Saturday, January 27, 2018

GT Sport

It’s hard to believe that Gran Turismo has been around for 20 years, but two decades later here I am playing around with the new GT Sport on PlayStation 4.

While I’m far from being an avid gamer these days, I felt it would be only right to dedicate a post to the game that really sparked my interest for cars.

It’s all in the little things, but I spent hours driving the virtual version of the R34 in GT and it now feels a bit surreal to have the real thing parked in my garage in Tokyo.

If you have played to original GT released in 1997 you too can’t help but marvel at the quantum leap made in the graphic department.

The Scapes mode allows to take pictures of cars while blending in real-life photo landscapes.

The end result is sometimes hard to tell apart from reality.

The details are absolutely exquisite and I can’t imagine the amount of time spent to reproduce the cars down to every nut and bolt.

The game includes cars from all eras.

Including unicorns that you’ll likely never be able to drive in real life.

The BNR34 feels actually quite similar to its real counterpart, and while driving the real thing is a completely different experience, sometimes it’s great to feel 14 years old all over again for just a few minutes.

Until next time.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

New Gadgets & GT-R Fun Facts with Koyama-san

Nothing major has really happened since the TAS madness of last week, but I thought I’d still share a few minor updates, starting from the new cover for the maintenance book that I managed to pick up at Nissan Global HQ during a recent visit to Yokohama.

Bit of a fanboy touch, I know, but it looks and feels miles better than the plastic cover that came standard with the car.

And Nissan HQ is always cool to visit.

I wonder if a replacement for the Z34 is on the way.

I also stopped by Nismo Performance Center to check prices and availability of a few parts and managed to have a chat with Koyama-san who showed me around two GT-Rs that were in for a service.

The Bayside Blue model was fitted with a S1 engine and was in for a suspension refresh.

Being a GT-R owner himself and having spent so many years at Nismo he had plenty of fun facts to share:

- The S1 engine is a much better match with the R33 rather than the R34 and you won’t notice much difference between compared to a standard RB26 fitted on a R34. 
- When the production of the R34 shifted form Murayama plant to Tochigi Nissan took some shortcuts to lower production costs, namely slightly lower quality paint and a thinner primer coating.
- Bayside Blue is the thinner paint of the lot and has a tendency to fade a bit over time, Black and White are softer and easier to scratch, while the Silver hues are generally the hardest.
- The RB26 usually starts registering losses in power around 130,000km and, based on condition, can be overhauled up to two times, after which they recommend fitting a new power plant.

Talking about engines he confessed to have blown the one on his BCNR33 three times over the course of his ownership: Koyama-san is surely not afraid of driving his car.

He then proceeded to show me a standard RB26 block that just came back from overhauling at Tomei: rather impressive finish and hard to distinguish from a brand new block!

Hope everybody’s 2018 is off to a great start.

Until next time.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Tokyo Auto Salon 2018

Tokyo Auto Salon has always embodied everything that is both right and wrong, all at the same time, about Japanese car culture. Quite the contradiction, I know, but under the same roof you’ll find literally everything: the tackiest accessories and tasteless paint jobs right next to the best aftermarket parts and technology innovation that the tuning world has to offer. Proper race cars with Le Mans winning pedigree sitting next to leopard printed slammed kei-cars: welcome to Japan's craziest car show. 

Walking through the gates of the Makuhari Messe is quite the experience as you are greeted by a storm of lights, flashes, neons and music levels that could be more fitting to a dance floor. It’s really that vast.

First stop for me was a no-braniner: I had to go and meet Dino at the KW/BBS/Speedhunters booth where he had on display his ever-evolving BNR34.

Yes, no worries, that’s a very bold wrap, not a paint job: Dino wanted to stand out and TAS is definitely the place to do it. He recently upgraded his brakes to a more modern and set-up courtesy of Brembo; those of you who have driven a R34 GT-R will know that this is a much needed upgrade.

Although my tastes are quite conservative I must say that I really liked it: it turned heads and that was exactly the job Dino had in mind. 

He surely took his time to think the details through: look at the subtle Speedhunters logo replacing the V-spec badge!

