By on February 26, 2013

BMW has its M-series, Mercedes has its AMG, Audi has its R. Now, Nissan has its NISMO. Like most in-house speed shops, NISMO has its roots in a factory racing department. “NISMO is the first true performance brand of Japan’s major makers,” as Nissan’s marketing chief Simon Sproule tells me at NISMO’s new headquarters in Tsurumi, near Yokohama, today. “The others are only playing around.”

Today, Jalopnik decried that “there were no photos or promises” at the opening of the NISMO HQ. Not true, as I should find out this morning (yesterday at Jalopnik.) There were lots of promises. More cars will be “given the NISMO treatment,” said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. And here are lots of photos.

For the new NISMO HQ, “we have come back where we should be,” as Nismo President, Shoichi Miyatani put it today. The Tsurumi plant is Nissan’s historic site. Built on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay (and strategically placed next to the Kirin Brewery), this is where Nissan took its first steps as a company in 1933. Iconic cars like the Nissan 510 Bluebird, and the Nissan S30, sold in Japan as the Fairlady Z and elsewhere as the Datsun 240Z, were built here.

Tsurumi also was “the heart of our engineering after World War 2 before it moved to our tech center in Atsugi,” Miyatani explained on his tour down memory lane. Today, Tsurumi is the home of Nissan’s powertrain engineering and prototype development, the perfect neighborhood for Nissan’s speed shop.

NISMO “began nearly half a century ago, when a group of Nissan engineers put a performance engine into a regular production car, and the Skyline GT2000 was born,” said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. For 20 years, the child was nameless.

In 1984, “Nissan Motorsports” was abbreviated into “NISMO,” typical for an optimization-obsessed Japan, where Family Mart is abbreviated to “Famima,” Starbucks turns into “Staba”, even the hamburger chain “First Kitchen” isn’t safe, and turns into, well, “Fakin.”

Like its abbreviated name, NISMO remained a Japanese cult thing, only to show up abroad on Nissan’s race cars and the odd video games. Now, NISMO wants to open “the next chapter, the true globalization on NISMO,” as Ghosn promised.

First to hit the global roads is the NISMO Juke, already on sale in Japan and Europe and coming to the U.S. in March after a launch in Chicago.

Next in line, Ghosn promised, is a NISMO Fairlady, which thankfully is called a more manly 370Z elsewhere.

And of course, “in the next 12 months, you will see the Nissan GT-R NISMO,” Ghosn promised. See? Lots of promises.

Two raised eyebrows. The secret pre-arranged signal: “Bertel, why don’t you sneak past the guards and in the back while I finish that boring speech, tu comprends? This will also keep you from shooting more embarrassing pictures.”

Go it. In the back, they were already building the NISMO GT3.

Well, they were fitting big Brembos to something.

Here is where they test the GT-R engines on a dyno that doubles as a GrantuNISMO game.

Engines can be tested on a simulated race course.

Data for the dyno come from racecourses like these. Fed back into the car, the work helps win serious races – even if it’s only by a very thin hair. The guys at the dyno even help Dan Slloan’s team to hone the high art of the horrible pun: Reignmaker, a classic.


This gentleman builds the super-secret NISMO GT-R throttle linkage, or whatever that may be.

This is a super-secret GT-R. Its super-secret paint-job confuses any camera. My hands (see table) did not shake. It just looks that way.

Oh, and NISMO will enter an all-electric car into the 2014 Le Mans race, filling the “Garage 56” slot that was taken by the Nissan’s DeltaWing last year. This year, it will be a GreenGT hydrogen car.

As I sneak past the guards again, Carlos Ghosn finishes his speech, promising that at the 2014 Le Mans, Nissan’s Garage 56 entry will be battery-operated. All I can find out today from an unusually chatty Nissan executive is that it will be based on the Nissan Leaf Nismo RC.

As Carlos Ghosn departs stage left, I remember that I had sat in a Nissan Leaf Nismo RC two years ago already, and if you jump to that story, you will see its specs on a PowerPoint.

Dear Jalopnik: More pictures can be provided on request. Tsurumi is only 360 yen ($4, a bargain in Japan) and 30 minutes away from me. Literally wall-to-wall pictures can be had, as long as one gets one’s derriere over there.

On the way out, Carlos Ghosn even gave me his autograph. Good salesman he is, he put it on the race car on the wall. “Want the autograph, buy the car! Ou revoir!”

Any questions? All are answered by a far more attractive and certainly better qualified reporter.

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