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Hiromu Naruse: ‘Godfather’ of the LFA ‘Not Famous Enough’

Fri, 11 Feb 2011

Hiromu Naruse & Lexus LFA

Last year we reported the death of Hiromu Naruse, Toyota’s chief test driver and a man considered to be the ‘Godfather’ of the Japanese performance car, and particularly the Lexus LFA, a car which consumed the last decade of his life and became the final testament to his enormous skill.

At 67, Naruse-san was still as involved as ever, and it was whilst driving a Lexus LFA with the Nurburgring Package he met his end on a public road near the Nurburgring. A track, incidentally, he had driven more than any other Japanese driver.

His death made headlines around the world and turned Hiromu Naruse from a man known only to aficionados of Japanese Sports cars, in to a man revered by knowing petrolheads around the world.

His legacy would be his last defining work – the Lexus LFA – but his work spans the entire era of Japanese performance cars. Most famously he was responsible for the development of the only Japanese car to be a ‘Bond’ car – the Toyota 2000GT which featured in ‘You Only Live Twice’ – but his sure hand was seen in every ‘Sports’ car to come out of Toyota – and arguably the entire Japanese Motor Industry – since the 1960s.

It crossed our minds that it would be a seemly and fitting tribute to Hiromu Naruse to create a special LFA to honour him. Just as Lamborghini did for Valentino Balboni. In fact we suggested to Toyota that perhaps they should rename the Nurburgring Package the ‘Lexus LFA Naruse Edition‘. A suggestion which, to our surprise, went down like a lead balloon.

Toyota’s response to our suggestion that they honour Naruse-san was brief and unequivocal:

[Hiromu Naruse]…not famous and more than one man is responsible for the car…any car.

We don’t take issue with the fact that Naruse-san was not solely responsible for the LFA. We do take issue with the assertion that Hiromu Naruse is ‘Not Famous’.

It’s not a huge deal, we just thought it would be an appropriate gesture from a huge corporation which has not had the best press in the last year. You would have thought they would be happy to honour Naruse-san and show the world a human, and very personal, side to Toyota.

What do you think? Should Toyota honour Hiromu Naruse? Or are they right in asserting he’s an unknown and it’s the team that counts, not one man?

Let us know in the comments, or drop us an email.

By Cars UK