Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wangan Blue

"So, what's it like to drive around Tokyo?" - this, along with lots of GT-R related inquiries, is probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get. "Pretty awesome" - I usually reply - and this post is an attempt to come up with a more "visual" answer for those of you who have never experienced it. Today was one of those days where the GT-R calling was just too hard to ignore: blue skies, a nice breeze and Tokyo roads - the perfect recipe for some Wangan cruising. I jumped behind the wheel and headed straight to Tatsumi Parking Area, located on the Bayshore Route (commonly known as Wangan-sen). 

Wangan is a name that resonates with lots of Japanese cars enthusiasts: as some of you may know Tamura-san (Nissan Chief Product Specialist) wanted to name the iconic shade of blue of the BNR34, Wangan Blue, but Nissan forced him to change it to Bayside Blue (Wangan is literally traduced Bayshore/Bayside) to avoid unwanted association with the infamous Midnight Club. The picture below clearly shows where Tamura-san's inspiration came from.

Tatsumi PA is located across Tokyo Bay and connects with the C9 on the Shuto Expressway; it's a great location for car spotting and meeting other owners. Today wasn't particularly crowded, but a fellow BNR34 owner happened to have arrived just few minutes before me and, obviously, we started chatting.

Personally, I find Japanese car culture just on another level: everybody is super cool and approachable, regardless of their ride or "status". Tatsumi gets really crowded at night on weekends and, being so close to central Tokyo, lots of wealthy owner come out for a spin with their rather expensive toys. I have seen plenty of cars worthy of supercar status, from Ferrari F50 to Bugatti Veyron and everything in between and, still, the owners are friendly and always open for a chat. The level of respect is also impeccable: nobody dares touching other people rides and usually ask for permission before taking photos.

My new friend has owned his standard, zenki BNR34 for three years and has mildly tuned it to 400ps: just about right.

He also added some more personal touches, like the LED setup.

In the meantime, a third owner also joined us in his brand new Impreza.

One of the reasons why Tatsumi is so popular is that, thanks to its location, allows drivers to complete a full circle around Tokyo - commonly known as The Loop - without tolls. It's a 17km ring that stretches through Ginza, Shiodome, the famous Rainbow Bridge and all the way through Tokyo Bay. More reckless drivers try to complete the lap under 8 or 7 minutes during weekends, but whether you are going at law-breaking speeds or just cruising around it's a fantastic experience.

Enough talking: time to go for a run (but first let's get everything in temperature)!

Leaving the parking area...

The sequence of curves between Tatsumi and Ginza is one of my favorite, but, being the weekend we had to take it easy, which is easier said than done when you are chasing another BNR34!

Passing through the iconic Rainbow Bridge.

The view just after the bridge is simply breathtaking.

We did a couple of laps and eventually returned to Tatsumi PA as the sun was setting over Tokyo.

"What would it be like to drive around Tokyo?" - I have asked myself this question thousands of times all those nights spent driving around "virtual Tokyo" on the PlayStation, and if you'd told the 16 years old me that one day I would have spent my Sunday evening chasing a blue BNR34 in my own GT-R around Tokyo Bay, I would have never believed you. 

Well, my true 
personal answer is "Better than you have ever imagined. Until now".

Until next time.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Skyline 60th Anniversary

The Skyline is 60 years old, quite a milestone for a production car. To celebrate the event, Nissan decided to go big and set up a commemorative exhibition in luxury complex Roppongi Hills in Tokyo downtown. 
With the location being just 15 minutes away from home, it made for a perfect "cars & coffee" kind of Saturday morning - or rather "Skylines & coffee".

Not only this is a prime location in the heart of one of Tokyo luxury districts, but the display set-up itself was actually quite impressive.

It's been just a few months since the inauguration of the renewed Ginza Crossing, and now this: Nissan is clearly taking marketing very seriously these days

On display there were cars from all generations: the center stage was obviously taken by the very first model to bear the iconic Skyline name - released in 1957 - right along the 60th Anniversary Special Edition of the 2014 Skyline.

