Saturday, May 19, 2018

Project CRS Part 4 - The Engine

After throughly checking the chassis and frame of the car (Part 3 of this series), Ochiai-san moved on to the engine.

This, again, is an area where I had no concerns whatsoever, since the car had just been at NPTC for maintenance few months back. Not only Yamada-san, one of the master mechanics, had fitted a new timing belt, water pump and thermostat, but also changed several hoses and parts that are prone to time out. After running a full diagnostic I have peace of mind that the engine is in great shape.

We didn’t run any check this time, but moving the car in the workshop area, revving it a bit and listening to the exhaust noise was enough for Ochiai-san’s well trained eyes and ears to give the engine a clean bill of health. He did, however, show me the results of recent inspections of customer cars, where a malfunctioning turbocharger was detected by analyzing anomalies in the airflow voltage. Specifically, significant discrepancies were measured between the front side (top purple line) and the rear side (bottom green line) of the airflow intake.

When decreasing (yellow arrow) the rear side quickly drops, while when increasing (red arrow) it struggles to keep up. Once fixed you can see both front and rear keeping up with each other and being perfectly synchronized. These results were also published on Nismo blog few weeks back - I always enjoy learning new things.

But why check the engine if a new one will go in? Great question that deserves a few dedicated posts in the future. I do have a dilemma though, and Ochiai-san surely didn’t help much as he said “I know you want more power, but you should seriously think before replacing this engine - it’s quite special”.

This definitely struck me (especially coming from somebody who is technically supposed to “sell” me a new engine) and I couldn’t help to think he is right. Although the final power output is no different from a standard RB26, the N1 engine is much more than a calibration exercise and a gold colored cam cover. Nissan developed a significant amount of new components for the N1 spec, including testing in the Super Taikyu series and the Nürburgring 24 Hours. I think it’s truly a defining component of the car and I need to find a way not to lose its spirit in my project.

Omori Factory doesn’t offer tuning services outside the three standard packages currently on sale: F-sport, S2 and R2. For example, they won’t fit R35 injectors or R1 turbines on a standard RB26. Very Japanese. At the same time, these engines also are quite a few years old and I am on a mission to find out what (or if) replacements are on their way. Maybe a R3 is in the works and it’s worth waiting a bit longer? Given that Nismo has shown no signal of slowing down in developing new parts this is a scenario that I would not exclude.

After all, at Nismo Festival 2016 an Omori Factory representative confirmed that a new BNR34-based democar was in the early conceptual stages, this time more focused on street usage rather than circuit, since less owners are tracking their GT-Rs nowadays. Nothing has surfaced yet, but I’m also not sure that this is in line with my vision of achieving full-on ultimate performance. In the meantime I’ve been keeping myself busy reading and researching the history of Nismo engines, aiming to find the best option that would fit my project.

I am also planning another visit to Omori Factory in June for some more consultation and to gain new inspiration for my car. Any suggestion? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Until next time.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Internet Fame or Real Life Enjoyment?

Over the past weeks I have received quite a bit of comments and messages about my little project: from people surprised to hear that the car won’t be stock anymore to lots of enthusiastic comments pushing me to go all out with the project. I’d never thought this blog would reach out to so many people around the world and I’m happy to see that is serving its purpose. Since I started writing I always kept in mind my teenage years, when a BNR34 (in Italy at least) was just a mirage and low-resolution photos, Best Motoring videos and Gran Turismo were all we had to fuel our passion.

I wanted to share my passion for cars (especially this car) with as many people as possible, especially those who, like me many years ago, don’t have the opportunity to own a Skyline GT-R or simply wonder what it feels like to live with one in Japan. I wanted to do it genuinely, in a way that reflects Japanese car culture, where a F40 LM owner would park his car at Tatsumi and chat with you without any urge to show off (true story). I wish the same could be said about the R34 community, but at least online seems to be a different trend. Way too often I run into owners and importers boasting about their car being the lowest mileage, rarest, cleanest (I think “mint” is the term) and other nonsense. God forbid if the car has been fitted with a Nismo engine: that would take the bragging rights to levels that are simply out of scale. I even ran into an Instagram account where somebody went as far as publishing a self-made list of where they thought their car would fit in the R34 food chain (very humbly positioning it below the Z-tune and above the CRS) just because is fitted with a Nismo engine. So you all can know: his car is that special. 

