Japan’s Automotive Identity Crisis

List five sports or performance cars under $50,000 that the Japanese automotive industry is producing right now. I’ll get things started:

  1. Honda Civic Type R
  2. Mazda MX-5 (Miata)
  3. Toyota 86 (FR-S)/Subaru BRZ
  4. Subaru STI
  5. ???

What else? Anything besides the 370Z which I’ve intentionally not mentioned because no one bought one. Don’t be fooled by unattainable halo cars priced to compete with Ferraris or wishful thinking concepts that will never see a production line – the Japanese automotive industry is in the middle of an identity crisis.


Tokyo Auto Salon continues to be one of the most important motor shows in the world and the 2016 edition just wrapped up last month. It was an interesting glimpse into not only Japan’s aftermarket industry but the country’s automotive industry as a whole. What really stood out in 2016, as opposed to other years, was the lack of new sports cars. A show long celebrated for its variety, has become a showcase for the Nissan GT-R, a car that’s been with us since 2007 and now costs over $100,000 new.

Seeing the finest examples of affordable performance cars has always been what’s made Tokyo Auto Salon so exciting. Historically, the show’s been filled with the best modified offerings from Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Mazda. For a nearly a decade now, the focus has begun shifting more heavily towards European cars the GT-R, a fine example of Japanese engineering, now mostly a case of been there, done that. The fact that aftermarket parts manufacturers and tuners are still so focused on this car speaks to the larger problem of a lack of alternatives from Japan’s half dozen automotive heavyweights.

With the exception of the four models mentioned above, there’s been a sharp decline in affordable, performance-oriented cars coming from Japan. In the last decade we’ve seen production end for the Honda S2000, Mazda RX-8 and Mitsuitbishi Evo. Mitsubishi also threatens to pull out of the North American market completely. Honda, who once set the gold standard for their entire market were forced to redesign the Civic after one model year because it did so poorly. Nissan, the Japanese manufacturer with the richest motorsports history has become more known in North America for SUVs, trucks and crossovers. More recently, Korean manufacturers like Hyundai and Kia are starting to take Japan’s place in the automotive marketplace.


Everyone is obsessed with the Ford Focus RS right now. It arrives in North America later this year and will be a massive hit with enthusiasts. Starting at around $35,000 which is cheaper than you can get a Subaru STI for these days, it’s just more proof that there’s a market yearning for this type of car. The Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ was supposed to be the wakeup call to Japanese manufacturers when it became a global sensation 4 years ago. We had all hoped it would jumpstart a second coming of Japan’s greatest hits in the forms of new Silvias, Supras and RX-7s. Instead, Toyota lost money on their LFA technical exercise, Honda gave Tony Stark an NSX that thinks it’s a McLaren and Nismo’s IDx concept pointed at all of us and laughed.


An automotive industry founded on affordability, cleverness and fun is producing more questionable offerings than ever, but it doesn’t have to stay that way:

Understand your customers – If you listen to the media, everyone drives a hybrid or an electric these days. Wrong. The Prius remains the one exception that’s had overwhelming success globally. Aside from it, Japan’s hybrid and electric offerings (think Honda CR-Z) cater to even more obscure, niche markets than their performance cars. How did Subaru make the transition from cult car maker, thought to be from Australia and driven by people in Vermont, to the powerhouse it’s become? They have the Impreza and its loyal owners community to thank. Enthusiast culture continues to thrive and with an entire generation growing up in Japanese cars, the customer base is well established and ready for the next 86/BRZ competitor.

Stop trying to be European – Japan has always been great at doing its own thing. Cultural philosophy plays a huge role in the design process and that sets them apart from their competitors. Everyday heroes like the Skyline and Supra took on and in many cases beat some of the best Europe had to offer. Luxury is never something Japanese cars have done very well, but functionality, reliability and affordable performance are. The ever bloating ranges from Acura, Infinity and Lexus have come at the cost of their parent brands and with little to no motorsports pedigree, halo cars priced well into the six figures will always struggle to lure away buyers from the established Europeans.

We deserve your very best – This is an argument that can also be applied to the European manufacturers and something I discussed concerning the Subaru S207. Past arguments made pertained to fears over sales figures and the archaic notion that we’re not worthy. Welcome to globalization. Japanese manufacturers would do well to take more calculated risks with some of their special performance models. The limited production S207 is a prime example of a car that would fly out of Subaru showrooms in America. Japanese manufacturers should have little concern over being able to sell upgraded trim and performance packages abroad. If it’s really an issue, make it a special order option through the dealership. The days of impossible to obtain JDM bumpers should be long gone.

