Monday, November 13, 2017

Maintenance - Update

It's been exactly one one week since Aki and I dropped off our cars at Nismo, and today I got the call I was waiting for from Yamazaki-san: "It's ready". 

Timing belt and water pump replacement are pretty standard operations, so everything went smoothly, except for a stubborn bolt in the rear differential that needed replacement when Yamada-san attempted to change the oil.

One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post is that, along with the N1 water pump, also the radiator pipe and thermostat connected to it have been replaced. Call it placebo effect, but now the water temperature seems to read a couple of degree lower than before. Picking up the car refreshened and all cleaned up is a great feeling.

Sugimoto-san was carrying out the final touches on a R35 Nismo MY2017 that just came back from a track day. Unlike the BNR34 these are mighty machines that can be taken straight to the track in their stock form.

Speaking of track-ready machines, I must admit that the Z33 Nismo is really growing on me: I think it has aged very well and still looks great.

This particular model was painted in the same KY0 that was used on the Z-tune and was fitted with optional clear rear taillights.

On my way back I got stuck in traffic between Setagaya and Shibuya, but once arrived in the Minato area I jumped on the expressway and let the GT-R stretch its legs before getting home: cruising around Tokyo bay never gets old.

And some yakitori to wrap up the day.

I'm really looking forward to Nismo Festival: I don't really expect any surprise as these events are all about slightly evolving the same formula every year, but it's been way too long since I've been trackside, and Fuji Speedway is always great in winter. Nismo is celebrating the countdown on Facebook with some nostalgic posts, like this throwback to 2001.

Until next time.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Autumn Maintenance at Nismo - N1 Parts & Refresh

In one of my last posts I mentioned that I had some maintenance planned for the GT-R in October, but a rather busy work schedule and horrible weather pushed it back a bit. 

With a three day weekend and finally sunny weather yesterday seemed the perfect day to visit Nismo.

But let's go with order: after a mandatory coffee pit-stop at Turret Coffee (check these guys out of you are in the Tsukiji area - some seriously good coffee!) I decided that the car deserved a long overdue wash.

I managed to find a good place that uses deionized water and, after a chat with the manager - Takahashi-san (who is a bit of a Alfa Romeo nut, having owned two 156 GTA) - I dropped the car off and went for walk around Ginza.

One of the richest neighborhood in the city, it never disappoints when it comes to car spotting: this F40 sounded absolutely mental.

While the GT-R Vision Gran Turismo Concept was on display at Nissan Crossing.

Aki was already there when I arrived at Nismo. He is carrying out the final touches on his BCNR33 after the interior leather upgrade that I wrote about in my last post.

Strange to think about, but this was the first in a long time since our cars were last reunited and Aki took his time to look at my car. If you are not familiar with him then I would recommend visiting his excellent blog, which is arguably the ultimate owners guide for BCNR33. 

Aki is renowned for his fastidious attention to detail and, while nervous at first, I am pleased to report that I passed the test with full marks as he had plenty of praises for the cleanliness of my engine bay.

So, what about maintenance? Nissan recommends replacing the timing belt after 100,000km or 10 years and, while my car is still far from hitting that mileage milestone, it will turn 16 years old next March: time to freshen things up. After a lengthy consultation with Yamazaki-san, this is the recommended menu he came up with.

We opted for a Nismo timing belt: reinforced with tempered glass core wires it's about 1.2 times stronger and 1.8 times more heat resistant than a standard OEM one. Replacing a timing belt can be seen as a fairly standard plug-and-play kind of job, but we took things a bit further and decided to replace 7 different hoses, some clamps and other small rubber bits and pieces, all amounting to a quite lengthy parts list. The other big item that we decided to refresh was the water pump which, to my surprise, revealed to be extremely expensive: 42,228¥ expensive to be precise! With my car being a Nür spec, it comes equipped with a N1 water pump (part number recognizable by the 24U code, as all the other N1 parts), which turns out to be about three times the price of a standard one!

