All Photos Credit: Ken Saito
A Car Nerd's Guide To JapanAn insider look at car culture in Japan.

In the city of Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, you’ll be lucky to find this one nondescript garage. There’s no signage, branding, or any indication that magic happens here. This is Technical Garage Sasaki, home to the man behind Brilliant Exhaust, one of the wildest exhaust tuners anywhere in the world.

Sasaki-san has been in the aural pleasure business for 13 years and he’s learned by ear from experience.

He started off working on BMWs and Ferraris when he moved on to perhaps his most infamous work: the Mercedes-Benz S600. He started out with a W220 S600 test car, which is where the video from almost 7 years ago came from with him driving the car through a small village. He then moved on to W140 S600, I’m sure many of us here have seen that brilliant video on YouTube from three years ago with the car doing multiple tunnel runs in the middle of the night.

I’ve met more than a few people in Japan who were inspired by that one video to buy a W140 S600 or to try and replicate the noise with some home job exhaust mods.

Sasaki-san used the S-Class as a test bed for perfecting his exhaust technique. Through three trial and error attempts he finally found the perfect high pitch sweet spot for what he was looking for. In a way, Sasaki-san is as much of a musician and composer as he is an engineer.

He then applied what he learned from the S-Class projects as a base for future one-off exhausts and projects. As much as possible, Sasaki-san tries to use the same techniques for all his projects. Things like equal exhaust length and material application stay consistent. Today, Brilliant Exhaust has worked on everything from Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, to Mercedes-Benz to name a few makes. Sasaki-san says he prefers working with 12 cylinders because they sound the best, but has worked on cars with six, eight, and 10 cylinders too.

Sasaki-san also does one-off exhausts such as his current on-going project a Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series. With only 350 made for the world, it’s a rare car to modify but the owner of this particular car had entrusted Sasaki to improve the sound. It is a V12 car, but it’s muffled by twin turbos.

The result at Brilliance is an SL that sounds remarkably like a Pagani Huayra, which shares that same basic engine. He was also working on a W124 E500, which even though is a V8, should still have the unique Brilliant sound. When a friend of mine bought a new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, he wanted it to sound less turbocharged and more like the glorious old naturally-aspirated V12s of old. Without a second’s doubt he went to Sasaki-san and challenged him to make his new DBS sound like a N/A Aston. Sasaki-san took on the challenge and I’d argue he succeeded.

It’s hard to get a gauge on the guy. He’s quiet and reserved. He doesn’t do wild marketing or advertising, you won’t find him having a huge social media presence, and he’s not one to attend shows and events. He’s shown his cars and exhaust at the Tokyo Auto Salon before but that’s about it. He runs his shop on his own and does all the work himself. He’s got a couple of guys helping him out when things get busy but the few times we visited his workshop it was just him and his somewhat cluttered workspace.

In a way he reminds me a bit of Nakai-san from RWB.

Like RWB, there’s no distinctive signage to indicate what kind of business operates inside. A far cry from the massive neon-signs illuminating the multiple facilities at Liberty Walk, for example.

That’s not to say Sasaki-san isn’t an approachable guy. It’s more that he doesn’t dabble in unnecessary exchanges. He’s not chasing internet clout and he’s not kissing up to influencers to help promote his brand, he’s just doing what he loves and he’s good at. If you enjoy it too then he’ll do business with you. If not, carry on. Sasaki-san is the type of guy who’d rather let his work speak for him.

After working on so many cool engine platforms throughout his career, Sasaki-san says the Ferrari V12 is his favourite. He maintains the 599 GTO as the craziest car he’s worked on, creating a one-off exhaust for a local customer. For those in the know of the local scene, Brilliant Exhaust is most associated with in Japan for its exhausts on exotics such as the Ferrari 575, 599, and F12. While the S600 might have given Brilliant Exhaust recognition overseas, he’s never had any orders. Up until earlier this year his demo car was the only S600 in the world fitted with a Brilliant Exhaust. Ironically, the problem is while his exhausts for Ferraris and Lamborghinis can be shipped and installed overseas the S600 is a different story.

As Sasaki-san explains, the engine bay is so tightly packed its incredibly complicated to take apart and install the new parts. Being a master craftsman, he prefers to do all these one-offs himself. So if anyone wanted a Brilliant Exhaust on their S600, they’d either have to source a base car in Japan or ship their own car to him.

The cost has put people off too: $12,500 for an exhaust in a 25-year-old car seems stupid. Prohibitively stupid.

I’d say you’d be right, except in April 2019 Sasaki-san received an order for the very second S600 Brilliant Exhaust build from someone you may know as Effspot on YouTube, my buddy Gordon Cheng

What resulted was quite possibly one of the wildest troll builds in the history of YouTube.

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