What Inspires Great Design – My Interpretation of Top Secret’s New Graphic Design

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One of the controversial discussions amongst me and my friends during Auto Salon was the topic of Top Secret’s new direction of graphic design on their new demo cars. Whether you like it or hate it, their new cars have a very different graphics image. They take a little time just to get used to before any well founded judgement can be made, simply because they are so different than Top Secret’s usual vinyl style. Part of the reason for the difference is that for the first time the legendary Mana-P did not design the new logo. Although Mana-P designed and applied some of the graphics still, the new Top Secret Logo and the hood stripes were a new surprise to us all and a result of Top Secret’s new graphics partner.

Giving my review is a bit unnecessary since its a very subjective decision and you’ll reach your own conclusions regardless of what I think. So I’m going to skip past that and go into something which I think is a little more useful.

I have a bit of a theory on the inspiration of the new graphic design. This theory is my own and just based on my perspective on the JDM world and the exotic car world, two things which I love greatly. Perhaps it’ll make a little more sense of the new graphics, I think it will.

First, the bonnet stripes. After a few minutes of seeing the design it started to make sense. Top Secret is moving the image upmarket into exotics (GT-R and 996 Porsche both being classified as exotics for the sake of this argument). Right now one of my favorite graphic designs on an OEM exotic car is the Ferrari 430 Scuderia’s racing stripes. My hunch is that those stripes were an influence to the graphic designers who made this layout. Unfortunately I havent talked to the designers to confirm. Here’s my current favorite Ferrari, see if it connects with you (very high res pic courtesy of one of my favorite websites www.seriouswheels.com ):

Ferrari 430 Scuderia

Next, the Porsche…I’ve had a lot of people comment on the red graphics on white. Honestly, its not my top choice of color combinations. But what was the reason for red on white? If you’re a fan of Porsche then the GT3 RS should be no stranger to your magazine collection or hard drive photo collection. The 996 GT3 RS in white came with red graphics (and red wheels), blue graphics/wheels were also optional. This is a classic color combination also found in RS Porsches from the 70s. So it has some deep emotional meaning to Porsche afficianados. Since the 996 Top Secret car is naturall aspirated, it makes some sense to me to remix the color combination that comes standard on the ultimate naturally aspirated 996. Although I dont LOVE the white wheels, I’m really fortunate that they didnt choose the red wheels because that would have looked awful (in my not so humble opinion).

Here’s the “bone stock” 996 Porsche GT3 RS:

996 GT3 RS
So that’s my theory on the inspiration behind the Top Secret graphics schemes for the R35 GT-R and the 996 Porsche. Its quite fun actually to look at modern demo cars and try to derive the original inspiration behind the designs. Sometimes the inspiration is more prominant than others, but in this case this is what came instantly to mind.

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2008 R35 GT-R Tuning Review Pt. 1 – Presented by WWW.GT-RR.COM (Coming Soon)

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2008 marks the beginning of R35 GT-R tuning, but perhaps more importantly for those of us in the US it will mark the first time that we’ll be able to buy street legal GT-Rs without fear of dodging the law at every corner (my buddies with street driven R32s, 33s and 34s know this reality all too well). So…this is the first time that GT-R tuning for some will be more than just interesting entertainment, it can finally be a reality!

Because of my personal love of high quality Japanese tuning, the GT-R is conceptually vital to my interests and my businesses. Its Japan’s most dominant and high performing car, the perfect counterpart to the products that we’ve been introducing and distributing over the years. Such a car is worthy of a renewed and more specialized effort on our behalf, so www.gt-rr.com was conceptualized. Soon it will be a reality and will represent all of the world’s most legendary GT-R tuning shops and their products. Top Secret, Mines, and Amuse, (just to name a few) are companies that we represent in America and we’re proud to introduce their new GT-R parts which can be used first the first time on US spec production GT-Rs!

Its my promise to bring more “R” to the GT-R community in the US and abroad, www.bulletproofautomotive.com and www.gt-rr.com will be two destinations you can count on for the latest and greatest GT-R tuning parts.