Time to move on from the GT-R – Our collective fascination with all things Nismo, Skyline and GT-R will never wane. The R35 defies what’s possible in a production car and will remain one of the greatest technical achievements of its generation. With an asking price of over six figures however, few will be lucky enough to ever own, much less modify one. That’s unfortunate considering a majority of the Japanese aftermarket caters so heavily to the GT-R. It’s time to build something else!


It could be argued that the late 90s through the early 2000s were the golden age of Japanese sports cars. Nearly every manufacturer had multiple offerings in their respective stables. The aftermarket industry was also thriving at pre-stance movement levels when people still upgraded performance. We can blame stricter emissions globally as a reason for the demise of many of Japan’s greatest hits, but consider the fact the BMW are still putting inline-6’s in their cars with great success and most European and American manufacturers have made the jump to turbochargers, something Japan made mainstream long before everyone else.


Automotive brands are obsessed with tapping into their histories and using them as marketing strategies. How about using history as means of understanding what you’ve always been best at? Japanese manufacturers should challenge themselves to rekindle some of what made them great in the first place. People don’t remember who made the most successful mid-sized sedan, they do remember who built the engines for the most dominant car in Formula 1 history.

Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Mazda – it’s time to have some fun again!

Photos courtesy of Subaru, Ford, Lexus, Acura & Nissan.


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.

83rd 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Porsche’s weekend-only drivers showed up the WEC team, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO would’ve been better off competing in LMGTE Am, Patrick Dempsey wound up on the podium and Fox Sports completely botched the race coverage. It was everything Formula 1 isn’t, it was the 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans!




The WEC is experiencing another golden era and has once again taken its place on the top step of international motorsport. This weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans proved to be another classic and saw Porsche dominate with a record 17th win. The Number 19 919 Hybrid driven by the Le Mans-only trio of Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy completed 395 laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe. It was a statement win over Audi who struggled with reliability issues throughout the race. The number 7 R18 e-tron quattro of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer finished third, behind the Number 17 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley in second. As with any running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, maintaining the race lead was a chess match and it seemed likely that the Number 17 Porsche would stand victorious, but a penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag may have been the decider for Mark Webber’s first victory at la Sarthe.



The real standout of the show was Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg who has proven to be an unbelievable talent time and time again and still has yet to get a top drive in Formula 1. It was only his first running in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and likely won’t be his last. The WEC has become the ideal landing spot for Formula 1 drivers who have increasingly become disenchanted with the series. Racing drivers talk and Webber has done his diligence recruiting throughout the F1 paddock. His friends Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso could wind up in the WEC if things at McLaren don’t turn around. Alonso was just quoted last week saying that Le Mans is more fun to drive than F1 and with Hulkenberg’s success, the allure of endurance racing will have many in F1 considering their options.



With Porsche’s success and the return of Ford next year, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren will certainly be considering runs at the WEC as well.




If you chose not to spend the €9.99 on the WEC official live stream, you were limited to Fox Sports’s fragmented coverage which could only be described as “abysmal”. The Fox Sports broadcast team lead by Speed alum Bob Varsha, was ideally put on mute in favor of the voice of Le Mans, John Hindhaugh on the Radio Le Mans live stream. Though Fox Sports Go was supposed to have nonstop coverage of the event, the website and app experienced freezing and loading issues. On cable, which was a Where’s Waldo-type of channel navigating experience, the final hours of the race were interrupted by soccer coverage. When it comes to international motorsport, American broadcasters just don’t get it.



Another year is a long wait until the teams are back at la Sarthe. Luckily the WEC is less than halfway through its season with the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on August 30. My hope is that as the sport continues to attract a larger American audience. seamless, more available coverage will follow. That’s certainly more likely to happen than Formula 1 can get its act together.

Photos courtesy of WEC and FIA.


The A Class Top 10 Most Read In 2013

2013 was another big year on A Class and I couldn’t be happier with all of the support. Despite it being one of the leaner years in terms of posts, there were some big milestones including the blog’s 5 year anniversary at the beginning of December! A Class also crossed the 1 million mark in total visitors and experienced its busiest day ever with over 1600 views on March 25. Take all of that into account and 2013 was a big success!

In honor of the new year, I wanted to take a look back at the top 10 most read posts in 2013.

