Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Falling Back in Love

Once I permanently moved back to Japan in 2009 I took an unwanted 5 years break from my passion for cars. Actually I am not sure if "taking a break" is the right way to put it because, while I always loved cars in video games and magazines, I never had a car of my own up to that point. Moving to Japan at the age of 21 meant that I completely missed out on the early fun that my Italian friends were having with their first rides (mostly Fiat and WW hot hatches); as a matter of fact the only car I really drove was my mom's Fiat Punto.

Now, this is a point worth mentioning because it heavily influences the type of content you will find on this blog: because I never had the chance to play around with cars and bought my first one at 30 years old, I have very limited technical knowledge. This particularly shows when I talk with friends who are working on their project cars: I just nod like an idiot and pretend I understand what they are talking about while I am actually completely lost in translation (gaskets, fuel rails, engine management - what?).

While I know the basics and enjoy learning and catching up with the technical aspects, my fascination for cars is a lot more romantic and visual: I can literally spend hours looking at shapes and drinking in all the body details and I simply love the act of driving, the man-machine bond that only driving your dream car creates. This means that, while I have a LOT planned for my BNR34, this blog will be more focused on my experience living Japan's car culture rather than tech-heavy posts about fuel management and final gear settings (hopefully they'll come too in the future).

So, back to my unwanted break: Tokyo is famous for being one of the most expensive cities in the world and owning a car is considered a luxury even by wealthy people. When I landed my first job in 2010 buying a car was something I didn't even dare thinking about, but Japan never stopped reminding me that something was missing, like this V-spec II parked every day in front of my first office.
This was a daily driver - thumbs up!
Or this black R35 that I would see on my way back home.
Sorry, super blurry photo
Fast forward to 2013: visit to the Tokyo Motor Show where the GT-R Nismo was unveiled - something was hitching...
Interesting matte finish

And the bug finally bit me again when I went to my first Super GT race at Fuji Speedway in spring 2014: my first time at a racetrack and it was nothing short of amazing.
Gates to motorsport heaven
Starting grid
My desire for owning a car was strong, but I have to confess that, at that point, I had almost "forgot" about the BNR34: you wouldn't see many in the streets and the R35 was the latest and greatest toy around. But things were about to change when, later that year, I paid my first visit to the renewed Nismo Omori Factory in Yokohama and met face to face with this:
Nothing could match the aura of this car in the whole showroom
The BNR34 Clubman Race Spec: which is basically all the best bits and pieces from the Nismo catalogue, thrown into a completely rebuilt from the ground and refreshened R34 Skyline GT-R. Repainted in a super gloss dark metallic grey it looked like an absolute weapon and made the R35 sitting next to it looking almost soft and domesticated. 
7'08 at the Ring and still managed to look "soft"...
...compared to this!
Later in December I also visited the Nismo Festival where I stumbled into more BNR34 goodness, including legendary historic racers like the Pennzoil GT-R that took the JGTC championship in 1999.
Some serious machinery here
And her sister that won the crown in 2003.
2003 All Japan Gand Touring Car Championship Winner
I also rode shotgun in a Super Taikyu Z34 (amazing experience).
This took my concept of "grip" to a whole new level
And met face to face withe the legendary Z-Tune, arguably the ultimate BNR34.
Z tune
The badge says it all
It was a massive childhood throwback and, as silly as it sounds, felt like taking a walk through a real-life Gran Turismo menu. But it did it for me, as all clicked in together and finally made sense: I was going to buy a R34 Skyline GT-R.

So the hunt begins...

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