Japanese Nostalgic Car profiles cover


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Smoky the Bandit
Top Secret's crown jewel from its hidden collection of classics.

W ith his nickname derived from his jones for enormous burnouts, Smoky Nagata is best known for two things. As founder and owner of Top Secret Performance Engineering Service, his mega-horsepower creations have graced the covers of countless tuner mags the world over, decked out in his resplendent trademark gold. Legend has it that before establishing his own shop, Nagata worked for another tuner but surreptitiously concocted his own projects during his off hours. Hence the name.

As an utter and complete nut, Nagata has a nasty habit of conducting top speed trials of his speed machines on the public roads of foreign nations. Few have the cojones (or the skills or equipment) to attempt an all-out 200mph dash on our home turf. Now imagine going to a wholly unfamiliar republic, replete with its own laws and traffic system, where you don't speak a whiff of the native tongue and trying the same thing.

Such was the lunacy and sheer awesomeness that ensued when Smoky went to the newly-constructed A1(M) motorway in the UK in 1999. The local constabulary did not find this quite so awesome. In fact, they arrested Nagata-san and impounded his camera-laden A80 Toyota Supra and its 1003-hp Nissan Skyline RB26 for doing 130mph near the quiet hamlet of Peterborough. Actually, he had broken 194mph on another run just prior to his arrest as corroborated by video tape evidence later discovered.

British cop: Where's the videotape?
Smoky: ...
British cop: Videotape. Where?
Smoky: Uh, what? What?
British cop: Where. Is. The. Videotape.
Smoky: Vee-dee-oh? Uhh, I speak, uh, English. Uh... No speak English.
British cop: You're under arrest.
British cop #2: Do you speak English?
Smoky: No, I speak, uhh, Japanese. I, uhh-
British cop #2 (abruptly): DO YOU THINK THIS IS A BLOODY PLAYGROUND?
Smoky: Uh, what? What?
British cop #2: Do you THINK this is a PLAYGROUND?
Smoky: Uh, no understand.
British cop #2: I'm sure you don't.


Miraculously, the magistrate fined him only £155 plus £35 in court costs and banned him from setting tyre on the Queen's roads for 28 days. This, despite further videotape evidence of a dead stop on the expressway for the purposes of a towering mid-highway inferno burnout. Similar maximum velocity trials have taken place in New Zealand with a 3S-GTE-powered Supra and in what likely stands as Mr. Nagata's sole legal speed experiment, a 341-kph fly-by on the German Autobahn in a V35 Nissan Skyline propelled by a VK45 Cima V8. For us Americans, that translates to a 212mph in an Infiniti G35 with a V8 engine from an Infiniti Q45.

Top Secret's latest affront to suburban grandmothers everywhere is a Supra motivated by a JDM Toyota Century V12. Nagata aspires to reach 400kph with this, or Bugatti Veyron territory. Exactly which good nation's legal mandates this will violate has yet to be determined.

Top Secret's headquarters in Chiba City houses a vast five-bay garage that would turn any home greasemonkey greener than a sack of peas with envy. Although not easily accessible by train, the entire premises teems with enough Western tourists and journalists (ourselves included) that they should really consider offering shuttle service from nearby Narita International Airport. Within the cavernous shop, a small platoon of mad scientists transform even the beastliest of vehicles into Godzilla-sized hellions. All manner of vehicles, from diminutive Nissan March subcompacts to roid-raging Supras are Frankensteined into rolling arrest warrants. On the day of our photo shoot, workers were putting the final touches on a beautiful R31 Skyline and a $170,000 R34 Skyline GT-R about to be shipped off to an unnamed owner in South Africa.

Few know, however, that behind the ballsy superhero bravura of Smoky the monster-maker hides Kazuhiko Nagata, a mild-mannered gentleman with a penchant for vintage Japanese steel. Downstairs and around back, out of sight from the massive centerpiece garage and warehouse lies a small covered parking area that houses some of his prized possessions. The path leading to the stairs of this alcove have classics in varying stages of restoration, neglect and hidden potential scattered about as well. Overshadowed by their horsepower-heavy modern descendants that made Top Secret famous, the nostalgics in Nagata-san's collection include a C10 Skyline sedan, a Datsun 410 Bluebird, a pair of Mitsubishi Galant GTOs and of course, the subject of this Profile, a 1975 Toyota Celica 2000GT liftback.

Found in a junkyard as a rusty heap, this RA25 Celica underwent an intensive six-month restoration process that would make Boyd Coddington weep. Upon retrieval from its deathbed, Nagata immediately whisked the well-oxidized body and frame off to Top Secret II: The Body Shop to reverse the severe weathering that had occurred over the years. Many of the original bits were too far gone, giving the Top Secret crew the perfect opportunity to replace them with trick custom touches.

While the car may appear stock, aside from its mean crouch and bestickered body, numerous clever yet subtle nuances endow this resto-modded Celica with the amenities of your typical daily driver. For instance, Bellof Spec Le Mans GT HID throw more lumens from the quad headlights than 1975 could have ever dreamed of. Likewise, one-off LED taillights have been matched perfecly to the zenki five-bar rear treatment.

For a squad with enough talent to jam a V12 into the bay of a straight-six, an epic swap would have been pound cake, but beneath the custom fiberglass hood lies a chassis-correct twin-cam 18RG engine. Never one to leave well enough alone, Nagata and his crew have installed fuel-injection with an HKS F-CON V Pro management system fed by four individual throttle bodies with custom machined velocity stacks. The rest of the drivetrain remains stock, albeit rebuilt, save for an ORC single-plate clutch.

The pugnacious stance comes courtesy of Top Secret's own Super Dampers. Brilliant white 15-inch Rays Gram Light 57Cs wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza RE-01s harmonize flawlessly with the equally bright white paint job. Inside, an LED dome light reflects yet another unobtrusive modern upgrade. BRIDE racing seats hold asses in place while the driver grips a Top Secret steering wheel, but those matching rear cushions were custom-made by the company for Nagata's nostalgic ride. You can be sure Nagata gripped the Top Secret steering wheel tightly when he went on a recent 210-kph blast on Japan's renowned Wangan. In the English system, that's the same speed that got him arrested in the land that originated the measurement standard.

At its debut in this year's Tokyo Auto Salon, Top Secret gave this Celica top billing at its booth in the annual Japanese tunerfest, a space usually reserved for the sort of high-performance rigs the shop built its name on. It may be the first nostalgic called in for duty to represent Top Secret, but Nagata, in his humble demeanor utterly devoid of the brash arrogance one would expect of a speed demon felon, indicates that it won't be the last. We can only hope, Smoky. end

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