Top Secret

Top Secret Revisited

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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

 

Top Secret 86 At TAS

Lets be honest, we haven’t heard or seen much from Top Secret lately. The once premier tuning shop in Japan has fallen off in recent years. There are a number of factors for this, including bad financial decisions and an even worse Japanese economy, but that’s a story for another day. I’m encouraged to see Top Secret rolling out their own 86 demo car at Tokyo Auto Salon.

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Last year the tuning world had their love affair with Nakai-san and RWB. However this year’s “it man” is undoubtably Miura-san from Rocket Bunny. His FR-S demo car made news for the second half of 2012 and to look around TAS in 2013, he doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Even Top Secret, longtime purveyors of their aero kits have elected to suit their 86 in Rocket Bunny.

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The infamous black and Olympic gold is always a welcome site at TAS.

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For many it was the bonkers, low mounted rear wing that gave the Rocket Bunny kit its unique look. It still looks pretty decent without the wing. Maybe Top Secret eventually plans to go a different route with this build?

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Under the hood it’s Top Secret business as usual. The car’s been boosted with a turbo kit from Greddy. I’m not sure of the power output but it’s surely no slouch. This could also be the shop’s first demo car with a boxer engine!

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Up front, more business as usual with an AP Racing brake kit and Enkei wheels.

Things are looking very good for the 86 and BRZ in 2013. Hopefully we’ll be seeing that long rumored STi version of the BRZ at this time next year! More to come!

Photos courtesy of CarWatch.

GT-R’s Of Tokyo Auto Salon 2011: Part I

There are so many GT-R’s at Tokyo Auto Salon this year. With VIP and hybrid tuning reigning supreme, it’s nice to see that people are still thinking about going fast. There are far more GT-R’s at the show than I’m going to post, but these are some of the ones that stood out to me.

Endless was there showcasing their latest braking technology for the GT-R, including the Mono 6 calipers with the insane 430mm E-Slit rotors, designed specifically for the car. A number of shops have been involved with the building of the Endless demo GT-R, including HKS and MCR.

I know the politics behind it, but I just don’t understand why anyone would put Seibon products on their car. I’m sure their presence on all the Kansai Service demo cars is all some people need to think it’s legit. It’s not people, don’t be fooled. It’s a shame because this is a really clean car Kansai Service has put together.

After not bothering to show up last year, Top Secret is back with not one, but two new GT-R’s. I’m really digging the new Top Secret aero. It’s a little over the top in some aspects, but that’s what makes Top Secret so great!

Smokey also brought out the shop’s 700HP BB700. The side profile of this car, with all the new aero is just menacing.

JUN was also on hand with their new GT-R test subject. The company is using the car to develop a range of new engine components and aero pieces. It looks great in Hyper Lemon Yellow.

I’m going to be posting up a few more of my favorite GT-R’s from Tokyo Auto Salon later on.

Photos courtesy of Car Watch.

Top Secret: Part III

Any JDM fanatic could easily spend an entire afternoon checking out all the cool things to see at Top Secret. Besides being one of the most famous tuning shops in Japan, Top Secret is also one of the largest. It’s the main reason why I wanted to break my visit into 3 separate posts, because there’s just that much to talk about. I’ve saved what is in my opinion, the best for last. If you’ve ever looked at Japanese car magazines then you’re probably all too familiar with the entrance to Top Secret’s shop. The light blue sliding doors, the black and gold sign and that small driveway packed with some of the fastest domestic cars in Japan. Since we decided to visit Top Secret on a weekday, the shop was buzzing with activity. It being the middle of June, meant the front doors were open to reveal all the cool stuff happening inside the shop. When we pulled into the parking lot, this was the first car that caught my eye.

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Top Secret isn’t typically known for working on classics but they should definitely do more of them. The pristine RA25 Celica 2000GT looks and sounds every bit as good as the shop’s more high-profile builds. I had known about the 2000GT build before visiting the shop, but I didn’t expect to see it in person. It was quite a nice surprise as we pulled into the parking lot.

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An interesting sight at Japan’s premier Nissan and Toyota tuner, an FC RX7. The midnight purple was similar to the shade typically seen on GT-R’s. However, the color looked right at home on the RX7.

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A look into the shop’s primary workspace. Unfortunately we weren’t permitted to walk around inside the actual shop. Due to the fact that they were so busy and all of the liabilities that could result from us being overly excited in the first place. All the famous faces were present including Youichi Imamura’s ORC/Top Secret Z33 D1 car in the foreground. I was amazed at how focused all of the mechanics were. It’s probably not everyday that a couple of Americans show up to have a look around, but typical of Japanese culture, the task at hand is of the upmost importance.

