If you have the chance to visit Japan, the JDM heaven of the world, whether you're in the main cities or the suburbs, there are always, ALWAYS cool cars to watch out for. I traveled to Matsumoto City in Nagano Prefecture, Japan few months back and there was this local dealer shop I came across everyday. They had cool looking cars on display at their store front, and I couldn't resist not visiting the place. Let's check out what Top Run is all about.
Top Run was the name of the shop and it was situated at North West direction of Matsumoto Station or exactly the West of the famous Matsumoto Castle.
To save the taxi fee (Japanese taxis are expensive!), I journeyed to the place by walking and it was a chilly evening, I remember. When I arrived the place, I walked around the parking lot looking at some cars-for-sale outside, until Top Run's sales person, Mr Hiroshi Sonehara noticed my presence. He came approaching me and said "Welcome in!" in Japanese.
I introduced myself and went in the shop humbly. I was surprised to see diecasts, car models and magazines were selling here too. Car enthusiasts and hobbyists like me would be happy to shop here.
Among all the diecasts, there was this one huge Ferrari Enzo on display. Not sure what was the exact scale but it measures about 2 feet long and the detail on this thing was incredibly great!
Sonehara-san was really kind and friendly. With his good English proficiency, he toured me around the shop introducing the awesome cars available and what Top Run is doing. Top Run started in 2009 and even though the company has a total of only 10 employees, they provide variety of services to the customers.
They buy and sell used cars, repair and maintain vehicles, perform paint coat, restore classic cars, sell used parts, handle car insurance related matters, and even organise events and gatherings. Wow, Top Run is a one-stop solution for car owners!
Those pictures hanging on the wall show the events that Top Run participated in. They are very active and they enjoy cars as much as possible like most of us.
Top Run's Director, Mr Teruhiko Kiyosawa whom I met later that evening has huge fond for cars. That explains why the cars here are a little bit unique compared to dealer shops elsewhere. Check that Ferrari 348 TS from the 90s. It was for sale!
There were 4320 examples of 348 TS produced and this Matsumoto City number plated was one of them. It has a 3.4L V8 engine (hence the name 348) in the middle producing 300 worth of hp. Not much hp compared to vehicles today, but it is capable of achieving a top speed of 275km/h and 0-100km/h in 5.4s.
If you look closely, the 348 shares similar styling traits with the F355 and Testa Rossa in which, sometimes I made mistakes distinguishing them. Anyway, the 348 is produced before F355 and those pop-out headlights Ferraris from that era were attractive to my eyes.
Top Run is quite diversed in selling used cars. You could find nostalgic cars like this on sale. This is a 1959 Datsun Bluebird 1200 (P310). It's more than half a century old but still working just fine and ready to be driven off anytime, according to Sonehara-san.
The car beside it, was a 1981 Nissan Cedric Hardtop 430, the fifth generation of the Cedric/Gloria family.
The next Prancing Horse model in the dealer shop was a Ferrari 328 GTB, the predecessor of the Ferrari 348 you saw just now. Its 3.2L V8 engine has 270hp (30hp lesser than 348) with top speed of 267km/h. 0-100km/h in 5.5s! Not too bad for a 1985 sports car. Plus, 328 resembles a bit of famous 288 GTO.
Ah~ 80s Ferrari interior. Just beautiful.
Next car at the store front was the Endless Advan Nissan Skyline GT-R R33.
It was a legit race car that participated in Super Taikyu Series. Unfortunately, it is Top Run's precious collection and not for sale.
It has all the interior stripped out leaving only the necessary equipments for weight reduction...
... and a full roll cage setup to improve chassis rigidity and safety. With Sonehara-san's approval, I sat in the cockpit of this track car and it felt great. There weren't anything to interfere with when you're driving, just the steering wheel, gear knob, and pedals. Too bad, I can't hear the noise of this tuned RB26 engine. :D
At first glance, these might be worthless piece of wheels lying on the floor. But take a closer look again. These are 18" wheels used by former JGTC/Super GT race cars and personally autographed by the drivers themselves.
The 3 wheels in the middle were all from Team Calsonic of different year (1994, 2000 & 2008). The gray 6-spoke RAYS Engineering wheels (Top) was from Keiichi Tsuchiya's (Drift King) last race in his ARTA NSX in 2003 JGTC Series. Rare and priceless collection of wheels, and I'd love to take one back! haha
Used cars or 'Chukosha' (中古車) are usually very mint condition in Japan, and they are cheap too, depending on the car maker. For example, this 180SX is selling at ¥550,000. That is like RM17,000 in Malaysia. The car's condition is well preserved too, as the ex-owner was a lady!
Sonehara-san brought me to the workshop at the back and right away, I noticed the famous 2000RS-Turbo Skyline (DR30). It was a boxy shaped Skyline which produced in 1983 and it is called the 'Tekkamen' or 'Iron Mask' in English, due to its distinctive front look.
Under the hood, the Skyline RS is powered by a 205hp 2L straight-4 turbo engine, commonly known as FJ20ET which was the most powerful Japanese production engine in that era. This Skyline was never badged as GT-R, but its astonishing performance made the RS a very successful Skyline in the 80s.
Car enthusiasts would immediately recognise this cute three-wheeler. It's the Daihatsu Midget MP4 from the 50s. The original Midget DK had no doors, single-seater and a handlebar steering. Then, Midget MP4 was introduced, with extra 'features' - doors, seats for two and a proper steering wheel.
It runs on an air-cooled 2-stroke 305cc engine which outputs a whopping 12hp. HahaMidgets aren't as popular as before, but driving one on the road now will somehow make you look cool! I'd drive it to work everyday.
The final car I encountered that evening, was one popular sports car by Honda, the S600. S600 was available in both convertible and coupe versions, and this one here was a convertible S600.
It is powered by 606cc four-cylinder engine, having 57hp and the whole car weighs just 715kg.
S600 production only lasted for 3 years (1964-1966) as Honda was preparing for the next replacement model, the S800. Whether it's an S600 or S800 or even the modern S2000, Honda never fail to impress the world with their beautiful, cheaper and more affordable lightweight open-top sports cars. We as Honda fans truly wish for Honda's revival of the S series.
I had awesome time at Top Run learning about those unique cars that came at different point of time, and still remain pristine till this day. Top Run is the kind of place you must stopby if you do visit the small tourist town of Matsumoto City, because they too have great passion for cars and 'Enjoy Car Life' as much as we do. That's their slogan. :D
I would like to thank Kiyosawa-san. the Director and Sonehara-san for having me here. I'd sure to visit Top Run again for their annual classic car gathering!
Do check out their Top Run FB page and give a 'like'. :)