'Mr. GT-R' Hiroshi Tamura talks about the past, present and future of Godzilla

From inside the cockpit of a one-of-a-kind tuned R32, Nissan's GT-R chief product specialist dishes on what's in the past and what's to come.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
3 min read

If you love the , then you must by extension love Hiroshi Tamura. The man's formal title at Nissan is GT-R chief product specialist, but most just call him "Mr. GT-R." He is respected within the Japanese enthusiast scene not just because he's a corporate fixture who has a lot of say in what comes next from Nissan, but because he is a genuine enthusiast.

He famously owns a 600-horsepower R32 GT-R, a car he fondly calls "my buddy." His own modifications to that car influenced the current-generation GT-R, the R35. His role, straddling corporate interests and enthusiast desires, makes him the perfect person to talk to about what GT-R means today and what's coming next.

Talking to Tamura-san was a real highlight of my trip to Tokyo last year, but not just because the conversation was so good. The venue was something special. I met him at Tokyo's infamous Daikoku Parking Area, a Mecca for performance-minded auto enthusiasts. Many a late-night street race has kicked off here, but you don't need to flaunt the law to appreciate the sights and sounds.

Daikoku sits deep within a concrete canyon, surrounded by elevated roadways and ramps that spiral down from above. The result is a sort of urban amphitheater where tuned cars are often heard long before they're seen, adding a heraldic importance to exhaust selection.

I didn't hear Tamura-san coming, who on that evening was driving a rather demure R35. However, I did hear the car we'd use for our interview long before it arrived. Called the VR32, this Top Secret creation is something of a sleeper, a demon in wolf's clothing. It is, effectively, an R35 driveline and interior somehow whittled away enough to fit inside an R32 body. Just the sort of outrageous, 750-hp creation you expect to find on a Wednesday night at Daikoku.

In the car, with its many interior LEDs flipped on for the cameras, Tamura-san was characteristically open about his thoughts on all things GT-R. He told me he's "very happy" to see the R32 now getting a sort of second coming thanks to its newfound legality in the US, but he said it's not universally good news. It makes him sad whenever he sees a GT-R not getting treated well. So, be good stewards, importers.


Top Secret's VR32 hides quite a secret beneath that skin.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

And what about the future of the GT-R? There he's necessarily more coy, but Tamura-san did express a sort of extreme openness to new technologies. "I want to say why not everything? Like a hybrid? EV? Some other solutions? All of the functions, all of the directions, why not study for the future?"

But he went on to tell me that a key aspect of the GT-R is relative affordability, and so any technological developments must not shift the value dynamic. Over the years, a big way the car has achieved affordability is by not changing. Today's R35 is more than a little long in the tooth, introduced in 2007, but, Tamura-san was quick to remind that the car was largely static for much longer before that. Between the R32 and the R34, from the late '80s into the early '00s, Tamura said, "The fundamental platform didn't change."

It's that focus on creating a solid platform and then obsessively refining that allows the company to bring such performance to bear at a (relatively) affordable price. But, regardless of what's to come, Tamura-san says one thing will never change about the GT-R: an emotional connection to the driver. "Like a car as a body," he said. "More extension, you are the commander... your body is connected."

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