Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the name and title of the Nissan executive overseeing the GT-R sports car, and the size of the engine in the GT-R.
LOS ANGELES -- Hiroshi Tamura took over as chief product specialist of Nissan's GT-R sports car this year, replacing the man known as the "Father of the GT-R," Kazutoshi Mizuno, who retired.
Rumors circulated that Mizuno's departure meant the end of the low-volume Ferrari-fighter, which is powered by a handmade 545-hp turbocharged V-6 engine and retails for more than $100,000.
Not so, says Tamura, who says he is working on a new mission for the GT-R, and looking for a way to build more. Nissan sold 1,188 GT-Rs in the United States last year and 952 through September.
Tamura, 51, has been involved with the GT-R before. He developed a 2001 concept GT-R that featured left-hand steering -- a sign that Godzilla, as the car is called in Japan, would be exported.
He got the bug for powerful cars as a child in the Chicago area, where his father was a professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
"My dad had a '57 Chevy," Tamura says. "For me, the sexy car was the American muscle car, like the Stingray and the Mustang."
Tamura spoke with Staff Reporter Lindsay Chappell at a press event here.
Q: Why are you in America right now?
A: This is now the largest market for the GT-R, and I want to learn more about it. People don't know who I am. I'm not famous. They don't know what responsibility I have with the GT-R, so I can travel around talking to the dealers and talking to people who drive the car.
GT-R production is limited. Can Nissan build more?
This is my task. But I can't talk about our planning at this time.
Why is it hard to expand production?
We use hand-built engines in a method called takumi. Takumi are master craftsmen. That's part of our value. It's very important for our DNA. To be a takumi master requires a class-by-class training. Only his fingers understand the quality. And if you don't reach the right skill level, you cannot be a takumi. Today we only have four of them. We are training another guy.
How do you know when they've reached the right skill level?
You turn on the engine and listen.