1. F1 Legend: The McLaren MP4/4

Formula One World Championship

McLaren’s MP4/4 is considered by most to be the greatest Formula 1 car of all time. Its 6-cylinder, turbocharged Honda engine was capable of over 1000 HP and helped the car win all but 1 of the Grands Prix it participated in during the 1988 season. At the hands of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, there’s no better car and driver combo to earn the top spot on A Class’ most read posts of 2013. Read the full story.

2. NISMO Omori Factory: The R-Tune


These days it’s become pretty common for car enthusiasts and bloggers alike to make to pilgrimage to Japan. However back in 2006 the closest most of us got to our Japanese tuning idols was through DVDs and YouTube. I was fortunate enough to make the trip to the Land of The Rising Sun and visit NISMO Omori Factory in Tokyo. My accounts of the visit are some of the articles I’m most proud of and they’ve also proven to be the most popular. The R-Tune parked outside Omori Factory was one of those “pinch me” moments that I’ll always cherish. Read the full story.

3. BenSopra 180SX At TAS


Any Japanese auto enthusiast will tell you that 2013 was the year of Miura-san. The head designer for Rocket Bunny and a slew of other Japanese tuning houses was churning out a new build seemly every month. While things started with a bang at Tokyo Auto Salon last January, the style and the hype quickly grew tired. Love his designs or not, you have to respect that Miura-san took full advantage of his time in the spotlight and the way things are going, we’ll be seeing more of his work for many years to come. Read the full story.

4. Kansai Service 86 & BRZ At TAS


There was no other car in 2013 that captured the collective imagination of the automotive industry quite like the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. Many called it the savior of the tuning industry and for good reason because the car absolutely revitalized it. At its core the 86/BRZ is a throwback car, a greatest hits of what true enthusiasts love most about driving – a fizzy engine at the front, a proper manual in the middle and RWD at the back. Kansai Service did their part in creating 2 shining examples of what the aftermarket has to offer at last year’s Tokyo Auto Salon. Read the full story.

5. NISMO Omori Factory: Part I


At its core, A Class has always been about my love for all things Japanese tuning and motor sports. I can’t think of a place where the 2 meet in perfect harmony better than NISMO Omori Factory in Tokyo. The articles I wrote about my experience there in 2006 have been some of the most read ever on the blog and 2013 was no different. NISMO has since moved to a new location but the old showroom was absolute magic. Read the full story.

6. Rocket Bunny FR-S


More validation that Miura-san and the Toyota 86 dominated the Japanese tuning landscape in 2013. While you’re likely to see carbon copies at meets and shows around the world, this is the car that started it all, an imported Scion FR-S with a touch of madness. I’ve grown tired of the repetitive nature and overly hyped trends of the industry in 2013, but give credit where it is certainly due. Read the full story.

7. Throwback Thursdays: Lancia Delta Integrale


I adore Italian cars and this is proof that I should feature them more often. Their presence and style are difficult to match and the Delta Integrale is one of those rare Lancias that actually drove and worked as good as it looked. In my dream garage there would most certainly be one of these in red with a tan interior. Read the full story.

8. Okachan’s C-SER GRB STi


Yashio Factory’s Okamura-san is one of the most outspoken and well known personalities in the Japanese tuning industry. Known for his fascination with the color pink and building some of the fastest Silvias on the planet, Okachan began working with Subarus and started C-SER. The brand has become a mainstay in the Japanese time attack scene, offering a wide selection of power and suspension components for later model STis. Where other manufacturers have shied away from Subaru in recent years, C-SER has filled the void. Read the full story.

9. Tokyo Auto Salon 2013


There are few things in the automotive industry more exciting than Tokyo Auto Salon. Every January the Makuhari Messe comes alive with the latest and greatest the Japanese tuning industry has to offer and 2013 was no exception. While the show has dwindled from its glory years last decade, it’s still something to behold. Many things really are bigger in Japan and car shows are certainly one of them. Read the full story.

10. ‘Leave Me Alone’ Tee


The most famous quote in international motor sport in 2012. During the final laps on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, (then) Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen barked the now infamous words “leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” to his engineer before taking his first win of 2012. In the last 2 seasons, Raikkonen was managed to win the Formula 1 fan base over by being himself. In a sport dominated by scripted responses and corporate contracts, Kimi has always been Kimi. Things got ugly at the end of 2013 between the driver and the cash-strapped Lotus, who weren’t able to pay him. Now off to Scuderia Ferrari in 2014, Raikkonen was just named the most popular driver in the sport by a recent poll on F1 Fanatic. Read the full story.