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Lurking behind the shop’s door is one of Smokey’s more interesting creations, the VQ35-powered R32 Skyline. Many of you are probably familiar with the car’s bright orange individual throttle bodies, a setup that’s been tuned around 355hp. This has always been one of my favorite Top Secret cars. It’s eye-popping graphics, exquisite attention to detail and unique power plant embody everything that makes Top Secret stand out from the rest.

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Out of all the cars that day, this was the most exciting one to see firsthand. It’s Smokey’s final incarnation of the JZA80 Supra with a custom-built V12 twin-turbo. During the time of our visit, this was the shop’s crowning achievement and had just debuted at Tokyo Auto Salon earlier that year. I’ll admit, I was never fond of this cars looks, until I saw it in person. It’s presence is undeniable and parked there, the car looked every bit as fast as it is on the track.

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Well that about wraps up my posts on Top Secret. It was a truly amazing and inspirational experience and I still have to reassure myself it wasn’t all a dream. If you’ve got the time and the money, I would highly suggest putting down the magazines, turning off the computer and seeing these places for yourself. Apart from all the car stuff, Japan is an amazing country with so much to offer. If anything, the tuning culture is a bonus to the rest of it all. I hope to get back there very soon because there are many more shop visits on my list. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed.

-Chris

Top Secret: Part I

Top Secret: Part II

Top Secret: Part II

Let’s be honest, the only reason any of us really want to visit Japanese tuning shops is for the cars. After watching them on DVD and seeing them in magazines, the cars develop a mystique. So seeing them in person is a pretty surreal experience. I couldn’t help but keep thinking to myself, “I’m in Japan, thousands of miles from home, looking at cars I never thought I’d see in the flesh.” It’s a similar feeling to the one you get when you see a professional athlete or a celebrity in person; there they are, right in front of you.

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In order to get to Top Secret’s showroom, you have to walk through a small alleyway along the side of the shop. The only thing that separates the cars from the gas station next door is a thin cement wall. The alley acts as an overflow lot for cars that can’t be parked in the shop or out front. There was a scattering of old cars like the R34 GT-R and Z33 above.

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Parked along the right wall of the shop were more cars like this D1 Street Legal 180SX and the R32 GT-R just behind it. The alleyway acts as both storage and additional parking for the shop’s employees.

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Aside from customer cars, there was this familiar sight, Top Secret’s D1 S15. I still can’t believe a beast like this was just sitting on the side of the shop, like it was no big deal.

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The S15 was still in immaculate condition. The paint looked as if it had been polished within days previous. Although Top Secret had retired the car from competition to make way for their Z33, it was nice to see it being well-maintained. It’s a car I had seen many times on Option DVD’s and in the magazines, but to see it in person was something else. There are so many characteristics to a car that photos can never show you. Being able to walk around the bodywork and see it firsthand is a much different experience. I’m also someone who believes that every car looks better in person. Photos don’t do most cars justice and the D1 S15 was no exception.

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Just outside the showroom, parked next to the S15 was this; one of Top Secret’s R34 GT-R’s. Being a Skyline fanatic, I was even more excited to see this car than the S15. It’s really an amazing machine. The car was built from the ground up to be a top speed monster. The carbon rear diffuser I spotted inside the showroom earlier was fitted to the car as well as a slew of Top Secret’s other original parts. One of the things that surprised me about this car was just how big it is in person. The R34 is not a small car, it’s probably as long as my WRX sedan. It’s also a very imposing car. The Top Secret gold bling gives the GT-R a lot of presence and commands your attention. It looks fast even when it’s parked; it’s hard to get the image of it barreling down the freeway out of your mind.

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That’s me mugging next to the car. I didn’t want to use this picture because looking back on myself 3-years-ago, I have no business being in it. I honestly couldn’t stop smiling while we were there. It’s one of those days where you go to bed that night and think “today was a good day” and you remember it for the rest of your life. I’d really like to visit Top Secret again, next time I’m in Japan. Enough reminiscing for now though. I’ve saved the best for last, stayed tuned for Part III.

Top Secret: Part I

Top Secret: Part III

Top Secret: Part I

Japan is an amazing country. I’ve been lucky enough to travel there a couple different times in the last few years. We all read the blogs and watch the videos; the mystique that surrounds the country’s culture and automotive tuning scenes is something everyone would like to see for themselves one day. The only way to truly scratch the surface of an industry far richer than our own, is to experience it firsthand. For me the quintessential Japanese tuning shop will always be Top Secret. I remember watching Smokey Nagata, on YouTube, back before anyone knew what YouTube was. I found tons of videos featuring Smokey doing top speed runs in all kinds of amazing cars. It was some of my first exposure to what the JZA80 Supra and R34 GT-R were capable of. I became a big fan of the shop and from then on, I knew I had to make the pilgrimage one way or another.

