Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rare JDM Hunting at Omori Factory

Over the past few months I visited Omori Factory almost on a weekly basis and was lucky to run into quite a few cool cars. Some of these, like Z-tune #15 or the 1 of 1 QT1 Pearl White V-spec II had their own dedicated post, but they aren’t the only ones.

One of my favorites has to be the Z-tune Proto: in my personal opinion this is the BNR34 with the richest history around. Not to be confused with P-001 this is the development mule used to test all the components of the final car and, at one point, was fitted with the 600ps Z1 Concept Engine and a 8 pot brakes setup. The body construction of this specific model is like no other GT-R.

Based on a pre-production V-spec II model, it was also fitted with a roll-cage for circuit duties as well as an unique version of the Connolly leather interior bespoke for the UK-only models (minus the Bride carbon-kevlar bucket seats). Test runs at the Nürburgring and a small documentary of this car were also featured on an old Nismo DVD that I was lucky to find on Yahoo! Auctions.

The parking area alone is also a great place for car spotting.

A couple of weeks back I encountered one of the few Fairlady Z33 S-tune complete car.

This package that was offered many years ago and included a mildly tuned S2 engine, revised aero, Brembo F50 brakes, S-tune suspensions, semi-bucket seats and a Nismo steering wheel.

On the other hand the Nürburgring lap time of the Nismo truck is still undisclosed...

Lastly, the Stagea 260RS Autech edition is a tru emblem of old school JDM. Hard to imagine today’s Nissan fitting the R35 engine into a production model station wagon, but that exactly what they did back in the late 90’s. 

They transplanted the same RB26 engine found on the BCNR33 into the Stagea as well as the ATTESA E-TS all wheel drive unit.

One of these cars recently received the 1,000th Nismo engine (an upgrade form S1 to S2) and the owner of this particular model surely must love his car as it was in absolutely spotless condition and featured R35 brakes and a set LM GT4s.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Until next time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Life After Crashing

And just like that it’s already November and while it seems that it will take several months before my car will be ready at least I’ve kept myself busy with the latest GT-R Magazine issue. This one actually explores a really interesting topic: repairing and salvaging cars after accidents.

Crashed cars carry an universal stigma on the second hand market, but Japanese culture truly embraces the ideals of preserving and taking care of prized possessions, even if sometimes it means going against (financial) logic. Months ago the editor’s very own Dark Metal Grey MY07 R35 GT-R was involved in a major accident during a track day that pretty much left the car as complete write-off. 

The issue covers the repair process of the car as well as other RB26 GT-Rs and the philosophy behind not letting die something that, while almost damaged beyond repair, still has so much meaning for its owner. The amount of work (and cost) behind the final result is incredible and it was fully documented with fantastic photos as always. This is the same car that went through a complete overhaul at Omori Factory in 2014 (first R35 ever, the process was documented in a special double DVD) and has now covered over 200,000km. It was on display at R’s Meeting and looked better than new. 

Hard to believe that 2018 is almost over, but finally temperatures have dropped a bit and I have been enjoying capturing autumn’s colors in Tokyo while playing with my iPhone filters.

Tokyo has truly some of the best architecture you’ll find anywhere in the world.

And, as always, makes it for a great playground for car spotting - catch of the week: a super rare Lexus LFA Nürburgring Edition in a very bright orange.

Until next time.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

GT-R50 by Italdesign

Yesterday I took advantage of a day off to head towards Ginza and check out the now famous GT-R50 by Italdesign.

Built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the car we all love, this one-off (at least for now) made its debut in front of the Japanese audience a few weeks ago during the Morning Cruise event at Daikanyama.

It surely has presence and, beside a new carbon fiber skin, it packs boosted performances thanks to new turbos straight off the GT3 racer as well as other engine upgrades. When it’s all said and done it boasts 110ps more over the “normal” GT-R Nismo.

Italdesign and Nissan are considering the idea of actually build 50 tailor-made models with a sticker price of $1,000,000.

Personally I am not too fond of the design: just my very personal and unimportant opinion, but the lines and colors - while interesting from certain angles - just don’t do it for me. 

Regardless, Nissan made it clear that this is not a preview of what’s to come for the next GT-R, but rather a design project to celebrate the occasion - and what an occasion it is. Think about it for a second: prestigious design and engineering teams in US and Europe get together to re-design and celebrate an iconic Japanese sports car; if anything this is a testament of the global phenom that the GT-R has become and its incredible reach to a truly global audience.

What’s really, truly bonkers however is not the GT-R50, but the limited edition Grand Seiko wristwatch that the Japanese maker will release in just 3 production models: with a starting price of ¥20,000,000 it costs more than a brand new GT-R Nismo!

The GT-R50 will be on display at Nissan Crossing until November 25th, an unique occasion to see it in pair with the Vision GT 2020 concept located on the second floor. 

Definitely worth a visit if you are in Tokyo.

In other news, the iconic Tsukiji Fish Market (just minutes away from Ginza) has closed and been relocated after over 80 years of activity.

Luckily most of the local sushi shops are still alive and healthy, so I decided to pay a visit and enjoy some of the best local food Tokyo has to offer.

Sushi is often regarded as the very high-end and most sophisticated part of Japanese cuisine, but it doesn’t have to be always pretentious and expensive.

