Talking Top Secret

The reason I’m doing this is because I’m rather excited.

That’s why I’m taking you all the way back to April 2002 to one of the first times I visited a tuning shop called Top Secret, situated in the outskirts of Chiba. Much like many of you out there, the magical golden cars that Smokey built back in the day were something that helped fuel my initial passion for the whole scene, which at the time was still rather mystical and unknown to me.

This was even before I started shooting and writing professionally, as you can tell by the massively crappy pictures I snapped with what was at the time my very first digital point and shoot camera.


But this isn’t a tale about how I got into the world of cars, but more about Top Secret itself. You see, for years I dropped by this shop regularly, met with Nagata-san and Shibuki-san to shoot not only their demo cars but the countless crazy builds that they did for customers. Cars like the mighty Competizione R that ended up evolving a couple of times before being referred to as complete.


Of course, I kept tabs on the crazy pace of evolution on Nagata’s own BNR34, only dreaming that one day I too could chase the never-ending pursuit of power and performance (16 years on, and I’ve barely begun!).

But then I got the impression that far too many followers of the scene were jumping on the Top Secret bandwagon, to the point that they were over-hyping what the brand stood for and what Smokey was doing. This was a time of great success for the shop, and I was glad for them that their hard work was paying off.

It’s sort of what’s happening with RWB and Nakai right now. Preferring to dig deeper in other area’s of Japan’s car culture, I almost ended up losing touch with what they were up to. It’s just down to human nature I suppose, but in no way did I ever stop respecting them, and Smokey has continued to wow the world with his creations in the time since.


I’m almost embarrassed to show this, just look at the JDM tilt on this frame. I absolutely love it; it’s so early 2000s it hurts.


So where am I going with all of this? Well, I’ll be paying Smokey a visit next week. I will chat with the man himself and be shooting a special build he’s put together for a loyal customer.


I think it’s about time we revisit Top Secret and discover what the place is all about these days, what they are working on, what their plans are, and what Smokey himself thinks of the current car-scape. But most importantly of all, I want to see if he’ll do a fat burnout for the camera.

That’s why I want to know what YOU would ask Smokey if you had a chance to spend a few hours with him. What do you want to know from the man that is so synonymous with the Japanese car scene he pretty much defines it. Let me know below and I’ll do my best to get as many answers as I can.


By the way, the pictures you are seeing now are from November 2002 at a track day organized by Top Secret. This was, at the time, the shop’s brand new Z33 350Z demo car, and if you look closely behind you’ll see a very young Miki Ryuji who in about two years from this moment won the D1GP with the Top Secret S15. Back then he was a mechanic working with Smokey.


Check out Smokey smoothly drifting the Z33 out of the infield hairpin.


This was a shakedown for the car which was running a simple cam upgrade, intake, exhaust and a remap. I remember it sounded glorious; this was possibly the first time I had heard a VQ35DE through an aftermarket exhaust.


What really excited me on that day, and I remember it just like it was yesterday, was seeing these 19-inch versions of RAYS’ Volk Racing TE37 up close. They had just been released and I was seriously considering them for my R34.


But as you guys know, I ended up going for 19-inch CE28Ns, which I still have today.


I hope this little trip back to 2002 has got your juices flowing for a scene that to this day continues to excite, impress and of course evolve.

Don’t forget to post your questions for Smokey in the comments section below.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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Here are some:

What do he think about the new Supra?

What is his favourite build ever?


Out of all the cars you have built which was your favorite? and why? How do you feel about the Japanese tuner scene now and where its heading?

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

My number 1 question:

Will he attempt to hit the magical 400 km/h mark one more time?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

He was supposed to do it later this year, but since Nardo' is now owned by Porsche it's a tad harder to organize similar high speed events as was done before. They are also resurfacing the track so this year is out at least


It’s a shame that it’s easier to organize “illegal” events on public roads rather than legal events on closed circuits. It should be the other way around >.<

Lucien Bouchoum

If I wanted to ask something to Smokey himself, it will be about the Wangan Street Racing Scene in the 1990.