2013 saw many trends come and go within the tuning industry. It saw Mark Webber retire from Formula 1 amidst a major identity crisis for the sport. There was Audi dominating Le Mans, a new hyper car war between McLaren, Porsche and Ferrari and the tragic skiing accident involving Michael Schumacher – may we wish him the very best with his recovery. There was hype, there was bankruptcy, there was Chris Harris power sliding an all of our computers. But most of all, 2013 was a proper year to be a petrolhead. Farewell 2013 and hello to an exciting new year. All the best in 2014.

NISMO Omori Factory: The R-Tune

Sometimes you come across a car that you will remember for the rest of your life. It’s the kind of car that you’re  thankful for having been able to spend a few minutes with. It serves as an inspiration, a benchmark for everything that follows. For me it was a Skyline GT-R quietly sitting in an ally next to Omori Factory’s showroom in Tokyo.

When you visit Japan, there is no doubt you’ll come across some pretty special cars. But contrary to Tokyo Drift, the city is not where you go to find all the good ones. Tokyo is like any other big city. It’s not car friendly. Everyone walks and uses public transportation. Rightfully so, seeing as it has one of the best subway systems on the planet. I had spent most of my first couple days there chasing down pretty uninspiring, bone-stock Lancers, Silvias and the occasional Skyline. They were cool because it was Japan and that somehow made it more legit. But by my current standards, they were nothing to really write home about. Then there was something a little bit different. It was the last thing Mike and I saw coming out from our visit to Omori Factory. It was undoubtably fast and very beautiful, a real needle in the haystack of Tokyo.

I don’t want to turn this into another car feature. I have no knowledge about what’s been put into this Skyline GT-R. Everything I could say about this car would be assumption. The creations of Omori Factory seem to be quite the mystery and despite the countless hours I’ve spent trying to properly research everything I’ve posted in the last few weeks, I’ve come up with very little. There just isn’t a whole lot documented out there. Not about the engines, not about the cars. So going on assumption, what you’re looking at is the R-Tune. A very special version of the Skyline GT-R and sort of another stepping stone for what eventually became the Z-Tune. From everything I was able to find, the R-Tune is like the Porsche GT3 RS. It’s a street car that is most at home on the track. It’s equipped with Omori Factory’s RB26 R1. It’s sort of a step up from the S1 which was designed primarily for street driving. The R1 is essentially an RB28, using an N1 block. Everything about this engine has been improved to take as much abuse as the track can give it. Inspired from the same engines used in SuperGT, it’s really the ultimate RB26 produced for the consumer, by Omori Factory.

Everything was just right that morning, even the lighting. It was a very humid, overcast day, but the perfect coat of Bayside Blue reminded me so much of my own WRX back home. It reminded me of just how great a car looks in blue. On this morning it lit up the entire ally, impossible not to stop and have a look at.

You’ve found yourself doing it. Standing there, looking at a car, maybe yours, maybe someone else’s. You just look at all the details, inspecting it. It’s one of the best parts about being a car guy. Those moments when you appreciate a machine for what it is. I spent a long time doing the same thing in that ally. Just admiring the R-Tune that was parked in front of me. I probably took 30 pictures of that car. I made damn sure I had documentation of it, so I could look back as I am now and remember how it felt to see it.

I never saw the owner of the R-Tune. We just left it parked there. Who knows, maybe it’s still there, guarding the entrance. It was the first proper Skyline GT-R I’d ever seen in person and for that it remains one of my favorite cars ever. It’s pure, untouched by the hands of any tuning shop except from those of the factory from which it came. It’s a shining example of everything I love about cars. It represents a mentality that is slowly drifting away. People aren’t admiring these cars anymore. I guarantee you someone would comment on the fitment if I invited the discussion on a forum. But this R-Tune works as the whole package. Nothing about it needs to be changed. It’s prefect as it is and I wish it were mine. I would take an R34 over the current GT-R any day of the week. I don’t care how much better the new one is.

So that’s it, the grand finale. The proper finish to a truly inspiring visit to Omori Factory, a shop I had no idea I was visiting at the time. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was the introduction to my obsession. An obsession all of us have. One that is so strong it influences our decisions about everything. It’s good to be passionate. It gives you something to look forward to and makes life worth living. Like my visit to Top Secret the following year, that was a good day and I’ll never forget it.