So what tuning parts are we talking about? Afterall, the car’s only been out in Japan for two months or so! Well, you’d be surprised how fast people are working to get new parts developed. This posting and our future updates will highlight some of the things that caught my eye earlier this month when I was in Tokyo.

1. Exhausts: It’s hard to pick a favorite when there are so many incredibly built exhausts for the GT-R. However it’s a bit easier to categorize them. There were the usual Greddy exhausts which bore me terribly and motivate me to nearly enough to burn the 0.05 calerie it takes for me to depress my index finger on my camera’s button. Sorry no pics of the Greddy cars.
Here’s three exhausts that excited me in three very different ways:

1. ARC:


Their full titanium exhaust utilizes their usual mega chop/pie section welded titanium (I think their welders might go a little overboard sometimes on it, but I’m sure there’s a good reason). Actually, ARC exhausts are incredibly expensive so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a correlation between price and # of welds, maybe thats why they love their welders sitting down with a 64oz one-off Boss Coffee spazzing out with a table full of little bits of titanium section. At least thats what I envision their titanium exhaust division of their factory doing!

So, as I wrote this you’re probably looking at the photo wondering…shut up and talk about the tips! Yes, the tips are what make the ARC a love it or hate it piece. Its like if you took a Murcialago, built a burnt titanium version tip for it and then said…nah, one rocket launcher style exhaust just aint gonna cut it, we need two! (Picture the amount of crap Eddie Murphy could jam up these exhaust tips in Beverly Hills Cop X. ) But seriously though…it isnt easy to out do 4 of the hugest OEM exhausts tips ever made on the standard GT-R. I get why they did it and I think its cool. Originality is excellent on this, quality is great too and the finished product when installed looks appropriate. I’d recommend it…that is until I see the price later since ARC I always feel is overpriced.

2. Amuse:


Its no secret that I think Nippon Steel are Titanium gods. Its also no secret that Amuse designs the most beautiful and functional things known to man. So the only fault that I could find in the new R35 Amuse exhaust is that its too perfect. What does that mean exactly? It’s like a woman that dresses for the runway every day and you want someone with a little more “hood” in them. Amuse has the gold ring tips, the absolutely flawless titanium gradiation treatments and every weld is polished to a perfect finish. The only flaw is that if you want an evil GT-R, dressing it up as a runway model might not always be the gangster image you might be looking for. If I had one of these, I’d have a hard time not just mounting it on my living room wall and calling it a day. (The same words could be said for how I’d handle the aforementioned runway model) If I were to ever install it, I’d probably look for a way to blacken/burn my bumper right above it so that it looks a little dirtier. Maybe I just like a slutty exhaust…must be.

3. Mines:

Mines R35 Exhaustminesr35muffler2.jpgminesr35muffler.jpg

So, if you’ve seen Niikura-shacho of Mines before, you know how he can rock a sweater like no other. The man represents extreme performance within a civilized package. His products are quiet, mind blowing quality and maximum performance every time. The Mines R35 GT-R exhaust is no different. It gets straight to business. Light weight, powerful and just a little swagger with the edges of the tips blued. Looking at the Mines exhaust off the car, I’m saying to myself…ok, another solid Mines part. Nothing more. It didnt make me drop my draw like the supermodel looks of the Amuse exhaust. But yet, when the Mines exhaust is seen on the R35 it has such a perfect balance of maturity, confident yet subdued aggression, function and quality. Being a little more raw on the finish than the Amuse, somehow just this once it might be my favorite exhaust over the Amuse for the new GT-R.

Of all three of these high end exhausts, there really is no justifiable way to rank them. They are all amazing. I just love them all for different reasons and ultimately I would only be 100% satisfied if they all came manufactured with quick releases and a personal mechanic to switch them out each day so you could rock them all!

PS: For sound, I know for a fact that the Mines and the Amuse are both very daily driver friendly since I’ve heard both cars run. They both sound INCREDIBLE, but not too loud.