The models from the 70's were in brand new condition and really showed how far the Skyline has come in terms of styling.

The 2.0L inline six 1973 Skyline 2000 GTX was one of the star of the show.

People of all ages lined up to take pictures.

The boxy look and sharp lines of the row behind were unmistakably 80's.

It's during this time that Nissan developed some of the signature characteristics of the older Skyline, starting with the adoption of turbo engines with the 5th generation of the model.

Which was further refined in 1981 with the twin cam (DOHC) engine of the 2000RS.

In 1985 Nissan introduce another signature feature of the Skyline family: the HICAS (High Capacity Actively Controlled Suspension) system that enabled rear wheel steering for improved handling.

It's toward the late 80's/early 90's that the styling of the models started to take shapes that look now very familiar to fans all over the world.

The "afterburner" signature taillight got carried over to the more sportier models.

And the GT badge was a good hint that these platforms were the tip of the iceberg: something a lot more performance focused was bound.

And here it is: for some reason this BNR34 is the only GT-R that Nissan decided to display.

And for a good reason: this was, without a doubt one of the undisputed stars of the event. Kids, girls, elderly visitors - almost everybody stopped to take a picture with the Bayside Blue BNR34.

And this wasn't just "another" BNR34 GT-R, but chassis BNR34-010107: the second-to-last R34 GT-R ever produced. Interestingly enough, despite being a kouki model produced in 2002, this model was fitted with the old Nissan badge (fitted on zenki cars produced until the year 2000).

A couple of more recent Skylines completed the production timeline.

These models have sold reasonably well, but fans lament a slight lack of character compared to their predecessors.

The event was incredibly well produced and - as always - Japanese enthusiast showed that the Skyline name is still dear to many.

It's always great to see brands celebrating their heritage and fans coming out to support.

The 60th Anniversary Skyline Timeline will be on display at Roppongi Hills until Monday, May 24.

Official Website (Japanese only)

Golden Week is about to kick off next week and I look forward to a few other events lined up.

Until next time.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

JDM Goodness, Friends and Ramen

After a pretty miserable and rainy week I woke up this Saturday to full blown spring temperatures and decided to head to Odaiba for some morning coffee. Once I had my caffeine fix I realized that today was the first day of Motorsport Japan: a two day event where makers and privateers showcase all things cars and racing. What's even better is that the whole event is completely free of charge, with no queues or tickets. Private owners who registered in advance were given the opportunity to display their prized possessions, and the first lineup of machines that greeted visitors easily sums up why Japan is heaven for car enthusiasts.

A complete display of seven Group A BNR32 replicas beautifully arranged: simply stunning.

Although they could be easily mistaken for the real thing, these are road legal cars.

The owners have spent years in the pursuit of recreating the perfect replica, true to the original racer wherever possible. Seven owners, seven cars: one passion.

The classic rally display caught my attention next.

Some beautiful models on display; my favorite by far was this beautiful Evo 6 - Tommi Mäkinen replica.


The event also had plenty of historic cars on display.

Including some fairly expensive ones!

While this fantastic Toyota Supra 3.0 GT turbo A was sitting in pristine conditions.

Reminding us what the 80's where all about.

The main event was all about the makers and modern days sportscar and motorsport.

Including Super GT.

And Porsche Carrera Cup.

As well as a trio of very quick safety cars.

Surprisingly Top Secret also had a booth in collaboration with GT-R Magazine. 

Maybe because the crazy VR 32GT-R graces the cover of the latest magazine issue?

A complete R35 GT-R engine and mechanics fitted in a BNR32 body with factory-like finish - insane.

Time to go back home.

And just when I thought to call it a day, my good friend Aki happened to be in the area: "Fancy a ride in my loaner for the week? Sure!"

After running some errands we ended up pulling over at a random parking just to find a zenki BCNR33! Talk about coincidences...

More car talk and a bowl of ramen to wrap up the day.

Until next time.