• A Top Secret Supra Mk. 4 Isn’t The Sort Of Car You Expect To See On The Nordschleife

Top Secret never sold that many bodykits making this Supra a very special one

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Kazuhiko ’Smokey’ Nagata is one of the most infamous car tuners to come out of Japan which is quite a bold statement when you consider that, well, the entire tuning scene of the late ’90s and early-to-mid-’00s that even took the US by storm, in part thanks to the Fast & Furious franchise, can trace at least some of its roots back to Japan.

But, then again, ’Smokey’ Nagata is the man behind Top Secret, the Japanese tuning shop that, among many others, gave us the world-renowned V-8-engined Skyline GT-R and the twin-turbo, V-12 Supra. This Supra looks identical to that one but there’s no V-12 under the hood. Still, it makes for quite a unique ride.

What’s all the fuss about Top Secret?

A Top Secret Supra Mk. 4 Isn't The Sort Of Car You Expect To See On The Nordschleife
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Top Secret was, at least for a while, true to its name - a tuning shop that few know of but that managed to churn out some biblically powerful and fast cars, be it Supras or GT-Rs.

It all started with Nagata who, after a four-year spell as a mechanic at Toyota (where he found employment despite being just 16 years old), had to pack his bags and move to Tokyo because the giant Japanese automaker showed him the door. His boss discovered that Nagata would spend some of his work hours tinkering around on his own Toyota Celica and that was obviously deemed unacceptable.

A Top Secret Supra Mk. 4 Isn't The Sort Of Car You Expect To See On The Nordschleife
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"I had no money, so joined the tuning company Trust, the company behind GReddy," explained Nagata during a sit-down with Top Gear. "I was only allowed to make mufflers and work on turbos but I wanted more. I wanted to tune for top speed. So, after hours, I would work on my own projects at the shop. The bosses found out and weren’t happy, but turned a blind eye as they didn’t want to lose me. So it was our secret. Top secret."

And so the story of Top Secret began, Nagata’s dream being that he had the fastest Japanese sports car of the lot. Back then, in the early ’90s, such speed runs would often occur on the Yatabe oval although they did eventually trickle down onto the streets as the tuners realized that some of the expressways in and around the greater Tokyo area (but also in other areas throughout Japan) were quite empty at night and police was thin on the ground. With tolls almost nonexistent back then, the Aqua-Line (a 5.9-mile-long strip of highway delving underneath Tokyo Bay) became a hot spot for speed freaks and Nagata always drove some of the quickest cars.

A Top Secret Supra Mk. 4 Isn't The Sort Of Car You Expect To See On The Nordschleife
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Painted gold, his machines packed loads of power that translated to Lamborghini-shaming top speeds. For instance, his Skyline GT-R R33 managed to go from naught to 186 mph (300 km/h) in just 17 seconds. At Yatabe, the golden beast went even quicker being recorded at a scarcely-believable 203.8 mph (328 km/h). Remember, that was four mph faster than the official top speed of the Ferrari F40.

A hugely popular British tuning magazine by the name of Max Power heard about Nagata’s exploits in his native Japan and decided he’d be a perfect fit for the magazine’s own car show, the annual Max Power Live show that’s been likened in popularity to the Tokyo Motor Show. While the organizers would have wished to see Nagata bring his GT-R over to Britain, that car was held up at a separate event and, as a result, Top Secret’s boss brought with him an RB26DETT-equipped Supra that could do the 0-186 mph run in about 27.7 seconds. Not too shabby!

A Top Secret Supra Mk. 4 Isn't The Sort Of Car You Expect To See On The Nordschleife
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The car and Nagata arrived in the UK in late October of 1998 but Nagata had to fly back home within days because, as he put it, "it was drag race season in Japan and I was busy so I flew home on October 30th, while the event was still on."

The Supra, however, remained in the UK and, when Nagata returned to England to tape an interview for Max Power, the magazine also came with the wild suggestion that he tried a top speed run on one of Britain’s highways.

"It was Max Power’s idea to go really fast, and the Supra could do it," he said adding that, "I was very aware of what I was doing, and wanted as much attention as possible for the best photography and video."

