Half way through the tour and with little sleep the tour party was as energized as ever. It seems passion, enthusiasm, camaraderie and the lure of the itinerary was a drug better than any other. Today was to be the first of the tours around tuning shops and garages. With a tour group of 16 adults plus two children – one wearing the obligatory GTROC “My Daddy’s car is a GTR” T-shirt we set off in the tour bus which was to be our home for the day. On the itinerary today was to be Robson, GReddy, Top Secret, Powerhouse Amuse and Midorei Seibi. Five tuners and over a hundred miles, all in one day!
Within 40 minutes we arrived at Robson Leather – well sort of. The driver pulled over on the main road and said it was around here somewhere. Fuggles soon pointed to a tiny side street and said it was down there based on his memory from his last visit two years ago. This time, unlike last, we decided not to drive the wrong way down a one-way street so instead decanted the bus and walked to the shop.
Robson Leather had opened up half an hour early for the GTROC. Fuggles met up with the people from Robson and they chatted about the last visit while everyone else set about inspecting steering wheels, covers and other options, as well as leather colour and stitching. A plan was even hatched to bring the Robson Leather people over to the UK for a special GTROC fitting tour. But, all too soon, we were back on the coach waving farewell to Robson Leather and heading off in the direction of Narita for a visit with GReddy.
The hour or so it took us to get to GReddy gave Fuggles chance to brief everyone on what to expect. In time honoured fashion Terje was either asleep or talking to someone else when John wanted to explain. “The general plan” he said “was to see different tuners and types of outfits based in Japan, covering high end big tuners and small, local business; new GTR, Skyline and more broad-based providers”.
After a journey through the back roads and country lanes we arrived at GReddy and were met by the company President. After a brief discussion he mustered about half a dozen staff who came out to meet us in their expansive car park. He then asked us to wait a minute while he brought a car out – oh boy and what a car! The noise was deafening as the engine spluttered into life even behind the closed shutters. As the shutters rolled up the most amazing, radical, extreme Nissan GT-R made its way slowly through the shutter and into the car park. The ear splitting noise of this 1250 bhp development vehicle was only matched by the futuristic colour scheme and cut away curves exposing the machine beneath.
Everyone rushed for cameras and started to ask the assembled GReddy specialists about every element of the car. With Eddie asking questions more technical than most would care for and Roger shouting “I want one” the photographers amongst us were soon prone, kneeling or standing trying to get that one perfect photo.
About an hour was spent asking about this one car alone. A car we first saw at the Tokyo Auto Salon but could not get close enough to or could not get around it for all the photos we wanted. Then the bonnet was lifted for everyone to see the heart of this fire breathing monster and, again, the quest for a perfect shot was pursued. After some time the bonnet was closed and we began to think our time was done and it would be back to the bus. As Fuggles presented our hosts with gifts and thanks we began to regret ever seeing this car because whatever we saw next would never be able to compete. But GReddy had one more surprise, when they started the engine and asked the GTROC Chairman to get in and play with the throttle. No invitation was ever accepted so quickly. One by one some of the tourists got to play with the car, raising the noise that was rebounding around the garages.
After some time at play we said farewell to our gracious hosts and headed for our coach.
Heading back towards Tokyo our next stop was to be Top Secret. In an eerie silence we discussed the car we had just seen and, for some, almost driven. Over $1.2m had been spent in development of that one car so let’s hoping they sell a few! The car is, as Roger described it “mental” but everyone wanted to be the first one to pull into Tesco in it to collect our groceries, only to see the reaction.
We arrived at Top Secret an hour ahead of schedule so Fuggles leapt off the bus to check that it would be okay. Shibuki-san explained they were not ready and please come back in one hour. Perfect: just enough time to grab a light lunch and then back to the next visit of the day.
Arriving at Top Secret we realised what they meant by not ready. Three GT-Rs were parked out front, bonnets up and engines running. The V12 Supra (the one from the ‘M1 incident’) was there also as were a number of other cars. The three R35s included the Top Secret demo car and two customer cars, both of which were modified to a very high spec with oodles of extra power.
As one group toured the display and spoke at length to a very friendly Nagata-san the other half of the now 16-man tour party spent their time shopping in the TS shop. Roger event managed to buy something that was not for sale and was a one-off demo – expect to see it soon if you meet him at a car meet near you.