I think these people are missing the point. Those who have minimal knowledge will know that, over the years, Nismo has built crazy stuff and one-offs for some of their customers, especially back in the days when it was a lot less corporate. God knows where these cars are hiding now, especially amongst the reserved Japanese owners. So, please stop it: it’s 2018 and, as long as you have money, everything is for sale. That doesn’t equal passion though. Most importantly, money doesn’t buy relationships (which is what usually gets you the really special stuff), nor experiences. I’d rather drive the wheels off a rusted out, crashed R32 around Japan and make memories with it, than flexing on Instagram about a low mileage Nismo engine that never gets driven. I’m a huge fan of seeing people do the best they can with what they have, and do it with genuine passion and enthusiasm, and that’s the ultimate message that I hope to share through this outlet.

Until next time.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Super GT Round 2 at Fuji Speedway

Like many of us my fascination for Japan was ignited by something smaller, like cars and video games. I remember following  JGTC races in the early 2000’s and, out of all the tracks, Fuji Speedway always struck a chord: watching these cars taking the checkered flag at sunset with Mount Fuji in the background inspired me to visit Japan and its beautiful landscapes. This country offers so much more than just cars and fancy tech gadgets. Now, 18 years later, the Fuji 500km race is an event that I still attend every year.

Held during Golden Week, attending this race comes with a price to pay, as the traffic to reach the iconic circuit in Shizuoka prefecture can turn the short 85km trip into a 3 plus hours bumper to bumper affair. Nonetheless, the scenery you are rewarded with makes it all worth it.

This year it was so crowded that the massive parking spaces were all full, so much so that I ended up parking a good 20 minutes walking distance away. Mandatory shot of the Bridgestone arch as you cross the main gate.

As always there was no shortage of cool machinery in the parking area, from the latest and greatest supercars, like this Huracan Performante.

To vintage goodness made in Maranello.

Of course, this being Japan, there was plenty of tasty JDM metal too, both new.

And old.

Despite the huge crowd, this time I managed to grab lunch at the local restaurant above the 100R corner and the hairpin - a welcome change from the greasy snacks sold on the food trucks.

The starting grid on the main straight is always very impressive, especially the GT500 class machines. 

Once the green light went off I spent the afternoon moving around the track, hitting my favorite spots, like the Dunlop corner followed by the small chicane.

And the hairpin.

With this race being almost twice as long than the usual 300km there is plenty of time to explore the circuit and enjoy the view. 110 laps went by pretty fast and this time it was fellow Italian Ronnie Quintarelli who took the overall win for the Nismo works team (cool story about Ronnie coming in the next post!).

Right after the finish all the cars are taken straight to technical verification; here there are the Nismo race engineers getting around the GT-R, examining the aftermath of 3 hours of grueling racing.

These cars are incredibly quick and lap Fuji Speedway faster than WEC LMP2 prototypes.

GT racing naturally allows some contact and physicality between drivers: all in fair play, of course, but it’s always impressive to see how the cars go from showroom-ready condition at the beginning of the race to being fully covered with battle scars and debris at the end.

I like how certain historic liveries have stayed the same over the years, with the Calsonic GT-R holding the longevity record as it has basically remained unaltered since the late 80’s. Bit of a fun fact, this livery is actually the longest running motorsport sponsorship in the world, dating back since 1983.

Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you enjoyed the shots.

Until next time.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Golden Week - Visit to Super Autobacs

It’s finally Golden Week in Japan and I’ve been off from work since last Friday: time to enjoy a less crowded Tokyo and relax a bit.

With the GT-R tucked away in storage until its final trip to Omori Factory in June I’ve been enjoying the car hobby in other forms, namely picking up the latest GT-R Magazine and a special issue of Racing On, dedicated to the history of racing Supras - very cool.

I’ve also made a quick stop to Super Autobacs in Shinonome, in search for some cool ideas and inspiration for my car.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, this is basically heaven for DIY and car accessories enthusiasts.

You will find a huge selection of items, ranging from exhausts and bucket seats to steering wheels and navigation systems.

The selection is quite vast and you will find some of the best names in the automotive industry.

Bilstein suspensions off the shelf? Not bad at all! Although, for the really high-end stuff I guess you will need to place an order.