A Top Secret Supra Mk. 4 Isn't The Sort Of Car You Expect To See On The Nordschleife
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During the interview, the car was taken out on the A1(M) located two hours away from London. There, multiple shots were filmed and, despite the damp and cold conditions - not unexpected considering it was November 3rd - Nagata attempted some speed runs. Kicking each one off with a massive, tire-warming burnout (hence the nickname, ’Smokey’), Nagata tried his best to surpass the psychological limit of 200 mph but couldn’t. Be it that the hood almost became loose on one run or that the car ran lean on another, he simply couldn’t get there but he did reach 194 mph.

The video (including some onboard footage) became the stuff of legend almost immediately as thousands upon thousands of copies of the run on VHS were sold all over the world - much like the footage of the RUF CTR ’Yellowbird’ dancing on the Nordschleife. The second part of the story, however, is what made the run truly popular.

While, indeed, Nagata became the man to have achieved the highest speed ever on a strip of public road in the UK, everyone wanted to see the tape after his name got in the news because, well, the cops caught up with him that night. Surrounded by a few cruisers, he ended up spending one night in jail before being released and promptly returning back to Japan. "I honestly thought our company was done for. Back then, England’s traffic laws were especially strict. Speeding in England was on par with committing suicide on the tracks here in Japan," he recalled thinking at the time.

Getting banned from driving in the UK for a decade was probably the harshest reprimand he got as a fine of $250 doesn’t even count when you consider that the lasting effect of that banza speed run was that, now, everyone wanted to have their car tuned for speed at ’Smokey’ Nagata’s shop. The Skyline GT-R-engined Supra was the first to find a new owner with a rich Dubai prince grabbing it almost instantly.

A Top Secret Supra Mk. 4 Isn't The Sort Of Car You Expect To See On The Nordschleife
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That’s when Nagata got to work on the insane V-12-engined Mk. IV that further solidified Top Secret’s reputation in Japan and beyond. A top speed of 248.5 mph (400 km/h) was the target and, in order to achieve it, the 2JZ was scrapped and replaced by a 5.0-liter V-12 from a Toyota Century equipped with a pair of HKS GT2540 turbos. By the time the car was ready, Nagata wanted to make his speed run official and decided to ship it to Nardo in Italy to see how fast it can go. Disappointingly, the Supra only achieved 222.5 mph (358.2 km/h) and that simply wasn’t enough for ’Smokey’ despite the fact that Volkswagen’s own speed mobile, the bespoke Nardo V12 supercar, could do no better than 357 km/h on that very same oval!

So, once home, he took his Supra to the same Aqua-Line tunnel and did 229 mph.

Again, that was done on a strip of public highway, in the late ’00s, by a 953-horsepower Supra featuring a radical widebody kit with a lowered nose and an entirely different fascia, all made to lower drag. Back in December of 2017, it was reported that the V-12 bi-turbo Supra was heading for auction on Japan’s BH Auction, supposedly in order for Nagata to fund his next build, a tricked out R35-generation GT-R in which he hopes to finally be able to crack the 400 km/h mark.

Somehow, one of the Top Secret Supras Found their Way Into German Hands

A Top Secret Supra Mk. 4 Isn't The Sort Of Car You Expect To See On The Nordschleife
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Amazingly, another Supra identical in appearance to Nagata’s V-12 monster (that eventually sold for under $90,000 and ended up with Trap Team in Florida) has been calling Germany home for a few years and Misha Charoudin got to ride shotgun in it around the ’Green Hell’. The key differentiator behind this Top Speed Mk. 4 Supra and Nagata’s own is that this one lacks the V-12 setup although there’s a very potent 2JZ-GTE inline-six that, on full boost, is good for 650 horsepower. Otherwise, the ’Final Evolution’ kit is the same.

In the video that you can check out below, the owner says that he got the car from Sweden after seeing an ad for it online that made him travel to see it that very day. Since then, the car has been driven extensively with its current owner putting over 4,000 miles on the odometer and, by the looks of things, he’ll keep enjoying what must be one of the rarest modified Supras around.

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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