This triggered my curiosity and I did some research on Minkara (ミンカラ) to find a comparison between N1 and standard. The N1 (top) has visibly a larger diameter and 6 blades compared to the standard 8: this is aimed to reduce cavitation (formation of vapour cavities in a liquid, small liquid-free zones that are the consequence of forces acting upon the liquid), which would negatively affect cooling performances and possibly damage the blades or the pump itself in high-stress situations. Additionally, the N1 pump is reinforced with an extra metal disk welded at the bottom. Like for the metal turbos (vs. standard ceramic ones), there is a bit of a trade off as the water temperature might rise slightly more at slow speed compared to the standard pump, but significantly prevents cavitation and provides better cooling for extended time in sport driving condition.

To top the refresh menu off, I decided to go with a full fluid change for the engine, transmission and differential. Nismo 10W60 for RB26DETT was the oil of choice for the engine.

The total bill was a bit higher than expected, but having Yamada-san going through the process of replacing all the hoses and other bits with fresh OEM grade parts will make it all worth it and bring back the car to factory finish: it's all in the details and I am convinced that things like this really set apart truly well maintained cars from the others.

I also ended up buying some extra spare parts (more on this later), and we managed to score free tickets for Nismo Festival, courtesy of Yamazaki-san.

Time flew by and we ended up spending over three hours at Nismo; there were also other interesting cars in for service and, as always, I had to take photos.

The want for R35 brakes is very strong.

As the guys at the Nissan dealership next door where having a slow day we decided to test drive the new Note E-power.

Currently the best selling model in Nissan lineup, it's powered by a tiny 1.2L engine augmented by an electric battery that provides a good balance between performance and consumption. 

The interior quality is also pretty good and, all in all, it's a nice little car with a very reasonable price-tag for what has to offer.

It will be interesting to see how Nissan will apply hybrid technology to its next generation of sportscars, although it looks like we will not see the new GT-R before 2020. After leaving, Aki insisted that we shared a moment of bromance, so we ended up getting some food and drinks to wrap up the day. 

Until next time.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tokyo Motor Show 2017

The brightest stars of the Tokyo Motorshow 2017 are perhaps the cars that didn't make to it: after the inspiring concepts of the 2015 edition we were all expecting to see the new Supra or hints of the new Fairlady Z (or even the new Silvia that is rumored to be in the works?), but unfortunately none of these models were on display. In line with the times, this year's edition was themed around the future of mobility, which translated in a show dominated by hybrid power and autonomous driving, with very little space left for, well, fun.

As expected the recently launched new Leaf took the main stage at the Nissan booth, alongside the IMx, a rather futuristic concept of a hybrid crossover.

The new Leaf Nismo concept was also on display, but it didn't really catch my attention as I was rather focused on taking a photo of the now 10 years old R35, which was actually the only model to remind visitors that Nissan also makes sportscars. 

Lexus had several models on display, like the LS+ concept which, as cool as it looks, is probably just another styling exercise.

On the other hand, the limited edition RC F looked like a quality item that I'm sure my friend Aki appreciated.

The HV Sports concept from Toyota was quite a letdown, basically a restyled GT86 with fancy headlights finished in matte black: boring. Where is the new Supra?

The new Century was quite cool and is one of those few Japan-only models that are left in a completely globalized market.

In a recent coverage on Speedhunters, my friend Dino went on and stated that Mazda has probably the most inspired design amongst the Japanese makers at the moment. After the stunning RX-Vision that we saw in 2015 and the new Vision Coupe on display this year there is no arguing with that statement.

Most of the exotic European makers unfortunately have been ditching the TMS in recent years, but Porsche was there with the new 911 GT3 to remind us what German engineering precision is all about.

Not to mention the sister Cup Car - possibly the ultimate "reasonably priced" track toy.

Always cool to see makers paying homage to their heritage too: the 356 Speedster looked better than most of the latest concepts.

Far from being a BMW fan, but I liked the new Z4 concept, well, minus the horrid color choice.