How they met up and raced late at night, how they were organizing that kind of racing ( if they were completely improvised or not, like announces on the newspapers), just to be able to go back in time and learn more about that.

And also what he thinks about the evolution of the tuning and the street racing scene compared to the 90s with the Mid Night Club era. What is he enjoying about the scene now, and what makes him grind his gears.


this, verbatim

Gianluca Serrani

Konnichiwa Smokey-San!

How come we don't see many RB' swapped Z33 chassis around? Wouldn't this be the perfect power plant for the Z33?



I've seem a couple of 2JZ Z33 (for drift purpose obviously) and i can't tell why the RB series isn't "popular" with this chassis.


Especially with prices at a great spot! My neighbor has one, and I'd be interested in one too if I had that kind of expendable income.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Oh the car I'm shooting has something to do with this question...


I had several questions, but of course if only 1 questions got answered, I'm happy for it.

1. What do you think of current Japanese tuning scene like, you are one of the early tuners that rise during the era of Top Speed, then you also enter brief foray in Drifting and now lately the tuning scene were focusing on time attack. Do you think the trend will change? Does Top Speed interested on making time attack car?

2. Do you ever check or wonder what happened to cars that you tuned? Do you regrets selling some of them or hoping that you can keep it all or making your own museum.

3. What do you think is the future of tuning industry, especially in Japan since performance car is getting expensive and harder to modified because of electronic and etc.

4. What is his favorite food and drink? Does he smoke and any favorite country that he has visited (or like to visit) in terms of the car culture.


Ask him about the Prius he built. Wondering if that was a customer car or his own thing, and what the goal was.

Rafał Szulejko

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but the company seems to follow the route of other famous tuning shops from early 2000s, with producing the same old components from their glory days and doing a bunch of parts for the R35 GT-R. Are there any plans to become relevant today?
There is still so much potential in this brand, and if they decided to do another halo project (assuming there are no financial problems), they could definitely pull it off.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

They do have a pretty big customer base and enthusiasts are still sticking with older cars. They do continue to come up with new bits and pieces


I would like to know how he came up with the name Top Secret, or is it a secret?

Jesy Miguel Viray

The name Top Secret came about when he used to work at Trust.

He'd often do other projects after hours, sooner or later, the owner caught wind of it but they just let Smokey do his thing regardless, so long as it was kept as a secret. Hence, Top Secret.


What's it like to be a tuner today compared to 25 years ago? Has the focus changed, like maybe from power to style because modern cars are more capable out of the box?


Or how focus might have shifted to maybe suspension and aerodynamics since cars are more capable now.
I'd like to know if there are any plans to plant the same mark in the EV scene.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Definitely a good one, although we all know he's all about the power


What is the one car that's he's always looking forward to work on and why?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

GeeeeDeeeeAhhhhhhh lol


Are there any cars that you wish you'd been able to work on, but never got the chance?


Was Smokey really in Mid Night Club as so many sources claim as a fact, or was he not?


What is the secret of making a garage focused on tunning and what could you do to stand out from the rest?


when are you coming back to the uk to max out a car on the m1 or a1 ?


As owner of the "mighty Competizione R" i always admire all that TS Put into the build. Makes me smile every time i turn the key. (which tbh is not often with current work commitments) see you in Tokyo no doubt :)


You own it?


Yes. Been nearly 10years

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Look after her Matt!


I'm not intimately familiar with all the cars he's ever tuned so forgive me if this has happened.

Has he ever thought about what type of twist he'd put on something considered uniquely from another country? Something like reworking a Mustang, an Alpine A110, or a Cayman?


What is your end goal with cars?

What I mean is that maybe you want to hit 200mph someday (if you haven't already) and if so what would be your next goal, what drives you to keep going bigger and faster?


I mean to say 250mph


I've noticed some of the more popular Top Secret Supras recently being sold around in auction houses. With something I'm struggling with currently, how do you decide that it's time to part ways with something you've spent so much passion, time, and money with? How have you felt after setting those early Supras free to the world?


