Meeting people in Japan can be a tricky thing. If it’s not by foot or way of a train station, then it’s obviously by car, and as a foreigner (an American at that), it’s not as simple as picking the local Family Mart and waiting it out. You’re on time at the exact place, no excuses. On a day like the one where we met Bensopra, our GPS took us down to a location in Kyoto that didn’t seem quite right. Outside a non-descript building were two cars that American car enthusiasts, including myself, have lusted over since 2009: the TRA Kyoto EF9 and S13. Left parked outside (yes, people can do this in Japan without worry of theft or vandalism), they’ve seen better days—they’re now stripped of all their prized parts, collecting dust and not much of any interest to most passersby except for a bunch of groupies like ourselves.
But we weren’t supposed to meet TRA Kyoto; we’re here for Bensopra.
Through Bensopra, we were told to meet with their overseas manager, Norihito Watanabe, at the Kyoto-based workshop manned by Kei Muira, the guy responsible for all the TRA Kyoto/Rocket Bunny body work you all love so dearly. Which had us thinking: is this the guy who designed the GT-R’s new face on Bensopra’s behalf? As it stands, Muira-san is responsible for many aero designs that the public and possibly many in the industry may not even know come as a result of his thought process. A quick peek into his outdoor spray booth showed what was a mold for the Bensopra front end piece (the whole thing flips up and goes forward, in case it isn’t clear). By this point, the meeting place didn’t really matter so much as the GT-R quickly took our attention away for its own selfish reasons.
This is third member of the popular GT-R trio that had people going mad at TAS. It’s the lesser evil of its siblings; the fastest being built by TRUST/GReddy with a top speed of 330km/h and the white version, a former Blitz car that was turned RWD, now a demi-god. Consider this the show piece, if you will. We come to discover that the Bensopra design isn’t a Muira concept, but one developed from Kazunori Ueta, the president of Bensopra. The inspiration came from one of Japan’s greatest natural disasters to occur in recent times: the great earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Ueta-san was glued to his television set, like many of us around the world, and couldn’t help but think: the Japanese are strong, and they’ll work hard to restore the affected areas. He wanted to help spread this message of strength to the world the best way he knew how: through cars. And what represents strength any more than the iconic GT-R? Ueta went to work right away to develop a car that would best represent his idea of the strength of Japan.
There’s a lot of love and pride that goes into each Bensopra GT-R kit. Everything is made in Japan and each one is made to order, with a wait time of approximately 4 months. What you get is perfection, craftsmanship and a fit unlike any other. Think of it as being like a custom tailored suit; high in price, yet worth every penny. It was hard for Ueta-san during the initial design phases; usually, good looking aero doesn’t always translate to performance and vice versa—achieving the right balance of both, form and function, was what Ueta’s friends suggested he strive for. So he worked with GT race teams to make sure the kit was every bit aerodynamic as it was beautiful. Clearly he hit the sweet spot he was looking for; the TRUST/GReddy/Bensopra top speed run proves it.
On this particular build, the simplicity speaks for itself. The engine is stock but the car is street-tuned with Variant 3 KW coilovers, 20" Enkei GTC01s and Bride bucket seats. The Bensopra aero is in full effect, but the body has been re-sprayed with a custom gold color, and looks, in a word, stunning. One more thing to mention: anyone interested in giving their car the Bensopra treatment had better be prepared to spend some money. The total cost in parts for this project adds up to a modest $60,000USD—and that’s going basic with only fiberglass parts. The company offers carbon fiber versions of some pieces, including the front lip, side skirts, rear diffuser and rear wing; we don’t even want to know how much that adds on top. But, if you’re willing to play, it’s going to be money well-spent. The looks any Bensopra GT-R pulls should be enough to convince you otherwise…