Mercedes, with the recently unveiled AMG Project One, was flexing its muscles as the only maker with a hypercar-level model on display.

Not that I'm in a position to afford one, but I wouldn't hesitate one second to invest the 2.3 million dollars it demands into something else, like a Pagani Zonda. I'm sure that performances will be off the scale, but it looks as appealing as a LMP1 prototype and is the perfect example of how makers are losing touch with emotions in the endless pursuit of numbers. 

Not a bad Tokyo Motorshow, but also not a great one; after missing R's Meeting in September I look forward catching up with the JDM scene and GT-R community at Nismo Festival later in November.

Until next time.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Chasing Perfection - Visit to Worx Autoalarm

Back in April, in an act of extreme courage, my friend Aki handed me the keys of his beloved BCNR33 as we drove to Worx Autoalram where the car was planned to undergo some serious electronic and interior refresh. After 5 months of patient wait and endless photo teasing, the GT-R was finally ready and Aki, Dino and I headed to Chiba for delivery. Things were going to get interesting.

But let's go with order and make a step back: our first trip during Golden Week was also my first time ever visiting Worx and meeting the owner, Nakamura-san, and ex "salaryman" who, against traditional Japanese customs, ditched corporate life to follow his passion: cars and electronics. Years later Worx Autoalarm has become a cornerstone in audio, security system and electronics installation and customization, especially amongst GT-R owners.

The shop is exactly what would you expect from an artisan and oozes a vibe that really reminds of toy shops, especially thanks to the owner's passion for American toys, signals and memorabilia. Despite the colorful and relaxed atmosphere, the workshop packs some serious machinery and tools of the highest caliber - the ultimate man-cave.

Nakamura-san is a proper gear-head and GT-R fan himself as he owns a BCNR33 with a tuned N1 engine as well as a BNR32 custom painted in Bayside Blue.

Recognized as one of the best in its field, Worx Autoalram is regularly featured in GT-R Magazine and customers from all over Japan entrust Nakamura-san with upgrading their cars, like the owner of the LM that we found at our arrival. 

A wrecked BNR34 in the backyard was indeed a painful sight to behold. 

A stern reminder that these cars, despite their incredible capabilities, demand respect.

Besides completely overhauling the electronics, Nakamura-san was going to be responsible for the final fitting of Aki's handmade interior, finished with supercar-grade leather.

To say that the consultation was lengthy, would be an understatement.

Fast forward to last week and we headed to Dino's with a two car convoy and a surprise as he had on loan a Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge that simply redefined my concept of luxury - everything you touch and feel is absolute quality.

Unfortunately, while Aki was traveling in style inside an exquisite bubble of leather, carbon and aluminum, I was riding shotgun in Dino's R34, all the way to Chiba without air conditioning.

With the V-cam setup now installed Dino estimates 550ps, however, as the ECU tuning is not finished, shifting was limited to 5,000rpm. Nonetheless, as we left the expressway and went through a twisty secondary road, the ride with Dino reminded me once again how poor of a driver I am. What we missed in power though was compensated by handling as this was the first proper outing since he fitted his custom made, 1 of 1, KW suspensions. While the difference is not very noticeable in the city, things totally change once you start going through bends at decent pace: they are absolutely fantastic. 

Once at Worx we found Aki's car ready for delivery just outside the air-conditioned workshop area where it was stationed for the past half-year. Going through all the options of the new audio and security system took a good two hours. I won't spoil the surprise, so make sure to follow Aki's blog for the unveiling of the finished result.

Coincidentally, as a customer BNR32 was in for some work, we had all three RB26 powered GT-Rs sitting next to each other.

After a late lunch close to the beach and a second quick stop at Worx to fix a stubborn reverse light bulb we headed back to Tokyo, not before refueling the car.

And ourselves.

Days like this are a good reminder of what cars are really all about - when it's all said and done, it all comes down to the memories you make and paths you cross with them. 

Thanks guys.

Until next time.