I am curious about how he has seen his influence in other builds/been influenced by car culture over the past 20 years.

1. Is there a recipe you follow as far as tuning? (Power, weight reduction, handling)

2. How have you seen the JDM influence builds outside its shores and are there elements you have seen abroad that you have brought into your own builds?

3. Is it true if you can go over 180 kph the police won't even try to catch you? Anything you can tell me about the Mid Night Club and those Wangan high speed runs?

Thank you,
Chicago, IL


just one simple question.

is there any particular job you have done that you stood back and realized, it hadn't turned out the way you wanted it?

Dovydas Grigas

My question: why did you choose gold for most "finished" top secret cars?


I'd ask him what he'd do if you handed him the keys to Project GTR and a blank check? xD

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Bankrupt me? hahaha


Lol yeah!

Felipe Ferrão

Ask him what do he think about the "Eurolook" style that emphasis more the outside than the inside cars nowadays, and if he thinks the actual cars have "strength" to do the same things tuners did in early 90s!!
Greetings from Brazil


Mr. Smokey, I remember reading magazine about Top Secret's insane vehicles like the R33 GT-R & the Supra, they're always slightly different than other tuner because they were after high horsepower top speed run... of course they got me hooked when they made V35 GT-R & Supra V12, I wish they made another insane creation today.

1LR powered 86 maybe?


No questions, but will rate your evolution as a car photographer. :D


be cool if you took a small 5 - 10 min video of you checking out the place walking around raw doesnt have to be a wild edit that would be cool my question is since he sold the supra what does he plan on replacing it with ?

Wicked Firestarter

My questions are the following:

-If he could build ONE Top Secret-tuned vehicle based on a platform that’s being sold today, which one would it be?

-If he had the ability to publicize this build with the participation of online media (ahem, like Speedhunters, instagram, etc), what would he do differently than he did in the early 2000s? Does he see build sponsorship opportunities with crowdfunding?

-If this build had the potential to sway OEM manufacturers in Japan to embrace performance again; why would it be compelling to them?

-If he can answer the above compellingly, when will he start the build?


1. As the world is going into more hybrid sportscar, how do you plan on tuning around those cars?

Jesy Miguel Viray

Are are there any cars you'd be curious to work on?


Hi Dino - no real questions but could you just say thanks for the two great builds that TopSecret did on my R34s. They were epic!


I've became a Top Secret fan when I bought my gtr. 2015 when I first met Smoky and he is a very humble person. What I want to ask him is

What happened to the gold r35? Did he sell it? And what are the plans to his new r35. Was it the gold one and they just changed the bodykit and color or its a new car that he bought.


Here's a question he may not want to answer...

We know about his top speed run down the A1(M) in the UK and his 200mph tunnel run in Japan (thanks to Max Power... R.I.P) and his top speed attempt in Germany, but what is the most outrageous thing he's ever done on a public road? Surely he's had a few close calls away from the camera lenses, especially in the Midnight Club days!


Heres a Q for Smokey San:

Whats your earliest memory of cars or can you remember the moment that got you into cars ?


Are there any platforms that you wished you could have worked on in the past?

How much different is the Japanese tuning scene from when you started Top Secret?

With all the technological advancements with today's vehicles, which vehicles have been your most difficult to tune?


I really ask him this question.

As one of the greatest Hardcore tuner in this scene, how do you think of recent day's tunning trend? There are no any newbie in the tunning scene, you will be hard to get more customers. What about the plans?

Lachlan Freeman

Would you be able to ask him, what are his tuning philosophies end what does he do to achieve them?


What actually happened in England?


Is he willing to build a GT86 (maybe with a JZ since the supra got a 4 cylinder)? Does the new 86 "satisfy" him as a top tuner or Toyota disappointed him?


Hey Dino what an awesome post!
This kind of post brings up the memories of good ol’ days where I got the first exposure of JDM scene through pages of trusty old High Performance Imports by Martin and Ben. I remember your monthly coverage of sick JDM rides/workshops and D1GP when it had that groosroots vibe and mad rivally between Taniguchi and Kazama..