As we toured around there was a lot of chat about the cars, the mods, the R33 tunnel run with Fly and about that day on the M1 Motorway. Though his English is not great it is certainly good enough to share experiences with and to talk cars and horsepower. The biggest draw of the day seemed to be having your picture taken with the R35s or having your picture taken with Nagata-san and a certain Supra. I am sure the MkIVSupra.net people will be envious of our day at Top Secret when we see them next at this year’s JAE.
After an hour and a half at Top Secret we headed south for our next stop on this whirlwind tour. So far we had seen two tuners responsible for big power builds and now we were off to Powerhouse Amuse. A company famous for making exceptional cars but ones that, on the outside at least, belied the potential underneath. Amuse don’t go for flashy or huge power, just good cars, well built and with very decent power figures.
As with all our hosts they were expecting us. The advantage of having a well organised tour managed by people who understand and respect the Japanese culture and work hard to make everything run smoothly. All of this would not be possible without GTROC Japan Rep: Akihiro Itoh who works tirelessly every year to make sure the visitors to his country, from his club, are well looked after and nothing is left to chance. Thank you Aki.
Hearing that we were in town the man who builds the Powerhouse Amuse titanium products made a point of meeting us there. As well as making some fantastic products he also supplies the raw titanium to Nissan for use in the SpecV exhaust. So, while Eddie got into some detailed metallurgic conversations the rest of us made the most of the hour we had. Sadly the full dry carbon R34 had now been sold and was in Norway – great for Terje and Kennet who would be heading back there after our trip but not so great for the rest of us.
At the end of our visit we thanked our hosts and posed for a photograph in front of one of their customer cars.
Back on the bus we headed for Midori Seibi. Different again, Uchinaga-san had built a reputation from a small garage to build some very respectable cars, including the white R34 Time Attack car – something he still owned and vowed never to sell.
As we parked outside Fuggles went ahead and was greeted in the driveway by our hosts who also included Ito-san, also known as “Mr Do-Luck”. As before he had heard we were in town and wanted to meet us. Fuggles and Ito-san go back many years and they were soon chatting away and catching up on old times and planning for the future. Ito-san confirmed he will be coming to the UK soon and, as we did for MiNES we would also arrange a GTROC meet for everyone to meet up with Ito-san.
Mohammed and Imran seemed really at home. The green and white of the cars seemed to appeal to their football bias coming as they do from Glasgow. Once they understood that Midori was Japanese for Green Imran soon posed for photos next to every set of wheels (green) he could find.
Unlike the big companies Midori Seibi is a small shop but has still managed to produce some great cars. The whole atmosphere was also very different to previous tuners. The red (or maybe green) carpet was rolled out to the GTROC but this time they asked us to watch while they mapped an R32 and gave us completely free range to the facility. Ito-san was on hand to help Matt and Geetak with translation.
The sun was beginning to set when we arrived and it soon became dark when we posed inside for our photo before heading back to Tokyo.
With five tuners in one day we had managed to get a real flavour for the breadth of tuning in Japan. Fuggles then wrapped up the day for everyone as we spent the last hour chatting about everything we had seen. A straw poll of what the high points proved very interesting. The obvious front runners were GReddy and Top Secret but it was really interesting to see that every visit was rated highly and every visited was valued equally.
Arriving in Ginza we had time to kill so decided to find a bar before meeting up with Orito-san and Jito-san from the R35GTR Club and Inoue-san from the GTR Owners Club of Japan. Not knowing where to find a bar Fuggles walked into the police booth and asked the local police officer for the best place to ‘go and get wasted on booze’ – or something like that! The officer looked more than a little confused – partially thanks to Fuggles gaijin-Japanese and party due to the very nature of the question. After a phone call to head office a bar was found and we settled in for a few beers.
Dinner was Gompachi. As we split into three tables, shoes off, each of our hosts spent the time with one table. Orito-san and Fuggles chatted about plans for the future and how the R35 Club and the GTROC could do events together and how we could help each other. The future of the GTROC certainly appears to be going places it never dreamt of when it was first founded less than ten years ago.
After a long day and a fun evening we returned to the hotel. Satisfied, exhausted and looking forward to more days like these we arrived at the Hilton and each retired to our rooms. Another day over