"Slower, man! slower!" That"s me screaming with the important half of my bent body hanging outside the open window of a car making mad loops around Tokyo Bay. My zealous pilot (and the object of the exclamatatory statements) is Sumio Niwa, otherwise known as the president of Bomex. It"s not his fault we"re approaching Mach 2 on a street that seems to carry an 18-wheel minimum. He"s just doing what I"ve told him to do, which is to follow the white Hirata Engineering Y32 Nissan Gloria within camera-focus length.
"Man, I said slower!"
Niwa turns his friendly, though currently befuddled, face to me, burbles something in Japanese, and nods. But we maintain the manic pace. My knees brace my upper body around a U-turn. Through the shaking viewfinder, I can barely see the car in front of us as it slingshots into a small white dot. I"m not trying very hard; I"m more worried about losing a contact lens or a tooth. Niwa stomps his right foot and catches up.
The Gloria in front of us is another one of Nissan"s magnificently tuneable platforms that the company cruely refuses to export (cue the violins). But unlike the flashier Skyline or Silvia, the Gloria is a pure four-door luxury sedan. Oh yeah, and it comes with a turbocharged twin-cam straight-six direct from the factory.
Hirata Engineering did Nissan a few better by turning the heat up in this particular specimen to more than 800 hp and 570 lb-ft of torque. Now, the car doesn"t seem capable of operating smoothly below the sound barrier. It"s all Niwa can do to keep up. Still, he"s going very fast by my standards (which is anything life-threatening). And when I climb back into the car to give my weeping cheeks a break from the buffeting wind, I notice that Niwa is catching up to the Gloria. He smiles. I think he feels he has a sporting chance of winning.
"Slower, man! Slower!"
It"s a glorious day in Tokyo. The sky is a light, baby blue. Wide sheets of white-ish clouds float below the hot sun. And my hair is fanned out on its ends-I look like an Asian Buckwheat. Good thing there are no chicks around. We"re surrounded on most sides by tall glass buildings that look as though they belong in a James Bond movie. In one direction, pure white pyramids sit stacked three high, upside down on their points. In another, blimp-sized metallic spheres are connected by tubular walkways hundreds of feet above the ground to massive cubes of glass and steel. On the far side of the bay, an overwhelming Ferris wheel lingers like an echo.
Now parked on the side of the road, Hirata Engineering"s Gloria looks harmless, the simple and clean Bomex aero kit its only obvious modification. Otherwise, the car looks like something grown people drive when they"ve moved onto watching Diagnosis Murder. Maybe that"s why Hirata-san has chosen it to be his primary highway racing machine. The word, I believe, is sleeper. An earful of the simmering motor tells you its true worth. It sounds bad, like something big and hairy trying very hard to get out.
Hirata-san, one of Japan"s top Nissan tuners, opens the hood. The T-88/34D turbocharger that"s attached to the 3.2L straight six (Z32VG30D) generates heat like a furnace. It takes two Trust intercooler cores and two Trust 16 Mission oil coolers to prevent the assembly from detonation. And it seems right now, even that solution barely works. So, between passes (fly-bys rather), up comes the hood.
The rest of the engine package trickles down from the massive turbo. Huge 850cc injectors shoot fuel from two Bosch pumps. Trust pistons and Carelo connecting rods reinforce the bottom end, while the head has been retuned with Tomei solid lifters, valve springs, camshafts, and gears. Both intake and exhaust timing have been set to 272 degrees F. The Techtomsys ignition system really has its hands full. When Hirata-san starts the car, it takes a couple throaty turns on the key for the Gloria to grunt to life. But it does and Hirata-san"s face explodes into a nebulous smile as if he"s thinking: It lives! It lives!
At this moment, he really does have a bit of the mad scientist look about him. Clad in red mechanics gear, with eyes wide as white saucers and his hair a tossled mess (though not nearly as grotesque as that of yours truly, which has become a bit more hip-n-cool since we last visited it thank you very much), he looks like a Japanese Doc Brown. His smile shifts constantly between schoolboy grin and full-on teeth. He bounces with every step. Indeed, it probably does take someone without all his rocks in order to convert a Gloria into a stripped-down street racer. Yes, I said stripped down. Gone are the plush rear seats. Gone is the slick electronic dash. Gone are the carpeting and sound deadeners. It looks as though he planted a pipe bomb inside and ran. The car is bare bones-just a Recaro race seat and some gauges. Well, make that lots of gauges. And not one of them can keep up with the car"s top speed, which is around 325 kph.
That's also the speed at which Hirata-san prefers to travel. As the sun drops into the late afternoon, he tells me that he must be on his way before the on-coming choke of Tokyo rush hour. With more than 800 hp under the hood, transmissions don't last longer than three street races. And jerky stop-and-go traffic can be intolerable. For some reason, I'm sure the other cars will be happy to get out of Gloria's way.