Monday, October 10, 2016

The Hunt Part 1 - Getting Connected

As I started my search in summer 2015 I quickly realized that I knew very little about the steps necessary to buy a used car in Japan and, most importantly, what to look for in order to avoid buying a lemon. The BNR34 is now a 15 years old car and, although most of the owners take good care of them, they didn't elude father time and the little (or not so little) issues that come with a used vehicle. While overall it's a very solid car, the mid-90s engineering shows and presents some flaws and weak aspects that is important paying attention to before pulling the trigger on the purchase.

After a few months browsing, and other popular Japanese used car websites (a word of warning: this will quickly become a highly addictive pastime!) I decided that I needed external advice, ideally from a BNR34 owner of which, of course, I knew none. This is when I summoned Mr. Speedhunters himself and fellow Italian, Dino Dalle Carbonare. Actually at the time we didn't know each other at all: I cold-emailed him asking for a meeting as I stumbled into some of his articles on SH. Dino is a long term Japan resident, Editor in Chief for Speedhunters and arguably the most famous foreigner BNR34 owner living in Japan. He bought his car, a Bayside Blue V-spec, at a Nissan dealership over 15 years ago and has then proceeded to fine tune it step by step while covering the progress on Speedhunters: who better qualified than him to ask for advice to?
Dino's BNR34
We ended up meeting in June over coffee in Hiroo: Dino is genuinely a super-nice guy, always available (when his schedule permits) and, most importantly, an all-out car nut! We had a good chat and he shared some useful tips about what to look for when buying, maintenance and cost of ownership. We agreed that the car was going to be at least a V-spec and not a standard model and progressed our chat through the evening. He then offered to drive me to Roppongi station (I obviously accepted), which turned out to be my first time ever riding in a R34.

TRIVIA: truth to be told, that night Dino, despite having just met me a couple of hours before, offered me to join him in a meet-up at Yokohama with some friends and a "famous Porsche tuner" of whom I couldn't clearly catch the name. As I had work the next day and no clue of who the guy was (remember my time away from cars explained in my last post), I declined. Turns out that the "famous Porsche guy" was no other than...Magnus Walker. I still punch myself to this very day for passing out on this. You can read an awesome article by Dino on that night here.
Yes, I passed on this...
The choice online was vast: usually around 50 BNR34 can be found on sale on the main websites, with, at the time, prices ranging from 3.5M (roughy USD 40K) for a high mileage V-spec up to 7M for more rare examples. One of the most important points for me was that the car had to be either very lightly tuned or, ideally, full stock (pretty rare). A hard-tuned car has been tuned for a very specific reason (to be driven hard!) and I assumed (although not always true) that an unmolested model would have been generally in better shape. Track cars completed with bucket seats, time log-in devices and crazy aero kits where an absolute no; same for models with the interior vandalized by dozens of gauges, neons and stickers (an unfortunate and very common trend in Japan). Selecting an used car can be a nightmare when you have OCD.
HKS Circuit Attack Couter? Avoid!
After a few weeks I was pretty set on what I was looking for: an unmolested V-spec II Nür. With 750 models produced, the Nür was the swan-song for the BNR34 and the model that made most sense to have, after chasing it for 15 years. While they were demeaning a premium compared to V-specs and V-specs II, the prices where nowhere close to what they are today and, after a few months searching two models surfaced online at the same time: a Pearl Black 66,000km and a Sparkling Silver 78,000km models. This was beyond lucky because these cars are incredibly rare to come up for sale and having not one, but two to choose amongst was an absolute luxury!
Actual screenshot that I sent to Dino
I proceeded right away to set up an appointment to inspect the black model first.

Stay tuned!


  1. Stumbled on to you're blog by accident through Aki's one. Very interesting write up, i know most of these garage's from my daily brows through car sensor and when i was shopping for my own GTR.

    Although our criteria are very different, when i was shopping for a BCNR33 2 years ago i wanted anything but stock. Eventually i found and bought a recently tuned full tune 650hp R33 GTR. Its not that i perse wanted a Full tune wangan monster, but more the total distrust in stock weak RB26's. Thankfully is see you went with the nur that has the whole N1 catalog under the hood.

    Anyhow keep up the good content. Greetings from Stefan from Amsterdam.

    1. Hi Stefan,

      Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the content, more to come.

      I am planing to eventually tune my GTR as well and starting from a clean stock base would be ideal for me to build the car exactly the way I envisioned. Nothing wrong with tuned cars, as long as they are tastefully modified and properly looked after without compromising on reliability. It also make a lot more sense if you are not based in Japan as I'd assume that parts availability and finding the right workshops could be a bit of a nightmare. I'd still definitely stay away from track focused cars.

      I have found the RB26 to be quite reliable if well maintained. Stock power also means a lot less stress on many other parts, but, as I said in previous posts, age is now definitely a factor regardless of mileage.