Carbon fibre is everywhere these days. In fact, you and I could very easily make a pair of side mirrors or even a bonnet out of the stuff if we really put our minds to it. But when you decide to transform your entire car into a lightweight copy of itself, you will probably need a bigger garage. Oh, and a few GT-Rs to chop up too…
In my first Garage Active shop tour story last month, I showed you around the main office and customer workshop. Today, I’m going to take you on a tour of the company’s operating theatre, where cars go under the knife and re-emerge as wide-bodied and highly-tuned versions of their former selves. This is where Sakamoto-san builds his ‘Active Full Dry Carbon-R’ cars and every other incredible vehicle he puts his name to.
When I arrived, Sakamoto-san’s new R33 Skyline GT-R was being prepped for its debut at the Tokyo Auto Salon. I asked if I’d be able to shoot it for a feature the next morning, but the guys still needed to finish off some paint correction on its glass-flaked pearl white exterior. That’s OK, I was looking for an excuse to fly back to Fukuoka anyway…
I was really keen to see how Garage Active’s carbon fibre parts are made, especially the mould-making process. Unfortunately for me though, production and demand has outgrown Sakamoto-san’s small team, so the composite work is now outsourced to a company in Shizuoka.
Still, Sakamoto-san was proud to show me the workmanship of their bonnets, with the undersides just as beautiful as the tops. They really are handcrafted pieces of automotive art.
There are two main transformations that each GT-R ‘complete car’ build goes through – mechanical and physical.
The latter is why you can see so many Skyline GT-R skins adorning the walls like pelts of slain beasts.
Garage Active wide-body kits are more like brand new outer shells than simple bolt-on overfenders. For their standard kit, this means removal of the entire rear quarter panels and front fenders; for their full carbon kit it extends to removing every single exterior piece of sheet metal.
While the cars are under the knife, many are seam-welded and have their chassis realigned on the jig above. Garage Active build all their custom roll cages and exhaust systems here too.
I had to ask what the R35 shell was for, and Sakamoto-san’s reply was “that’s secret.” Something to look forward to, for sure.
Customer cars are also brought over here from the main shop for paint work. This silver R35 was in for a Rocket Bunny kit.
At this point we had been shooting all afternoon and it was getting late, but there was still one more stop to make.GT-R Disneyland
This is Sakamoto-san’s personal collection of GT-Rs. I can’t imagine how many times the value of these cars would have doubled over his years of ownership, but it’s probably best not to think about that.
“Welcome to GT-R Disneyland,” he said with a laugh.
I’ll let you have a look around before we get to a really spicy machine in the back…
And here she is – an R32 GT-R with Garage Active’s ‘Full Dry Carbon-R’ conversion. I say ‘conversion’ because it’s not really a kit - every exterior panel has been replaced with a blue-tinted carbon fibre equivalent.
These days, the philosophy at Garage Active is more about making well-rounded and comfortably-fast GT-Rs, but considering Sakamoto-san’s drag racing roots, it isn’t surprising to see that he’s got some big-power cars in his collection, and this one makes over 800hp. Considering the full carbon fibre body, it’s still a bit on the porky side, weighing in at 1,300kg, only 100-odd-kg lighter than a stock BNR32. The full welded roll cage and air suspension system adds a bit of the heft, so it’s lucky the engine is making almost triple the car’s stock power.
It seems weird to say it, but this isn’t the car I was at Garage Active to see.
This is what I came for. Or at least to Sakamoto-san’s amusement, I thought it was…