Since we were next to the KW stand Dino took me for a little tour and showed me the latest products they had on display, like this competition-grade suspension set.

Over 18 different regulation settings should be enough to satisfy even the most demanding owner; really a thing of beauty.

After visiting the Speedhunters booth Dino (who has been here since Thursday night) took me around for a little tour, first stop: HKS, where they had their latest time attack AE86 on display. I wonder how fast this thing can go around Tsukuba.

Remember what I said about the tackiest paint-jobs? Here Kuhl Racing was giving a perfect demonstration of what I meant, priding themselves of the fact that the mess you see is actual paint and no stickers whatsoever are involved.

From nonsense-crazy to cool-crazy: meet Ken Block’s very own Hoonicorn RTR Mustang, all 1,400ps of it.

Onto more subtle tuning, Kansai Service had on display a white NSX sitting on a set of Advan GT wheels that looked pretty neat.

The Nissan booth was fairly standard, but, you know, I have thing for Super GT racers and had to take a photo of the Motul Autech GT-R that competed in the series last year.

They also had on display a X-Trail with a pretty bold color scheme and some very nice wheels. Will it make into production?

Quick stop at Rays, specifically the Volk Racing section, where I learned from Dino that, upon paying a premium, you can have your wheels custom painted.

Tomei had on display this pristine Datsun Sunny racer from 1973: super cool back then, even cooler today.

Such a huge contrast with the spaceship-looking Keihin NSX GT500 machine sitting just in front.

And, not far away, Dunlop was showcasing the 2001 Le Mans 3rd place finisher Bentley Speed8.

The Mazda booth was quite interesting as they announced a new restoration program for the original NA Roadster that resembles the Nismo Heritage Program; it’s great to see makers investing into keeping their historic flagship models in shape (albeit the astronomical price tags).

Mazda has been getting a lot of things right recently, and their design is probably one of the best around.

Now, onto what is possibly the surprise of the show for me: one of the 20 Pagani Huayra BC in the world.

I know this sentence is overly used in the car industry, but, really, nothing will prepare you for the level of detail and quality this car exudes.

The color choice for the interior is quite bold, but it works well.

The construction of the carbon fiber just blows away everything else out there.

And the details just really won’t stop - stunning.

I quickly stopped at the Bilstein booth for a comparison with KW.

But the quality and quantity of the products on display just wasn’t on the same level.

Bride launched a few new products at TAS, like this new Zeta III model.

But what really caught my attention was this half bucket seats in carbon-kevlar.

RE Amemiya is one of those tuners that really embodies the loyalty and dedication of the owner to a certain car brand/model: years later they are still building RX-7s like it was the mid-90s.

And quite serious ones as well, as this D1 monster testifies.

You can see a theme here, but spotting older cars is becoming harder and harder these days, so it was good to see WedsSports still displaying a good old Supra - fully tuned, of course.

No, this is not a GT-R, just an ER34 with some very heavy cosmetic changes.

So what about RB-powered GT-Rs? Very few of them were around, but R31 House had a pretty mental BNR32 on display.

Not sure about the exact spec, but that’s definitely a lot of power.

No TAS would be complete without a proper stop at Top Secret.

I’ve always found their builds a bit too extreme for my tastes (especially from a visual standpoint), but the genius of Smokey Nagata is undeniable.

And the quality of their bespoke parts is absolutely top notch.

The R35 rotors are absolutely fantastic and also reasonably priced.

They also had on display what was possibly the only BCNR33 in the entire expo.

My favorite car still remains the VR32.

This exact car won the Tuners Award at TAS 2017.

And for a good reason: Smokey managed to fit a full R35 engine and transmission into a BNR32 chassis without cutting through the firewall! The car was for sale for an undisclosed figure.

Trust GReddy was showcasing an apparently very clean BNR34.

That actually packed a series of new parts and modifications.

They really went for a “sleeper” look, going as far as developing what is the only titanium dual exhaust I’ve ever seen on a BNR34.

Another edition of TAS is in the books, thanks for stopping by.

Until next time.