Those little shops are fun and serve generously portioned food while maintaining a relaxed atmosphere.

Until next time.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

LX0 - Celebrating Midnight Purple III

Midnight Purple III is arguably the most iconic color amongst BNR34 aficionados, and rightly so: it screams 90’s like few other hues and truly makes look the R34 Skyline GT-R like something out of a PlayStation videogame.

So, when I ran into a proper stock looking model at R’s Meeting this past September, I had to indulge and take a few extra shots.

While not fully original (the engine bay had been resprayed and the engine itself some work done), the exterior of this model looked pretty much the same way it rolled out of the assembly line in the year 2000, down to the controversial zenki yellow winkers.

In order to accentuate the contrast, cars finished on this color were fitted with the OEM wheel finished in light silver and a matching rear spoiler flap.

This car, being a V-spec, is one of the 132 ever produced in the higher spec trim.

Allegedly, all the allocations of this limited edition color sold out in a matter of hours at Nissan dealerships back in the day.

And looks like the original owner of this one went all out with the specs, as the car was fitted with the optional oil cooler system as hinted by the asymmetrical vent on the left side of the front bumper.

Personally I truly love the brilliant purple glow of the paint, but this can be truly appreciated only when standing almost perfectly parallel to the car; otherwise it shifts to a maroon-ish tint that is really not of my liking.

Regardless LX0 really must be seen in the flesh to be truly appreciated. Supercar makers such as McLaren are taking color-shift paints to the next level today, but hats off to Nissan for releasing such a crazy hue on a production car 20 years ago.

Love it or hate it, Midnight Purple III is truly the most iconic BNR34 color right next to Bayside Blue.

Until next time.

Project CRS Part 9 - The Interior

While for all mechanical aspects I can safely rely on the capable hands of the Omori Factory guys, there is one aspect of the restoration process that I thought it would be fun (and maybe better) to handle myself: the interior.

Back in 1999 Nissan managed to keep the cost of the BNR34 below the ¥6,000,000 figure, which meant that, while the car was packed with cutting edge technology, a complex AWD system and a superb engine, costs had to be cut somewhere else. 20 years later the cheap and easy to scratch interior panels easily show where Nissan engineers focused their cost cutting efforts.

No matter the mileage, it’s literally impossible to find a car that hasn’t collected a few scratches or developed that slight surface patina typical of black interior panels. Sure, nothing too terrible and that can’t be fixed with some dedicated products: it’s all part of the ownership experience. My car, being stock, doesn’t have any of the hideous gauges, LEDs or emblems that most Japanese are fond of, but I couldn’t help to think: can I make it better?

Lots of owners seems to love carbon fiber and alcantara re-trims, but personally I never minded the spartan look of the interior and felt that it does its job very well, keeping the look simple and clean. I always thought that certain materials have to be “engineered” in the design of the car in order to make it work and can’t just be implemented by replacing. In the end, originality wins the day, at least for me. And after sitting inside the BCNR33 Grand Touring democar at Omori Factory, fitted with a complete brand new interior, I decided to take the same route and replace every single panel with a brand new OEM one in my car as well.

The difference is really night and day: no scuffs, no marks, no patina and that brand new car smell! 

As exciting as it is, this project posed some challenges that can easily be summed up with three words: “out of stock”. Lots of interior bits are now long discontinued or rarely come up on Yahoo! Auction, which means that it took me almost two years to source every single panel and button. This was the main reason behind most of my visits to Nismo Performance Center Tokyo and I owe a lot to Yamazaki-san for his help and patience.

Over the past several months I manage to collect pretty much everything that gets touched, moved or covers the interior of the car. While still cheap plastic, the look and feel of brand new parts is so much crisper and clean.

This was a fun project and I used 80%  NPTC and 20% Yahoo! Auctions to track down the parts. 

Was it necessary? Probably not, but again, this is something that is best appreciated when you compre old and new items next to each other and the final result is greater than the sum if its parts.

Some of the trim bits are still available and can easily be found online, while others took quite a bit of time to track down, like the side air vents for example.

In the end, everything except the floor carpet, roof liner, door inserts and back seats will be replaced, which means that I have stashed away a good number of boxes in my apartment.

As the preparation for the build continues, Ochiai-san asked me to bring the parts over, so I found myself collecting all my boxes and rent a mini-van. But first, I had to make a stop at NPTC: some of the boxes are so big that there was no way I could store them at my place.

The biggest one was the main dashboard: I was lucky to find one of the very last brand new ones in Nissan inventory last year and I bought it right away. Yamazaki-san was kind enough to keep it in storage for me for the past 12 months!

So I quickly stopped by last Saturday while en route to Omori Factory. 

As always there is plenty to see, but I had no time to play around.

I proceeded to load the dashboard and other boxes on the van, just to realize that at this point it was almost completely full!

I then headed straight to Daikokucho, where Omori Factory is located, and ran into what looked like an improvised owners gathering in the parking area. Everybody looked a bit puzzled when I showed up and drove inside the workshop with the mini van. Oh, and please don’t mind the ultra rare yellow 400R in the background.

I then helped the guys to collect the parts and roamed around a bit until closing time.

I still have a couple of boxes at home and the guys at the Factory have been kind enough to keep a few more parts on the side for me which I think will make for some great final touches once the car will be ready.

Until next time.