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.

Original Runduce Imprezas

It doesn’t get much better than these classics, the Original Runduce GDBs.


It’s a coin toss as to which car is better. Where looks are concerned, it’s hard to argue against Voltex aero, but the STI in the foreground is sporting a very unique and slightly insane 500 HP HKS twin-turbo EJ25.

The twin-turbo STI was wearing Voltex aero and up for sale on Global Auto back in 2010. These two make me seriously miss the golden era of Japanese demo cars, before everyone was on Rocket Bunny’s payroll.

Photo courtesy of Original Runduce.

‘Fast & Furious’ Is To Thank

Furious 7 is out this weekend and it will likely be the last (good) entry in the Fast & Furious franchise.


I’ve heard the departure of Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner is handled with particular care so it should be a fitting sendoff for the character and the actor. It seems with any film series, the longer it goes, the more nostalgic we all feel about its different entries. While I have my favorites and least favorites in the series, 2 Fast 2 Furious stands out in particular, not because of the film but because of what I encountered on my way into seeing it and how that has impacted everything since.


I remember 2 Fast 2 Furious being a big deal because it was the sequel to a film many people considered a cult thing. Sure car people loved it, but the general masses had no interest in blow-off valves, nitrous or 10 second cars. The local movie theater was doing a special promotion for the film’s release and upon reaching the theater’s front doors, I was greeted by a silhouette which will be ingrained in my memory forever.


I had only laid eyes on the Subaru Impreza WRX one other time before and it was at the Cincinnati Auto Show in 2001. The car hadn’t yet gone on sale in America but Subaru were beginning to take orders and promote the turbocharged, road going rally car. I remember sitting in the driver’s seat, steering wheel in my left hand, gear stick in my right, transfixed on the OEM boost gauge – an optional extra. I proudly told my dad I would have one and a year later I was once again greeted by the same World Rally Blue WRX headed into 2 Fast 2 Furious. The theater was raffling the car away to some lucky owner who has probably since ruined it, crashed it or both. I remember telling my friend Ben who is close friend to this day how much I wanted that car. Half an hour later as the Universal Pictures logo morphed into a gear stick to David Banner’s ‘Like A Pimp’, I was still thinking about the WRX outside.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Had I not seen 2 Fast 2 Furious at that theater on that night, I may have never cemented my love for the Subaru WRX. The Fast & Furious series is a generational benchmark. It’s shaped the way so many of us in our 20’s and 30’s think about cars and about action movies. The original is by far the most quoted movie in my social circle and amongst car enthusiasts everywhere. Say “I live my life a quarter mile at a time” or “no one likes the tuna here” and people are immediately in on the joke. Say what you will about the ridiculous plots or over the top characters, the Fast & Furious series is a commentary about how much cars can mean to people and how they can bring people together. Cars are where I found my closest friends and have been a constant source of happiness in my life.


My love of cars has always been there but in so many ways it was the Fast & Furious series that made them a part of my life rather than an admiration from afar. 14 years later, I’ll be driving my WRX to see Furious 7.

Photos courtesy of Universal.


The GRB is the most recent iteration of the STI that I actually like. The newer sedans just aren’t cutting it – not that you ever see them in the wild anyway. Has anyone actually seen a modified GVB driving down the street or at the local meet? The newer generation of STIs don’t seem to be getting the love from owners and one of the reasons could be a lack of decent parts from manufacturers. In recent years, the STI hasn’t really been a big hit with tuning shops in Japan. Most are still deferring to the Evo and many of done away with AWD sedans completely to focus on the 86 and GT-R. This lack of attention has left a hole in the aftermarket, add to it the fact that hatchbacks are a far more popular option in Japan and Europe (hence the GRB) and it really has been an uphill battle for new generation of STI sedans.

Luckily this problem is much less so for the model’s hatchback counterpart and the GRB remains the best looking of the new generation of STIs. My friend Nat’s car is definitely no exception.


I love the car’s simplicity and the way it appeals to people who know, while remaining fairly anonymous to everyone else.


Nat’s EQ tuned STI is putting out over 300whp on E85 with stock internals, turbo and drivetrain. The perfect setup for a daily driver.


What really sets his car apart for me are the beautiful matte black Volk CE28Ns. While the wheels are certainly aggressive, it’s the tires that really finish off the looks, especially in person.