I’ll check back in later with more GT-R tuning parts.

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Ketai – Amerika Ichiban!

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On another note…something has been on my mind since my recent Japan trip. It may seem rediculous, but after travelling to Japan for the past 10 years, its a big deal to me so just bear with me and listen…My American ketai (Japanese name for mobile phone) is better than theirs!!!! For once! FTW MFers!
I remember my first time in Japan ten years ago, I was so blown away by the cell phones they had. They were literally many years ahead of ours in the US. We had our gray brick inspired POS phones that barely fit in our pockets and featuring such wizardry as illuminated keypads and monochrome green single line alphanumeric displays. Meanwhile their phones were JDM sized, could fit in your pocket along with a 40oz and still have room remaining, and could probably pay your tab at the kaiten sushi joint.

The Japanese cell phones were so cool that I even had a friend back then who would occasionally steal a display model just to keep it and show it off to his friends in America. The display models dont work mind you, they’re just plastic shaped like a cell phone replica!!! Thats when you know you have something incredible, when people jack the plastic models of it! BAKA!!!
So anyway…last week I was in Tokyo and noticed people staring at my phone on the train quite often. Then it occured to me, Apple didnt release the iPhone in Japan yet. So here I am, look at the gaijin. The gaijin with a gadget thats made in America and released in America first and everyone in Japan cant get my precious iPhone. Its about damn time! Payback for all of the GT-Rs, Chasers, 22Bs, Silvias and other cars I couldnt ever own, nevermind get to see on the road becaue they were Japanese market only…Payback for the complete domination in the electronic gadgets game for all of these years. For once Amerika wins! Eat a double 1/4lb hamburger with a 64 oz coke to that!
Yeah, I’m going to treasure this moment at least for the next couple of months until either A. something better than the iPhone comes out over there, or B. the iPhone is finally released there. A word to those with money to loose from bad stock tips: From what I can tell, invest in Apple stock because the Japanese are going to eat up those iPhones as soon as they start selling.

Who said you need to go to Akihabara to find the coolest gadgets and electronics…come to Los Angeles and we’ll show you what’s up!

And yes, of course I am expecting the Japanese version of the iPhone to kick the living crap out of the US iPhone. They will inevitably always get the better stuff, I can live with that…thats why I import from Japan for a living. But if you’re American, with an iPhone, and you are planning to go to Japan anytime soon…bring it with you and revel in your brief moment of electronic gadget dominance! Payback’s a bitch!

– I’m out of town until Monday of next week…tons of updates planned for next week from TAS and other crazy JDM tuning news.


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Top Secret x Gemballa Super Porsche 996

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So it’s no secret that I love Top Secret demo cars. Its also true that I love exotic cars.

Something special happens when Top Secret magically turns cars like the G35 Coupe into an exotic car. Yes, they have the capability to turn a 30k car into an 200MPH exotic…but what happens when the base car is already an exotic? Can they make it into an “Exotic +” ? Taking a Gemballa Porsche as a base, Top Secret worked their magic yet again.

With the massive success of last year’s final evolution Supra, Smoky is finding himself as not just a car tuner but a complete car designer rivaling OEMs. Always known to build incredible complete cars, last year’s Supra marked the first time that he truly invented an entirely new face of a vehicle by creating original headlights.

With the Porsche he once again re-imagined what a more modern, more TOP SECRET, variant of a Porsche 996 would look like. His result is presented to the world with his new widebody utilizing original HID headlights and a new Top Secret original trunk spoiler.

Two cars were prepared for Tokyo Auto Salon 2008. The white car is the race car, with full Gemballa tuning. The silver car is only a show car without heavy tuning and is owned by our friend Daijiro Inada.

For more information, visit the new Porsche section of Bulletproof Automotive. www.bulletproofautomotive.com

I’ve said enough…lets let the pictures do the talking. As usual, I’ve kept everything very hi-resolution. Click on the thumbnails to get the full size!

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How to Build the Perfect E92 M3 – Introducing Ericsson

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Ericsson E92 M3

The answer…give it to Amuse and let them build it into the halo car for their new BMW tuning brand Ericsson.