In June 2007, I took my second trip to Japan. I never went to Japan with the intention of doing anything car-related. I planned to stay in Tokyo and check out all the city had to offer. Upon our arrival, I was connected with a good friend of mine from school. He was spending the summer in Japan visiting his family and offered to show us around the city. Well, one thing led to another, some phone calls were made and before I knew it, we were in his car heading to Ginza where Top Secret’s headquarters are located.

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It’s really hard to talk about visiting Top Secret without sounding like a fan boy. Anyone I’ve known who’s been to Japan and seen the same kind of thing shares a mutual giddiness when the topic comes up in conversation. There’s really nothing like it in the United States. We’re slowly getting there with shops like AMS and SP Engineering, but Top Secret is on a completely different level. It was hard to get me to do anything but stare in amazement upon arriving. But we headed for the showroom to meet with the shop’s manager. Japan is a society based on respect and politeness. Our first order of business was to thank the manager for allowing us to come and visit the shop. We had no intentions of spending any money there, so it was very nice of them to let us come and take pictures and have a look around. Through some broken English to Japanese and a little translation from my friend, we were able to speak with the manager and gather a bit more information on Top Secret. We asked if we could meet Smokey and take a picture (I know, fan boys), but he was too busy tuning customer cars.

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The showroom at Top Secret is surprisingly small, but they’ve managed to fit a dizzying amount of parts and memorabilia into the space. The company’s showroom is a homage to all things Top Secret and JDM. Option Magazines and DVD’s are scattered throughout the room, as well as a long list of original parts from the company.

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One of the first things I noticed were all the awards and achievements this shop has earned over the years. It’s a testament to how the Japanese do things. It’s a “go big or go home” mentality that plays a role in all aspects of their lives. It’s this philosophy that Top Secret and most other Japanese tuning shops operate by. You quickly notice how these guys are on a completely different level than anything going on in our own country.

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A neglected SR20 that was once the heart of Top Secret project, now serves as an ornament on the showroom floor.

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As a brand, the company has found endless ways to market themselves. From R/C cars to their own line of engine fluids, they seem to have all the bases covered.

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All sorts of aero pieces hung from the walls and ceiling. I remember seeing this GT-R carbon diffuser for the first time; the quality was something else. The main idea behind having a showroom is to allow customers the opportunity to see the parts that could eventually adorn their cars. It’s a place to meet with an advisor and discuss the technicalities of the build. Clients are made to feel right at home with drinks, snacks and cigarettes. I noticed about 3 or 4 meeting tables that were setup throughout the showroom. Modifying cars is a serious business in Japan and it’s not just for young people. Enthusiasts of all ages participate in this past time and it’s not taken lightly.

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Interested in a custom manifold? Well making the decision is just as easy as walking over to this display and seeing all the shop’s offerings firsthand. In this country we pick and choose parts from a huge variety of vendors. We may order an an exhaust from Shop A and have it installed and the car tuned at Shop B. In Japan it’s about the complete car. Shop loyalty is big and once you pick a shop, you stay with that shop. As a result, everything from turbo upgrades to interior reupholstering is done at or through that particular shop. It’s a completely different level of service in Japan and it’s about the whole experience, not just the end result. Checking out the parts and memorabilia was like being a kid in a candy store. But the reason you come to Top Secret is for the cars and there was plenty to see outside.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Top Secret: Part II

Top Secret: Part III

Tuned By Top Secret

These pictures do a pretty good job of justifying why the GT-R is still the king of Japanese cars.

This car was tuned by Top Secret and is fitted with their whole lineup of aero, including the front bumper, hood, and rear wing. I’ve always liked the Top Secret front bumper on the R34. It’s a bit more rounded which kind of breaks up the sharp lines of the car (a good thing). The massive air ducts and opening for the intercooler give the car a more aggressive look, if that was even possible.

This GT-R looks more like a freeway bomber than a circuit car to me.

I originally saw these pictures on Auto-Otaku which is one of my favorite car blogs. Sadly, it doesn’t get updated much these days. Mike has moved on to bigger and better projects like photographing for Speedhunters. I love his work for them and I hope he’ll come back to his own blog again at some point.

Photos courtesy of Mike Garrett.

Smokey, Where You At?

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I was searching up some of Top Secret’s cars on Google earlier and I came across this rendering of the GTR. I’m not sure who this artist is for this one, but it definitely got me thinking. Why hasn’t Top Secret gone all out with the new GTR yet? Many are saying they’re just too hard to modify and the ECU is a bear to crack. Look at Mine’s though, they’ve done big things with the GTR. Even Garage Defend has been tweaking theirs since the car was released. Why hasn’t Smokey Nagata, the mastermind behind all of Top Secret’s top speed beasts, built the GTR?