NISMO Omori Factory: Part I

NISMO Omori Factory: Part II


NISMO Omori Factory: Part II

How many people really care about places like Omori Factory? You think all those fitment kings in your local community college parking lot are reading about this stuff online? The answer is an obvious “no”. They have no concept about where there cars came from and why they’re important. I think everyone should be interested in the history that surrounds their cars. It seems awfully nerdy and a waste of time, but it makes you appreciate them a lot more. I think only a certain type of person finds all of this interesting. Most people don’t really car about the special variations of the RB26 or that Rays made a magnesium version of the LM GT4. At any rate, I really enjoy documenting this stuff for the people who do care. I have been extremely lucky to visit Japan and see all of the amazing things I have. A majority of people will only be able to experience these things from a far. That’s the reason I do these posts, so that hopefully you can appreciate these things as I do and maybe get a look at something interesting or different from the usual. With that said, lets get back to it.

Upstairs from the showroom are some offices and conference rooms for meeting with clients. Outside of those rooms are display cases filled with all kinds of awards and NISMO memorabilia. This first place trophy from Round 4 of the JGTC (when it was still called that) was one of many achievements on display.

I’m not sure if they were on sale or just for show, but there were tons of diecast cars of all different scales. They also had model kits like the Z-Tune, which makes me think you could buy the stuff. Basically every sports car and racer than NISMO has been involved with was in one diecast form or another. Looking back, it makes me want to start collecting again, but that’s an expensive road I should probably stay off of.

After checking out the second floor, I headed back down to the showroom. At the bottom of the stairs was this display for NISMO’s Super Coppermix Twin clutch kit for the GT-R. For most Americans, the closest we can get to our future car parts is on a webpage. It’s always nice to be able to see things in person before you buy them.

Before Rays Engineering earned it’s place on NISMO’s race cars, SSR was one of the team’s wheel suppliers. I’m pretty limited on my knowledge of vintage wheels, but these look an awful lot like the Longchamps.

I’ve done many posts on gauge clusters in the past. It’s one of my favorite parts of a car’s interior. NISMO offers a wide range of gauges and replacement clusters for the GT-R, Fairlady Z and Silvia. There were all on display in a long case in front of the checkout counter. The NISMO black and amber cluster is probably my favorite for the R34 GT-R.

In the back of the showroom, set on what seemed like a pedestal was yet another of Omori Factory’s RB26 creations, the S1.

Pristine details are what you first notice when looking at this limited production engine. Only 100 where ever produced. It was designed and constructed with street driving as the primary focus, providing better low to midrange torque. The S1 is very similar to the engine used in the Z-Tune.

We were visiting Omori Factory on a Sunday morning, so things were pretty quiet. Everything except the showroom was closed. NISMO Girl, as Mike and I started referring to her, was nice enough to take us into the back to have a look at the garage. Since it was the weekend we were only able to check out the garage from the customer lounge, a small seating area where customers can watch the Omori Factory technicians transform their cars. NISMO Girl flicked on the lights to the garage and the holy grail of Skyline GT-R’s was sitting in front of us.

I could go on about the Z-Tune all day long. I love what this car stands for, which is an approach to absolute perfection. I think it was the original inspiration for what the engineers at Nissan hoped to achieve with the current GT-R. It’s a pretty awesome site to see such a rare piece of automotive prowess in the flesh. We’ve all had the chance to see cars like this at motor shows and events of a similar nature, but to see a car of this caliber in such an everyday setting is a different sort of experience. All of the 20 Z-Tunes were built in 2003 using R34 GT-R V-Specs with less than 18000 miles. There were two versions of the car, known as the Z1 and Z2 respectively. I believe the one we saw was a Z2, probably in for service. The amazing thing about the Z-Tune is that it’s essentially a hand built car from the ground up. They’ve been said to go for around $180000, which puts it directly in line with Ferrari and Lamborghini. Like I said, I could go on about the Z-Tune all day long.

It was pretty special to see this car on the grounds with which it was conceived. I knew little of what I was seeing in the showroom, but I was well-aware of the Z-Tune and just how epic it was. Unfortunately, this is the only decent picture I got of the car. But it’s proof, that I have indeed seen a unicorn. After a final stroll around the showroom we decided to get going. I still regret not buying anything, even a simple t-shirt or something. NISMO Girl didn’t let us leave without giving us all kinds of brochures and readers though. Outside the building I spotted another very special GT-R, which we’ll be checking out in the final part of my visit to Omori Factory.

NISMO Omori Factory: Part I

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.

Making Of

Best Motoring International put together a nice video on the NISMO R34 GT-R Z-Tune.

It’s been around for a while, but this was my first time watching it. Thought some of you may dig it too. I can’t believe the attention to detail and the level of craftsmanship that went into the Z-Tune. It really is the ultimate R34 GT-R.