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

Unlike other shops who might send build updates, Sasaki-san simply set to work and finished the job. There was no unnecessary correspondence; he didn’t do anything beyond what was asked of him. We had no idea if the exhaust would sound the same as the original, the one that went viral, the old Mercedes that screamed like an F1 car with Sakai-san’s custom exhaust worth more than its asking price. But we trusted Sasaki as the true craftsman that he is. There was no need to doubt him.

After searching for several weeks for the appropriate base for the project car we found this car at an auction site from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was previously owned by a doctor for over two decades and had only done 60,000 km when we got it. After winning the car at the auction, it was sent straight to Sasaki-san where it underwent the Brilliant transformation. We never actually got to hear it before it had the exhaust installed.

Sasaki-san was adamant on taking this project. He said “at first I didn’t want to do it because the W140 is such a difficult car to work on. There’s little space to work with and everything is crammed tightly together. But after a while, I was happy to do it again because of the noise.” The reason why this exhausts costs so much to do (roughly $12,500, if you’re curious) is because it’s a labour-intensive process. To achieve the signature Brilliant high-pitch noise, the headers needed to be of equal length through intricate twisting of the pipes. Coupled with the 6-into-1 manifolds, this opens up each of the cylinders to their full aural potential. You’re paying for this knowhow and exclusivity. He worked on the car for several weeks, the car was dropped off at his garage in late April and Gordon “Effspot” Cheng collected it in late August.

Picking the car up was somewhat uneventful. Sasaki presented the car by simply unlocking it and giving us the first start up. This was the first time any of us had heard the car. He simply handed over the keys to Gordon and that was that.

Sasaki-san’s garage is conveniently located right next to a motorway on-ramp so we headed straight for that and we weren’t disappointed.

The sound was deafening. They say light travels faster than sound but in the case of the Brilliant S600 you’ll hear it long before you see it. With the 6:1 manifolds, headers, and exhaust being the only changes made, the 25 year old 6.0-litre V12 has remained untouched, meaning it still only has 400 horsepower to lug around 2.5 tonnes worth of over-engineered German metal. It’s probably lost a few of those horses over the years in the cold island of Hokkaido. It sounds much faster than it actually is, which is either a really good thing or a really bad thing depending on your perspective. This car is so slow but the noise is so loud you’ll probably hear the echo first before it actually drives past your eyes.

For Gordon, he was sold on the car after watching that infamous video from three years ago. After the first tunnel run after picking the car up, he said the car and exhaust had “exceeded all expectations.” He said the sound of a car is important to him and you just can’t get this sort of noise with modern turbocharged engines. It’s true, even driving slow and making a lot of noise in this was all the fun I could’ve wanted. This car doesn’t need to be revved out for it to scream, it comes to life after 2000 RPM and with its vintage four-speed automatic gearbox, it drags out the noise for what feels like an eternity. I don’t think the novelty of this F1-esque sound will ever get boring. The noise is like if all the tortured souls from hell found an opening into our world and their screams haunt a one-mile radius of this car every time the accelerator pedal is pressed. It’s so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh.

There’s something joyous of driving at the speed limit and sounding like you’re doing 200 MPH in an old F1 car around town. It’s not something you can drive fast though, it’s still an old luxo-barge with old brakes and lazy light steering. Being an old and highly complicated German luxury car it’s not without its problems. The front suspension has developed a noticeable squeak, some of the interior reading lights don’t work, the soft close for the front doors and boot don’t work, and is rather fond of overheating. These are all things Gordon will address in the near future, the most important thing for him to have it mechanically sound for future plans with the car in Japan. But there’s no doubt the car will end up in California in the long term. For now though, he’ll enjoy the car on Japanese roads. Something the car community in Japan will surely appreciate.

The best thing about this the car is cosmetically it’s remained unmodified. From the outside it still looks exactly like a 25-year-old S600 with some wear and tear indicative of its age. There’s some scratches here there, swirl marks on the paint, but otherwise still an impressive and imposing tank of a thing. No one would expect the noise that comes out of the back is from this car. People are constantly craning their necks to see which supercar is coming only to be confused when an old Mercedes sedan drives by. It’s the ultimate troll car, which is on brand for Gordon.

On the flip side, when you want to drive it like how a S-Class should be driven, at the touch of a button the wilderness of that noise subsides to a subtle burble.

After spending a week driving around Tokyo in this car, the main reactions we’ve gotten have been that of sheer confusion. Where is that noise coming from? Surely it can’t be from that big old boat. But taking it to meets such Daikoku PA on the Sunday morning and Tatsumi PA on the weekend nights was met with the same kind of confusion. Team Anija, the purveyors of the perhaps the least subtle supercars in the Far East, were out in force on Monday night for their own little gathering at Tatsumi PA. Everyone there was confused when the S600 accelerated around the small rest stop. A couple of owners immediately rushed over to see what kind of exhaust was on it only to be met with somewhat stock tips.

Brilliant doesn’t do any branding or making on the exhausts. It’s truly a case of if you know you know.

That’s what makes this car so hilarious. It looks so normal but once you have the valves open all hell breaks loose. Sure, this particular S600 has a couple of issues with it and it’s literally worth less than half the value of the exhaust but once you hear it all those little niggles disappear for a moment. It’s a hilarious car and the noise is simply addictive. Well done to Sasaki-san for being a true genius craftsman and congrats again to Effspot for what will go down as one of the most iconic YouTube car builds. It really does what it says on the tin - it’s a truly brilliant exhaust.

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