japanese tuner cars, specifically the Nissan GT-R in ways few others (including Top Gear/BBC) can. His latest homage to Japan’s most famous automotive lineage comes in the form of a tribute with Nobuteru “NOB” Taniguchi at the wheels of two iconic machines from HKS – the R35 GT1000+ and the R32 GTR Gr.A. Turn up the speakers and enjoy in beautiful 4K.

Then there’s the Motorhead Hill Climb…

Huxham is not only gifting viewers with the kind of accessibility to these cars rarely seen before, but more importantly creating the new visual identity of the Japanese tuning industry. Where Video Option and Best Motoring’s Hot Version provided coverage in a quirky, uniquely Japanese kind of way, Huxham is doing the opposite. Gone are the comedic intro spots and umbrella girls and in their place; glorious visual imagery, tightly packaged graphics and cinematic quality sound. The combination of which presents Japan’s cars, drivers and the culture that fuels them with the respect and an intensity they so deserve.

Anyone who loves JDM will always have a soft spot for the touge battles of Hot Version or car reviews of Video Option. This however is the new JDM where European cars share the stage with the country’s domestic offerings, social media has enabled limitless accessibility and Luke Huxham is capturing it all on film.

Videos courtesy of Luke Huxham, Motorhead and HKS.

D1GP Still Happens

D1GP still happens in Japan and I am as surprised as you are. A lot of people in and out of the sport predicted the series would die with the departure of judges Daijiro Inada and Keiichi Tsuchiya. At the end of the day earning a living was more important and most of the drivers stayed.

I remember the days when D1 was up there with Super GT as a hallmark of Japanese motor sports. Maybe it still is, but people sure aren’t talking about it like they used to.


In the foreground, Takahiro Ueno’s 2JZ-powered BMW 335i sporting a crazy new livery. I wish he was still competing in the Toyota Soarer. That in red with the Vertex Ridge kit is one of the all time great looking Japanese tuner cars.

Photo courtesy of Vertex.

Start Them Young

For many sports it’s possible to go pro after starting from a middle school to even a high school level. The same can’t necessarily be said about motor racing. Racing is unique in the fact that the parents in most cases need to make the decision before their kids are old enough to decide for themselves. Dylan Murry is 12-years-old and reminds me of more than one of Formula 1’s many World Champions.

I don’t suspect this is the last time we’ll see Dylan doing amazing things behind the wheel of a race car.

Video courtesy of DRIVE.

Garage Sale, Car Blogs & Team Orange

I’m doing a bit of a garage sale, to get rid of some used WRX parts. The list of things I’m selling can be found here. I’ve gotten a tone of flakers and low ballers, in the 2 weeks this post has been up. If you’re not seriously interested, please don’t waste your time sending e-mails. All of the parts are for local pickup, but I am willing to ship certain items domestically.

I’ve been kind of bummed to see how many car blogs have fallen off the map this year. Unfortunately, for every good blog that has shut it’s doors, a new fitment/stance blog has emerged. Why do we need so many fitment blogs? There will be a point, where there are no cars left to feature. The cross posting, on these flavor of the month blogs, is already bad enough. Instead of wasting time looking at people’s wheels, do yourself a favor and head over to Axis of Oversteer. It’s one of the few blogs I still actually read and focuses heavily on motor sports. Their Formula 1 banter is particularly entertaining and beats half witted car features any day.

I won’t leave things without a photo. A little engine bay porn from the folks at Team Orange.

Some people could look at certain cars all day long. I definitely have my favorites. But I could also stare at these JUN engine bays, on the Team Orange drift cars, all day long. I had the chance to see one in person, at D1GP USA a few years ago and it was a thing of beauty. I hope my WRX looks like this someday.

Throwback Thursdays and Spanish Grand Prix predictions tomorrow.

Throwback Thursdays: X30 Chaser

Is there a more versatile car, than the Toyota sedan? It is as much beloved as it is loathed by so many. Here in the states, it would be nearly impossible, not to see a Camry out and about. Fortunately, we’re not talking about watered down, ex-pat Toyotas; we’re talking about quite possibly, the most important Toyota sedan of all, the Chaser.

The Toyota Chaser was introduced in 1977, as a competitor to the Nissan Skyline. It was an every man’s car, offering the Japanese an attainable, luxury sports sedan.

It came as both a coupe and a sedan, powered by economic 4 and 6-cylinder engines.

While the X30’s following may not be as prominent as the Celica 2000GT or the Hakosuka, it’s still a unique looking platform, with plenty of potential. The round headlamps fit the front end perfectly, as do the gaping grill and fender mirrors.  It’s a relatively simple looking car, almost generic from the certain angles. But while other Japanese cars of the time, were mimicking American muscle styling, the Chaser remained Japanese. Painted black, you could even call it a noble.

The long, sweeping body lines have been carried through the line, since the days of the X30.

While most will immediately recognize the Skyline, as the most important Japanese car, it’s hard not to include the Chaser, as part of the conversation. Especially from a tuning perspective, the car has done it all. It’s been a drifter, competed in time attack and circuit racing, even had a steady foot in the VIP scene, before there was a VIP scene. It was the original car that was “too big” to slide and that made it beloved by the drifters. There are few sites more pleasurable, in the sport, than seeing a massive, JZX100 going sideways.

So there you have it, the X30 Chaser. Cetainly not the most popular, but one of the most interesting and definitely a classic.

The Good Old Days: JDM Insider

I’ve had an absolutely horrendous sore throat since I got home from Hong Kong. Swallow some razor blades and that’s about where I’m at. No doubt, it’s a lovely parting gift from my 13-hour flight.

That’s kept me cooped up at home, drinking tea, watching basketball and JDM Insider.

It’s a bummer Toshi and the 360VM crew aren’t making these anymore. Option and Hot Version are the essentials, but JDM Insider was always special because it came from the perspective of American enthusiasts, looking in. They were the best window, many of us had into the Japanese tuning world. JDM Insider is also what in many ways, inspired me to visit Omori Factory and Top Secret back in 2007.

My particular favorites are Volumes 2 and 5. Most of today’s fan boys probably have no idea what these DVD’s are. It’s a shame because they really are a shining example of how things were back in the good old days 7-8 years ago, when YouTube hadn’t revealed all of Japan’s mystique and people had money to burn on cars, man I miss it.

Six Days

There’s no shortage of drift videos on the internet. I typically avoid posting them because they’re all the same; shot on a DSLR, with lots of fancy color correction and a mediocre soundtrack. But if there’s one you should watch, it’s Stephen Brook’s coverage of the 2011 Maxxis British Drift Championship, Six Days.

This video is well shot and beautifully edited. It’s taking the same formula we’ve all seen and tweaking it. Drift events are as much about the atmosphere and culture, as they are about the cars. Six Days captures that beautifully.

Video production, on a consumer level, is more accessible than ever. I think it’s fantastic. Never would I have imagined that a DLSR could capture cinematic quality video. But with all of this technology comes a problem. It gives the consumer a false confidence, that they too are a professional director and cinematographer. The reality is that a majority of these videos fail to execute the foundations of shot structure and proper editing. Filmmaking is not photography. You can’t just capture a decent shot, bump up the contrast and call it a day. It’s about storytelling and bringing the viewer along for the ride. Six Days does that and does it well.

Video courtesy of Stephen Brooks.