In 2008 Bulletproof Automotive Introduces Ericsson to North America! Here’s why…
One of the most impressive things I saw at Tokyo Auto Salon was the unveiling of Ericsson and their first two vehicles, a E92 M3 and a E60 M5. Tanabe-san’s M5 was already well known by me and I was already a huge fan of his exhaust system for that car…but the new M3 blew my mind. Usually even with the top tuning companies there are a couple of things that I would change about each car…often small things, but usually I can find something. The E92 M3 by Ericsson was 100% perfect in my eyes. So much so that I renewed my vows with Amuse. Bulletproof will being distributing Amuse products a lot more heavily this year and we’ll be introducing Ericsson to the USA.

I stand behind this new brand 100%. Here’s why:

-My favorite exhaust factory Nippon Steel produces their full titanium exhausts (I’ve had 4 of Nippon Steel’s exhausts on my S2000, so you know I love them…I’m getting my 5th one-off version air shipped in a couple of weeks)

-My favorite dry carbon manufacturer (I’m going to leave out their name) in Japan is contracted to do all of Amuse’s / Ericsson’s dry carbon parts. The quality is rediculously good.

-My favorite FRP factory is employed by Amuse to produce all of their fiberglass parts (although most of their stuff is only offered in dry carbon). This factory is the same factory responsible for the amazing OEM fitment of Kenstyle’s aero parts.

-Tanabe-san knows how to design and build a car incredibly well and he’s one of the best in the business. His design philosophy is directly in line with my own and represents what I love:
The indisputable and incomparable advantage of weight reduction, the usability of a daily driver, classic designs based on performance and usable functionality, and extreme attention to detail of not only design but manufacturing quality.

The pictures will blow your mind. All are high resolution for you to download.

480hp M3 with 180kg (396 lbs) of weight reduction via dry carbon and titanium

(more photos available at the revamped BMW section of www.bulletproofautomotive.com)

Ericsson E92 M3Ericsson E92 M3Ericsson E92 M3Ericsson E92 M3

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Top Secret and Bulletproof Kicking Off 2008 Hard!

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We all just got back from Tokyo this morning. It was a great trip for all of us at here and we return to Los Angeles stronger than ever. Our reputation in Japan is on the rise at a level that really surprised me and caught me off guard! A lot of these Japanese companies made us feel like celebrities…I just love the fact that we’re succeeding in supporting them and spreading the word of quality tuning parts and design to the Western world.

I now have a mind blowing amount of updates to post on this blog. Check back often! With over 2000 photos that I need to sort through, and countless stories to tell I assure you that exciting blog updates are coming!

Featured below is a high resolution wallpaper featuring the newly re-tuned Final Evolution Supra in 400km/h spec, the Top Secret R35 GT-R and the Top Secret Porsche 996 Widebody. Click the image to enjoy the JDM goodness.

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Welcome to My World. – This Time Making It Personal

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Over the past year since I transitioned my writing from magazine columnist to blogger I’ve had the good fortune to randomly meet many fans of the blog. It always blows my mind when I get a reality check and realize that people actually read what I write. I see the webstats and know that there are a lot of readers out there but its always an abstract concept to me until I see someone face to face and they say “hey, I read your stuff”. Its a tremendous honor and very exciting for me! I’m so fortunate to have so many friends out there that I haven’t even met yet! In many of my individual discussions I’ve almost always found that we all share a lot more in common than just our love for JDM tuning and quality designed cars.

So this year, I’m going to open up a bit more to you all and share what inspires me whether it be on topic or not. Let me know if you like it or not by commenting on the blog. I use this blog to spread info about things that I find interesting, but ultimately its for you…so tell me what you’re feeling and I’ll listen! I promise!
Since I’m making it more personal, here’s my personal myspace page. You can also feel free to reach me here for anything non-business related (sorry, I dont add businesses to my friends on my personal account…if you want a business account added, use the Top Secret myspace account).


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