To drive, it’s a great street car. A bit of understeer in the corners (most Subarus are) and extremely responsive at the exit. Compared to my WRX with a VF34 and FMIC, there’s virtually no lag and excellent midrange torque. I can’t wait to drive it again with the new E85 tune.

Nat claims to be done with this build. I doubt it.

The Journey, Not The Destination

It’s not about the destination, but the journey we take to get there. No truer words could be said about Chris Fontecchio’s 2006 WRX Limited.


Something has been happening the last few years in the Subaru community. What was once bought solely for a lack of other options has now taken on a legendary status amongst Impreza owners. The GDA was the first iteration of the WRX to be sold in America and for many, the car’s love-hate looks were a point of heated debate. Now however, the car has aged like a fine wine and the bugeye has become one of the most sought after Imprezas. As newer models have gotten chunkier and more cumbersome, the aggressive rally styling of the GDA has put it in the discussion of becoming a future classic. The thought of owning a bugeye is easy enough, but finding one that hasn’t been used and abused is another matter entirely.

What if you didn’t need to find one though, what if you just built your own? That’s exactly what Chris set out to do.


What started life as a daily driven 2006 WRX Limited has become a track car in the making and the passion project of an owner who does things the old school way. By day, Chris is an engine tech and he’s put all of his knowledge and skill to use building the car himself.


It’s hard work and the drive to produce a truly unique Impreza that has seen Chris’ car with 2 engine builds and a complete JDM bugeye front end conversion.

What we have here could be the ideal GD Impreza – bugeye looks with an updated interior and all the benefits of a built (2006) STI EJ257.


Under the hood lies an EFI Logics tuned EJ257 short block with 255 heads and 257 cams. A Garrett GTX3076R aids the car in achieving 341 whp and 326 tq at 19 psi.

The attention to detail on Chris’ Impreza is truly stunning and the selection of parts even more so. It’s a conversation we’ve had time and time again on ACLASS and in this age of knockoffs, taking the time to source the real deal deserves proper admiration.


For now the interior remains fully intact with some upgrades including a very plush Prova alcantara steering wheel which Chris calls the best mod, hands down. The alcantara trimmed, full interior may eventually give way to a roll cage as the car takes on more track day duties.


As nice as the interior is, it’s the exterior that really sets off this Impreza’s looks. The car has been repainted with 3 coats of European WRB for a shine that’s a slightly darker than standard. To protect the new paint job, Chris has had 70% of the exterior wrapped in clear bra to prevent rock chips. Up front an STI V2 front lip has been custom molded to be seamless, while JDM side spats round off the new look. At the back, a Do-Luck carbon trunk adds subtle sportiness.

It’s the kind of exterior I love because it’s a car that truly appeals to enthusiasts. To the untrained eye, Chris’ Impreza could be just another sports sedan, but to those who know, the car is full of details waiting to be discovered.


So where does the journey go from here? It continues forever of course. Chris will never sell the car and probably never finish it. The exterior is on pause for now while he focuses on power and handling. Despite it’s flawless condition, this is a car that gets used both on the street and at the track.

I’m always going on about the complete build – a car that perfectly blends looks with performance because one cannot exist without the other. Chris continues to succeed with this in a way few other Subaru owners are. This is a project both old and new Subaru owners can be excited about for many years to come because like wine, it will only keep getting better with age.

A big thank you to Chris Fontecchio for reaching out over Instagram and sharing his car with me! Check out the comments section for the full parts list.

Photos courtesy of Serg Rangel.

Pleasure Racing Service GRB Impreza

Pleasure Racing Service may not be one of the most well known Japanese tuning shops, but they’re certainly one of the most impressive. Where so many shops have shifted their focus towards marketability and the industry’s latest hype, PRS have stuck to their roots and remain heavily involved in motor sports. From time attack to rallying, they cater to the group of enthusiasts more interested in driving their cars than looking at them. It’s one of the reasons why this shop maintains a successful business while so many of their competitors have faded into obscurity.

With footholds in the Impreza and Evo markets, PRS has more recently experienced success in the BRZ market. The shop’s exceedingly large lineup of demo cars is fronted by their GRB Impreza.


While the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, I never was an INGS fan myself, you can be sure this car lays it down on the track.