Acquiring parts in 2018 is just a one-click online affair, but where I think this place really stands out is the accessory and DIY selection: LED, stickers, nuts & bolts, cars & was products - if you like to get your hands dirty working on your car this is the ultimate man cave.

The magazine section is also very impressive, with a lot of back numbers and older Hyper Rev issues.

The sticker selection is probably every fanboy wet-dream.

While this 1:6 scale model of the RB26 will set you back around 30,000¥. Any takers?

The parking area obviously sees no shortage  of cool cars coming in and out - this S15 looked pretty aggressive.

Thanks for stopping by today and I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour. Summer is getting closer and the weather is near perfect these days.

Off to Fuji Speedway tomorrow for the Super GT 500km race special!

Until next time.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Project CRS Part 3 - Condition Check

As a first step in the process, before going ahead with the works, Ochiai-san suggested that I brought over the car for an inspection and overall condition check. Since I have ordered a full body restoration and respray, this is also required for them to issue a final quotation, as price will vary based on the condition of the car. So, I found myself en route to Omori Factory, quite excited for the afternoon ahead.

Once arrived I just had to take the routine photo in the parking area, this time next to a very yellow Fairlady Z.

Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Ochiai-san, who went ahead and began registering my GT-R on Omori Factory database: this way they can keep track of all the builds and modifications of road-going customer cars. This is a mandatory step, as the car will be tested on Japanese roads before delivery I was requested to provide all the necessary documentation that proves that it is compliant with Japanese laws, including tax receipts and the shakenshou (車検証 - Japanese automobile inspection certificate). Without these documents, they simply won’t work on the car. For good measure they even made a copy of my Japanese driver license!

Once all the paperwork was completed we could finally move to the fun part, so I handed my keys to Ochiai-san and let him move the car inside the workshop area. I know, I know - bit of a fanboy moment, but watching my car being driven inside the ultimate GT-R tuning facility was too cool not to go all out with the camera!

If you are OCD this is what workshops dreams are made of: this place is so clean and neat that makes you wonder if it is staged.

Back to my car, Ochiai-san has parked it inside one of the designated inspection bays equipped with an hydraulic lift, and got to work.

Again, I couldn’t help by notice the state of the art equipment. Nismo surely did not spare any expense when they designed this place and went all out, including ordering Omori Factory custom-branded air tanks!

In the meantime Ochiai-san had begun his inspection, starting from the wheel arches and front strut towers: two areas where the BNR34 is famously prone to rust and corrosion.

Since I already had my GT-R inspected several times by Yamada-san at NPTC, I wasn’t expecting any surprise; nonetheless, I was very happy to hear Ochiai-san’s positive remarks about its cleanliness. Big thanks to the previous owner, who had parked it indoor for 14 years!

Moving on, we lifted the car a bit more to address one of the most critical areas of the chassis: the underfloor. After the strut towers, this is the second Achilles’ tendon of the Nissan Skyline: old technology and a few cost-cutting shortcuts in the assembly process made this a very sensible area.

Again, no surprises here, as this was something that I carefully checked during my pre-purchase inspection, but Ochiai-san couldn’t find any trace of rust or corrosion. Interestingly enough he observing that perhaps ,since the car spent its whole life on stock suspensions, a higher ride-height might have helped a bit preserving both wheel arches and underfloor. Additionally, the previous owner had care to have the car treated with pre-delivery protective foam, which surely helped shielding those areas. 

So, good news: the car won’t need any special treatment. Nonetheless, and this might come as a surprise, I decided to also have the underfloor restored and resprayed. This is because, according to Ochiai-san, once major components like subframes and transmission are removed, there will surely be some hidden rust. I also thought that it wouldn’t make sense to come this far and leave this not cared for. I remember inspecting a customer car that underwent a complete body respray, looking absolutely stunning on the outside, just to find the worst corrosion possible spreading on the underfloor. Surely it adds up on the price, but I think it’s details like this that really make a difference.

In typical Japanese fashion, Ochiai-san was kind enough to keep his schedule open for the whole afternoon so that we could take our time: I tried my best not to sound like the typical annoying customer and bombard him with a ton of questions. Not sure if I succeeded.

We then lowered the car and opened the hood for the second part of the inspection.

Until next time.