Just wanna say thank you for still doing your thing for the scene. You are the true OG.


whats his fantasy 5 car garage ?


Smokey: Based on the way the mainstream world is starting to stray away from Fossil Fuels and even cars in general, what do you think the future holds for aftermarket performance cars and tuning? What do you see for the future for Top Secret in relation to this?


Ok, some really basic questions.

1. Why the gold?
2. What was his first car?
3. Was the first car the reason that got him into cars? If not, what was it?


I would ask Smokey what he thinks of where Japanese tuning is going on a global scale as someone who has made a name for himself all around the world.

Would also ask him if he plans on competing in any of the current series like Global Time Attack or Texas Mile.

Total icon, have followed his company from day 1.


Talking about the Midnight Club, I have a request for Dino. He may sound bold, but I would love to read a book about the Midnight Club era and the Wangan Street Racing Scene. Not only the races, but also the cars, how they were built, and all the culture that those people were creating. So, maybe talking to Smokey-san could be the best way to start it.
Obviously, quite the challenge. But I feel this would be a great way to preserve the memories of this "mythical" era, now gone forever (I discovered it way to late). And also because Wangan Midnight is nowhere near enough to satisfy our curiosity.



Great post. Smokey and Top Secret was one of the shops that got me interested in the JDM car scene many years ago. With the success of RWB and his experience in Europe, I would love to know if he has ever considered building and developing parts for European performance cars.


Always liked his style! Can you ask him if he's considering having a go at the salt flats? I remember him saying something about Bonneville a few years ago.


Oh, and can you ask him what cars he personally owns now? I would love to know what his daily driver is.


After two decades of recession in Japan, it’s understandable that the racing/tuning scene has died down a bit, as it’s a very expensive hobby.

Now that the Japanese economy is making a strong comeback, what do you see as the future for racing and tuning in Japan?


Does anybody know if the Top Secret Silvia is still up for sale in EU???


I own the VQ32 demo car that was recently at Players. It is a very interesting build and I love the 'double take' moments people have when they realise there isn't a RB in there!

I'd love to know more about the reasons for building the car? From reading the various articles including yours I always believed it was mainly 'because I could' but also perhaps to promote Top Secret’s familiarity with working on V6 engined Skylines whilst waiting for the R35. It would be nice to know if there was anything else planned for the car? Did it get used much for track days and just driving on the road or was it mainly static and just for promotion (OPTION article, TAS etc)?

What does he think of the VQ32 build now looking back on it? Would he have changed anything or built it differently?

Lots of engine internals were changed so why did he stick with the N/A and not turbocharge it because that is his usual M.O.? Saying that, I love the sound it makes so I’m glad he didn’t!

And more practically, I am trying to organise putting some of the original graphics on the car but I only have photos to go on. Are there any of the original graphics available digitally that he would share with me so I can get them remade?

Sorry for all the questions, I did have to think hard and cut many out!

Thank you.

i am complete loser

How can I become Smokey?


Are you going to build anymore major projects in the future?

Did you think you would gain so much popularity over the years?


What is your favorite car of all time ? Owned or not and what is your the perfect configuration of car, motors, NA/Turbo, Fr, Mr etc and why ?

You're awesome.

Thanks Dino, great work, I'm french and I read and enjoy watching your photos. I wish you well man !


hope I am not too late.

1 i want to ask if nagata san is still keeping his rb26 supra (the white one, i have beed told that the gold one is sold long time ago)
what are their settings and whereabouts respectively.
ps its one of my favourite

2 what is his favorite build and why?

3 what platform would be his next project?? what would be the target to be achieved?


one more thing>>>>> the gold top secret s14 silvia's spec and its whereabouts.
It looks cool but there are only false info on the web.
I want to know more.


Hey Smokey, when you were much younger, say 14-16 years old, did you imagine you would ever make it an be as successful as you have been today? What were your long-term life goals when you were that age and what initially steered you towards the beginning of one of the ultimate car tuning names in the world?