With an over saturation of ridiculous aero kits and an all show, no go mantra flooding the industry, there’s something to be said for proper driver’s cars standing their ground.

Photo courtesy of PRS.

Okachan’s C-SER GVF STI


C-SER has been flying under the radar for the last few years. If you haven’t heard of them, they are Yashio Factory’s Subaru brand. While their GVF demo car isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it’s nice to see Okachan working with the new generation STI.


The GVF is the brand’s latest demo car and showcases some of C-SER’s unqiue exterior pieces including a rear wing and front canards (which actually look great).



The upgrades are more than skin deep including a slew of suspension upgrades and C-SER’s titanium exhaust.


When it comes to the GVB/F STI, it’s been pretty slim pickings the last couple of years. The car never really took off in the same way as previous iterations of the Impreza and aftermarket brands have followed suit. Perhaps the $40k price tag has something to do with it?

Photos courtesy of C-SER.

California: Car Enthusiasts Not Welcome

To be a car enthusiast in 2013 is to be part of an ever increasing minority. Al Gore and tree hugging environmentalists would have you believe that our planet is a ticking time bomb on the verge of another Ice Age and it’s all our fault. What the environmentalists fail to mention, is that the process of constructing a hybrid car battery is far more damaging to the planet than your average family sedan and much of the climate changes are part of an aging sun that’s burning hotter and hotter.

What the emissions debate is really about is finding more ways to generate money. Lets face it, California is in debt and despite the state’s overwhelming population, its economy is in the tank and unemployment remains high. Without making this too much of a political debate, consider that by 2025, 1 in 7 cars sold in California must be an EV or other zero-emissions vehicle. That same year, the state hopes to have 1.4 million electric and hybrid cars on its roads, a 75% reduction in smog-forming pollutants and a 50% reduction in green house gas emissions. Still think passing your next smog test is as simple as installing a cat?


In 2013, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) imposed new smog testing regulations and machinery. For people who modify their cars it means more poking around in the engine bay and under the car. Don’t have a CARB sticker for that catback from Japan? Good luck. Gone are the days where just a stock downpipe is the only thing separating you and a new registration sticker. Smog check facilities are becoming more educated on what to look for and stricter than ever. New machinery uses an exhaust’s back pressure to begin a reading. Like many of you, I thought passing smog would be fairly straight forward like in years past. I converted my WRX back to stock with the exception of my 3″ catback. The car has passed 2 other times with the same setup, however this time the catback prohibited the new machinery from getting a reading. After repeated attempts where the technician went so far as to plug the exhaust tip with shop rags, my WRX failed testing. Keep in mind the rest of the car’s exhaust was factory stock.

Unless you happen to have a smog hookup, which is about as easy to find as a winning lottery ticket or more cash than Scrooge McDuck, you will likely have to take apart your entire project car. That same car you spent countless hours putting together in the first place. The state of California is making it harder and harder to be a car enthusiast which is a great irony, considering just how big car culture is here.

Things are only going to get worse in the years to come. Other states are using California as an example for the types of emissions regulations and testing they hope to implement in the future. It’s only a matter of time before every household is required to own at least one EV or hybrid…

Subaru BRZ STI tS

Subaru would like to charge you $41000 for a body kit.

Okay, so it’s a bit more than a body kit, but do Brembo brakes and some other parts lifted from the Impreza STI tS really warrant such a jump in price? What Subaru have done here is pull a fast one. They relied on the STI brand and what those 3 letters signify, to fuel a huge amount of hype over little more than a trim upgrade to the BRZ.

What Subaru should’ve done is call this car the BRZ tS (Tuned by STI), rather than giving it a name that alludes to a lineage of highly successful World Rally campaigns and road going Imprezas.


On first impressions the car look the part. Most of the exterior upgrades can already be purchased through STI, including the front lip which finishes off the BRZ rather nicely.


Most of the exterior’s other upgrades you’ll recognize from the BRZ’s older sibling, including the carbon rear wing.


Not visible are a set of Brembo brakes (lifted from the Impreza STI) and an upgraded Blistein suspension for better handling.

Subaru has made no allusions to the BRZ going forced induction anytime soon. In the meantime, let the rumor mill continue…

Photos courtesy of ClicCar.