Sunday, February 18, 2018

First Drive of 2018

After enjoying over two months of hibernation today felt like the right day to wake the GT-R up. It’s still quite cold by Tokyo standards, which means denser air and happier turbos, but clear skies and nice sun to warm the atmosphere around created the perfect opportunity for a quick blast down the Shuto Expressway.

While I am conscious about driving in optimal road and weather conditions (and I do enjoy the wait between each drive), two months is the maximum that I allow the car to sit, as anything longer would probably do more bad than good.

I’m very happy with the Optima battery that I had fitted at Nismo last year: the RB26 cranked up right away with no hesitation and, after letting it idle for a while, waiting for oil and water to reach optimal temperature, I finally hit the road. After a quick stop at Daikoku Parking area I headed towards Omori Factory for a chat with the staff.

It might seems like I do visit the place a lot...and it’s actually true. Truth to be told I actually live about 25 minutes away from Nismo headquarters and the short expressway run is always enjoyable.

I also do love watching the mechanics working on the cars in such a pristine environment, I find it very relaxing and it appeals to my OCD.

The new carbon brake air guides were also on display and, yes, they do look very well crafted, but also smaller than in photos, which does make you wonder how can they cost 200,000¥.

Oh well, I’ll let you be the judges.

The rear tow hook for BNR34 will also be back in stock soon, this time offered in two different colors: anodized black and a champagne shade of gold that seems to match perfectly the cam cover of Nür-spec cars. Will need to look into this one.

This time there were plenty of tasty machines on display.

Including a good number of BNR34s.

Besides the usual parts the staff also put on display a not-for-sale, fully restored Group A engine.

Racing engines were originally assembled and tuned by REINIK, a special division of Nissan that was in charge of developing power plants for racing and rally competitions.

Needless to say, it looked like it just rolled out of the assembly line.

How cool would it be to fit this into a road-going car?

This time I didn’t really stay too long, so after a quick chat with some of the staff I headed back to Tokyo, where I met some friends at Tatsumi PA and ran into some pretty special cars. Believe it or not, this Aventador SV is not wrapped, and is owned by lady who had her chihuahua riding shotgun in the passenger seat: welcome to Japan.

Until next time.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Nismo Carbon Brake Air Guides & Winter Update

Nismo will release tomorrow (2/13) the new carbon brake air guides for the Skyline GT-R lineup.

The set, priced at 190,000¥, will be available for BNR32, BCNR33 and BNR34, and is said to increase brakes cooling performances by 20%. Definitely an expensive option, but, judging by the photos, the carbon construction looks high quality.

In other news, I can’t wait for the weather to warm up as this year we had a pretty cold winter. We even enjoyed a snow covered Tokyo in a couple of occasions, something you surely don’t see everyday!

Snow (and salt on the streets) also meant that the GT-R has been enjoying some rest, tucked away in my garage, waiting for better road conditions. I definitely miss driving it.

Being away from behind the steering wheel means that I had plenty of time to think about what’s next for my GT-R as well as my second car, and GT-R Magazine is always a great source of inspiration when it comes to ideas. This month’s issue celebrates the approach of the 50th anniversary since the release of the first Skyline wearing the iconic badge.

The issue also unveils more details about the  Nismo Heritage Parts program, which reminded me of my last visit at Omori Factory in December. During this visit I did spot both the original Z-tune development mule and an actual Z-tune undergoing some maintenance could be seen at the very bottom of the workshop area.

Turns out that it was car #015, currently undergoing a chassis refresh before being shipped to its new owner in Australia. Upon reading online seems that the previous owner had the (bad, in my opinion) idea of fitting a Vcam setup to the car, an operation that seems cannot be undone by the technicians at Omori Factory. I hope the new owner will take care of such a special car and, somehow, bring it back to its original state, like #001 below.

Finally, stopping at Nissan Crossing in Ginza somehow reminded me that, while I still refer to it as the “new” GT-R, the R35 is now a 10 years old car.

Having sat in some of the latest production cars from Nissan and seeing some of the latest concepts does make me wonder about how the next GT-R will look and feel.

Scheduled for a release in 2020 is actually not too far away; all details are still surrounded by mystery, but what we can be sure of is that it will be hybrid-powered. I also suspect that it will sit in an even higher price/performance bracket than the R35.

Call me obsessed, but as much as I look forward to seeing what’s next, I’m still absolutely in love with the BNR34.  
The last winter days are rolling by and, while January has been very busy from a work prospective, I can’t wait for spring to kick the car hobby into higher gear.

Until next time.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

RB26DETT Maintenance - Beginners Tips

If you are an early reader of this blog you’ll know that I started my ownership journey with very little mechanical knowledge. That, combined with my limited experience with performance driving, has provided endless source of laughter for Dino and Aki. So, beside being busy looking for better friends, I have also enjoyed researching and learning as much as possible about the technical side of the GT-R world.

The RB26DETT is one of the iconic features of the Skyline GT-R and, like for every car, the beating heart of the machine itself. With an increasing number of models being imported overseas away from the local Japanese expertise, as well as many owners coming in possession of their car without clear service history I thought I’d put together a mini guide to spot common warning signals for engine trouble. This is very much a beginners version pointing at very common issues and aimed to a younger and less experienced audience which, judging by the number of inquiries I have received, is certainly increasing. Some of these tips are also worth assessing if you are planning to inspect a car before buying.

1 - Internal engine noise and irregular idling

Once the oil is up to temperature the engine should rev smoothly and have a slightly ticking sound when idle. Unusual noise could be caused by many factors, but, from a maintenance prospective, a healthy oil change cycle performed every 2,000km with quality products is a good first step towards issues prevention.

Abrasion of the surface coating on the conrod bearing is usually the first step toward failure: the idling noise itself should be somewhat smooth, which is a good sign of low attrition between the internals. For those who enjoy circuit driving on a regular basis an oil pan baffle is probably a worthy investment to avoid extra internal wear due to oil starvation. 

2 - Overheating 

Considering the price of a new engine block (N1 blocks are sold at over 400,000¥ today), taking some extra steps to prevent cracking due to overheating is something worth addressing in the early stage of ownership.

Rust and sludge can accumulate in the water even with lower mileage cars, so replacing timing belt, water pump and thermostat is a great first step to ensure better cooling. I have recently replaced all these items and the water temperature has been reading a couple of degrees lower than before.

3 - Boost loss

It’s not uncommon for owners to increase boost on their cars and, while this practice brings quick performance benefits it has also undoubtedly its drawbacks, namely increasing stress on the turbo shaft.

Standard (non-N1) BNR34 turbo blades are made of ceramic and a sudden loss in boost could possibly mean cracking/shattering, leading to massive engine failure. Seriously check for this issue if you are in the inspection stage of a new car purchase.

4 - Exhaust smoke

Few months ago I watched in horror a video posted on Facebook by a fairly famous dealer in Nagoya advertising a recently sold BNR34 in Midnight Purple II as it was on the way to its new owner in UK. The car was idling with noticeable white smoke coming out of the exhaust, and still plenty of people left comments on how the car looked and sounded great!

White smoke coming out the exhaust can be symptom of seal failure inside the turbines, possibly due to excessive boost. Turbines, like many other components, have a shelf life that is mostly dictated by usage and maintenance, and will need replacing if necessary.

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The bottom line here is that most of the causes that lead to larger (and more expensive issues) can be prevented with basic maintenance and overall attention to details. The RB26 is a robust engine that can last for a long time without requiring overhauling, if properly maintained.

Until next time.